Qntal II
Feature in Zillo Music Magazine 1995

Automatic translation: www.deepl.com/translate

The release of the Qntal debut album “Qntal” in 1992 certainly attracted attention, because with Ernst Horn and Michael Popp two musicians from Deine Lakaien were involved in a project that, together with the singer Sigrid Hausen, well-known for Estampie, tackled the difficult task of musically linking the Middle Ages with modern times. With the new, simply “Qntal II” named album follows now the second part of a symbiosis, which takes place not only on the purely musical level, but also on a thematic level.

“The basis of Qntal’s music are texts from the Middle Ages. For each text we decide whether we use the original melody - if it is still preserved - or whether we write our own melody. Thematically we want to cover the entire spectrum of medieval poetry”, explains Ernst the fundamental work process of Qntal. “The musical realization was very lyrical. It starts with the timbres, goes beyond the harmonies and ends with the rhythmization.”

“Everyone has a few text settings with different intentions,” adds Michael, who supports the lackeys live with medieval instruments and of course also makes a great contribution to giving acoustic colours to the complex synthesizer arrangements at Qntal. “What all the pieces have in common is the vastness and tranquillity that medieval music has to preserve. Otherwise we tried guitar noise, spherical pieces or more dance-oriented songs. The influence of Irish folklore also played a role.”

The new album takes up the musical versatility of the debut, on the one hand presenting Sigrid’s classically trained voice, specialized in the Middle Ages, which seems to convey a religious rapture especially in the songs with spherical background. On the other hand, their multi-layered singing is accompanied by very different instruments. There, gently gliding spherical sounds give her the full space to develop her singing skills. Another time their powerful performance struggles with technoid pumping electro beats or sophisticated, dense soundscapes, dark threatening sound waves or extremely danceable rhythms. But while the titles of “Qntal” already referred to the basic medieval texts written by women, the thematic context on the new album is not immediately obvious. Introduced by an “intro” and concluded by an “epilogue”, the main part reveals to the listener a wealth of very different titles, of which only “spring” and “autumn” seem to belong together. But what links all the titles together again is the certain continuity between the Middle Ages and the present day.

“Things will never change,’ says a young Los Angeles ghetto dweller in the’Intro’ and’Epilogue’. The’main part’ also contains references to the present (using the example of the unrest in Los Angeles after the Rodney King trial). We want to show that there can be no intact world as long as there are people,” is Ernst Horn’s gloomy prediction. “Our image of the sensitive, innocently pure medieval world is only a beautiful dream. But dreams are important too!”

The debut album was still mainly concerned with the timeless thematic complex of love, death and passion. For “Qntal II” the search was on for other topics that were as important in the Middle Ages as they were in modern times.

“In addition to the reference to the present, as in’Qntal’, the above-mentioned range was important to us: this ranges from the depiction of a historical event (the conquest of Jerusalem by the Crusaders) to mystical texts such as Abelard’s two poems or the magic spells from’Carmina Burana’ to love songs such as the spring and autumn song.

Once the suitable lyrics had been found, the musical transformation was the biggest challenge for Qntal.

“Compared to modern lyrics, it is more difficult to find a musical implementation. In modern music, the melody and the arrangement often come together with the lyrics and influence each other,” Ernst knows. “At Qntal we are dealing with finished, very old and sometimes difficult to understand lyrics that do not automatically offer a certain musical realization. But it is precisely the strangeness of the lyrics that gives Qntal its great appeal and musical freedom”.

Qntal continues to attach great importance to this musical freedom. Despite the perhaps somewhat surprising success of the debut CD, Qntal did not let themselves be pressured and once again sought unusual forms of musical expression and resisted the currently so popular temptation to combine “sadogregorian monk moaning with esoteric elf jin to’money here’ loops, as Ernst puts it.

Even if the ubiquitous pastoral chorales, which today are always endeavoured to satisfy any religious needs believed to have been buried, cannot ignore religious themes when dealing with the Middle Ages.

“Religious aspects play a major role in every culture at all times, even in the present. In the Middle Ages, belief in the existence of God was a certainty, similar to today’s belief in the validity of natural laws, and just as today scientific thought permeates practically all areas of life, so, 600 to 800 years ago, religion played an omnipresent role everywhere, especially in music, literature and painting,” says Ernst.

“If one deals with the Middle Ages, one must inevitably also deal with religions, above all Christianity, Islam and Judaism. But you can’t understand the kind of religiosity that was practiced in the Middle Ages if you simply apply the standards of right faith.”

And Sigrid adds: “We must not necessarily measure the religiosity of the people of the Middle Ages against our current standards. Religion for them meant not only going to church on Sundays, but the existence of God was - today one would say - a scientific fact. This means that the life of the individual was completely subject to the will of God and he had to submit to it. Today we understand this slightly as a’restriction of personal freedom’, instead we used to feel united with the cosmos, and this also gives a form of freedom: we are not so dependent on all small everyday things, vanities, disputes, etc. In this respect, of course, the attitude to love and death changes, which are experienced in a completely different way against this background.

Attentive readers will have already noticed that Deine Lakaien will be touring with Qntal next spring. The special thing about it is that Qntal will not perform in the supporting programme of the lackeys, but both will play together on stage. Qntal don’t know exactly how this will happen yet, but you can certainly look forward to a special live event.

Dirk Hoffmann