Michael Maierhof wrote EXIT F (for four hot air balloons and an ensemble) at the request of the Nadar Ensemble. Not only is the latter’s hometown Sint-Niklaas (Belgium), which annually hosts one of the major hot air balloon events, but the ensemble itself has also been named after the renowned photographer and balloonist Nadar, a pseudonym for Gaspard-Félix Tournachon (1820-1910).
Helmut Lachenmann’s maxim that “Komponieren heisst: ein Instrument bauen” (“composing means building an instrument”), holds more for Maierhof than anybody else. Each new composition of his is the result of a long-term process of meticulous experimenting, a process in which existing instruments are being played in unorthodox ways, for instance with everyday objects, and in which new instruments are being developed with existing objects that are, for example, decontextualized by isolating their sound.
In EXIT F, the complex noise of the four hot air balloons’ gas burners similarly becomes an elementary compositional unit that moreover enters into a dialogue with the instruments. These instruments are, among others, a cello and a guitar that are played with electric toothbrushes, or three ad hoc players who are set to work with buckets, cups and nylon strings.
Still apart from the aspect of sound, EXIT F also features an important and viscerally visual aspect, which Maierhof furthermore uses compositionally: the impressive bursts of fire activated by the balloonists whenever the synchronized video-score calls for them. The tremendous displacement of energy caused by these fire bursts can also be felt physically by the audience, especially as these four hot air balloons are, like the musicians, placed around the listeners / spectators. The result is a highly impressive composition / sound sculpture.
Exit f is commissioned by Rotterdam Philharmonic Gergiev Festival (special thanks to Jelle Dierickx) and the City of Sint-Niklaas.In memoriam Annette Sax.