Composers on the Coronavirus Crisis: Claus-Steffen Mahnkopf

The consequences of the coronavirus crisis move us all. We have asked our composers how these months and weeks affect their artistic work. What they answer will be published progressively in this section as they appear.

Claus-Steffen Mahnkopf

(Claus-Steffen Mahnkopf, born in Mannheim in 1962, studied composition with Brian Ferneyhough, Klaus Huber and Emanuel Nunes as well as musicology, philosophy with Jürgen Habermas including sociology with Ludwig von Friedeberg)

“Du mußt dein Leben ändern” (You have to change your life) (Rilke)

Claus-Steffen Mahnkopf:
"In as much as composing is always subject to medium and long-term planning, I do not really feel the effects, in contradistinction to travelling, performing, concert-giving musicians. Furthermore, as I am lucky enough to be a professor, the pandemic does not affect me either professionally or existentially. On the contrary: because the semester has not been postponed, I have an unexpected abundance of time.
I don't use the free time to compose more, but to read more, for example a book about the Spanish influenca, which I acquired two years ago. Or re-reading Camus' plague. I follow the daily political news very closely. I would like to feel, think through and experience the entire event, which is an event of the century, in all its implications. I had to cough for four weeks - was it the virus?
I am amazed at the Germans' reasonableness and look with horror at other EU countries such as Italy, France and Spain. The UK and USA have defined health as an individual destiny - what a mistake. The ultra-orthodox Jews in Jerusalem are not saved by the Talmud either - not this time. It will be very bad for the overpopulated countries without clean water. Will something change fundamentally afterwards? And I marvel at the failure of those philosophical know-it-alls.
For a very long time the end of my opera 'void', which is currently in progress, was certain. It is the final movement from Camus' Plague. In the first months of the year I thought of Camus at the resurgence of a German neo-fascism that none of us thought possible for a long time. The NS-idea as a bacillus. Now the bacillus is real, a tiny little virus that literally forces the whole of humanity to pause and thus accomplishes something that even climate change, for all its visiblity, has not been able to do so far. I am holding it with Daniel Libeskind, who is stuck in his New York apartment. Pessimism is useless, only optimism gets us ahead.
A sentence of Camus reads: 'what is written in the books: that the plague bacillus never dies out or disappears, but can slumber in the furniture and linen for decades, that it waits in the rooms, the cellars, the suitcases, the paperbacks and the bundles of old papers, and that perhaps the day will come when the plague will, to the misfortune and the instruction of men, wake up its rats and send them out again to die in a happy city'. This instruction intrigues me. This pandemic and others have been caused by the destruction of nature. We - not they to us - are getting closer and closer to wildlife. Now, in 2020, nature is telling us clearly, "This far and no further."

(Claus-Steffen Mahnkopf 11. April 2020)