Michael Mantler / Paul Auster: Hide and Seek

Robert Wyatt, Susi Hyldgaard

CD18,90 out of print

Expatriate Austrian trumpeter-composer Michael Mantler’s projects – bringing together literature and chamber music and elements drawn from jazz and pop – are in a class of their own, and defiantly resist categorization. Although in the past Mantler has set texts of Beckett, Pinter, Ungaretti and other great poets and playwrights of the last century, "Hide And Seek", based upon a play by New York author Paul Auster, marks the first time that he has had the encouragement and direct collaboration of a contemporary writer. Robert Wyatt and Danish Grammy winner Susi Hyldgaard are persuasive in the lead roles.

Featured Artists Recorded

February-September 2000

Original Release Date


  • 1Unsaid (1)
    (Michael Mantler, Paul Auster)
  • 2What did you say?
    (Michael Mantler, Paul Auster)
  • 3Unsaid (2)
    (Michael Mantler, Paul Auster)
  • 4It's all just words
    (Michael Mantler, Paul Auster)
  • 5If you have nothing to say
    (Michael Mantler, Paul Auster)
  • 6Unsaid (3)
    (Michael Mantler, Paul Auster)
  • 7What do you see?
    (Michael Mantler, Paul Auster)
  • 8Absolutely nothing
    (Michael Mantler, Paul Auster)
  • 9Unsaid (4)
    (Michael Mantler, Paul Auster)
  • 10What can we do?
    (Michael Mantler, Paul Auster)
  • 11Unsaid (5)
    (Michael Mantler, Paul Auster)
  • 12It all has to end sometime
    (Michael Mantler, Paul Auster)
  • 13Unsaid (6)
    (Michael Mantler, Paul Auster)
  • 14I don't deny it
    (Michael Mantler, Paul Auster)
  • 15I'm glad your're glad
    (Michael Mantler, Paul Auster)
  • 16Do you think we'll ever find it?
    (Michael Mantler, Paul Auster)
  • 17It makes no difference to me
    (Michael Mantler, Paul Auster)
Using American hip writer Paul Auster's Beckettian style duologue as a satrting point, Michael mantler has created an oratorio of haunting contemporary originality. The intriguing nature of the text is perfectly complemented by Mantler's edgy and surprising juxtaposition of sounds. Robert Wyatt must be singled out, for his approach is so unique that it gives the piece its real sense of highwire expectancy without a safety net.
John Cratchley, Jazzwise
This is music which confirms Mantler’s unique, but also vulnerable position, because of the characteristic musical language which has been with him for so many years, and which has made it difficult to tie him to any specific musical genre. But this is also music which surprises with its lushness and an expressive power, which isn’t only true of the contributions of singers Robert Wyatt and Susi Hyldgaard, but to an even higher degree of the instrumental environment in which it takes place. ... The music reaches its emotional peak with What Can We Do?, where one can barely listen without feeling deeply shaken.
Boris Rabinowitsch, Politiken
Auf faszinierende Weise mixt Michael Mantler erneut zeitgenössische Improvisations- und E-Musik. Im Mittelpunkt der mit Streich-Trio, Klavier, Vibrafon/Marimba, vier Bläsern und Gitarre kammermusikalisch instrumentierten, 17-teiligen Komposition stehen zwei hypnotische Stimmen: Robert Wyatt und Susi Hyldgaard. Hinter Paul Austers Worten erkennt man vertraute, bis auf Escalator Over The Hill zurückreichende Muster. Dramatische Momente wechseln mit poetischen Passagen: ein beziehungsreiches Klangabenteuer für Hörer, die intelligente Anregungen zu schätzen wissen.
Sven Thielmann, Stereoplay
Die zwischen Kühle und Lebendigkeit fluktuierenden Klangbilder sprechen von misslingender Kommunikation, von Verzweiflung, der Suche nach dem Sinn und ihrem Scheitern. Mantler bezieht sein Rohmaterial aus Fragmenten eines Textes von Paul Auster, die - zerhackt, neu arrangiert und verdichtet - zu einer kammermusikalischen Suite neu zusammengefügt werden. Die beklemmende Atmosphäre der Texte wird durch die ständig geschickt wechselnde Instrumentation verstärkt. Eine eindrucksvolle Klangkomposition mit Nebenwirkungen auf die Wahrnehmung der Umwelt.
Falko von Ameln, Jazzthing
Mantler ist heute vor allem Komponist statt Solist, und als solcher einer der wenigen, die Worte und Musik gleichberechtigt miteinander zu paaren verstehen. ... Austers Texte thematisieren Realitätsflucht, Zweifel, Angst und vieles mehr, was sich mit Worten nicht fassen lässt - auch nicht von Auster. ... Mantler komponiert dazu eine Musik, welche die Worte weit über ihren inhaltlichen und semantischen Gehalt hinaus deuten. ... Er setzt sparsame und solitäre Linien neben verschachteltes Stimmengewirr. Ensemble- und Einzelklänge erblühen und glänzen voll spröder Schönheit. Zur Zeit gehören Mantlers Werke zum Spannendsten, was das grosse Auffangbecken des Jazz zu bieten hat.
Thorsten Meyer, Jazzpodium
What is the essence of this work'

Voices, and therefore words, plus a chamber ensemble.

The voices'

To me as a composer, the human voice is one of the most interesting and challenging instruments to write for. Not necessarily in every one of its many manifestations, but there are always (still and again) voices that I want to hear in my music. The by now familiar one of Robert Wyatt. A voice that's been with me for over 25 years, yet never ceases to touch me. And a person absolutely gratifying to work with, because of his never-ending patience and enthusiasm, and his absolute dedication to give the music his all. As the counterpoint to Robert I chose Susi Hyldgaard, who I first worked with during the School of Understanding recording and live productions. She is not only an astounding singer and personality, but also a consummate musician in general, a rare combination. She brings an exceptional professionalism and musicality to everything she does, something that is pure pleasure to witness.

The words'

In my seemingly endless search for words to use, one author had been in the back of my mind for a very long time. I have loved and admired the work of Paul Auster for many years, often searching for ways of incorporating some of his words into a piece of music. However, enjoying his work did not mean that I found a text that would actually lend itself to be successfully set to music. At last, 'Hand To Mouth', a collection of miscellaneous writings by Auster appeared, which included his short play 'Hide and Seek'. Finally it seemed that there might be something suitable for my purposes, and I started seriously thinking if and how this could be set to music. And it did seem possible ' not only had the words all the qualities I usually look for in texts I utilise, such as a simple clarity and beauty of language (a kind of 'poetic' writing, without being poetry as such), but they also retained a certain ambiguity and timelessness, which is a very important factor for me when choosing texts. So I proceeded by taking only some passages (as I have almost always done in the past with other authors' work as well), whole in themselves, but not necessarily in their original sequence, thereby reshaping the material somewhat, perhaps creating possibilities for other interpretations. Once the texts were found and the segments chosen, it was relatively easy to translate them into music ' since they were in fact a conversation between two people, making the vocal duet the obvious choice, and inviting the pairing of a very particular 'cast' of interesting and contrasting personalities/voices.

The ensemble'

What has vaguely been referred to as my 'Chamber Music and Songs Ensemble' is now expanded, basically adapted from the more or less standard contemporary chamber orchestra, consisting of woodwinds (here all played/over-dubbed by the unbelievable multi-Roger-Jannotta), the string quartet now enlarged (also old cohorts, the three 'string sisters'), some added brass, low and high (a reason to unpack the trumpet at least for a short while), and, an important and difficult role for the piano, this time not improvising (impeccably played by Per Salo, pianist with the Danish Radio Symphony, and a contemporary chamber music specialist). No rhythm section/drums (with one digitally created exception), but tuned percussion (vibraphone, marimba) affording not only a rhythmic but also a melodic and harmonic backbone.

Plus - an integral part of all my music for some time now - the guitar of Bjarne Roupé, the one element still retaining the largest amount of freedom of interpretation and creative improvisational input. And one additional, very particular instrumental colour, an accordion (beautifully played by Susi Hyldgaard).

So once again, the question ' what do you call this' What kind of music is it'

The usual questions, the usual problem in finding a suitable answer. Above all ' it's certainly not a play set to music. It's a musical interpretation of someone's words, truncated, moulded into something else, a personal re-working of the material (this time with Paul Auster's approval by the way, since a personal contact could exist in this case ' unlike with some of my past sources for words ' Beckett, Meister, Soupault, Ungaretti, etc.)

The whole formally assembled into what makes the most sense to me in this instance, the architecture of a suite, balancing sequences of songs/words/voices with instrumental passages, that have their own weight and drama as connecting pieces. In this particular environment, they allow time for reflection, though they could, and were also intended to be able to stand alone as short and concise instrumental pieces.

And what kind of music' In general, it should be obvious to anyone who has followed the evolution of my music (again avoiding the impossible categorisation, preferably to be thought of as a body of work by an individual that demonstrates an inherent strength and a recognisable and unmistakable character). Specifically, in a shorter-term view, coming directly from and a honing down of the previous recent work with texts and singers, such as The School of Understanding and Songs.

Live performances'

Theatrical multi-discipline productions are currently being prepared and conceived together with director Rolf Heim, involving a fusion of musical, dance and theatrical elements on several levels. On the other hand, the work is easily performable as a concert piece by existing ensembles with added singers/soloists.