Two musical concept albums for contemplating the moon

WWhat was the feeling of the person who flew all the way to the moon, but was then not allowed to enter it because he had to guard the spaceship for the return flight? This is what happened to Michael Collins in 1969. While Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took the “big step”, he circled the satellite on board the Columbia and had no eye or radio contact with the earth for 46 minutes and 38 seconds on each orbit.

The concept album “Mondenkind” by jazz pianist Michael Wollny, who is inspired by the anecdote described, is just as long. One might think that after the fiftieth anniversary of the moon landing in 2019, which last year also sparked some artistic debate, this record will appear a little late. But if you take a look at Wollny’s work, it appears rather as a logical continuation of a theme that had been recorded long before, perhaps even his basic theme, as it is already encountered in “Weltentraum” (2013) or “Nachtfahrten” (2015).

Like these albums, this one is one of immersion, in which the listener will after a short time cut off all eye or radio contact with the outside world, because the music almost automatically brings about its attitude of reception: It is that of remote stare, be it at the moon or into the void. So after 49 seconds of the dazzling, trilling opening piece “Lunar Landscape” you sit in the ship and hear aliens knocking on the hatch from outside on “Things Behind Walls” in the muted bass lines from Wollny’s “prepared piano”, somehow on the way to Dixieland, but do not find it right, as some very distant chords reveal.

Wollny’s music, often also inspired by other arts, seems to want to set a story by science fiction author Ray Bradbury to music in “The Rain Never Stops on Venus”. In the title track, it even becomes program music when the right piano hand, with a rubbing sound regularly struck on the high keys, imitates the radio signal that is commonly assigned to satellites, but here Collins’ ship circling in moon orbit. “Spacecake” also seems to be programmatic, firing wild (drug-induced?) Rockets into the keys. Wollny then drives out the lunar romance with a “Sonatina” by Hindemith, but at least partially brings it back with some pop music adaptations, for example by Tori Amos.

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