‘Memories of Forgotten Beings’: a musical journey through time, space and sound


In response to a request from the King Baudouin Foundation, Dirk Brossé has composed a work entitled Memories of Forgotten Beings. This is a ten-minute journey through time, space and the history of sounds, and has a number of different layers, including one that is about philanthropy. That is why the work was performed live for the first time at Be Philanthropy, a day for philanthropy.

For Dirk Brossé, philanthropy is above all a feeling - the feeling of helping people without expecting anything in return. If you have one euro left over at the end of the month, you have three options: get something nice for yourself, put it in the bank or give it to someone else so they can have a chance to share in society again. More and more people are becoming unable to keep up with the rat race in our society. If you are able to offer a little assistance or a helping hand, he can’t see why you shouldn’t do it. Philanthropy is like giving people a financial boost to help them to catch up.

Nevertheless, he sees it as much more than just financial help. You can support others or give them a helping hand by providing opportunities or making space for them to learn, grow and be seen. He regularly creates opportunities for young musicians to play in his symphony orchestra or perform as a soloist. That is a way of allowing them to learn, receive attention and grow.

When he was asked to compose a work, his schedule was really saying no, but his feelings said yes. After a long preparatory discussion, he came up with a number of key words that he was able to use to get started. One question that emerged very strongly was: “who are we actually doing this philanthropy for?”. The structure of the work soon emerged, in four parts that take the listener on a journey through time and space, a trip with no real stops where you can get off. He compares it with a ten-minute journey on the Space Shuttle, another vehicle that takes people on a journey with no chance to get off.

In Memories of Forgotten Beings you will find and hear numerous layers beneath layers. There are abstract voices, suggestive of people asking for help. The voices are not in any specific or recognisable language, but like the voices in a dream, of people in need or asking for care. After all, that is what philanthropy is about: caring for others. Another layer traces the history of Homo Sapiens in sounds.

In the first part there is nothing but an organic, mysterious soundscape. This refers to the very first sounds that people ever made: playing with water, wind and natural materials. In part two there are references to more spiritual sounds, and the musicians now use instruments from all over the world. This was a conscious choice, because philanthropy is something that exists all over the world.

In part three, rhythm and melody appear in the composition for the first time. The rhythm is based on a heartbeat, which binds all living beings together. With no heartbeat there is no life. Voices begin to be heard in the fourth and last part, where the music switches to electronic sounds. The result is not only a history of humanity, but a history of sound as well. The piece begins very quietly but grows steadily louder.

The live performance also very intentionally involves four women, performing on percussion instruments and singing. The composer chose to do this for a number of reasons. Firstly as a mark of respect for the woman as first mother, a statement in a world that is all too often still dominated by men, and also because he sees women playing percussion as creating a very sensual impression.

For Dirk Brossé the musical work does not stop here. He has composed it in the form of a work that is partly pre-recorded and partly performed live. In this way he has created a reference to the ancient Chinese concept of Yin and Yang. Yin is the pre-recorded part, while Yang is the part that is performed live. He has also created a version for piano solo. This version contains fewer layers, but it still carries the value of the original composition. “You might compare it with the difference between a black-and-white photo and a colour photo”, he explains.

"Philanthropy is something we often look at from the top down. I wanted a voice from the bottom up."
Dirk Brossé

There is also a plan to create a version for full symphony orchestra, something he definitely intends to do.

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