Once Around the World (2016/17)

a musical adventure with sights and sounds from far away and long ago
for narrator, gramophone, animated film, and musicians
a concert for listeners of all ages

Music Mike Svoboda
Text Manfred Weiss
Animated Film Matthias Daenschel
Dramaturgy & Education Johannes Fuchs

Premiere performances
Ensemble version: April 9th, 2017, Lucerne Festival with the Lucerne Festival Academy Alumni, Mike Svoboda, conductor, and narration. Commissioned by the Lucerne Festival
Orchestra version: October 21st, 2017, Philharmonie Essen, NOW Festival, Jugendsinfonieorchester Bochum, Mike Svoboda, conductor, and narration. Commissioned by the Philharmonie Essen.

Recording of the premiere in Lucerne, April 9th, 2017

An interplay of text, image and music

With Once Around the World, Mike Svoboda takes us on a journey around the world and back in time following the tracks of the adventurer and sound-scientist Professor Hoggins. Through historical postcards and shellacs, the many-voiced and diverse musical world of 100 years ago comes to life. The musicians on stage transport the music from Europa, Africa, Asia, and the USA into the present playing in dialogue with the historical recordings. A sound adventure for listeners of all ages.

Once Around the World tells the story of the ethnomusicologist and adventurer Professor Edward Thomas Hoggins I, in whose attic (of course!) a box with Hoggins’s legacy was found: colored postcards, which he sent home at the start of the last century from many countries, showing musicians, ensembles, and orchestras from various musical cultures, and – sensationally! – also an enormous collection of shellacs with recordings of these very musicians. His fantastical journey around the world can be understood step by step through these postcards and recordings. The postcards are projected onto the screen, the shellack is played on the gramophone and then taken over and embellished by the musicians. A dialog between cultures is created across time and space. The musicians on the postcards come to life, and suddenly Hoggins himself intervenes, picking up an amusing conversation with his ancestor, the conductor of the ensemble on stage.

This one-hour musical adventure with sights and sounds from far away and long ago brings the huge variety of music in our world closer to children (and adults) and introduces them to the fascinating instruments which make the music; in a dialog between the historical recordings and musicians today, the elements which bind all music together become clearer. “Familiar” and “foreign” communicate with each other. Music does not serve as something which fences us off from other people, instead, through it, we understand our own individuality and learn to notice and respect the individuality of others. This multimedia approach brings the idea of the Gesamtkunstwerk into the 21st Century – without making yesterday’s world look old-fashioned. – Mike Svoboda

Once Around the World – an experience for the eyes and ears

“Do you know what your great-grandfathers did? Were they pirates, gangster bosses, or industrialists? Did they leave behind treasure chests, gold bars, or stocks for your fathers and grandfathers? My great-grandfather was a musician and collector. And in the attic of our house, a couple of months ago, I found two large boxes which belonged to him. After wiping away the thick layer of dust, I opened the first box, which contained: postcards...??? Can you imagine how disappointed I was? But then I opened the second box: it was full of shellack records. Do know what they are? Great round discs, on which music was recorded and played back before there were tapes, CDs, and YouTube. I looked carefully at the discs and realized that they came from all around the world, as my grandfather had labeled them precisely: the groups of musicians, the places, and the dates. And it was clear to me that he had recorded them all himself! He went to so many different countries that I had to grab a map so that I could see where they all were. Then I looked more closely at the postcards and noticed that all of them showed musicians: the very musicians that can be heard on the records. He sent all these postcards to my great-grandmother Bernadette, whom he loved very much but who couldn’t accompany him on his travels, as it would have been too dangerous. My great-grandfather (who, by the way, was called Edward Thomas Hoggins I) was an adventurer and musical researcher, and I was suddenly extremely proud of him. And now, many years later, I’m a musician myself and I have always yearned to play this wonderful music to as many people as possible. And that’s exactly what we’ll do today!” – Prof. Edward Thomas Hoggins IV


Orchestra version 2(II=picc).2(II=corA).2(II=bscl).2(II=cbsn)- and narrator

Chamber Orchestra verions 1(picc).1.1(bscl).1(cbsn).- and narrator

Ensemble version with 14 musicians 1(picc).1.1(bscl).1(cbsn).- and narrator

The narration could be spoken by the conductor or by an actor or actress.

Technical requirements

Orchestra version:

  • gramophone
  • amplification for the narrator, film, and the gramophone
  • video beamer and screen

Additionally for the Ensemble version:

  • amplification for the 5 strings (dpa) and two tables (contact microphones), all with individual loudspeakers placed in close proximity to the sound source

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