Olga Neuwirth

"Construction in Space" (2000) by Olga Neuwirth for 4 orchestra groups, 4 solists and live electronics.

The composition is written for four soloists (bass and contrabass clarinet, bass flute, saxophone and tuba), four groups of ensemble and live-electronics. The work is dedicated to the 75th birthday of Pierre Boulez and lasts for about 45 minutes. The track is based on a story by Ray Bradbury, "The Long Rain": Once, at Venus, a survival dome  was built. 4 astronauts land on the planet and look for this dome. But the perpetual rain ensures that the astronauts loose their way; fully disorientated they panic, and only one of the astronautes arrives. Here, Bradbury lets the story take a turn - it is not clear whether the astronaut actually reached the dome or only sees it in a vision.

During all the long journey there is no minute's silence and it continues to rain (and the rain on Venus consists largely of aggressive acids).

A second basis for the piece is Neuwirth's fascination for art objects by Naum Gabo, which do not seem  to have any start or end. They hang unmoving in space, but do have a visible structure (thus the name "Construction in Space").

Neuwirth has transformed endless rain into the composition. It is never silent and the music flows in all directions. There is no connection between different sections - sometimes it seems that the composition begins, but then breaks off abruptly.

At a live concert in Donauschingen, the public was surrounded by the four groups of musicians and could not escape. Above was a dome, which captured the sound and reflected it back. Thus, Neuwirth trapped people in the dome. The audience felt intimidated by this way of musical performance. It is on purpose that the audience feels the panic of the astronauts.

"Construction in Space" is the title if the work is played as a concert performance. If the music is accompanied by a film, it is called "The Long Rain".


As a child at the age of seven, Neuwirth began lessons on trumpet. She later studied composition in Vienna at the Vienna Academy of Music and Performing Arts under Erich Urbanner, while studying at the Electroacoustic Institute. Her thesis was written on the music in Alain Resnais' movie "L'Amour à mort." From 1985-86, she studied music and art at the Conservatory of Music in San Francisco with Elinor Armer. Later, from 1993-94 she studied with Tristan Murail and worked at the IRCAM, yielding such works as "...?risonanze!..." for Viola d'amore. Earlier in her career, Neuwith had the chance to meet with Italian composer Luigi Nono, who shared similar radical political thoughts with her- she has claimed this to have had a heavy influence on her life. In 2000, Neuwirth was appointed Composer-in-residence of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra of Flanders, Antwerp and in 2002, she was appointed Composer-in-residence at the Lucerne Festival (together with Pierre Boulez).[1]

She has numerous chamber music works released on the Kairos label, and has collaborated with Elfriede Jelinek to create an opera of David Lynch's film Lost Highway incorporating both live and pre-recorded audio and visual feeds, alongside other electronics. The world premiere took place in Graz in 2003, performed by the Klangforum Vienna with the electronics realized at the IEM. The American premiere of the opera took place at Oberlin College in Oberlin, OH and featured further performances at Columbia University's Miller Theater in New York City, produced by Oberlin Conservatory and The Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble. The surround recording released at Kairos was awarded the Diapason d'Or. The UK premiere took place at the Young Vic in London in April 2008, in a co-production with English National Opera, directed by Diane Paulus and conducted by Baldur Bronnimann.

In 2008 she was awarded the Heidelberger Künstlerinnenpreis.