Anyone who’s attempted to read Tolstoy’s War and Peace will tell you that it’s a mighty task, and more a journey than a read. Even more arduous must be the attempt to create the score to not only accompany the novel, but to even try to meet its brilliance. With Krieg und Frieden (aka Music for Theatre), electronic craftsman Sasha Ring, better known as Apparat, plucks Tolstoy’s themes and his own sensory prowess, crafting them into an auditory work worthy of poetic acclaim.
Music for Theatre was never intended for release. The album was merely supposed to complement the theatrical performance of Sebastian Hartmann’s contemporary theater production of Tolstoy’s novel, which Ring was commissioned to score by the German arts festival Ruhrfestspiele. With the album, Apparat masterfully contorts unsettlement and drama at will, much like a director positions his or her cast on a stage with the sharpest attention to minute details — like slightly angling a face so that it’s cast in the perfect dramatic lighting.
A cringing violin is the first jarring sound that resonates from Music for Theatre on the opener “44”. Strings sigh and slowly suspend the listener into a gorgeous plane while hushed vocals and roaring trumpets escalate tension. But Apparat’s healthy electronic heart is there, pulsating underneath and occasionally peeking out as the album progresses further. Ring’s own vocals are perhaps the most pleasantly unexpected layer of Music for Theater. His gossamer timbre stays detached from the music underneath, but somehow that makes it all the more intimate, as if Ring’s voice is the only thing that’s really allowed inside your ear.
Music for Theatre frightens upon the initial listen, but ultimately stuns. Imagine the album as a full orchestral performance, only the songs cannot be divided from each other – Music for Theatre demands to be listened through holistically. It requires much of a listener who’s comfortable with the weighty challenge to rethink what theater, and the dualities between war and peace, can come to mean in the 21st century.
Essential Tracks: “44 (Noise version)”, “Austerlitz”, and “A Violent Sky”