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“Interieur I” by Hemut Lachenmann


“Interieur I” by Hemut Lachenmann

Performed by Michael Compitello

Mallet Selection for this Piece:


Tim Genis Signature GEN1

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Produces a beautiful roll quality without attack in the stroke. Felt core.


Ney Rosauro Signature M224

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Hard. Cuts well, but still maintains a pure fundamental sound.


Terry Gibbs Signature M33

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This line offers a rattan handled mallet for every dynamic range on vibraphone or marimba. Cord wound heads.


At a time during the 1960s in which many composers in Europe and the US began working in electronic music studios in a search for new sounds, Helmut Lachenmann asserted that not only could acoustic instruments create original colors, but that there’s something special about the physical gesture of producing sound that is essential to the vibrancy of music. His music uses sound—the gradual transition between closely related sounds, and the bold crashing of conflicting timbres—against one another as an argument, both for the importance of acoustic music, and for the need to constantly rethink traditional means of expression and conventional playing techniques.

I’m sure every percussionist has played a piece where they thought “this composer must have never heard or seen a single percussion before instrument in his life.” With Lachenmann this isn’t the case: not only does he have a deep knowledge of the instruments’ capabilities, he’s also famous for using primarily non-traditional playing techniques, expanding the repertoire of sounds each instrument can produce. Throughout Intérieur I you’ll hear me making—I hope!—beautiful marimba, cymbal, triangle and timpani sounds; you’ll also hear me scratch, scrape and crash my way through some other, more original colors. I think Intérieur is a really important piece for percussionists to get to know because of how perfectly it’s suited to percussion’s greatest strength: the potential to produce a startlingly diverse range of colors and dynamics. It’s a whole piece about sound, where timbre determines both the small gestures within the piece and the overall structure!

Lachenmann’s score is bursting with innovative timbral ideas. It’s also bursting with instruments, which makes getting into position to play the correct drum or cymbal at the right time one of the major challenges in learning the piece. Lachenmann gives us a lot of help: an incredibly detailed setup diagram, a score designed to be spread across three music stands, and a notation system that helps indicate where an instrument is located based on its position on the staff. However, because most of the piece involves extremely delicate combinations or progressions of sounds, practicing my footwork was one of the first challenges in learning the piece. I also decided that memorizing as much of Intérieur as possible would let me stay focused on getting into position and producing the kinds of sounds I wanted. Lachenmann emphasizes that Intérieur is a actually a very vocal and melodic piece, regardless of how disjunctive some sections may seem. This is especially important because Intérieur is written almost entirely without traditional rhythms. Lachenmann gives suggested durations for phrases and indicates rhythmic relationships through note spacing and beaming, but the performer is left to use his or her ear and the sonic characteristics of the specific instruments in the set-up to determine note length. Because of this, I tried to rely less on muscle memory in my memorization, instead latching onto the connections Lachenmann makes between gestures and how I could use the particular instruments I had to create composite sounds from multiple instruments and to make sharp transitions between sections

Another challenge in a piece with so many instruments is the mallet changes. In the interest of simplicity, Lachenmann asks for only a few types of mallets: hard wooden or yarn mallets, soft mallets, drum sticks, brushes, a tam tam mallet and a knitting needle. He is, however very specific about where and how to change sticks, even making a note in the score to practice the many switches as an integral part of the piece and asking that the changes occur quickly and don’t disturb the flow of the piece. Because practicing Intérieur had me so attenuated to sound, I began to make additional mallet changes that I thought could improve the clarity of musical line without sacrificing continuity. A marimba mallet doesn’t sound as rich and full on a timpano than a large timpani mallet, and using a real triangle beater or brass mallets on triangles allows them to sparkle more than the butt end of a drumstick. Although my additional mallets added a some logistic difficulties and necessitated some creative thinking, the ability to both emphasize and prioritize some of Lachenmann’s gestures while making some of his brilliant timbral combinations come out was in my opinion worth it.

I hope you enjoy watching and hearing Intérieur I as much as I do playing it!

– Michael Competillo


Helmut (Friedrich) Lachenmann (born 27 November 1935 in Stuttgart) is a German composer associated with musique concrète instrumentale. Lachenmann studied composition and music theory with Johann Nepomuk David and piano with Jürgen Uhde at the Musikhochschule Stuttgart from 1955-58 and was the first private student of Luigi Nono in Venice from 1958-60. He later worked at the Institute of Psychoacoustics and Electronic Music (IPEM) of the University of Ghent in 1965. He received an honorary doctorate from the Musikhochschule Hannover in 2001.

His honors include the Kulturpreis für Musik from the city of Munich (1965), the Kompositionpreis from the city of Stuttgart (1968, for Consolation I), the Bach-Preis Hamburg (1972), and the Ernst von Siemens Musikpreis (1997). Most recently, he received the Royal Philharmonic Society Music Award for Chamber-Scale Composition (2004, for III. Streichquartett, ‘Grido’). He is a member of the Akademie der Künste in Berlin, Hamburg, Leipzig, Mannheim, and Munich and the Academie voor Wetenschapen, Letteren en Schone Kunsten van België. His music has been featured at festivals throughout the world, including numerous occasions at Darmstadt, the Venice Biennale, the Wien Modern, and the Wittener Tage für Neue Kammermusik, as well as five portrait concerts and a symposium at the Salzburg Festival (2002).

Prof. Lachenmann taught at the Musikhochschule Stuttgart from 1966-70, the Pädagogische Hochschule in Ludwigsburg from 1970-76, the Universität Basel in 1972-73, and the Musikhochschule Hannover from 1976-81. He has regularly lectured at Darmstadt since 1978 and taught as Professor für Komposition at the Musikhochschule Stuttgart from 1981-99. In addition, he has lectured in Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Chile, the Dominican Republic, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, The Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, and the USA.


Percussionist Michael Compitello is guided by his passion to create new art through collaborations with composers, performers, actors, and artists in all mediums. Currently Visiting Lecturer in Percussion at Cornell University, Michael has worked with composers Helmut Lachenmann, Nicolaus A. Huber, David Lang, John Luther Adams, Alejandro Viñao, Marc Applebaum and Martin Bresnick on premieres and performances of new works, and has performed as a chamber musician and soloist with the Ensemble Modern, the International Ensemble Modern Academy, and with members of the Bang on a Can All- Stars, Eighth Blackbird and So Percussion. Michael has appeared in diverse locations such as the Darmstadt Summer Course, the Banff Centre, the International Festival of Arts and Ideas, the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, and the Kurt Weill Festival.

As an orchestral musician, Michael has performed with the Lucerne Festival Academy Orchestra, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra and the Aspen Festival Orchestra, and with conductors Pierre Boulez, Marin Alsop, Reinbert de Leeuw, David Zinman, James Conlon, Brad Lubman and Gustav Meier.

From 2009 to 2010, Michael performed and studied contemporary chamber music with the Ensemble Modern and the International Ensemble Modern Academy in Frankfurt, Germany on a Fulbright Grant from the US Department of State. He attended the New Music Workshop of the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival in 2006 and 2009, was a fellow at the Bang on a Can All-Stars Summer Music Institute in 2006 and 2007, and in 2009 attended the Banff Centre’s “Roots and Rhizomes” percussion residency.

Michael’s interest in interdisciplinary collaboration has led to performances at the Yale Repertory Theater and Yale Cabaret, where he helped create “Basement Hades,” a multimedia musical drama featuring his duo New Morse Code, composer Dan Schlosberg, students from the Yale School of Drama, and director Ethan Heard. Michael’s belief in the important role of classical music in contemporary culture has led him to a variety of outreach projects, including “Naturpassage,” a multi-medium project with the members of the Ensemble Modern in Frankfurt’s Bettinaschule, directed by Paul Griffiths and Fraser Trainer. He has also worked with the Yale School of Music’s acclaimed outreach programs, working with grade- and middle-school students in both the “Music and Book Writing” and “Music and Creative Writing” projects, where students used a new composition as inspiration for writing a multi-chapter story.

As a student of Robert van Sice, Michael earned a BM in Percussion from the Peabody Conservatory and an MM and MMA from the Yale School of Music. He will be Interim Lecturer in Percussion at UMass Amherst for fall of 2012.

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