Sven Helbig



Learning a skill can happen imperceptibly – or the whole thing can be a total living nightmare. Whether you feel the pain of the development or not, though, it is there, and German neo-classical composer Sven Helbig is so fascinated by the building blocks of how the human brain acquires new abilities that he has composed ten new pieces on just that subject, each representing what he believes to be one of the pivotal stages of the process.

Helbig, who is a veteran of both the concert stage and the electronic underground, evokes the internal turmoil, frustrations and eventual glory of every painstaking moment. From ‘Induction’, where we take tentative steps out of the ether of uncertainty, with brass and strings attempting to walk as one, like the front and hind end of a newborn deer, through the unshowy and controlled ‘Dedication’, to the almost zen-like state of grace of ‘Immersion’, where the cognitive interference clears and we find our groove, the listener intuitively understands the signals Helbig lays down.

A synthesised, muffled beat introduces ‘Repetition’, forming the track’s rhythm and propulsion, clarifying in tone as we gain confidence in our skill, as if we are crafting and perfecting the music ourselves as we go. But just like that, ‘Despair’ hits and the beat and rhythm have gone. Mournful strings lament our self-doubt and a mounting frustration and disillusionment sets in. We have hit a wall.

‘Lore’ marks a re-dedication and return to founding principles, as bobbing brass parps and darting violins stab to signal forward progress with a flurry of adrenaline and a skip in the step, hope regained. Our rhythm re-asserted, ‘Vision’ allows for wonder, confident now in our ability and able to look out to the horizon, possibilities unfolding before us, while the combustible ‘Metamorphosis’ depicts the most dramatic collision of everything that has come before to create the final, streamlined, intrepid confidence of ‘Flow’. 

The process effectively complete, we finish with the contemplative and elegant ‘Transfiguration’, which asks what new ground there could now be to cover. There is no bombast or cavalier swagger to our protagonist’s sense of achievement, but rather the hope of further discovery, a beautiful end note to a remarkably insightful psycho-musicological study.