Hubert von Goisern
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INTERVIEW

Miscellaneous: 2007

Up to edelweiss fervour

Der Standard 30th May 2007 | Text: Sascha Aumüller | Photo: Martin Fuchs

Hubert von Goisern speaks to Sascha Aumüller about arrogance, Austrian self-portrayal and a flower

Hubert von GoisernDoes the Austrian song need edelweiss?

The only thing that springs to mind is the song from the musical Sound of Music, and that's not Austrian. It's possibly also not a symbol that we use for ourselves, but rather one that others use for us - in order to make us tangible. It's difficult, because there's no edelweiss in the Salzkammergut - at least not that I know of. I saw some really huge ones on hats in Matrei in east Tyrol, but what does that mean? You can find them in the Himalaya too, even larger.

Not just in the Himalaya, but in Switzerland too. Why does that in particular stand for Austria?

It's most likely nothing more than an internal perception that just about reaches to Europe or perhaps the USA. Ask someone from China and they would probably connect different things with Austria. We don't need to persuade ourselves that it's so unique and expresses something essential about us.

So where does this Austro-edelweiss-essence come from?

It perhaps comes along other lines for me. Edelweiss is a protected plant and when one talks of what is essentially Austrian, it occurs to me that we are a nuclear-free country. If edelweiss stands for that or for nature preservation, then that's right to me.

Can it be transported?

I'll try. We'll soon be starting our two year tour with the ship on the Danube. The ecological aspect of this tour through the Danube countries is a very important one, which is why we are working together with the WWF. And it's not even about protecting the alpine region, but the habitat of the people along the Danube. You don't need to excavate or dam any further, you can adapt the ships themselves. In any case I am taking my music with me, as well as these motives, and we'll see what happens.

Do you need the edelweiss for this message?

Probably not, and so far we've only used it once for the cover of Omunduntn, because it's such a beautiful plant - and glowing white star. And so unusual. And of course it's unbelievably dangerous to go to where it grows. It symbolises courage too, because you always have this image in your head of where someone "goes up and falls down" because he hasn't quite made it. That has its charm.

It is symbolically an export schlager anyway, as the previously mentioned song Edelweiß from Sound of Music shows. What does one transport with that?

Only half of Austria, just the alpine part. But I only represent a part of Austria when I play in Berlin or Hamburg. I'm happy in Vienna or Salzburg, but I don't represent this culture outwardly. I've never exported the edelweiss in my lyrics.

And as backdrop for the alpine Austria?

A mountain panorama was always enough for me as a reasonable framework. Or at most a inflatable deer on the stage. That was cheap and looked stylish. The air slowly came out of him during the concert and his antlers began to hang down. I think that playing with inflatable plastic serves as the right counterbalance to the natural majesty. When you overwork this symbolism the air goes out of it at some point.

But the fact is that you gladly take this backdrop and its symbols along with you for concerts.

Yes, particularly as a black and white photographic panorama. That may well have aesthetic reasons for us, but when travelling it really perhaps represents an alpine black and white image. Folk songs are like this year's wine: it tastes better when I drink it up on the Kahlenberg. If I want to say something about the origin of the images in my lyrics, it's best to take them with me.

Does this symbol transport work universally?

We didn't have the picture with us at concerts in Africa. Although I'd had the idea of setting up the mountain panorama in the Mali desert and then just leaving it standing there. But we already had so much excess baggage. And on the other hand it's not just a backdrop that I take along with me, but also a kind of "inner landscape".

A landscape that is externally intact?

I can play in surroundings that are kaput too, if that's what you mean. But yes, for a long time I only wanted to play in "beautiful, intact places". Only with time that becomes dull, people should discover these places for themselves. You can damage this beauty in communicating it too.