Sorry, this entry is only available in German.
A portrait by Cécile Olshausen:
At the age of seven, he forgot his mother tongue Igbo and learned Swiss German. In his music, composer Charles Uzor sets out on a journey back to his Nigerian childhood, to the “pounding and quivering nature” of the African tropics, to the distant voice of his mother. Cécile Olshausen visited Charles Uzor.
It’s raining as I get off the train in St. Gallen. My smartphone I supposed to show me the way to Charles Uzor’s flat, in the centre of St. Gallen, just a two-minute walk away. Nevertheless, I manage to get lost.
Detours have led me to Charles Uzor. Many years ago, we happened to sit next to each other during concert and we talked. Since then, I often heard his name and music, but we never met in person again.
As he opens the door I shake off a few raindrops and Charles Uzor welcomes me into his spacious city flat. My gaze falls on a grand piano, on shelves full of books and CDs, while in the kitchen a radiator ripples like a fountain. A parasol leans in a corner of the living room reminding me of summer, while outside a big Christmas star hangs over the small balcony.
We take a seat at the dining room table. And from the urban holiday lights outside his window, our conversation slowly moves into the life and sound of Charles Uzor, a biography in which so many paths cross.
Charles Uzor was born in Nigeria in 1961. A few years later, a brutal war for independence broke out in his home region of Biafra. At the age of seven, he escaped the horrors of war and found a new family in St. Gallen, where he went to school and graduated. His studies – first oboe, then composition – later took him to Rome, Bern, Zurich and London. Finally, he wrote his doctoral thesis on melody and inner time consciousness. Charles Uzor’s works are many and varied: operas, dance, orchestral and choral compositions, but also many pieces for different ensemble settings.
Through music, Charles Uzor connects with his past and his childhood in Nigeria.
Our chat is calm, a conversation that allows for silence. A silence that I also find in some of Charles Uzor’s pieces, in Nri/ mimicri (2015/2016) for Ondes Martenot, percussion ensemble and tape for example. It is not a linearly developing composition, but rather a soundscape through which one senses by listening attentively. It is as if you enter a tropical house and find yourself – as soon as you step over the threshold – in a completely different world. For Charles Uzor, Nri/ mimicri is an approach to his “African origins”, as he puts it, a piece in which one can perceive ” pounding and quivering of nature”. And it is a reference to his ancestors, the Nri, a legendary Nigerian tribe.
Charles Uzor, Nri/mimicri, Percussion Art Ensemble Bern, UA 2016, Production SRG/SSR
Charles Uzor belongs to the Igbo people and grew up in the south-east of Nigeria, in the Niger Delta, a region with tropical rainforest and many rivers. He spoke Igbo with his family. When he came to Switzerland at the age of seven, this language disappeared within a very short time. To this day, Charles Uzor is haunted by the fact that he could simply forget his mother tongue.
… traditional Igbo sayings spoken on tape….
Fortunate circumstances led to him finding his family again after the Biafra War. As a teenager and firmly anchored in his Swiss life, Charles Uzor decided to stay with his St. Gallen family. However, he has stayed in touch with his Nigerian mother, who now lives in the USA, ever since. And in his cycle Mothertongue (2018), you can hear her voice, speaking traditional Igbo sayings on tape.
Charles Uzor, Mothertongue Fire / mimicri for tape, Maria Christina Uzor, 2018
Uzor processes these recordings into a composition and thus connects sonically with a language he no longer understands, his mother tongue.
Charles Uzor, Mothertongue for Mezzosoprano, Ensemble and tape, Ensemble Mothertongue, world creation Musikfestival Bern 2020, Prodcution SRG/SSR
Charles Uzor’s compositional paths lead him not only back to the past of his African childhood, but also to centuries afar. During a short break in the conversation, when we open the windows to les some fresh air in, I take a look at Charles Uzor’s bursting, colourful CD shelf – and notice a lot of music by Pérotin, Guillaume de Machaut, Johannes Ockeghem or Costanzo Festa. I’m curious to learn, where this love for early music comes from as soon as we continue our conversation.
According to Uzor, pre-baroque music opens up a vastness and wildness, an order and structure that magically attracts him: “I often have the feeling that I was there; images of myself as a Renaissance man come to me, that’s how close I relate to it”. This music with its rounds, rhythms and repetitions also has something African for Charles Uzor. Thus, early music and African language sounds come together in his compositions. Paths that meet, moments of encounter.
What his music manages to combine effortlessly, the old and the new, the African and the Swiss, cracks in his everyday life experience. Because as a black man, Charles Uzor is affected by racism – even in Switzerland. And, as he tells me, every day. Everyday racism.
8’46” – that’s how long George Floyd’s agony lasted
Charles Uzor could not remain silent when George Floyd was murdered. For the black US citizen who was violently killed by the police in May 2020 and whose murder triggered worldwide protest – along with the Black Lives Matter movement, Charles Uzor composed the piece 8’46” seconds – that’s how long George Floyd’s agony lasted when his breath was taken from him. The composition only consists of breathing sounds. For Charles Uzor it was a necessity to write this piece in order to process his own deep shock and to externalise it.
Charles Uzor, 8’46” – Floyd in memoriam, world creation Musikfestival Bern 2020, Prodcution SRG/SSR
Charles Uzor’s homage to George Floyd was premiered in Bern on September 4, 2020. I have an intense memory of this focused performance by the Mothertongue ensemble, directed by Rupert Huber. Not pathetic at any moment. And at the end of the 8’46” no applause – but concern, quietness and just silence.
The rain has stopped now and it’s dark outside. We talked for a long time. In the kitchen, Charles Uzor makes coffee and the soothing ripples of the radiator brings us back from the depths of our conversation to the present. Then I set off towards the station. Now I know the way.
Broadcast SRF 2 Kultur:
Musik unserer Zeit, Mittwoch, 16.12.20, 22h: Pochen und Beben – der Komponist Charles Uzor, Redaktion Cécile Olshausen.
Since neo.mx3’s launch, the four SRG stations are gradually making Swiss avant-garde archive recordings accessible. In the meantime, an enormous pool of rare recordings are already available.
This blog draws attention to individual musicians, ensembles and important works, starting with Basel composer Jacques Wildberger (1922-2006) and his relation to Paul Celan.
Corinne Holtz: Jacques Wildberger sets Paul Celan to music
Paul Celan (1920-1970) was born 100 years ago as Paul Antschel in Czernowitz in what was then known as Great Romania. He is one of the German poets whose works have been most frequently set to music and therefore contributed in shaping the history of music for some 50 years. Swiss composer Jacques Wildberger turned to Celan again in his latest work.
In April 1953 a written communication reached the Swiss Musicians Association’s members of the board, concerning the application for membership of Swiss composer Jacques Wildberger. Among the enclosed scores a Trio for oboe, clarinet and bassoon from 1952, written after his strict studies with Vladimir Vogel in Ticino. Wildberger’s first independent twelve-tone works were openly rejected. “No one will ever accept these works. We will never have to hear them and can therefore safely accept them.” This cynical statement comes from Paul Sacher, patron and contemporary music conductor.
Jacques Wildberger: Trio for Oboe, Klarinette and Fagott, 1952, Eigenproduktion SRG/SSR
Sacher had been president of the Swiss Association of Musicians since 1946. He can be considered central regarding music-political handlings and offices at the time and his influence on the Swiss musical landscape will be decisive for the five decades to come.
Jacques Wildberger stands for that 12-tone technique which Sacher describes as “constructed” and “aggressive”. He also represents political views that are considered suspect in the Swiss post-war context. Wildberger had been a member of the PdA (Labour Party) for three years and remained a self-confessed leftist after his departure in 1947 – in protest against Stalin’s regime.
The struggle for the possibility of hope
A central idea in Wildberger’s music is “the struggle for the possibility of hope”. The hope that things will get better and fairer one day. Although secular, Wildberger acknowledges the interpretation presented in Hebrews 11:1, that faith is a sort of confidence in what one hopes for.
This belief was first explored from a compositional angle in 1978, with An die Hoffnung for soprano solo, speaker and orchestra.
Jacques Wildberger, An die Hoffnung (1978/79), Sylvia Nopper, soprano, Georg Martin Bode, speaker, Sinfonieorchester Basel, conductor Heinz Holliger
Most recently in Tempus cadendi, tempus sperandi for mixed choir and six instrumentalists, written in 1998/99 for SWR Stuttgart. The cantata resembles a legacy of the 78-year-old composer. Once again Wildberger composes a memorial for the murdered Jews, with Paul Celan’s poems “Tenebrae” and “Es war Erde in ihnen” forming the centre of the four-part cantata.
Tenebrae seen in Celan’s and Wildberger’s perspective of is breaking taboos. The poet appears sacrilegious in his demand that God must pray, not man. The composer takes this transgression at its word and writes a series of protest songs, thereby returning to the protest songs of his youth, which he had written for the Basel workers’ cabaret ‘Scheinwerfer’ and the Neue Volksbühne Basel.
Jacques Wildberger: Wir wollen zusammen marschieren, Eigenproduktion SRG/SSR
Celan knew the expressive Tenebrae-scores of French baroque composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier, who wrote 31 instrumental “motets concertants” on the lamentations of Jeremiah. Instead of staging anger over the destruction of the Jewish temples, Charpentier composed consoling music for the Holy Week, the darkest days of the liturgical year. Celan was also inspired by Friedrich Hölderlin’s Patmos hymn. From ‘Nah ist und schwer zu fassen der Gott’ (close and difficult to grasp) to ‘Nah sind wir, Herr, nah sind wir, Herr, nah und greifbar” (close and touchable). Then the poet turns to the gas chambers. ‘Gegriffen schon, Herr, ineinander verkrallt, als wär der Leib eines jeden von uns dein Leib, Herr.’ (Seized already, Lord, clawed into our selves as though, the body of each of us were your body, Lord)*. At the end there is an imperative: ‘Bete, Herr. Wir sind nah’ (Pray, Lord. We are near.)
Paul Celan reads Tenebrae
Wildberger picks up this tone and produces the highest intensity with the most economical means in his 2-minute 30-second short movement. Whip strokes from drums and four-handed keyboard open the music and interfere again and again as a signal. Tenebrae’s tempo indication is “agitato” and the speed is set at 108 BPM. God needs the whip to listen. Only then the choir begins: eight voices strong, homophonically led and with rhythmic shifts like an assembly of very different voices. The music is a wake-up call behind the text: ‘Nah sind wir Herr, nah und greifbar’.
In bar 10 the Lord is shouted at fortissimo. Wildberger reinforces the accented note with the performance indication “gridato” (shouted). Five bars long, the fortissimo is “crawled into itself”.
Then a quiet part starts with ‘Bete, bete zu uns’ (Pray, pray to us). The screaming is followed by pleading: sung, spoken and ending in the voiceless ‘nn-ah’ (close). Here, a general pause marks, already at bar 20, the midpoint of the 41 bars piece.
Wildberger starts anew and lets the protest grow step by step from Celan’s line ‘windschief gingen wir hin’ (leaning we went). The music ends like the text as choral imperative: ‘Bete, Herr. Wir sind nah’ (Pray, Lord. We are near).
Wildberger’s height becomes clear once again in his solitary approach to Celan. Instead of transcending the poet and his life drama as usual, Wildberger calls for resistance and action. “I do not have the right to prescribe hope” – but to compose hope he does, with musical means at the height of times.
Other works by Jacques Wildberger can found on his Neo-Profile and Playlist.
Broadcast SRF 2 Kultur:
Musik unserer Zeit, 18.11.20: Lieder jenseits der Menschen – Paul Celan und die Musik, Redaktion Corinne Holtz
listen there: Jacques Wildberger, Tenebrae, from Min 53.36
Gabrielle Weber: Interview with Jeanne Larrouturou, Ensemble Batida & Diĝita: Romandie @GdN Basel_1, 26.11.10
The instrumentation is unusual… and convincing: three percussionists and two pianos. Even more unusual is the collaboration with the cartoon collective Hécatombe. At Diĝita, Geneva-based ensemble Batida combines music with comics. On November 26, at the Gare du Nord, focus of the “Romandie” season.
Basel’s Gâre du Nord, the Station for New Music’s main focus extends over three seasons, with three times three concerts. In the long run, this will build solid bridges to the other Swiss language region, which is of high importance, especially now, as the ensembles of the French-speacking part of Switzerland cannot perform there due to the regional lockdown.
Neoblog portrays the guest ensembles and neo.mx3 accompanies the concerts’ live broadcasts together with RTS.
Episode one: Ensemble Batida Genève: A portrait
I met Jeanne Larrouturou, percussionist and co-artistic director, for a conversation via Zoom during the Geneva Lockdown. Larrouturou comes from France, grew up in Geneva, and after her studies at the Haute école de musique Genève (HME), she specialised in contemporary music at the Musikhochschule Basel. Since then she has been acting as bridge-builder between the two regions’ music scenes.
Batida’s lineup was rather accidental. Larrouturou explains that the ensemble originated as a “classic Bartok formation”, referring to Bartok’s 1937/38 sonata for two pianos and percussion. In 2010 four of the ensemble members formed for a concert at the HME and further joint performances followed. When a percussionist left for abroad, Larrouturou stepped in and stayed. The core formation has since then remained unchanged: three percussionists Jeanne Larrouturou, Alexandra Bellon and Anne Briset complement Viva Sanchez Reinoso and Raphaël Krajka on piano.
A stroke of luck, because many new works were created for this unique lineup. On one hand by composers, on the other hand by collective composition of the ensemble’s members themselves, which also began by chance. During a project with a dance company, the choreographer asked Batida to compose something. “This is how the first composition commission happened and we carried on composing together afterwards. Next came music for a project with a puppet theatre,” says Larrouturou.
Ensemble Batida, Haïku, collective composition 2013
“The way we compose strongly draws on experimentation. We start from an idea of general structure, a concept and then we “go”: we play, we listen to each other, record ourselves, listen to the recordings together. We structure, organise and record “. A kind of creation that combines improvisation and notation. Generally, the improvisational elements are retained.
musique de création
Batida does not want to get stuck in a set musical genre. “We see ourselves in contemporary music, but don’t like what’s behind that label very much” says Larrouturou. In France there are several more fitting designations: ‘Musique de création’ is the most appropriate for her: “it’s sufficiently open, but at the same time excludes traditional ‘contemporary music’.”
Ensemble Batida: Mean E, kollektive Komposition 2013
The ensemble has hardly had performances in German-speaking Switzerland so far. After the Concours Nicati in Bern 2014, performances at the festival Zeiträume Basel and in Andermatt followed. Quite the opposite to the Romandie , as well as abroad, where the ensemble performed at many festivals, toured France, Russia, Portugal and Cyprus. Another tour – with Diĝita – was planned in the USA (but had to be postponed due to the pandemic).
Larrouturou explains the meagre exchanges between language regions as follows: “I have been living in Basel for about four years now and my network is in Basel, Geneva and Lausanne. It never ceases to amaze me how little the scenes know each other. At the university in Basel, I noticed that there were fundamental differences in aesthetic orientation. Certain very highly considered musicians in Basel, are hardly known in the French-speaking part Switzerland. The French-speaking part is more closely linked to France, while the German-speaking part is to Germany,”.
Larrouturou curates the Lausanne concert series Fracanaüm together with composer Kevin Juillerat, a fellow student from Basel, based in Lausanne. They try to transcend such divisions. “We don’t even ask ourselves where someone comes from and invite musicians from our network from both regions. I’m convinced that these small initiatives create and develop long term relationships”.
But Batida is also about building bridges between divisions. Most projects are transdisciplinary and developed in collaboration with other artists, with dance, puppet theatre, architecture, video or comic artists.
The collaboration with the Geneva-based drawing collective Hécatombe is ongoing, since their first joint project in 2016.
Ensemble Batida & Hécatombe: Oblikvaj, collective composition 2016-2018
“In our first project Oblikvaj (2016-2018), it immediately became apparent, that we were on the same wavelength. Each of the five members of Hécatombe created a graphic score, in form of a 24-page black and white comic strip and Batida reacted with collective compositions. It worked brilliantly”. Concerts with live encounters followed.
Diĝita is primarily about the joint creation process. “In the summer of 2019 we took a 14-day retreat in an old farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. We didn’t bring any instruments, but collected and recorded existing sounds, for example big machines, tractors and engines.
Diĝita, Trailer ©Gare du Nord, Batida & Hécatombe
The title Diĝita stands on one hand for the ‘fingers’, on the other hand for digital vs. analogue. The recorded and sampled sounds refer to the digital realm, while the music performers work with their fingers. The musicians perform within a transparent cube, with screen-display walls onto which 3D videos by the drawing collective are projected: life-size comic figures on the videos overlap and thus alienate the real bodies of the musicians in the cube.
Diĝita was able to give a concert in Lausanne on 31 October: “It was an extreme experience as we all knew that we wouldn’t be playing live again for a while, so we enjoyed the moment even more,” says Larrouturou. The Diĝita tour with follow-up concerts in Geneva was unfortunately interrupted by the lockdown.
During our conversation, it turned out that Batida is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year. A party with partners and audience is planned in Geneva, but due to the pandemic it will not take place before 2021.
Ensemble Batida: Klaviere: Viva Sanchez Reinoso, Raphaël Krajka
Percussion; Jeanne Larrouturou, Alexandra Bellon, Anne Briset
Diĝita: Video: Giuseppe Greco, Ton: David Poissonnier
Gare du Nord: Batida & Hécatombe: Diĝita, 26.11.20, 20h
(because of lockdown in Basel, they played twice for 15 persons, combined with a Livestream for everybody else)
l’écho des pavanes, 20.11.20, rédaction Anne Gillot, Gespräch mit Désirée Meiser, Intendantin Gare du Nord
broadcast SRF 2 Kultur:
in Musik unserer Zeit zu neo.mx3, 21.10.20, Redaktion Florian Hauser / Gabrielle Weber
17 new streaming productions during lockdown: 6.-29.11.20
The city of Vienna is going through troubled times. Hit hard by the pandemic and declared quarantine region at an early stage, then locked down at short notice during the month of November. Not to mention the outrageous terrorist attack. The unique Wien Modern music festival happens to be, both in terms of time and geography, in the midst of it, as it’s usually staged in various locations of the city centre throughout the month.
Under the slogan Stimmung (‘mood’ as well as ‘tuning’), the festival traces the current 2020 mood in complex and diverse ways. 44 new productions and 85 new pieces should have been performed, over 32 days, but only the opening weekend could take place in front of an audience, showing six productions, a mere 14% of the total programme.
On the third (as well as second-last) evening, the premiere of Edu Haubensak’s “Grosse Stimmung” could be presented. Wien Modern spared no effort and – almost in anticipation of what was to come – the Wiener Konzerthaus’ auditorium was emptied for eleven differently tuned grand pianos. The audience was, of course, still present – but in the stands only.
This allowed Haubensak’s work to be experienced live and in its integrity for the first time. After partial performances, the planned integral premiere at the Ruhrtriennale had to be cancelled in summer due to the pandemic. Despite quarantine, the three Swiss pianists Simone Keller, Tomas Bächli and Stefan Wirth were there to perform.
Then came the lockdown with its banned events and curfew. The quick decision in response was that a total of 24 events, i.e. more than half of the concerts, will now be performed without an audience and streamed free of charge.
Five days only after the lockdown was declared, the first streaming concert took place in front of an empty Musikverein hall on the 6th of November: the world premiere of Sofia Gubaidulina’s long-awaited new orchestral work “Der Zorn Gottes” performed by the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra (RSO) and directed by Oksana Lyniv. The planned premiere at the Salzburg Easter Festival with the Staatskapelle Dresden and Christian Thielemann had already been cancelled after several postponements.
The fact that it eventually premiered online is of significant importance given the situation as well as the terror that Vienna had to endure. Gubaidulina sees the performance as a sign of peace in times of increasing hatred and “a general overstrain affecting civilisation”.
Klaus Lang: tönendes Licht
Livestream from Stephansdom Wien: Klaus Lang, tönendes Licht, world creation 19.11.20
Other important highlights are a concert with three world premieres on November 18, in the Vienna Konzerthaus. In addition to new works by Friedrich Cerha and Johannes Kalitze, a piece by Matthias Kranebitter, winner of the Erste Bank Composition Prize, will be premiered – “a new encyclopaedia of pitch and deviation”. Performed by Klangforum Wien and directed by Kalitzke himself. On November 19, live from Vienna’s St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the premiere of the “giant organ concerto” (cit. Wien Modern) “tönendes licht” by Klaus Lang, for a space wise dispersed Vienna Symphony Orchestra, directed by Peter Rundel.
20 years Ensemble Mondrian – Anniversary concert in Vienna:
This production has unfortunately been postponed to 2021, due to Swiss quarantine regulation guidelines.
There is also something to be heard from the Swiss side: On November 21, the Mondrian Ensemble will mark its 20th anniversary by presenting works by Martin Jaggi and Thomas Wally, both long-time collaborators of the Basel based ensemble.
Ensemble Mondrian, Thomas Wally, Podcast
Premieres of Andres Bosshard with Zahra Mani and Mia Zabelka, however, had to be postponed to November 2021. Same for Basel ensemble Nikel’s concert with works by Thomas Kessler and Hugues Dufourt.
Bernhard Günther, artistic director of Wien Modern, made the following statement in a in-depth reflection on the lockdown and the cultural mood in Austria: “The current mood here indicates that clear signals are urgently needed to prevent culture from being perceived as a victim of the health system, winter tourism in the mountains and Christmas shopping. A captain must of course try and avoid the iceberg, but at the moment he must also do everything he can to prevent the ship from sinking on the opposite side”.
Through streaming, Wien Modern now tries to maintain Vienna’s cultural life and make part of it accessible. Perhaps – to stick with the festival’s motto – the actual mood can be somewhat improved, even if this doesn’t diminish the life threatening situation that cultural production is currently facing.
To express our solidarity, SRF 2 Kultur and neo.mx3, are pleased to inform their public, users and listeners regarding the different streaming possibilities and details.
Broadcasts SRF 2 Kultur
Kultur kompakt Podcast, 9.11.20: Theresa Beyer, “Der Zorn Gottes” entlädt sich im Stream zur UA Wien Modern, Sofia Gubaidulina:
Neoblog, Corinne Holtz: Wenn aus Leidenschaft Subversion wird – Portrait Simone Keller
Kontext, 21.10.20, Corinne Holtz: Zehn neu gestimmte Klaviere
In Musik unserer Zeit, 21.10.20: Florian Hauser / Gabrielle Weber: zu neo.mx3: Simone Keller & Edu Haubensak
Christian Fluri / Gabrielle Weber: Interview Martin Bliggenstorfer – 10 years ensemble proton bern: Anniversary season 2020/21
This is where a brilliant birthday portrait regarding ensemble proton bern’s 10 years activity, with plenty of notes regarding the anniversary season was meant to be found.
Christian Fluri talked with Martin Bliggenstorfer, the Managing Director, shortly after the lockdown of the first pandemic wave. At that time, he expressed confidence and urge for action.
Now, shortly before the big anniversary celebration of November 16th was originally planned, we find ourselves in the midst of a second wave, hitting with unexpected violence.
I therefore discussed the effects of the new situation on the ensemble proton bern and its anniversary season with Bliggenstorfer in a second conversation, immediately after the Federal authorities announced the new guidelines of October 18th. Since then, measures and guidelines have been changing constantly and most performances have become virtually impossible.
The ensemble proton bern is thus representative of many ensembles, musicians and organisers who are suddenly facing cancellations, postponements and an uncertain future.
ensemble proton bern has been researching with great passion since ten years now, looking for new sounds, new works and new composers. It is now one of the most in-demand ensembles in and outside Europe.
Since its foundation in 2010, the ensemble, which is based in the Dampfzentrale Bern, has performed some 273 works by 180 composers in 128 concerts, 175 of the works were world premieres. Among other highlights, its concerts at St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Concert Hall in in front of large audiences and a West Coast tour of the USA.
During the first wave of Corona, the ensemble was quite lucky, as managing director, oboist and lupophone player Martin Bliggenstorfer states: “Right before the lockdown, we were able to play the protonwerk no. 9 concert in the Dampfzentrale. But we had to cancel the second performance at Basel’s Gare du Nord.”
protonwerk is a support programme for young composers* to whom the ensemble commissions works.
Adrian Nagel, Netzwerk, UA: protonwerk no.7 / ensemble proton bern 2017
“We were able to postpone our programme terrible ten, a concert with world premieres by Thomas Kessler (My lady soul) as well as Michael Pelzel and Stefan Wirth, which was planned for May, at short notice and managed to play in September. So not all of our planned programmes went completely lost,” says Bliggenstorfer happily.
Making music together is missed
The ensemble could hardly wait to get back playing concerts after the lockdown. So terrible ten became somewhat extraordinary as making music together again after such a long time and sharing music live with the audience was a great experience for everyone involved, says Bliggentorfer.
Thomas Kessler, My lady soul, UA ensemble proton bern 2019
Even though the ensemble’s musicians were able to make productive use of the lockdown period. “What we missed was making music together, being in direct contact with each other and rehearse with the concerts in mind. But at the same time it was also good to let our brains and bodies rest for a few weeks.”
Fortunately, the ensemble’s existence is currently not in danger. “We didn’t have to return any of the received subsidies or support for the cancelled concerts. That way we’ve been able to pay out our own fees as well as those of our guest performers”. Bliggenstorfer is very grateful for the generous attitude of Switzerland’s donors.
“The universe of sounds is limitless…”
The ensemble is therefore still in an excellent position and constantly striving to develop further. This, however, will happen without its long-time conductor Matthias Kuhn, with the ensemble since its founding. “He wishes to reorient himself artistically” which is something that Bliggenstorfer understands, however important Kuhn has been for the young ensemble’s development. In the future, the work will go on with a core of eight members and without a permanent conductor, in order to develop chamber music projects as well as concerts and performances with larger ensembles and guest conductors.
The passion for contemporary music in its various genres and orientations never changed as the ensemble has no blinders on and joyfully plays and shows how full of enthusiasm, lively and vital contemporary music can be. “The universe of sounds and their possible combinations is infinite”, and Bliggenstorfer knows that ” there are new discoveries to be made throughout an entire lifespan”.
Verschiedene Komponisten click & faun, ensemble proton bern 2019
Sound possibilities of new instruments are also far from being exhausted: i.e. the “clarinet d’amore” rediscovered by Richard Haynes, the double-reed instruments “lupophone” and “contraforte” played by Martin Bliggenstorfer and Elise Jacoberger or Maximilian Haft’s “straw violin” – not to mention the variety in the realmof electronic sound production. ensemble proton bern will continue to research.
2nd interview, October 21, 2020:
Despite growing uncertainties and the threat of new restrictions, Bliggenstorfer still appeared to be confident regarding future concert possibilities on October 21: “Cultural events should not be cancelled as long as they are not officially prohibited. Protection concepts must of course be implemented perfectly, which worked well so far”.
Fixed appearances as main act were planned as part of the “5 years Kultur-Kino Rex” anniversary programme, with two visual artists, during which composer Ennio Morricone was to be shown from an much less known side. “Morricone is well known as film music composer – but he was also active in so called ‘art music’, among others as trumpet player of the “Gruppo di improvisazzione Nuova Consonanza” in the 60s/70s.
However, the new Berne guidelines of October 23, closed cinemas and museums with immediately effect and the concerts had to be cancelled shortly afterwards.
“fette fête” (big fat party) – the ensemble’s 10th anniversary concert
The “fette fête” was planned for 16 November in Bern: a huge birthday party with premieres and works by Louis Andriessen, Christian Henking and Annette Schmucki. The ensemble also commissioned a work by young Swiss composer Tobias Krebs. “We are extremely pleased about this – he is an outstanding young composer whom we know from protonwerk”.
Tobias Krebs, ambra, UA Duo Vers 2018
During the interview, Bliggenstorfer held on to the possibility of performing, for “as long as it is possible to propose art as a live experience, we do not want to give up the opportunity to perform. We want to deal with the situation responsibly by observing the protection rules and concepts”.
Unfortunately, the concert had to be cancelled (as of October 30 guidelines) and will be rescheduled to February 2021 (tbc.).
Further uncertainties arise regarding future projects with guests from abroad: “If they cannot enter or travel, we will have to look for replacements. Furthermore, engagements abroad are cancelled for the time being. For the anniversary season, the ensemble had invitations to New York and Salzburg, for example.”
The financial consequences of the current situation cannot be assessed yet: “At the moment we are still in a good position financially, but the medium to long-term impact of the crisis on the funding landscape is uncertain.”
The ensemble continues to show its full commitment. The urge of research and innovation, as well as the desire to play and discover, remain intact.
However, it is impossible to foresee long-term consequences regarding live concerts, in particular as far as the international situation is concerned.
Konzerte Jubiläumssaison 20/21 &aktuelle updates
30.Oktober: The dark side of Ennio Morricone, Kino Rex Bern: ABGESAGT
16. November: “fette fête” – 10Jahre proton, Dampfzentrale Bern: ABGESAGT: VERSCHIEBEDATUM 2. Februar 2021 (tbc)**
17. November, 20h, Konzert Gare du Nord Basel: protonwerk nr.9 (Wiederaufnahme)
Sendungen SRF 2 Kultur:
Musik unserer Zeit, 28.10.20: Redaktion Florian Hauser, Gespräch zu My lady soul, mit Thomas Kessler, Martin Bliggenstorfer, Bettina Berger, Vera Schnider
Neue Musik im Konzert, 28.10.20: My lady soul mit terrible ten, Konzertaufzeichnung vom 15.9.20, Dampfzentrale Bern, Redaktion Florian Hauser.
Musikmagazin, 25.7.20: u.a. Richard Haynes, Redaktion Florian Hauser
**DATUM OFFEN: Neue Musik im Konzert: “fette fête”, Konzertaufzeichnung, Dampfzentrale Bern, Redaktion Florian Hauser.
A portrait of Simone Keller – pianist, curator, music mediator @ Festival Wien Modern & Edu Haubensak: Grosse Stimmung 31.10.20
by Corinne Holtz
2020 begins with tightly scheduled concerts. For Laptop4, an instrumental play by Lara Stanić, Kukuruz Quartet also used a camera and a microphone, while for Ensemble Tzara and world premieres by Patrick Frank and Trond Reinholdtsen, Simone Keller is featured at the piano. On March 12th, the day before the lockdown is announced, she and the thélème choir present a whimsical programme of vocal music ranging from Guillaume de Machaut to Francis Poulenc.
Then the lights go out… the premiere of Grosse Stimmung by Edu Habensak for differently tuned pianos is also affected. The Ruhrtriennale is cancelled, but the Wien Modern festival is scheduled for the end of October. The parquet chairs in the great hall of the Vienna Konzerthaus have to be moved apart, in order to create space for a total of ten differently tuned concert pianos.
Simone Keller, Samuel Bächli and Stefan Wirth are determined to play the cycle, which lasts over three hours, on October 31st. The finale is a newly commissioned tutti, featuring students of the University of Music and Performing Arts.
“Yes, we will go to Vienna, unless there is really a travel ban on entry. We would also accept the quarantine. I played at the Wiener Festwochen in early September. The organisers were extremely careful regarding rules and measures, so that the performances could take place”.
A woman’s advice: “show less emotions and discuss your hairstyle with a man beforehand…”
Simone Keller is also candid when it comes to the financial consequences of the pandemic. She has been able to cover 80% of the work losses in recent months, thanks to government support measures. The new Covid law, which became effective in September, guarantees compensation for work loss until June 2021, but only to those who can prove a loss of at least 55% compared to 2015-2019. “This is of course ridiculous when, like me, one earns some 40’000 francs a year… which means you can barely get by even at 100%”.
Simone Keller in Lara Stanic, Fantasia for Piano-Solo and electronics, 2020
The crisis is existential. Are women harder hit than men? “As a freelance artist, I am at the bottom of the food chain anyway, where it’s probably not a gender-based classification anymore.” Things are different when women stand on a stage and send signals that the audience evaluates. “An advice given to me by a woman in a high management position was eye-opening to me. She advised to show less emotions when making music and to always discuss my hairstyle with a man. She herself would always ask her husband what he thought of her appearance before an important meeting”. Since then, Simone Keller has also been taking a closer look at “sexism among women”.
Simone Keller plays Julia Amanda Perry © Wiener Festwochen 2020 reframed
“turning the impossible into possible “
She explores herself by revealing little-known repertoire as well as daring refreshing forms of programming, for example in the context of the carte blanche granted to her by Zurich’s Moods Jazz Club. “Turning the impossible into possible”, says the pianist and curator on the sold-out opening night of the ‘Breaking Boundaries’ festival. Her driving force seems to be passion and subversion at once, carried by the flame of finally being able to play in front of an audience again.
Simone Keller selected three venues for the three programme elements: four concert pianos, each in its own mood for a cross-section of Edu Haubensak’s piano cycle Grosse Stimmung, six pianos for music by Julius Eastman – interpreted with three refugees as fellow musicians – and Moods’ grand piano the for the improvisation by Vera Kappeler with Peter Conradin Zumthor on percussion. “The effort was enormous, we must thank piano manufacturer Urs Bachmann and his team for the commitment, without them it wouldn’t have happened”.
An invitation to listen to colours – a single key becoming a microcluster.
Simone Keller sparks when she gets going. Every tone gets the exact amount of energy it needs and is precisely placed in space and time, shaped by pianistic subtlety. Patterns become comprehensible phrases. Shock moments are as deeply developed as lyrical gestures. The extremely physical music of Haubensak becomes vivid. Haubensak describes the resulting sounds as “noise cubes”: they literally jump at the listener. The whirring of the overlapping vibrations in Collection II, releases colours never heard before. The ear is in the eye of the storm. Haubensak has created his own mixed mood for the scordatura of Collection II, which gives each position on the piano a special character. If all three strings (or tones) of a key are tuned differently, the horizon widens. A single key becoming a microcluster. The piano becomes unbounded when all 241 strings are tuned differently. And the attack on the sovereign instrument becomes an invitation to listen to colours.
Simone Keller plays Edu Haubensak Pur, for piano in Skordatur (2004/05, rev. 2012)
Simone Keller formulates “bold wishes” beyond art: social security for artists, basic granted income with personal responsibility for risk, integrating outsiders into cultural practice. There will be a lot on the plate there, because the crisis has only just begun. The pianist has been leading the artists’ collective ‘ox+öl’ together with director Philipp Bartels since 2014. It runs composition and improvisation workshops for and with children with a migration background and organizing participative concerts with violent juvenile criminals in prison.
Simone Keller is preparing for the uncertain future. This summer, she embarked on another area: an “intensive education programme in sign language, triggered by a music theatre project with deaf people”. Perhaps she will do an apprenticeship and become a sign language interpreter, “a very sought-after profession”. Another possibility she talks about is increasing her socio-cultural work in prison as well as in the refugees sector and play less concerts.”
Festival Wien Modern, Edu Haubensak: Grosse Stimmung, 31.10.20
Simone Keller, Wien Modern, ox&öl – Breaking Boundaries Festival, Philipp Bartels, Edu Haubensak, Tomas Bächli, Stefan Wirth, Ensemble Tzara, Lara Stanic, Patrick Frank, Ensemble thélème, Duo Kappeler Zumthor, Urs Bachmann, Trond Reinholdtsen, Moods Club, Kukuruz Quartett
broadcasts SRF 2 Kultur:
Kontext, Mittwoch, 21.10.20, 17:58h: Künste im Gespräch, Redaktion Corinne Holtz
in: Musik unserer Zeit, Mittwoch, 21.10.20., 20h: Redaktion Florian Hauser / Roman Hošek / Gabrielle Weber: Sc’ööf! & neo.mx3
Thomas Meyer: Edu Haubensak – Das wohlverstimmte Klavier, in: Schweizer Musikzeitung, Nr. 11, November 2011
Edu Haubensak: von früher…von später. Im Dickicht der Mikroharmonien, in: MusikTexte 166, August 2020
Pauline Oliveros: Breaking Boundaries
Anya Leveillé: Interview Alexandre Babel Les Amplitudes La Chaux-de Fonds 21.-25.10.20
The 9th edition Les Amplitudes, conceived by percussionist, curator and composer Alexandre Babel will be presented in La Chaux-de-Fonds from October 21 to October 25.
Geneva born Alexandre Babel, currently lives in Berlin, from where he travels the world as a soloist and with numerous ensembles, exploring contemporary, improvised and experimental music as performer, composer and curator.
Artistic director of Eklekto, percussionist-drummer with the KNM Berlin ensemble as well as the experimental trio Sudden Infant, performer with Mio Chareteau in the Radial collective, composer for various instrumental ensembles (including a snare drum choir and a cello-piano duo) or Delia Hess’ animated films, Alexandre Babel extends his sound research through multiple artistic practices which will be reflected in a series of events mixing concerts, performances, conferences, projections and sound walks at Les Amplitudes.
During my phone call (or rather “Zoom” call) with Alexandre Babel in his Berlin rehearsal room, we discussed the atypical Les Amplitudes festival. Its monographic dimension makes the event unique within the galaxy of contemporary music festivals, allowing the public to discover the guest artist’s creative workshop, whose programming reveals La Chaux-de-Fonds’ urban spaces as well as architectural heritage.
How did you approach Les Amplitudes’ programming?
Les Amplitudes allows me to combine my three main activities – instrumentalist, composer and programmer – within a single event that fits into a precise framework, namely La Chaux-de-Fonds. The town becomes stage for a gigantic composition that begins on the first day of the festival and ends with the closing concert. This “composition” is made up of musical, social and urban parameters, which I perceive as one single entity formed by a constellation of concerts, events and encounters.
Alexandre Babel, the way down pour violoncelle et piano, Duo Orion 2020
You refer to the city being transformed into a huge composition. Was it to compose this urban score that you chose Alvin Lucier’s “Memory Space” for the opening of the Festival, given that the piece plays with the sound spaces of a particular place?
Alvin Lucier’s piece is programmed as part of the event entitled “I listen to the city”, developed by the artistic director of the KNM Berlin Ensemble, Thomas Bruns. This project, which creates a kind of live urban postcard, invites participants to be guided, blindfolded, through the streets of the city and discover it not through looking, but through hearing. In “Memory Space”, Lucier provides the interpreters with a text as score indicating the interpretation procedure. The musicians go to a place whose soundscape they will have to memorise by various means (recording, note-taking, drawings), but for the concert, they are asked to reproduce the sound imprint of the place from memory and with their instrument. In La Chaux-de-Fonds, these wanderings will disclose several listening layers, with participants walking around listening to the sounds of the streets and musicians musically reproducing what they have heard in the past.
the city is transformed into a gigantic composition
What do you consider to be La Chaux-de-Fonds’ specific sound characteristics?
After having participated in the production of the “I listen to the city” project in many cities, La Chaux-de-Fonds seemed extremely quiet to me. Sometimes, it is even difficult to find a noisy place, but when you walk through the streets, your hearing opens up and you start to perceive sounds that are more sustained, more distant. This project is very interesting because it allows to really express something regarding the city.
Besides from the sound walks, has La Chaux-de-Fonds inspired you for the other events programmed at Les Amplitudes?
Of course, because it’s a place that inspires a lot of images, starting with its urban plan, which is really very special. The “Pod”, this huge central avenue, and the town’s division into squares made me want to create one or more walking projects. Then there is all the heritage of music- and art- related buildings, which is remarkable for a city of this size. The Music Hall, the “Heure bleue” Theatre, the “Usine électrique”… These exceptional places led me to a lot of questions: what was the story this hall was telling me? What could I do here? How could this or that score combined with another piece “reveal” a specific place?
La Chaux-de-Fonds seemed extremely quiet to me.
You haven’t only scheduled concerts for this eighth edition of Les Amplitudes…
I am interested in sound vibration, in sound as a priority, but the question of this sound vibration can have different implicationsthat are not necessarily and always achievable in concert. At Les Amplitudes, I have, among other things, programmed a conference at Club 44 with visual artist, Latifa Echakhch, and composer and philosopher François Bonnet, director of the GRM. With Echakhch, I just started a collaboration focusing on an exhibition where the question of sound vibration will not lead to a concert or another type of sound representation, but take on other forms through plastic and conceptual work.
Thomas Kessler, 5+5: Eklekto, 2017
This is actually where Les Amplitudes’ uniqueness lies! Focusing on an artist, but by exploring different aspects of his or her practice or thought. A process that allows to build a journey during which we discover many different angles that, put together, will create and shape an image of an artistic proposal that one can make his or her own.
Interview: Anya Leveillé
2.10.20.: L’écho des pavanes, éditorial Anya Leveillé: Alexandre Babel aus Amplitudes
21. et 24.10.20, 19:03h: L’écho des pavanes: Live sur place aux amplitudes
19.10.20: Musique d’avenir, éditorial Anne Gillot: Portrait Alexandre Babel
26.10.20.: Musique d’avenir, éditorial Anne Gillot: concert finale en live
Broadcast SRF 2 Kultur:
21.10.20., 20h: dans: Musik unserer Zeit, éditorial Florian Hauser / invitée Gabrielle Weber & neo.mx3
Interview with Michael Wertmüller by Gabrielle Weber: The 10th Symphony @ Cologne & Pandemic Premiere @ Donaueschingen
Michael Wertmüller continues composing Beethoven’s fragment of the 10th symphony and the result can be heard in the Kölner Philharmonie on October 14. Immediately afterwards, a new work will be premiered at the Donaueschinger Musiktage*: a true tour de force for the SWR Symphony Orchestra, having to face the increased hygiene requirements in a reduced size.
The Berlin-based musician masterfully mixes musical styles, genres, formats and formations. He travels internationally both as jazz drummer and composer and his pieces are always shrill, fast and highly complex. Thus he constantly shakes up new music clichés and cannot be allocated to any fix place.
Wertmüller and Beethoven or Wertmüller and the pandemic conditions: is that possible?
It certainly is, reveals Wertmüller in an interview via zoom from Frankfurt, where he was discussing an upcoming music theatre production.
You are currently in Frankfurt, working live with people again, travelling. Has your work changed since the pandemic? More online, less travelling?
My work as a composer hasn’t changed at all – even before Corona I was alone at home for weeks and saw no one. At the moment there are fewer meetings, of course and I work more via zoom – like everyone else I suppose. Apart from the fact that live performances are on hold, little has changed.
Have you lost many live concerts?
In the last fifteen years I have experienced kind of a cross-fade: proportion and ratio have shifted from many tours and occasional composing to the opposite. That’s why it wasn’t so drastic for me: only one big USA tour with my trio was cancelled.
Your trio: Full Blast?
Yes, exactly, my jazz trio with Peter Brötzmann and Marino Pliakas. A big USA tour was planned, across the country from east to west. This cancellation hurts of course, especially since we had some successful tours in the States in the past. We had been invited to various festivals and were often on tour without state support, almost self-sufficient.
Michael Wertmüller, Full blast, Suzy, 2008
You are in the middle of the preparations for your 10th symphony in Cologne and the piece is part of a trilogy**. Part one had to be postponed due to the pandemic, part two was conceived differently: were there moments of uncertainty regarding the project?
Not really interestingly, as it takes place in the Philharmonie, which is huge, with its over 2100 seats and the project was always conceived for a chamber music setup. I don’t know if anything else is coming… but only 200 people are admitted.
Still three weeks to go… what does your project look like?
My piece, the 10th symphony, will take place in the great hall. It’s in the form of a music theatre. I wrote music to individual sections of a text by Gesine Danckwart, a younger Berlin author. Three singers, two string quartets and two ensembles will be interpreting it, for a total of some 25 musicians altogether.
There is also another, separate project, a sound installation distributed throughout the building, whichs can be experienced over four days.
You continued Beethoven’s 10th?
That was more of a working title, as there are only very small fragments, no more than four-five-bar sketches. I only used a tiny theme. In this project, Beethoven is relatively irrelevant to the tones themselves. Novoflot, the opera company who’s responsible for the project, asked itself and me the (big) question: what would Beethoven sound like today?
What matters most to me is that I was actually asked to do some Beethoven related work in the first place, as I would almost have been offended if I hadn’t been able to do anything about the great Beethoven anniversary. I am the biggest Beethoven fan ever.
“I am the biggest Beethoven fan ever.”
How did this fascination come about?
I was already a fan of his music as a child. As well as of Miles Davis’ and John Coltrane’s. I am actually a simple, rather romantic type of guy who easily gets enthusiastic.
Can this enthusiasm be heard in your composition?
Beethoven is constantly present in the back of my head. The music I love accompanies me always and everywhere, even in everyday life. Like Coltrane, Miles, or Bruckner and Shostakovich. This automatically flows into my music, whether I play or compose.
Will it become more tangible in Cologne or will it remain subconscious?
It’ll remain subconscious. The question of how Beethoven would compose today is answered by our line-up: Johnny La Marama, a hip Berlin jazz band, the “Ensemble of Nomades”, which brings in New Music, and three singers with a classical-romantic background. These are the three worlds that are valid for me today and combining them could certainly be something that Beethoven might have wanted to do in the present days.
Word’s out that musicians are completely overwhelmed when they have to interpret your pieces, as well as the audience… will that be the case this time?
The music will be relatively digestible, even pleasing. Very harmonious and also danceable. The only thing that could hurt is its intensity. But I have made the experience that I can trust the audience a lot – I don’t underestimate it.
Michael Wertmüller: Musikfabrik Köln, Antagonisme contrôlé, 2014
In Donaueschingen a new piece of yous will be presented in the Baarsporthalle immediately afterwards…
Donaueschingen is always a big challenge with its whole ongoing tradition. Even though I have been invited several times, I always think of something special for it.
..a ” grandiose piece…”
The piece had to meet the new increased hygiene requirements… a chamber music miniature…
It is absolutely not a miniature. On the contrary: it has on purpose become “grandiose”, megalomaniac, because of this corona affliction. It is everywhere and I have it too.
“Megalomaniac”? So in your case, the new guidelines resulting from the pandemic were inspiring, not annoying?
The instrumentation has been reduced and the normal symphony orchestra practically cut in half. I had no problems with that. I chose a soloist approach for the piece and wrote extreme virtuosity into it, which made it haunting, pathetic, shrill and very virtuosic. I have no trouble anticipating. As musicians, as artists, we must be able to anticipate, otherwise we are lost.
I take the situation seriously and have full confidence in the government, in the experts. But now it is important to carry on and to be consistent.
Every little thing I am allowed to do right now – and at the moment we can be thankful, if culture even takes place at all – I want to do right: full on. I want to cry out now, really loud and really furious – that’s what I do with my work. It will be a scream, an outcry.
Interview: Gabrielle Weber
Michael Wertmüller, Zeitschrei for Piano, Bass, Percussion, Steamboat Switzerland, 2015
**as part of the “Labor Beethoven 2020” project – Contemporary music festival for Beethoven’s anniversary, in cooperation with the Akademie der Künste Berlin
#3 The 10th Symphony, 14.10.2020, 20h: Philharmonie Cologne: Novoflot Opernkompanie, Ludwig van Beethoven, Michael Wertmüller.
Further performances are planned for December in Berlin (dates & locations tbc)
Neues Werk Donaueschinger Musiktage, 16.10.2020, 18h / 21h*:
SWR Symphonieorchester, opening concert, Dirigent Titus Engel: Paul Hindemith, Kammermusik Nr.1 (1922), Michael Wertmüller, Neues Werk / UA; Oliver Schneller, The New City / UA, Lula Romero, displaced / UA, Klaus Lang, Neues Werk / UA, Cathy Milliken, Neues Werk / UA
*DONAUESCHINGER MUSIKTAGE canceled at short notice (12.10.20):
On Friday, October 16 at 8 pm, SWR2 will broadcast a rehearsal recording of the opening concert.
Michael Wertmüller, SWR Symphonieorchester, Titus Engel, Novoflot Opernkompanie Berlin, Steamboat Switzerland, Peter Brötzmann, Donaueschinger Musiktage, Kölner Philharmonie, Gesine Danckwart, Johnny La Marama, Ensemble of Nomades
RTR launch neo.mx3 & ensemble ö!
Interview with David Sontòn-Caflisch by Thomas Meyer
RTR celebrates the launch of neo.mx3 with a special concert by local ensemble ö! on October 11, in Chur! Numerous works by Swiss musicians will be performed and RTR will record and film the performances in order to make them immediately available on the neo.mx3 plattform.
Thomas Meyer talks with violinist and composer David Sontòn-Caflisch, ensemble ö!’s artistic director.
Asia Ahmetjanova, La voix, UA ensemble ö!, Chur 2020
Ensemble ö! Was founded in 2002 and at that time it developed out of a string ensemble (Musicuria), which you founded in 1991. You were still in grammar school back then… What was your purpose?
We used to include a piece of new music in every programmewith Musicuria, sometimes even world premieres. The interest then shifted more and more in that direction, so we finally formed the new ensemble ö! with some strings from Musicuria as well as winds, piano and percussion.
What does this unusual name mean?
By presenting the ensemble I said that the difference between “E- und U-Musik”* was no longer to be made and the Graubünden press interpreted my statement in the following, original way: e and u together would make eu, which pronounced in French, would become ö. Originally, however, I thought of the “ö!” expression which is used to raise a toast here in Graubünden. It is simply a toast to new music.
In your programming, you like to highlight specific topics.
Each season, we focus on one specific theme, which is examined in detail through six programmes. As artistic director, my aim is not only to select good pieces, but also to create clever programmes that tell a story and are structured as a whole, to be imagined as one big piece per evening, involving various composers.
Stephanie Hänsler, Im Begriffe, ensemble ö! 2017
..the vastness of the universe stands alongside the uniqueness of art…
The current season’s theme is “suns”.
…a wide field. When you look up into the starry sky, you often forget that almost all of these bright spots are suns. Each of them has its own world, and these worlds are incredibly far away and apart. Our nearest neighbour is more than four light years away. That shows on the one hand how small, on the other hand how unique we are. We are able to reflect the world through art or in this case music! So the vastness of the universe stands alongside the uniqueness of art.
These aspects are addressed in different ways: The concerts are called “light years”, “inaccessibility”, “energy”, “opium”… How do you structure the programmes?
In September’s “Light Years” programme for example, mass is facing emptiness: It is impossible to imagine the mass of a billion stars, but there is a great emptiness between the stars. Two of the pieces of the concert (by Vladimir Tarnopolski and Gwyn Pritchard) are incredibly dense, so dense that one cannot follow every note, but only the overall idea. Whereas Luciano Berio’s and Roland Moser’s compositions work with emptiness and are very quiet. Finally, Marc-André Dalbavie’spiece combines both elements.
Jannis Xenakis, Dikhthas, Ensemble ö! 2017
What is new is that you work with a board of curators for these programmes.
Up to now, I had always read intensively on the subject matter. Now I wanted to consult experts. This year, these are a philosopher/psychologist, a journalist, a writer and an astrophysicist, bringing together a great deal of expertise in order to explore the topics I choose even further. In our first session, we went through each programme in detail, incorporating aspects from all disciplines. Short literary texts are then created and woven into the concert. I don’t want the audience to have to deal with something purely theoretical; that is why the writer translates his or her thoughts into literature. But the texts also encourage the audience to experience a piece more intensively. They create a “fil rouge” to the music, which remains in the foreground. Furthermore, I personally introduce each concert, by going into detail about the music to be presented.
So the discussions anticipate the concerts.
This year they do, it is a pilot project. Our wish for the future is to open these meetings to the musicians as well the audience, in order to create an addition to the concerts.
It is therefore a mediating and interdisciplinary project…
Perhaps rather “transdisciplinary”. There are several disciplines that are intended to delve deeper into the music. It is still somewhat fashionable to add video or lighting elements to a concert in an interdisciplinary way, which is justified, but one also has to be careful, as this might just create an external distraction. Our music needs quite a bit of concentration and should be combined intelligently. You can’t just add entertainment elements.
Three composers appear repeatedly: the Frenchman Tristan Murail, the Austrian Klaus Lang and the Swiss Klaus Huber, who died in 2017.
Murail writes very sensual music. It is important for me to emphasise this aspect, because it is often claimed that New Music is too abstract. What fascinates me about Lang is how he creates musical widths in his own unique way. As for Huber, I consider him one of the great Swiss composers who is currently not played so often. Throughout his life, he has been concerned with the role of mankind in the universe. By the way, in his “Ein Hauch von Unzeit” for solo flute he asked performers to come up with their own, new versions and we are presenting two new ensemble versions of it.
Klaus Huber, Ein Hauch von Unzeit IV (version for soprano, piano, flute, clarinet and organ), Ensemble Neue Horizonte Bern, 1976
With Duri Collenberg’s and Martin Derungs’ world premieres you also refer to your own origins (Graubünden)…
They actually represent the youngest and the oldest generation of Graubünden composers within the “Tuns contemporans” (Contemporary Tones), our Biennale, which we founded two years ago together with the KammerphilharmonieGraubünden. We felt the need for the two professional orchestras of the canton to join forces. It should take away the fear of enjoying new music. Magnus Lindberg from Finnlandwill be composer-in-residence for the next series.
You also launched a “Call for Scores” for the festival… Who was it aimed at?
Female composers of all ages and from all over the world. The motto is: “Ladies only!”. 126 scores were submitted, three of which we will perform at the Biennale. But I will certainly take one or the other from this huge collection into account for future seasons.
Interview: Thomas Meyer
Concert spezial launch neo.mx3 &Ensemble ö!. 11. Oktober 2020:
Stephanie Hänsler: Im Begriffe, Alfred Knüsel: Mischzonen, Asia Ahmetjanova: La voix, David Sontòn Caflisch: aqua micans (danach als Video auf neo.mx3 und rtr.ch/musica).
Broadcast SRF 2 Kultur:
Musik unserer Zeit, 11.11.20.: ö! Ensemble für neue musik, Redaktion Florian Hauser
Episode 4 of neoblog portraits concerning the Swiss Music Prize 2020:
Rudolf Kelterborn is one of the Swiss Music Prize 2020 winners.
It was in 1985, when I first heard music by Rudolf Kelterborn: the incredibly intense cello sonata, which had been freshly composed. How can someone, I wondered as a young person, write such music? It is both angry and at the same time clearly structured, very well aware of its own power. The musical gesture circles, evokes, develops itself in depth until reaching up into the heights. Singing, lamenting, twisting, losing itself. Cheering. A music that narrates and speaks to me.
“In my work,” Rudolf Kelterborn once said, “creating something fundamentally new is not the priority. What really matters to me, is to set something in motion with viewers and listeners. With motion I do not mean a vague emotionalism, but rather the opposite, solidification. Even something that has nothing to do with current affairs can be current, by stimulating thoughts, or by being touching, impressive, fascinating, exciting.”
“creating something fundamentally new..”
This is it. His music should be effective from by itself, without the need of any supplements. That has always been his credo. Rudolf Kelterborn is very old school, and if today’s music, new music, is becoming more and more interdisciplinary, or transdisciplinary, blurry at its edges and forming lliances, not to say amalgams, with many other disciplines, be it theatre or dance and installation and electronics and performance and all kinds of other things it wishes to involve – that is not Mr. Kelterborn’s thing.
Rudolf Kelterborn, Musica luminosa für Orchester 1984/85, Basel Sinfonietta
He is a veteran of the Swiss musical landscape, a contemporary witness to almost an entire century, courageous, committed, humourous and unrelenting. Someone who never made things easy for himself nor his environment.
..a veteran of the Swiss musical landscape..
It’s no coincidence that his colleagues sometimes called him Poltergern (one who tends to bluster) when he was head of the music department of Swiss Radio DRS in the 1970s. Yes, he could and can bluster – and still does so when encountering thoughtlessness. In that case he can be argumentative and hostile and polemical and perhaps even unfair.
Rudolf Kelterborn, Klavierstück 7 “Quinterno”, 2005, Klavierduo Soós-Haag
But that is only the other side of an attitude that despises the tepid or idle, while calling for unconditional commitment instead. An attitude that offers the audience a dense, narrative, highly emotional music – but which they are also supposed to expose themselves to. Comfort? No thanks. The audience has a right to be challenged, but then at the same time to draw an enormous benefit from it, a gain in experience, knowledge and pleasure.
Broadcast SRF 2 Kultur:
Musik unserer Zeit, 16.9.2020: Portrait Rudolf Kelterborn, Redaktion Florian Hauser
Interview with Daniel Haefliger @ Swiss Musikprize_3
Episode 3 of neoblog’s Swiss Music Prize 2020 portraits:
Swiss Chamber Concerts is the first and only concert series covering the whole of Switzerland and presenting plenty of contemporary music. Since its launch in 1999, it has continuously featured world premieres from all over the country – for a total of some 200 by now.
The Swiss Chamber Concerts (SCC) series were born from the close musical friendship of the three founding members.
Geneva cellist Daniel Haefliger, flutist Felix Renggli from Basel and Zurich based violinist and violist Jürg Dähler had this vision of combining their chamber music series, already established in the three cities. The first national concert series took place in autumn 1999, with the participation of Heinz Holliger, who’s supporting the project to this day.
I interviewed Geneva based Daniel Haefliger via Zoom and we talked about the uniqueness and challenges of SCC. The original conversation was held in French. Haefliger is constantly on the move and not only as cellist; as we spoke he was on the train, which he describes as his second home and a place of work, after a short tour of Switzerland: first Bern, to coordinate the season of the SCC, then Sion, to determine the string quartet lessons at the Haute Ecole de Musique, and then back to Geneva, in order to work on the SCC homepage.
Congratulations on the prize first of all! Were you surprised? What does it mean to you?
Yes, we were very surprised, as we usually receive little recognition for our work from the institutions, although our audience is numerous and enthusiastic. With our series we create a link between the different language regions throughout the year and regularly make new voices heard. This is a complex challenge where we get to face quite a lot of challenges. After all, the Swiss music scene is divided into many local units that hardly ever work together. Our ideal is to connect the whole of Switzerland in a common musical project.
What inspires you?
Two things: on one hand, as a cellist, the musical dialogue with exceptional soloists – on stage as well as on the personal level; on the other hand, as chamber music teacher of the Lausanne Conservatory, the interaction with young musicians. In both areas I try to communicate, mediate and network beyond age, language and culture.
« La jeunesse m’inspire et me passionne… »
Did the pandemic impact SCC?
Same as everyone else, we had to cancel all concerts towards the end of the season. But as soon as things got a bit better, we played a free concert, on June 30th in Geneva, with Heinz Holliger and Thomas Zehetmair . It was a huge success and motivation for the season to come.
SCC builds bridges between the different parts of the country: how does the cooperation between cities come about?
We build on the basis of our personal relationships. This is the only way to avoid rigid cantonal, urban or institutional regulations that would hardly encourage cooperation across regions.
Bettina Skrzypcak, ..e subito parlando, Swiss Chamber Soloists UA 2012
“We constantly question our own standpoint.”
Do you programme together – you are three artistic directors after all?
What is played, in which cities and to whom compositions are commissioned is usually something we decide collectively. In doing so, the particular regions’ and music scenes’ proximity to those of the nearby countries are also taken into account: e.g. Geneva with France, Basel with Germany or Lugano with Italy.
On the other hand, we constantly question our own standpoint and try to adapt, at least to a certain extent to the performance venues as well as cultural areas.
Nadir Vassena, archeologie future
How do you structure your programmes?
Our aim is to propose a high percentage of world premieres by composers from all parts of the country. We always present these new works in conjunction with major works of the repertoire, in order to underline continuity in music. Our series appeals to an open-minded, broad audience, before whom the new works can and must prove themselves.
How is this combination of contemporary classics and premieres received by the public? Has the perception changed over the years?
In addition of combining the new works with the existing repertoire in terms of content, we also exchange ideas with the composers about the entire programme. Each concert is a coherent unit with its own dramaturgy. This underlines the uniqueness of each piece and creates an intensity of the overall programme. In this way we respond to the audience’s increased need to hear a story.
Are there differences in audience reactions between the different parts of the country?
Cities in the different parts of the country have a quite different “cultural pace”. Switzerland richness resides precisely in its heterogeneous cultural identities. We want to value this diversity by having new works from all over Switzerland circulating throughout the country, which is also one of the challenges.
Tell us about the next season’s world premieres you’re particularly looking forward to?
The next season will feature 12 world premieres, among others by Nadir Vassena from Ticino, Heinz Holliger from Basel, David Philip Hefti from Zurich, Xavier Dayer from Geneva. A variety of instrumentations can be heard, including wind sextet, cello solo, string trio, string quartet, voice and small ensemble. I always look forward to imagining how these various pieces will sound.
The season will start in Bern, at the Yehudi Menuhin Forum, on September 24th with a concert by Heinz Holliger and Thomas Zehetmair – a replica of the June concert in Geneva.
Heinz Holliger, Aleh stavi for Cello solo: Solist Daniel Haefliger
Do you have a vision that you haven’t been able to realise yet? Does the prize perhaps have a special meaning right now – given the pandemic?
We have already realised many of our visions, such as the international Swiss Chamber Academy or the Swiss Chamber Camerata, both connecting young professional musicians from Switzerland and abroad. But realising visions and ideals costs money. Perhaps (or hopefully) this prize will help us to obtain higher financial contributions in order to strengthen long-term links between the regions. At the moment, we are dealing with it “at arm’s length”, so to speak, as since SCC’s foundation, our work has only been possible through enormous personal efforts as well as plenty of volunteering: We often think of the god Shiva with his many arms …
Interview: Gabrielle Weber
The Swiss Chamber Concerts were founded in 1999 by Daniel Haefliger, Felix Renggli and Jürg Dähler, followed by the founding of the Swiss Chamber Soloists, a permanent pool of internationally acclaimed soloists who perform during the series, and later the Swiss Chamber Academy of Geneva, national-international string quartet academy and the Swiss Chamber Camerata, also in Geneva. All SCC concerts can be heard in Lugano, Geneva, Basel, Zurich and from this season on also in Bern.
List of SCC world & national premieres 1999-2020
Konzert 18.9.20: Festival Label Suisse, 18.9.20.: 21.15h, Werke von: Rudolf Kelterborn, Xavier Dayer, Mozart, Villa-Lobos
Sendung SRG/RSI: RSI-Neo, 25.8.2020:
Incontro con Daniel Haefliger, Redaktion Valentina Bensi
Gabrielle Weber: Interview with Stefan Keller: Livestream – UA & Performace @ Othmar Schoeck Festival 11-13.9.20
The second Othmar Schoeck Festival is taking place in Brunnen in Central Switzerland from 11 to 13 September. The enchanted, weather-worn villa of the Schoeck family, situated high above Lake Lucerne, is once again the unique venue at the heart of this Festival.
In 2017, the composer Stefan Keller was granted a residency of several weeks at the Schoeck villa, which was linked with a commission to compose a song.
He is also the composer-in-residence at this year’s Festival, where three new songs of his will be given their first performances.
LIVESTREAM: Concert World premières Stefan Keller / Keller & Schoeck
Alvaro Schoeck, the founder and joint artistic director of the Festival, was convinced for a long time that the Festival would go ahead live this year, in the family’s “outlandishly designed artist’s villa”. But it’s since become clear that this unusual venue wasn’t built with the exigencies of a pandemic in mind. So while the Festival programme will still take place in the historic atelier of the painter Alfred Schoeck – the father of the composer Othmar – it will now be streamed live.
The “hit” of the first Schoeck Festival back in 2016 was the music-theatre event “Hauen und Stechen”. It took place in assorted rooms of the old villa, and wove the composer’s biography together with contemporary circumstances. Every performance of it was sold out.
The parallel performance at this second edition of the Festival will be HeimatLos (“HomeLess”). Women are its focus. It is about “Heimat” – “home” – as a place, as a concept, and as a feeling. HeimatLos will lead small audience groups through the villa, accompanied by music – and the livestream will follow them, putting the virtual audience at the heart of everything, winding its way through the intimate spaces of the house.
Saturday 12 September brings the world premières of the new songs by Stefan Keller.
Keller has often engaged with music traditions from other cultures, and studied the tabla for a long time in India. At the 2020 Eclat Festival, for example, he gave a virtuosic performance in a piece of his own for tabla, voice and live electronics.
Stefan Keller: Persona, Excerpts, 2019
For the Schoeck Festival, Keller has for the first-ever time turned to the more traditional combination of voice and piano. He is currently resident in Berlin, and he spoke with me from that city by Zoom about the background of his new pieces.
Stefan Keller, what were the origins of your three songs – how and where did you start to compose them?
I was in Rome from September 2019 to July 2020, thanks to a scholarship that enabled me to live in the Villa Massimo. I spent the highpoint of the first wave of the pandemic in the Villa, “locked down” with other scholarship-holders. This lockdown was much stricter in Italy than was the case elsewhere. We were in what was in fact a kind of golden cage – it was actually described thus by people on the outside – for it is a beautiful villa in a wonderful park. That had an impact on what I composed, just as everything that moves us influences what we write – even though it’s hardly possible to say exactly what it is. These intense experiences perhaps led me to attempt things that might beforehand have seemed impossible. During this extraordinary time, I started to work on the other two songs of my set of three.
What is your relationship to the work of Othmar Schoeck?
Before my residency, I didn’t have any intense connection to him. That changed when I stayed in the Schoeck villa. Schoeck’s published scores lay around me and literally “touched” me. I was also surprised by some of the stylistic things I found in him. But there are hardly any direct references to his music in my new songs. The reference point for me is the “lied” as a traditional genre that was crucial to Schoeck’s oeuvre.
The ambiance of the villa also inspired me while composing – I was able to work in a wonderful old hall with an excellent grand piano.
You have already often written works for voice, but not for the traditional combination of voice and piano. What does the genre of the lied mean to you, and how did you deal with it – also with the tradition in itself?
Composing for voice and piano was a challenge for me. The piano is in many respects an inflexible instrument with regard to sound, touch and pitch. Up to now, I have tended to employ it virtuosically and loudly, which is difficult to bring in line with my interest in the human voice.
Stefan Keller: Breathe / soyuz21, für Klavier, Akkordeon, elektrische Gitarre, Elektronik, 2016
For the voice, I imagined something rather fragile that depended on nuances of pitch and sound. So I took the approach of writing a reduced piano part, in order to give the voice enough space.
The texts of your songs are based on anagrams by the poetess Unica Zürn*: how did you deal with them?
In Zürn’s anagram poems, every line has the same letters in a different order. This combinatoriality of “alphabet sounds” gives the poems themselves a near-musical level. I wanted to make this level explicit in my music by decoding these words into their individual sounds. You don’t primarily hear the sounds themselves, but the whole words and their meanings.
In two of these three songs, the singer doesn’t sing the words conventionally or “naturally”. She provides the pianist with individual, voiceless consonants, and he articulates them with his voice. The goal, of course, is that the words are thereafter comprehensible. This makes big demands on both the singer and the pianist in matters of rhythmic and dynamic precision.
Interview: Gabrielle Weber
*Unica Zürn (Berlin 1916 – 1970 Paris), A German/French poet and artist, known for her 123 anagram poems.
The song cycle by Stefan Keller uses the following three anagram poems:
Der einsame Tisch (“The lonely table”), Es war einmal ein kleines (“There once was a little”), and Das Leben ist schoen (“Life is beautiful”).
Othmar Schoeck Festival, artistic directors: Alvaro Schoeck / Chris Walton:
–HeimatLos, 11.9.: 8:30pm / 13.9.: 6pm
-At the concert at 8 p.m. on 12.9., further works by Stefan Keller will be performed, alongside selected songs by Othmar Schoeck.
World première, Keller: Soprano: Truike van der Poel, piano: J. Marc Reichow
On Saturday/Sunday, 12./13.9., the two-day international symposium Frauen:Stimmen (“Womens:Voices”) will take place live, and will be streamed live too (via the homepage of the Othmar Schoeck Festival / in collaboration with the Musicological Institute of the University of Zurich and Mariann Steegmann Foundation).
Artistic director of the symposium: Dr. Merle Fahrholz, Chefdramaturgin / stellvertretende Intendantin Oper Dortmund
Episode 2 of the neoblog portrait series on the Swiss Music Prize 2020:
Martina Berther from Chur – a very typical and at the same time unusual bass player.
Martina Berther is a typical electric bass player because she can basically play anything, like many bassists. She’s been grooving hard with hip-hop bands, played feminist punk rock with drummer Beatrice Graf, accompanied great quality pop music with Sophie Hunger or played electro-pop for Daniela Sarda. As Frida Stroom she experiments solo on the bass and moves completely free in the realm of noise.
I met Martina Berther in her rehearsal room in Zurich Affoltern – a nice, big bright space with lots of guitars, basses, effects and drum sets everywhere.
The fact that she shares the room with several other musicians sometimes stresses her out, because it can get crowded. On the other hand, she likes it because it automatically requires a certain discipline and people help each other out.
In general, Martina seems to be someone who if life gives you nothing but lemons, makes some lemonade. The story of how she came to the electric bass in the first place is a beautiful one for example, as the former conductor of the “Jugendmusik Chur” Music School left her take over only reluctantly:
“I used to play trumpet, but it was not really my instrument, fortunately – because that’s how I stayed open-minded and kept looking for what could turn out to become my instrument. In the “Jugendmusik” there was this quite revolutionary electric bass player and bear in mind, the “Jugendmusik” was rather conservative at that time. This electric bassist was over 20 years old, so he had to quit, so they were looking for someone else, but obviously male. When I proposed to take over, the director said: ‘Oh well, we’ll have to have a meeting and discuss if that’s possible, a woman on the bass’.”
Others might have been offended and hence abandoned, but not Martina Berther. She waited patiently for the outcome of that meeting.
“Thanks to an open-minded member of the board, who was female and strongly defended my cause, I was admitted and luckily got to play bass.”
Luckily indeed! After all, this is how the Swiss music scene came to choose an electric bassist among the prizewinners. The Swiss Music Prize is what this interview will focus on.
25000 francs in Corona times, you don’t say no to that, do you?
“No! (laughs) – you don’t say no to that. You don’t say no to that in non-corona times neither.”
Were you surprised?
“Yes, indeed I was! Last year I attended the award ceremony, as my musical partner Beatrice Graf (drummer of Ester Polly) got it and I thought: If I continue to work well, maybe I’ll get it one day. It simply came much earlier… (laughs) But I would have gone on for another 50 years even without prices.
Martina Berther / Beatrice Graf @ Ester Poly – Fieldsession, B-Sides Festival 2018
Your broad profile is therefore not a business plan?
“No, definitely not! It all came about out of curiosity.”
Tell us about your role models?
I inspire myself more to sounds than to musicians. Whenever I heard an intriguing sound, be it a cello or a drum set, I would reflect on what I like about it and what I could translate about it on the bass?
So it’s all about sound?
“Sound, or energy – sometimes it is difficult for me to point out, what exactly I like about a musician. It is often a presence or an attitude, which is what I have tried to adopt as a role model. On the other hand, I quite often hear: I started playing bass because of you. Which is beautiful of course.”
When I listen to the Frida Stroom project, Hermeto Pascoal comes to mind – because of the concept that everything is music. Even his beard is music to him, or a banknote he plucks. So I asked myself: Is it this curiosity that makes them go beyond sound, energy and all that to look for something new?”
“Yes, it is mainly about sound. It can also be things that happen while you play. Sometimes I notice that the whirring of the amp was actually the most beautiful moment of a 30 minutes improvisation, so I focus mainly on that and feel the urge to develop further.”
“the whirring of the amp.. the most beautiful moment of a 30 minutes improvisation”
How do you prevent the listener from feeling excluded?
“Actually, theoretically, it is quite simple. If I myself get involved in the moment, in space, in the audience, by making myself vulnerable and start to play only from that point, the public gets involved very quickly. It becomes more difficult when there’s insecurity and I try not to allow improvisation and decide to start with a particular sound”.
Is that already too much?
“Sometimes it is. Or when I start improvising and then find myself thinking: I could do that next. I then have the feeling of being too busy to really notice what’s actually happening, in the room or with my instrument. Because everything is already there. You can do so much with very little, all you need is the courage to get involved. If I fight against it, out of insecurity, then it is more me fighting against something.
“You just have to find the courage and go for it.”
“all you need is the courage to get involved”
Martina Berther with Frida Stroom, live at Gamut Festival 2017
Is improvisation in this case something like surrendering? Letting go?
“For me it is, yes. Sometimes it works very well, sometimes less. I haven’t found a recipe yet.”
Do you never have the urge to just go groovy and conventional in such moments?
“(laughs) I have been extremely groove-oriented for many years. My first bands were hip hop bands, Breitbild for example, and I was very much into soul music as well. At the moment I’m not so much interested in this more conventional way of playing bass anymore.
Your “heart of hearts” is currently more experimentally oriented, than let’s say a project like Sophie Hunger?
“On bass it definitely is. Although wouldn’t say that I’m not interested in groovy music anymore.
I have simply already done it a lot. With Sophie Hunger one is definitely encouraged to bring in her own ideas. I really have to get out of my comfort zone. Sophie brings the necessary energy and support. I felt that I was being asked to show myself in a very good way.”
This sounds a bit like jazz?
“Yes, totally! (laughs) It was actually the biggest jazz band I’ve played with in the last few years.
Interview: Jodok Hess
Broadcasts SRF 2 Kultur: Jazz&World Aktuell, 15.9.20, Beitrag von Jodok Hess
Dieter Ammann and his piano concerto Gran Toccata @ Sternstunde Musik srf &neo.mx3
Dieter Ammann continues to push forward: with his piano concerto “The Piano Concerto – Gran Toccata”, which premiered at the BBC Proms London and was subsequently performed worldwide, the composer, currently teaching in Lucerne and Bern, is reaching a new career height. Swiss Television SRF is broadcasting an in-depth portrait in its Sternstunde Musik format. Filmmaker Daniel von Aarburg accompanied Ammann during the three years of the piano concerto’s creation: the result is a dense, subtle and humorous portrait of a process that wasn’t always easy, with insights into rehearsals, concerts as well as private situations. Ammann’s youth and his career are also explored.
In his conversation with Gabrielle Weber he talks about the making of both film and concert.
It took you three years to compose the Gran Toccata; would you describe composing a new work as a journey and was the film project also one?
It was an eventful journey: I was already involved in an independent film project initiated by director Arthur Spirk, a great music connoisseur and lover. Then SRF decided to produce a film portrait and everyone agreed to re-start the filming process with Daniel von Aarburg taking over the direction. We clicked already at our first meeting and an unbelievably beautiful cooperation developed from it.
How did the story come about?
I placed myself in the hands of the team with great confidence. The director always anticipated what he wished to film. An enormous amount of good material was produced. According to the motto “kill your darlings”, a lot of cutting and editing turned out to be necessary. For example, my teaching activities at the Lucerne University as well as some private scenes are missing, which is a pity as I am deeply rooted in my family and immediate surroundings.
You live and work mostly at night… how was that compatible with the needs of the film crew go?
It wasn’t just a job for them, they got completely involved. That’s what made it possible to capture personal and private moments. They also naturally took my rhythm into account, set the shooting in the afternoon and sometimes at night. There was great deal of idealism involved.
..and with the soloist, pianist Andreas Haefliger?
Our cooperation worked very well, but not always without problems. We had to figure out and fight about certain things. It was exciting to work thing out together and it created a lifetime relationship.
Your “Piano Concerto – Gran Toccata” was and still is a huge success, worldwide: It is known that you initially resisted for a long time to write a piano concerto and only accepted it on the condition that one of the US “Big Five” orchestras* was involved… Was the acceptance from Boston unexpected? Was it inspiring?
I was actually trying to avoid this huge task. I generally only accept assignments if I can fully support the conditions. For example, in an earlier request for an opera, I set the condition of an eight years production. This could not be guaranteed and so that was it for me.
Due to the very early request, I actually got a few years’ notice for the piano concerto before I started to compose, so I didn’t freeze…
What was the musical spark for the piano concerto?
At the beginning I listened to an enormous amount of piano literature for about six months and created an extensive collection of examples of textures. I was interested in what complexity is possible on the piano – not in the sense of New Complexity, for example, but intrinsically, developed from the instrument. This collection with all notations and verbal sketches was stolen from me during a train ride and all of a sudden I had nothing left. That was a real shock.
You once said: “Freedom is at the heart of composing contemporary music”: Particularly in the case of commissions for large orchestras, there are framework conditions, sometimes obstacles, which can be restrictive. They come from music that is not primarily and originally written to contain improvised material, where freedom is supposedly greater.
Writing for 70 musicians is not a restriction for me, but restrictions also exist when I work with an algorithm program on the computer or when I write for piano trio. It is precisely the friction with the restriction, the sounding out of limits, that fires the imagination.
Dieter Ammann, Après le silence. Für Klaviertrio, Mondrian Ensemble, 2004/05
Restriction is fuel for fantasy.
…when working with orchestras there is a strict working rhythm, with usually little time for rehearsals and little freedom.
I do not only have high demands on myself, but also on the interpreters of my music. Fortunately, it is mainly artistically outstanding soloists and ensembles who deal with my works, so when a top orchestra has four rehearsals, the world premiere really works. However, a world premiere rarely corresponds to the interpretational ideal. This requires several performances. In my opinion, the promotion of music should move away from the premieres hype and rather towards the obligation to perform a new piece several times.
There were also interpretational differences in the piano concerto. Each orchestra and every conductor come with his or her own sound. Contemporary orchestral works in particular are rarely performed twice. However, I have the qualitative claim to add something valid to the repertoire, so that a constant engagement with the music is possible through replaying, as for example in the case of “glut” for orchestra.
Dieter Ammann, glut. Für Orchester, Lucerne Festival Academy, Dirigent George Benjamin, 2019
You describe yourself as a slow composer – a new work of yours is to be expected only every few years… What’s next?
2022 I will turn – whoa! – sixty. I am looking forward to a residency with the Basel Symphony Orchestra or a birthday concert of the Sinfonietta. Perhaps there will be one or two more symphonic concerts in addition. The postponed Swiss premiere of the piano concerto will also take place in 2022, at the Lucerne Festival.
Recently, I started working on a concerto for viola and orchestra, for soloist Nils Mönkemeyer, a co-commission of the SOB with the Munich Chamber Orchestra. This will be followed by a piece for one of the world’s leading orchestras, followed by a cello concerto. If I get to live that long…;-)
Interview: Gabrielle Weber
SRF-Filmportrait Dieter Ammann / Gran Toccata, Sternstunde Musik 2020: Regie Daniel von Aarburg / producer SRF: Markus Wicker:
The Piano Concerto – Gran Toccata, Premiere is on tour since August 2019, soloist Andreas Haefliger, among others: BBC-Proms / London, Taipei Symphony Orchestra / Taiwan, Boston Symphony Orchestra / USA, Munich Philharmonic / Munich Gasteig, Helsinki Philharmonic / Helsinki. The Swiss premiere at Lucerne Festival has been postponed to 2022 due to the pandemic.
The CD recording of Gran Toccata with the Helsinki Philharmonic conducted by Susanna Mälkki on BIS Records label will be made available on neo.mx3 immediately after release.
Dieter Ammann’s neo-profile includes short videos of the original material by Arthur Spirk.
*Big Five: New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra and Cleveland Orchestra
Dieter Ammann – Gran Toccata, Sternstunde Musik, So, 23.8., 11:55h; Di, 25.8., 13:00h; Sa, 29.8., 9:40h (Dauer 1Std)
Broadcasts SRF 2 Kultur:
Musikmagazin, 22./23.8.20, Redaktion Benjamin Herzog / Beitrag Silvan Moosmüller.
Musik unserer Zeit, 29.7.2020. (Erstausstrahlung 12.2.2020), Unspielbarkeit, Redaktion Theresa Beyer
Christian Fluri: Helena Winkelman – Composer in Residence @ Sinfonieorchester Basel 20/21
Helena Winkelman, composer, violinist and artistic director of the distinguished Camerata Variabile ensemble, is one of Switzerland’s most interesting and unconventional internationally renowned musicians and this year’s Composer in Residence with the Basel Symphony Orchestra (SOB).
The work of Helena Winkelman includes chamber music, choral and orchestral works as well as opera and musical theatre. In her compositions she develops her own musical language, which reflects our times and is based on a wide variety of influences, such as Baroque, Jazz and various folk music, combining complexity with playfulness and profoundness with joy of life.
Helena Winkelman, Camerata Variabile: Papa Haydn’s Parrot (2016)
The SOB already commissioned Winkelman with three new pieces: Einkreisung and Gemini, whose premiere will be conducted by Ivor Bolton, SOB’s main director and Goblins for six percussionists. All three works are structured for theatrical purposes and have their own lighting concept.
Einkreisung for eight alphorns – mountain atmosphere in town
Einkreisung is one of the works that will inaugurate the renovated casino, which will present its new looks on August 22. The piece is written for eight alphorns of different lengths and tunings.
“The idea is based on the traditional Swiss alpine blessing.” explains Winkelman “For the opening of the city casino, I wanted to bring the mountain atmosphere into town and into the music hall, in order to provide the urban world with some earthiness and peace.”
The eight alphorn players, the Hornroh-Quartett together with four horn players of the SOB will be distributed both on stage and in the galleries, thus encircling the audience. Winkelman describes “Einkreisung” as a work that dramatically employs the alternation between quiet, almost traditional-sounding alpine greetings and strong sound layers along the instruments’ overtones. The sound will be passed on in a circular manner, creating an effective setting to highlight the new concert hall.
Helena Winkelman, Granithörner (Teaser), Camerata Variabile &Balthasar Streiff, 2018
Gemini – Staged interactions
Gemini, a concerto for two violins and orchestra, was written by Helena Winkelman for two great musical personalities, Patricia Kopatchinskaja and Pekka Kuusisto: it will be premiered at the SOB’s first season concert in September. The concert consists of nine short scenes, each of which portrays possible relationship modes between two people. Both soloists will be accompanied by a drummer each, moving through the piece with them during the performace. The last three scenes “Battleships”, “Partners in Crime” and “Horsing around” bring various folk music elements into play in a humorous, rapid question and answer game between soloists and orchestra. The climax of the piece is reached in a staged duel, in which the solo double bass intervenes alongside the two secondary percussionists.
During a long conversation about her music, Helena Winkelman talks about the creative process and the connection between art and life itself.
“At the beginning of a work there is often a sound that is formed by a combination of body tension, gesture and tactile imagination” she says. “These three elements in turn arise from an inner sensation or atmosphere.
In all these years I came to the insight that in the end there is no big difference between composers and non-composers, because just as in composing, there are also decisions to be made in life, along which one’s own path then unfolds. Every detail is important, the reasons are important, everything influences and intertwines. This is often an overwhelming task.
As composers we hold a magnifying glass over these decision-making processes, showing that, ideally, it is possible to make a good choice.
Conscious shaping of the world
Here I would like to contradict the often-expressed belief that art is there to interpret, reflect and process life. We find ourselves in a world of glorification of the executive. Consequently, art is perceived as being of little importance. But what if instead life asked OURSELVES for a possible, desired direction and much more than we think would depend on our creativity and vision?
Music could be our encouragement and training to awaken this creative potential and to consciously shape our world – as artists do – at any given time.”
Helena Winkelman: Atlas für Solocello (Nicolas Altstaedt), Cello und Streicher, 2019, Solist: Cello
Uraufführungen Helena Winkelman & SOB:
Einkreisung, August 22 (reopening Stadtcasino Basel), August 26, Special Concert: Neue Welt. Alphorn soloists: Hornroh-Quartett, SOB: Diane Eaton, Megan McBride, Eda Paçaci, Lars Magnus
Gemini, October, 9. and 10. Concert: Duel, Stadtcasino Basel.
Due to family reasons one of the soloists Pekka Kuusisto had to cancel. The composer herself will step in and perform his part.
Broadcasts SRF 2 Kultur:
Kontext / Künste im Gespräch, September 3, 2020, 9am/6pm: Annelis Berger im Werkstattgespräch mit Patricia Kopatchinskaja und Helena Winkelmann.
Musik unserer Zeit, September 9, 2020: Portrait Helena Winkelmann (Annelis Berger)
Neue Musik Rümlingen’s 30th anniversary – birthday edition despite Corona: 20.-24.8.2020
Due to the current situation all summer festivals have been cancelled. All of them? Almost! A small festival for contemporary music in the Basel region will be taking place: Neue Musik Rümlingen.
The event will take place from August 20 to 24 in the small village of Läufelfingen and the reason for this exception is the festival’s special. “The audience will be hiking outdoors, where compositions specifically written for the landscape can be enjoyed” says managing director Tumasch Clalüna. This, however, is not a special feature of this year’s edition, as the festival has been focusing on unusual formats since its foundation 30 years ago. The audience will walk in small groups of maximum 10 persons, in full respect of the current guidelines and reservation is therefore mandatory. Starting point will be Läufelfingen station and from there, the route leads up the old pass road towards Hauenstein and in a large loop, back to Läufelfingen, specifically to its SilO12 exhibition space. Along the way, the audience can linger and enjoy works by eleven young composers, created specifically for each particular location.
Tobias Krebs, rêves éveillés, 2019
The audience will walk towards the music and after a while carry on, without necessarily experiencing the entire composition. A challenge for the invited composers, as Tumasch Clalüna pointed out. Some works are rather to be defined sound situations instead of conventional compositions with a clear beginning and end, while others are more installation-like or let the performers spontaneously react to the passing audience. Instead of a conventional concert festival, Tumasch Clalüna therefore prefers the definition of “musical landscape walk”. “Park Opera 2” by Polish composer Wojtek Blecharz, for example, which will be premiered at the festival, fits this idea perfectly as Blecharz composed the opera specifically for the landscape above Läufelfingen, same goes for the performance “Waves” by Lara Stanic, also referring to the surroundings.
Lara Stanic: 4Laptops, 2019
But why does Neue Musik Rümlingen actually take place in Läufelfingen and not in Rümlingen? We’ve been invited by SiLO12 for a cooperation some time ago, explains Clalüna and this year was the right opportunity, as an anniversary exhibition had been planned in addition to the music.
A closer look at the programme reveals that the composers are remarkably young, e.g. new works by Tobias Krebs, Léo Collin or Anda Kryeziu will be heard and performed. This is surprising, because one could assume that a 30-year anniversary is the occasion to invite big names of the scene. Tumasch Clalüna answers that the festival prefers to stay focused on what is currently going on and to look ahead rather than back.
Léo Collin, Corals, 2020
The 30 years retrospective of the festival’s history won’t be completely missing though, as at the end of the walk, SiLO12 will host the «Aus dem Schuber – Archiv Rümlingen» exhibition, with the Basel ensemble “zone expérimentale” performing works related to the festival’s entire history.
The sound hiking and “Aus dem Schuber” concerts will take place on Saturday 22. and Sunday 23. of August, while the exhibition will run from Friday 21. to Monday 24. of August, with an opening vernissage on Thursday evening (August 20).
Impacts of the pandemic on musicians in Switzerland and the United States
Laurent Estoppey, composer, saxophonist, sound artist and artistic director of the Ensemble Babel Lausanne, has been a musical bridge between Europe and the United States for many years.
As expert of both continents, I invited him to state his points of view on the consequences of the corona virus pandemic relating to musical creation on both sides of the Atlantic.
Read the second part of his large-scale survey:
(re)inventing the aftermath ⎜2/2
The most important losses and needs musicians faced during lockdown times are easily identifiable and generally shared: playing with others, playing in front of an audience, hugging family and friends.
However, this situation allowed some people to develop a great variety of long-term thoughts and projects, explore new paths, at a different pace. Approaches to the digital world and its possibilities are also very different from one person to another.
“Physical distancing opens up interesting ways of reflection and questions related to performance in a constraining framework for example, the limits of the body and the way in which sound flows out of it, inhabits the space, extends a gesture, encounters others. This kind of directions captures my attention at the moment.”
Laurent Estoppey, Caroline County
New forms of projects are born and it is still very difficult to know if they will be really satisfactory, but they do respond to a desire, an urge to create, to pursue a quest. (see links below)
Many “records” will be released in the next few years…but for which public? And at what price?
For if musicians clearly need an audience, we don’t know if the opposite is true? Has free music made its way into the minds of the (digital) public?
The example of a rock concert in Geneva in May, watched by 13’000 people of which everyone was kindly asked to pay a proposed amount or make a free offer… and only 13 people paid something, is obviously worrying.
The “revival” initiated by some cities by offering free shows – where the artists were payed – also leaves one wondering. The public is accustomed access easily and free, preventing it from being truly professionalized.
“I am afraid that as the economic situation is improving, this interlude only served to forge the next speeches on crisis and austerity, despite the promises of support regarding some essential professions and the promise to review priorities.
I hope, however, that the fact of having experienced a rare moment of “deviation” in our production pace, including in the cultural industry, will remain in the memory of a few people who will look at all this differently.”
Dragos Tara, Horde
The passion of musicians on both sides of the Atlantic is intact, but will we have the energy to make our activities viable and recognized as real professions?
Many artistic questions remain:
Do we have to reinvent the concert situation in terms of new and sustainable health standards?
Will the creation and performance modes of the recent months become the new standards and if so, will we settle for lesser quality and experiences?
Will the crisis reinforce our demands and our artistic needs or will it push towards a quasi-economic renunciation of musical practice as experienced in the USA?
What we realise, is also that musicians’ associations such as SONART or FGMC (Fédération genevoise des musiques de création) also have a very important role to play in the reflection and management of the “aftermath”.
Viva Sanchez, Brice Catherin, Numéro 2
In conclusion, two reflections by American musicians:
“I believe the music scene was very exciting but definitely dying. What I miss the most is maybe something that actually never existed.”
“The pandemic saved me from a burnout. I appreciate this period and try to make the most of it, through meditation, reflection and gardening. The health crisis and the (potential) political awakening are extremely inspiring and stimulating for composing music and songs. »
It’s up to us to react and to dream!
Laurent Estoppey (2/2)
Here some links to specific projects carried out during lockdown times:
Atomwrec Bob Parking Garage Bidness
Brice Catherin / Noisebringers
Jacques Demierre Decálogo Sonoro – 3° entrega
Nicolas Lira 72 seconds solos
Dragos Tara Lisières (avec entre autres Patricia Bosshard, Laurent Estoppey…)
Andrew Weathers Llano Estacado Monad Band
Association Insubordinations / Cyril Bondy, Jacques Demierre, Anouck Genthon…
ensemBle baBel Walking Venezia
Hyper-Duo (Julien Mégroz et Gilles Grimaître)
Article suggested by Julien Mégroz
Quotes in italics are from musicians who participated in the survey:
Antonio Albanese, Aaron Bachelder, Cyril Bondi, Patricia Bosshard, Laurent Bruttin, Brice Catherin, Vattel Cherry, Jacques Demierre, Susan Fancher, Edmée Fleury, Antoine Francoise, Shawn Galvin, Anouck Genthon, James Gilmore, Gary Heidt, Jonas Kocher, Antoine Läng, Nicolas Lira, Julien Mégroz, David Meier, David Menestres, Luc Müller ,Raphaël Ortis, Robert Pence, Will Redman, Noëlle Reymond, Viva Sanchez, Dragos Tara, Vinz Vonlanthen, Andrew Weathers.
Many thanks to you all!
Interview with Antoine Chessex @ Swiss Music Prize 2020_1
The mystery is revealed: this year’s Swiss Grand Prix Musique goes to Erika Stucky, singer, musician and performer of the new folk genre.
There are 14 other prizewinners, several of which in the broad genre of contemporary and experimental music.
Neo-Blog will portray them in loose succession, starting with Antoine Chessex, saxophonist, composer, sound artist and sound theorist.
Antoine Chessex was born in Vevey in 1980. After residencies in New York, London and Berlin, he now lives in Zurich and is considered one of the most innovative young musicians in Switzerland. Chessex is not afraid of genre boundaries and moves fluently between composed and improvised music, noise and sound art. In addition, he is an internationally active author, lecturer and curator and raises awareness regarding socio-political issues such as inequality or precariousness in the artistic creation realm.
In this interview he talks with Gabrielle Weber about sound and hearing.
Congratulations on being awarded first of all! Were you surprised?
I am very happy thanks and I was a bit surprised I admit. Especially since my work is rather on the edge of the commercial music scene and cannot be assigned to any genre.
What does this award mean to you?
The prize is a sign of recognition that my professional practice, which has now been going on for twenty years, is being acknowledged. I was not trained in an institution, but in real life and through practice. Receiving the prize as an individual artist, however, is kind of ambivalent though, as my music mainly develops in a collective practice and there are often several people involved.
Antoine Chessex / Eklekto: écho/cide, Ausschnitt
Does the price have a special meaning in these peculiar times of corona pandemic? The topic of precariousness in music creation is central to many and you draw attention to it in your magazine “Multiple”…
The current situation shows how fragile and precarious the whole system is for many freelance artists in Switzerland. Many musicians are professionally forced to live in a state of improvisation. They only make ends meet by combining different (cultural) works. If one element is missing or gets lost, the whole situation quickly collapses. The complexity of the matter is also due to the fact that artists need a lot of time to experiment and research and to always be “productive” therefore becomes problematic. In my opinion, art is not a service, but rather a social activity, so the real question today is under what circumstances art and music creation as a profession can still exist.
“It’s like sonic fiction, letting imagination unfold”
You question the romanticised sound image of nature in music. Some of your works have been compared to ” primal elemental forces “, like earthquakes, tsunamis or volcanic eruptions.
My music perhaps represents nature more metaphorically, as I whish to deconstruct clichés portraying nature as just beautiful, calm and harmonious. Nature is also chaotic, violent and loud. In works like “The experience of limit” the piano sounds like a storm at sea. It’s like sonic fiction, letting imagination unfold. I’m tonally interested in phenomena like seismic activities, tornadoes, snow avalanches or heavy rainfall for instance.
Antoine Chessex / Tamriko Kordzaia, The experience of limit
You associate sound and hearing with power and plead for critical listening: What is it all about?
Music is culturally constructed and embedded in various historical traditions. Basically, however, I am mostly concerned with the relationship between sound and hearing. Hearing is never neutral, but always situated. There are complex mechanisms at play and it is about power relations: The tradition of the European avant-garde, for example, excluded many voices. It takes debate to uncover the boundaries of the audible and the term “critical listening” invites us to listen and question power relations as well as social dimensions.
Music scenes and institutions often operate homogeneously, while reality is highly heterogeneous.
Your works live between improvised and written music, noise and sound art – without any fear of contact between musical genres: how does this work in the practice of the institutions?
When it comes to sound and hearing, music genres become obsolete, although cultural institutions are usually organized according to them. In the independent scene, music functions differently than in the institutional contemporary framework and sound art requires different spaces. Music scenes and institutions often operate homogeneously, while reality is highly heterogeneous. The more artists move between the different scenes, the more structural changes can take place.
You are not “only” a composer and musician, but also active as curator, e.g. for the “Textures” festival at legendary Café OTO in London. Do your composing and curating activities influence each other?
Curating is mainly about other artists and bringing people together. Composing, curating, but also improvising and artistic research are connected in many ways and represent different aspects of my practice.
A new composition by Antoine Chessex will be premiered at Festival Label Suisse in September, interpreted by Simone Keller on church organ and Dominik Blum on Hammond organ.
Interview: Gabrielle Weber
Broadcasts SRG: RSI/NEO, Redaktion Valentina Bensi, 28.7.20, 20h: incontro con Antoine Chessex
Impacts of the pandemic on musicians in Switzerland and the United States
Laurent Estoppey, composer, saxophonist, sound artist and artistic director of the Ensemble BaBel Lausanne, has been a musical bridge between Europe and the United States for many years and launched many intercontinental collaboration projects between experimental, transdisciplinary, improvised music as well as sound art.
As expert of both continents, I invited him to state his points of view on the consequences of the corona virus pandemic relating to musical creation on both sides of the Atlantic.
After conducting a large-scale survey, Estoppey concluded that the pandemic revealed the system’s fragility and encouraged a fundamental questioning of the music industry as such, but also inspired new methods of creation and collaboration.
Read his insights in the two-part series below:
1/2 face the facts
Well, let’s not beat around the bush, we’ve all been hit very heavily by this situation and not “only” financially, but deeply and on all levels, we faced an existential crisis that forces us to imagine and seek other possibilities.
Is the pandemic and its consequences experienced in the same way on both sides of the Atlantic?
To try and answer this question – since there are almost as many situations as there are musicians – at the beginning of June I sent a short questionnaire to some forty musicians who all have rather independent activities in the fields of contemporary, improvised and experimental music.
Ensemble Babel, Christian Marclay: Screenplay part.2
I was particularly touched by the feedback’s generosity and honesty, which of course reflects the need to express oneself in this time of need and frustration. I had expected rather short answers, but many developed several points and gave numerous inputs for reflection.
To my great surprise, the artistic reactions are absolutely the same for most of them.
The only big difference is that musicians in the United States have little or no possibility of compensation (knowing that fees – when they exist – are much lower than in Switzerland or Europe in general and the possibilities of private or public subsidies are five to ten times lower).
Ensemble Batida, Haiku
“We all realize that, even if money is important, it is not the main thing. The last few months have prevented projects from happening, which generates an immense feeling doubt for most of us. »
“This situation influences my life and therefore also my artistic practice, but in a rather global way, which will reveal itself entirely only later on, I believe.»
If for many Americans, making music has little to do with economic aspects, Swiss musicians faced the great precariousness of our profession through the pandemic. “Like many people in this profession, I protect myself by having a second job. »
Julien Mégroz, Défibrillation décongelée
The general reactions to the crisis were – of course – quite similar: first frustration, the reaction to the forced stop, then discovery of other spaces, physical as well as temporal, which led to a deep introspection and to a great questioning – at least until the activities seemed to start again – of the “previous” situation.
“Am I creator or project manager?”
Let’s go back to that “previous” situation with a few statements many can relate to:
“In a way this shows the fragility of a system. Music is the weakest link of performing arts. Mainly because it has not been able to professionally develop and establish itself in the same way as theatre or dance.”
“This crisis highlights the precarious way the musician’s profession is considered in Switzerland, one does what he or she can to earn a living and put aside enough time to create».
“This brought the precariousness and dysfunctions of the creative music branch to light. »
“Does this approach really generate quality or does it just add ‘events’ to the quantity of cultural products in an area?
What do I really have to say as an artist? Do I want to depend on a cultural market and state or private funding and support for a long time to come?
Am I creator or project manager?”
Laurent Estoppey, Always something there
All the issues that were already at hand before the crisis are crucial. However, there is a frightening difference on both sides of the Atlantic. Whereas the Americans have long since given up on the possibility of real income through their artistic activities (most of them teach full-time or have totally different professions “to pay the bills”, such as computer scientists, translators, graphic designers, etc. and very little time to devote to concerts), the Swiss want to believe in a greater appreciation of their art.
But: “We are asked to be creative, to bounce back, find solutions, whereas in my opinion the fight is political and the question is: do we want real and proper working conditions for artists and musicians? »
Laurent Estoppey (1/2 )
Here some links to specific projects carried out during lockdown times:
Atomwrec Bob Parking Garage Bidness
Brice Catherin / Noisebringers
Jacques Demierre Decálogo Sonoro – 3° entrega
Nicolas Lira 72 seconds solos
Dragos Tara Lisières (avec entre autres Patricia Bosshard, Laurent Estoppey…)
Andrew Weathers Llano Estacado Monad Band
Association Insubordinations / Cyril Bondy, Jacques Demierre, Anouck Genthon…
ensemBle baBel Walking Venezia
Hyper-Duo (Julien Mégroz et Gilles Grimaître)
Article suggéré par Julien Mégroz
Quotes in italics are from musicians who participated in the survey:
Antonio Albanese, Aaron Bachelder, Cyril Bondi, Patricia Bosshard, Laurent Bruttin, Brice Catherin, Vattel Cherry, Jacques Demierre, Susan Fancher, Edmée Fleury, Antoine Francoise, Shawn Galvin, Anouck Genthon, James Gilmore, Gary Heidt, Jonas Kocher, Antoine Läng, Nicolas Lira, Julien Mégroz, David Meier, David Menestres, Luc Müller ,Raphaël Ortis, Robert Pence, Will Redman, Noëlle Reymond, Viva Sanchez, Dragos Tara, Vinz Vonlanthen, Andrew Weathers.
Many thanks to you all!
The renowned Swiss-based online magazine Norient, founded in 2002, has recently been integrated into the new online platform Norient Space – The Now In Sound. With a community of 700 journalists*, musicians* and scientists* from over 70 countries, this new platform bundles digital reflection on global contemporary and experimental music creation.
On March 5th, Norient Space’s beta version was launched at “Haus der Kulturen der Welt” in Berlin. A panel as well as a sound installation complemented the opening of this new “virtual transdisciplinary gallery and community platform between art, journalism and science”. The Swiss launch is scheduled for September 24.
Julia Vorkefeld was there at the Berlin launch and reports for neo.mx3 about Norient Space and the panel Life after Music Magazines-the Norient Way.
The independent Swiss music and media art platform Norient reinvents itself after almost 20 years. Culture’s glory days are over and in times when music analysis consist of the hearts and likes of the post-digital era, the challenge for music journalism is to keep innovative. The Now In Sound is Norient’s motto and the sound of now is a mirror of global events – which is what makes music journalism still relevant. The platform relaunched its project in a strategically smart way, starting from Berlin with an event in the prestigious “Haus der Kulturen der Welt”.
A relaunch is a rather brave undertaking these times. We had no idea that shortly after the Berlin launch, a virus would completely freeze all cultural industries and throw many of its actors into even greater precariousness. Not to mention that many renowned music magazines, such as Spex and Groove, had buried their analogue products and the Swiss magazine Dissonance had to abandon completely.
Independent music journalism has therefore eventually been declared an endangered species. The relaunch’s kick-off was accordingly complemented by a panel on the future of music journalism under the title “Life after Music Magazines-the Norient Way” which announced the fact that virtual, interdisciplinary, global, collaborative and transmedial should be some of the solutions for contemporary music journalism.
No – Orient: virtual, interdisciplinary, global, collaborative and transmedial..
Under the motto Connecting the dots – the network stands for shared knowledge production and its makers pursue ambitious ideas with it. Norient has been committed to diversity from the very beginning, long before it became a buzzword in the German-speaking cultural branch. Diversity not just as an empty phrase, but as serious policy for the name alone, a play on words from No and Orient, contains the avoidance musical exoticism and the associated power relations.
Norient Snaps Trailer 2020
The panel reflects the platform’s internationality and diversity and global players, such as Jenny Fatou Mbaye (Centre for Culture and the Creative Industries, City University of London), Faisal M. Khan (curator, Akaliko Collective, Dhaka) or Kamila Metwaly (music journalist, musician Savvy Contemporary Berlin) were involved.
The main focus was on how the platform could improve its content and formal orientation, with the aim of achieving more diversity, more internationality, new formats and events, and thus more quality overall.
Joy Frempong, The sample shapes the song, 2012
We care about content – is another motto and all speakers agreed that journalism in general and thus also music journalism should refocus on quality and that creating high-quality content has its price. However, since music platforms and editorial offices usually pay poorly, it is no wonder that music journalism is degenerating more and more into a badly paid hobby. It is a sad fact that music reviews are used as a corporate and marketing tool by global brands such as RedBull or Ballantines, as in these cases money would actually be available for cultural knowledge production. In order not to leave the shaping of culture to the brands, other solutions for financing independent music platforms, free of advertising, censorship and algorithms must be found. One solution the speakers pointed out could be more generosity in sharing content.
Financial precariousness in music journalism, however, was not discussed in depth and as I personally raised the issue, it was clear that all those involved were well aware of the problem. The input to consider as many professional areas as possible was however hardly convincing.
Norient tries to finance itself through a membership model. Connoisseurs who appreciate the platform support its content through subscriptions, and selected in-depth content such as dossiers or specials is reserved for subscribers while the rest of the platform is free of charge.
Whether Norient will be able to survive with its new model is not certain but we really hope so, because in an era of ethnic backlash, such cultural platforms are deeply needed.
Norient Space is currently in beta mode. The official digital launch will take place on September 24th.
Sendungen SRF 2 Kultur, 22.1.2020
The small and eclectic Usinesonore festival in the Bernese Jura should have taken place from June 10 to 13. Unfortunately the new resolutions and guidelines issued by the authorities and allowing certain smaller events to take place came have been communicated slightly too late, even if the new rules would have applied precisely from the first day of the festival onwards. This is all the more painful as the festival is only a biennial event and we may have to wait until 2022 for the next edition. On the other hand, the Les “Battements de l’Abbatiale” concert series in Bellelay will be taking place.
Julien Annoni, co-director of Usinesonore and director of Les Battements de l’Abbatiale, tells us about new opportunities during these Covid-19 times and why streaming cannot be considered an option for these kinds of events.
Interview: Bjørn Schaeffner
Julien Annoni, Usinesonore was to take place from 9 to 13 June. What will we miss out on?
As always, a diverse programme ranging from contemporary music to traditional music and other artistic disciplines. We try to keep things as close as possible to the audience. As for the big names: Among others, a concert with Renaud Capuçon. Plus we had designed a wonderful tent again, especially for this year’s edition.
When did you realise that the festival had to be cancelled?
Early April. Two months before the official start of the festival was the very last deadline we had set, in order to keep things as harmless as possible organization wise.
Now the lockdown is over…
I’m glad, of course. It’s positive signal for Switzerland and for all those who work in the cultural field!
Doesn’t it bother you that the festival could theoretically have taken place? The authorities just decided that events with up to 300 people will be allowed again from June, 6 onwards.
The only possible way would have been to reduce Usinesonore and we knew from the beginning that this was not an option. Under these circumstances, the atmosphere of the festival would have been distorted.
Usinesonore 2018, Gérard Grisey, Le noir d’étoiles, WeSpoke
Why is that?
Because it would have happened at the expense of quality and we don’t want any compromise on that aspect.
But again: Isn’t it annoying to miss it all by a hair’s breadth?
It’s of course a pity. We had already put a lot of heart and soul into it. But in hindsight, one’s always much smarter.
What does the cancellation of the festival mean for you financially?
We’re doing relatively well. The Canton of Berne as well as the majority of the foundations supporting the festival have been very accommodating and kept their subsidies and contributions.
And what does it mean for the artists?
We can pay a large part of their fees and production costs and thus partly compensate for their work loss.
You have made the Biel festival premises which have become vacant, available to other artists free of charge.
Yes, of course, we did that very spontaneously so that people can rehearse there, or work on productions. Artists will be working there until the end of July, be it just for a few days or a week. Among others, Collective Mycelium, Camille Emaille, Lucie Tuma, Paquita Maria or Adrien Gygax with lot of enthusiasm even if nothing will be presented to the public!
Are you, as a musician, affected by the crisis yourself?
I sure felt it financially. On the other hand, I enjoyed spending more time with my family, as in normal times I am on the road a lot.
A streaming Usinesonore was never an option?
We thought about the possibility, but decided against it. Usinesonore lives from the exchange with the audience and the whole atmosphere, which could never be replaced by a streaming format.
Trailer Usinesonore Festival 2014
Can you imagine digital formats for Usinesonore in the future?
Yes, definitely, but the outcomes are completely open. We are brainstorming, researching and setting bases something new.
Will Usinesonore take place next year?
It might, but it could also not take place until 2022. We don’t know yet. We are taking advantage of the time at hand, to intensively think about how the festival could be shaped in the future.
So you see this crisis as an opportunity?
Right. It is quite unique to get the chance to completely reinvent a festival.
What else are you looking forward to?
To the concerts in the historical abbey of Bellelay, but those have nothing to do with Usinesonore. It is the result of three years of work, a season of ensemble concerts – I had invited Carine Zuber (Moods), Claire Brawand (Label Suisse) and Arnaud Di Clemente (Cully Jazz) as programmers. We had to cancel the part of the season, but at least some of the planned events between end of August and mid-September will take place.
Usinesonore Festival takes place biennially in June in La Neuveville. The next planned edition is in 2022.
The “Les Battements de l’Abbatiale” concert series will take place – as one of the first events in the Jura – from 29 August (Ensemble Contrechamps Genève) onwards.
“Sprechstunde neue Musik” (new music consultations) is an online offer by Musikfestival Bern based on the slogan: “Listening to and discussing music”. Tobias Reber, composer and performer, is responsible for the festival’s communication program. He initiated the format in 2019 already, when the consultation hours took place live and now offers them as video conferences.
Gabrielle Weber talked with Reber about this format, field recordings and Terry Riley’s work “In C”.
Recently you held the first online “Sprechstunde neue Musik”, under the title Schichtungen (Layering) you discussed Terry Riley’s piece “in C”, a work belonging to the minimal music genre, insistently focused on the note C. Why this particular work?
I decided to start with this piece because on the one hand it is accessible and on the other hand it relates to the festival theme of tectonics. It is a layering work in which layers of sound are shifted over and against each other.
Terry Riley, In C, Ensemble Ictus live, 2012
The title “Sprechstunde neue Musik” (new music consultations) is to be interpreted in an entertaining way – people are usually rather reluctant to consult their doctor…
On one hand, consultations are of course meant literally, as the idea is to speak together. At the same time, it has an ironic twist, as some sort of “hotline”, because contemporary music can also cause headaches. It has a problem with reaching a larger audience. My concern is: how can I stimulate the desire for the multi-faceted nature of this music. I often encounter the fear of having to understand everything and would like to get rid of it.
Let us take gourmet cuisine as an example or analogy. If I were to eat in a molecular restaurant, I don’t expect to have to understand that either. I am consciously embarking on something new. New music is also about getting involved sensually, trying, tasting.
“I would like to offer a large buffet.”
The consultations are unique, taking place in the here and now, albeit virtually – whoever is present experiences an exclusive interactive moment… how did that come across?
Actually, everyone thoroughly enjoyed the idea of being together in that particular moment.
There is a need to experiment with virtual encounters. We are all learning to build trust, for example with strangers via video conferencing, it is almost a new cultural technique.
The next dates are themed: “Klingende Welten” (Sounding Worlds) and “Brüche, Störungen, Falten” (Fractures, Disturbances, Wrinkles) – which sounds a bit general: can you provide further information?
“Klingende Welten” is about real sounds recorded in the “real” world, so-called field recordings. For example, the sound of earth movements recorded by dedicated sensors, or of ice floes moving or rubbing against each other, recorded by hydrophones or waterproof microphones in Arctic waters.
In the final talk, we will discuss works that have been created for a specific location, in the form of performances or sound sculptures for example.
Tobias Reber, Polyglot, 2013
The talks are completely open and aimed at experts as well as interested amateur audience: how does this combination work?
During the first online session we had a good combination of professional musicians and amateurs. All of them brought very different angles and knowledge. But we had to establish a common ground first, which was enriching for both sides.
I defined the initiative as an experiment and encouraged people to make suggestions, in order to find out together what works well.
How exactly did you approach Terry Riley’s “In C”?
I started by preparing a private, dedicated playlist on Soundcloud, which I shared and we compared three very different interpretations. There is a recording with musicians from Mali for example, where they improvise on the themes instead of repeating them, which – by the way – is absolutely in Terry Riley’s nature.
Terry Riley, Africa Express, In C Mali, live at Tate Modern, 2015
Is there anything in the next talk we can look forward to in particular?
Last winter we experienced the so-called “singing ice” phenomenon. I experienced it myself in the Upper Engadine by the frozen Lake St.Moritz. One of the recordings I bring along has to do with that…
Musikfestival Bern will take place from September 2, to September 6. This year’s festival is themed “Tectonics”.
35 years ensemble für neue music zürich
Setting significant standards since three decades: the “ensemble für neue music zürich” was founded in 1985, when contemporary music was only just beginning to emerge – today it is facing particular challenges.
A review with perspective by Thomas Meyer.
One must remember the musical situation in Zurich around 1980. The Conservatory still lived up to its name: a place of preservation, not at all focusing on creation as it is today. Premieres for instance were highly unappreciated at the Tonhalle. There were small concert series dedicated to new music, but no specialist ensemble for it. There was a lot to be done.
When the “Tage für Neue Musik” were first held in 1986, a young ensemble, simply called “ensemble für neue musik zürich” emerged. It had presented itself for the first time only one year earlier and gathered a handful of musicians who were looking for something new. The musicians supported young composers of their generation and their environment and who had a very broad concept of music. Everything started with a concert by the “Gruppo Musica Insieme di Cremona” during the Zurich Junifestwochen, with mezzo-soprano Cathy Berberian. “It was an eye-opener: I felt the urge to do something like that,” says flutist Hanspeter Frehner, who founded the ensemble with other young students and still leads it today. Together with the pianist Viktor Müller, he is the only member of the original line up.
Two essential characteristics define the ensemble: open-mindedness and consistency. Their open-mindedness is reflected, for example, by the choice of presenting female composers’ programmes from very early on, commissioning works to Liza Lim or Noriko Hisada. Another characteristic is asking jazz musicians to compose – which launched, for example, the career of Dieter Ammann. They also dedicated themselves to the visual arts, as in their homages to the Zurich sculptor Hans Josephsohn or in their collaboration with the experimental artist Peter Regli.
Verwandtschaft, composer: Junghae Lee, UA Winterthur, Villa Sträuli 2019, ensemble für neue musik zürich
But above all, they pushed music theater to a new level: the ensemble’s instrumentation is based on Schönberg’s cabaret-like “Pierrot lunaire”: flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano, complemented by percussion, similar to Peter Maxwell Davies’ “Fires of London”. With two short operas by Davies, the “ensemble” proved early on that it was possible to create grandiose musical theatre with a few, consistently applied means. Another experiment, together with director Herbert Wernicke, was a radical version of the “Merry Widow” – so bold that Léhar’s heirs promptly banned it. Since then, chamber operas have been a permanent feature of the programme. Next November, for example, the operetta “Neues vom Weltuntergang” by Dortmund composer Johannes Marks is on schedule.
Their consistency is reflected in the long collaboration among each other, but also with the composers. Noriko Hisada, from Japan, states for example, that “ensemble für neue music is one of those groups in which I have deep trust” and Sebastian Gottschick has been the ensemble’s guest conductor for a long time. These days, the “Hat Hut” record label (ezz-thetics) is releasing two new CDs with his “Notturni” as well as arrangements of Charles Ives songs. A remembrance of composer Franz Furrer-Münch, who died in 2010, is also planned for next autumn. This all shows that it’s not only a matter of featuring the big names of new music, but also about working, as well as promoting, from the base upwards…
Trailer ZUHÖAN, composition duo: Christoph Coburger / Sebastian Gottschick, UA 2015, ensemble für neue musik zürich
This is how the “ensemble” has been setting standards for some three and a half decades. Some time ago, the rumour started to circulate, that the musicians were gradually reaching retirement age. Actually, financial support from the city of Zurich will expire at the end of 2021, but Frehner says there are still a few ideas and projects beyond that. Moreover, he believes that it would be perfectly fine, if the regular city support were invested in the future, i.e. a young ensemble.
One has to consider the situation in Zurich today: New Music does not have a fixed venue such as the Gare du Nord in Basel and with the Walcheturm in Kaserneareal, at least one option for the independent scene is available. The Tage für Neue Musik are on the verge of a new conception, the orchestral concerts are not exactly bursting with innovations. Although creation is flourishing at the ZHdK and the city has a fixed chamber orchestra “Collegium Novum Zurich”, a new smaller ensemble would also require support and there is still a lot to be done.
The concerts planned for May and June were cancelled due to the current Covid-19 restrictions and will be made up on the following dates:
Stöckli/Neumann/Ustwolskaja (instead of 16.5.20): 5.2.21
CD Taufe Ives/Gottschick (instead of 14.6.20): 12.12.20
Grüsse an Regli (instead of 28.6.20): 29.6.21
Klanglieferservice (Sound delivery) Gare du Nord Basel
The Gare du Nord – Bahnhof für Neue Musik Basel team, came up with a special programme for these lockdown times: sound delivery service (Klanglieferservice).
Their motto: imaginative travel is a good way to stay mobile and keep your soul warm, especially these days.
Like any other music hall, the Gare du Nord – Bahnhof für Neue Musik Basel is closed since mid-March. As one of the most important contemporary music venues in Switzerland, it offers a unique year-round programme. In an interview with Gabrielle Weber, the artistic director Désirée Meiser, explains how Gare du Nord is coping with the current corona situation.
Désirée Meiser, the Gare du Nord website welcomes its visitors with the message: “We are working from home”: What are your days like at the moment?
We are amazed, as days are actually very busy. We’re taking care of cancellations and postponements, of course, but the programming has to go on as well. We have different chatrooms for this. Qualitatively all works well, but quantitatively it can get tiring sometimes.
You were in the middle of two seasonal highlights, “Later Born” and “Musiktheaterformen”. What does the near future look like now that all events have been cancelled for the time being?
In the worst case, we won’t be able to offer anything during this season – but that’s not certain yet. On May 8th, for example, a major cooperation project should have taken place as part of ‘Later Born’: the silent movie “The City without Jews” (1924, Karl Breslauer) with a new composition by Olga Neuwirth (premiere WienModern, 2018), performed by the Basel Symphony Orchestra. It’s a highly political project that was very important to us. But – together with the symphony orchestra – we are now planning to postpone.
Olga Neuwirth, Die Stadt ohne Juden, UA Festival WienModern, Wiener Konzerthaus 7.11.2018
How does the current situation affect you, your team and all those involved in the various projects?
It is a great challenge. We have now requested part-time work for part of the team and at the moment, we still manage somehow, but long-term forecasts are very difficult. We are trying to deal with it as solidly as possible, also with regard to the musicians and the ensembles, who find themselves in difficult situations.
Gare du Nord called for solidarity with action such as #ichwillkeingeldzurück / #solidaritätmitfreienkünstlerinnen: a very important initiative – how did it come about?
We got the idea from existing initiatives and find it important and useful. We’re discussing with the ensembles and trying to postpone certain concerts, but many are still pending. What we are experiencing is definitely great understanding from the audience as well as great empathy for all those involved in culture.
“A great deal of flexibility – also mental flexibility – is now required of everyone”
You came up with a programme to fill this gap for your audience: the sound delivery service: how did this idea originate?
Following the high streaming services demand, the idea came about to counteract this fast pace of life and the constant need to offer something new. We wanted to open windows and possibilities to browse through selected archive recordings. There are such wonderful programmes, conversations and concert recordings, especially from SRF 2 Kultur.
Performing new pieces is important and good. But a lot of great existing music is too seldom proposed. The fact that we all have to stay at home now is a great opportunity to turn our attention to works that had been forgotten.
Football was also an inspiration: as the games can no longer take place, football fans started to watch legendary games from the past. (laughs)
What is special about the sound delivery service – and why should one listen to it?
We have asked experts to send us their personal favorites and got a great flow of beautiful finds, which are always surprising and a pleasure to listen to.
aus: Klanglieferservice GdN, Tipp: Anja Wernicke, 9.4.20
Terms like ‘physical distancing’ or ‘social distancing’ are omnipresent: Do you feel socially close to your audience and your team, despite physical distance? The sound delivery service also symbolically stands for music as a unifying element…
We don’t want to overwhelm the audience with a flood of mails during this break. The sound delivery service is intended to be kind of a virtual connection, in that we find ourselves in a virtual space and listen to something together. That may give a certain comfort, but commonly experiencing live sound in a real space is something unique that cannot be replaced.
Right now, our team is incredibly precious. Despite sometimes great geographical distances, we are all highly motivated and have a strong sense of cohesion.
The emergency state as “wake-up call”
Does this Corona period also offer opportunities or potential?
One of the phenomena of this strange state of emergency triggers, is some kind of ‘wake-up call’ – we appreciate what we had and have with new awareness…
Interview: Gabrielle Weber
The sound delivery service started on March 30 and features personal highlights on the GdN homepage daily. The selections have been proposed, among others, by Mark Sattler, Author Lucerne Festival, Bernhard Günther, artistic director of WienModern and ZeitRäume Basel festivals, Anja Wernicke, managing director and main producer of ZeitRäume Basel, Uli Fussenegger, head of Neue Musik FHNW or Désirée Meiser, artistic director GdN, as well as SRF 2 Kultur music editors.
Broadcasts SRF 2 Kultur:
Musik unserer Zeit: Heinz Holliger und die Literatur
Klassiker der Moderne: Concorde Sonata von Charles Ives
Neue Musik im Konzert: Wassermusik, within: UA Katharina Rosenberger: Rein
neo.mx3: Antoine Chessex, écho/cide
The submission deadline for Impuls neue Musik’s funding 2020 is the first of May.
The competition is looking for music projects contributing to the exchange between German- and French-speaking regions, as well as cultural areas throughout Germany, France and Switzerland.
Impuls neue Musik is a transnational funding programme for contemporary music. Since years the project fund commits to creating links between the music scenes of Germany, France and Switzerland, i.e. through ‘idea workshops’ giving a concrete expression to cultural exchange on international level. In 2020, two new jury members joined the board: German composer Brigitta Muntendorf and French journalist Anne Montaron.
Gabrielle Weber interviewed Brigitta Muntendorf regarding Impuls neue Musik, the current situation, digital networking and long-term potential of international cooperation.
Brigitta Muntendorf, you usually travel a lot and constantly work with different teams and partners in different places: tell us about the current situation?
I’m currently working from home – like any other musician or composer – as all planned events have been cancelled for the time being. Trying to change that, wanting to travel or mourning cancelled events wouldn’t make any sense. What makes sense is to trust the artists, their creativity and capability to come up with ideas.
“Music can be many different things and have different meanings”
How would you personally like to contribute to Impuls neue Musik?
I am curious about themes and questions other artists or ensembles deal with, as well as the connections they seek and their motivation to do so. That’s the approach I would like to keep, when looking at projects. Artistically, I believe that contemporary music can be very broad and I would like to encourage that.
What is special about the Impuls financing…?
The focus being on international cooperation and internationality always carries the challenge of thinking on a larger scale.
Joint adventure, Ensemble C Barré und Neue Vokalsolisten, Eclat 2020
…and the combination of the three countries – Germany, France and Switzerland?
The three countries are geographically close of course, but each of them has its distinctive characteristics: Contemporary Music in France, for example, is based on a compositional background that is completely different from the one of Germany and Switzerland. At the same time, all three countries pursue similar formats, festivals and structures in their current practice. They come from different cultural origins but find themselves in a common performance ground.
“the potential to exit one’s own comfort zone”
What are the challenges of international cooperation?
Already existing contacts are essential. Many things can only be achieved by joining forces – with partners in one’s own country, but also abroad. As for Impuls Neue Musik, the main questions are: how high is the potential to exit one’s own comfort zone and what are the specific reasons that make a project meaningful and working in the mentioned countries. But curiosity can also be a factor and produce something that no one had foreseen.
… you don’t often get to meet across borders in order to brainstorm.
With regard to climate and climate change, I think it is important to carefully think about why people should meet and when other communicational means might be insufficient. The quality of a meeting primarily depends on how much thought both sides have given it in advance, not on how often one travels from A to B.
What about sustainability – does it make sense to work together just once?
Sustainability plays an important role in cooperation. In not planning single projects, but focusing on long-term cooperation for instance. The longer the planning, the more artistic benefit the partners involved will enjoy.
What do co-production projects achieve better than others?
In co-production projects, the nature of contact has a different quality. Creation is supported as such and in the early stages of a project, the specific peculiarities and characteristics of the participants are strongly taken into account.
We find ourselves in a special situation, with national borders exceptionally closed – do you consider this a threat to the basic idea of Impuls?
I believe that ‘wanting to connect’ across borders is something that is firmly rooted in our minds since the digital revolution at the very latest, especially among younger generations. The current situation calls for a new way of approaching basic questions like: how to make art, how to show art, what is the meaning of art? But also: what new ways and forces could be found in order to connect and cooperate? We have to dwell into digital approaches and interactions – keeping in mind that the digital world also has its limits.
IScreen, YouScream!, Brigitta Muntendorf, Ensemble Garage, Eclat Festival
Which direction could Impuls take in the long run? What is your vision?
Borders between art forms are becoming increasingly blurred – like between music and performance, or music and transmedia. The concept of composer and musical material are also changing. I believe this is where Impuls neue Musik should position itself more strongly and there is an even more sustainable funding project I have in mind, built upon long-term relationships with artists.
Interview, Gabrielle Weber
New jury members 2020:
After studying in Bremen, Cologne, Paris and Kyoto, Brigitta Muntendorf has been awarded numerous prizes, including the “young talents” GEMA Music Authors’ Prize in 2017. She holds a professorship at the Cologne University of Music.
Anne Montaron, Germanist and musicologist, has been working as an author at Radio France (France Musique) for more than 25 years. Her most famous format is her weekly programme on improvisation: A l’Improviste.
Impuls neue Musik was founded in 2009 on the initiative of the French Embassy in Germany, the Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication, SACEM and Bureau Export de la musique française. In the meantime, various partners from France and Germany joined the fund’s committee and its financing. Since 2020, the Institut français (Paris) acts as responsible institution, while the fund is managed in Berlin (Director: Sophie Aumüller).
Switzerland joined in 2018 with Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia as partner. Jury members for Switzerland are Xavier Dayer, composer, Thomas Meyer, freelance music journalist and Bernhard Günther, artistic director of the WienModern and ZeitRäume Basel festivals.
Shaker Kami, Nik Bärtsch und Percussions de Strasbourg, Jazzdor 2020
Funded projects are regularly shown and enthusiastically received at the most important international festivals. To name a few examples, the French-Swiss co-production between Eklekto, Geneva Percussion Center and the vocal ensemble NESEVEN for the opening of the Wittener Tage für Neue Kammermusik 2019, the Joint Venture project with Marseille’s Ensemble C Barré and the Neue Vocalsolisten at the Eclat Festival Stuttgart 2020 or the world premiere Shaker Kami project, with Nik Bärtsch and the Percussions de Strasbourg at Jazzdor Festival in Strasbourg.
Deadline for applications regarding this year’s funding is May 1, 2020 and only transnational projects with a performance date not earlier than August 1, 2020 will be considered.
La Chaux-de-Fonds’ Nouvel Ensemble Contemporain (NEC) celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and invites to its anniversary weekend. “Time to Party” is the event tied to the big birthday concert of Saturday March 14, with works by Anton Webern, Claire-Mélanie Sinnhuber and Daniel Zea, followed by a marathon of mini-concerts from Louis Jucker’s ‘Suitcase Suite’ on Sunday.
“Most people don’t immediately think of the NEC if questioned about contemporary music in Switzerland, but as soon as the ensemble is mentioned, it brings a smile to their faces.” – says Antoine Françoise, pianist and artistic director of the Nouvel Ensemble Contemporain (NEC, when asked regarding the secret weapon or superpower of NEC. Putting a smile on your face sums up NEC’s philosophy pretty well. About 25 years ago, a group of musicians from La Chaux-de-Fonds gathered together to share their passion for new music.
A group of friends – a solid institution
A lot happened in the meantime: the group became a solid institution in the Swiss music scene and new musicians, including Antoine Françoise, joined. He first joined NEC as pianist, about 13 years ago and replaced founding member Pierre-Alain Monot as artistic director in 2016.
Antoine Françoise dirigiert das Nouvel Ensemble Contemporain in: Mathis Saunier, Palindrome for String Orchestra, am Antigel Festival Genève 2019,
For Françoise, ongoing change is essential. He intends to remain artistic director as long as he’ll be able to change the NEC’s aesthetic and if he can no longer do so, he hopes to hand over the reins to someone with new and fresh ideas. But what remains despite all the change is the common love for music, so NEC can still be summed up as a group of friends who want to share their passion for new music.
A full week of partying
To celebrate its 25th anniversary, NEC is presenting itself and La Chaux-de-Fonds with an entire week of concerts, beginning with a series of mini-concerts presenting solo pieces in various city locations. On Friday, the ensemble will be equipped with self-made instruments to perform the “Suitcase Suite” by punk rock guitarist Louis Jucker, on Saturday NEC will perform the big birthday concert with the fitting title “Time to Party” and for the finale, on Sunday, the NEC musicians will present the mini-concerts’ solo pieces in public.
Saturday’s concert will be particularly representative of the Nouvel Ensemble Contemporain: starting with 1940’s Variations for Orchestra, op. 30 by Anton Webern, one of 20th century music most important work, arranged for ensemble by its former director, Pierre-Alain Monot followed by “Soliloque” by French composer Claire-Mélanie Sinnhuber. It is the first time that NEC will play a one of Sinnhuber’s works. The piece “Pocket enemy” from 2017 by Colombian composer Daniel Zea, who has worked with NEC on several occasions and composed “Pocket enemy” for Antoine Françoise, will complete the evening.
Daniel Zea, Pocket enemy, Ensemble Vortex, 2017
So first a classic of the 20th century with a greeting to the former conductor Pierre-Alain Monot, followed by a more recent work by a friend of the ensemble and the discovery of a new composer – a good summary of NEC’s philosophy. All three pieces are written for a large ensemble so that, as many NEC musicians as possible, can be involved. Françoise’s only rule for putting together NEC’s programmes is the following: “I don’t shape the programmes to please the audience, but to please my musicians and when musicians are happy, I know the audience can feel it.” Goes with NEC’s goal to put a smile on everyone’s face…
friday, march 13, 6:30pm, opening and vernissage, Théâtre ABC, Ausstellung: Annick Burion & Pablo Fernandez (opening hours Sa: 11-24h; So: 11h-20h), musical intervention: Matthieu Grandola
8:30pm Louis Jucker, The Suitcase Suite, Temple Allemand
10pm Marcel Chagrin, tourneur de 78 tours
saturday, march 14, 8:30pm, Time to party, Temple Allemand La Chaux-de-Fonds:
Anton Webern, Variations pour orchestre op. 30, nouvel arrangement pour ensemble Pierre-Alain Monod, création
Claire-Mélanie Sinnhuber, Soliloque pour ensemble
Daniel Zea, Pocket enemy pour sampler et ensemble
sunday, march 15, from 2pm, Miniatures, Temple Allemand La Chaux-de-Fonds
2pm Miniatures I
2:40pm Pierre Jodlowski: Typologies du regard pour piano et électronique
3pm Apéritif SONART
4pm Miniatures II
4:40pm Matthieu Grandola, flûte: pieces from Eliott Carter, Toru Takemitsu, Kaija Saariaho, Ofer Pelz
5:15pm MIniatures III
25ans le NEC: SRF 2 Kultur, Kultur aktuell, 12./13.3.20: editorial Annelis Berger
The Percussion Threads from Zurich to Mzansi concert at Zurich’s Rietberg Museum, is a meeting of both musicians and compositions from Switzerland and South Africa and will subsequently go on tour in the two countries.
How does classical music sound in the 21st century? How does musical exchange work in the decolonization era? And in what context should it take place?
The Swiss initiative guerillaclassics is engaged in a wide range of projects, searching for answers and investigating the current relevance and formats of classical music. In the spring of 2020, Zurich’s Cosmic Percussion Ensemble will tour South Africa with local musicians.
Cosmic Percussion Ensemble, Trailer
The event will be launched on March 6th with a concert at Zurich’s Rietberg Museum, in which new works by Swiss composer Nik Bärtsch and South African composer Neo Muyanga will be performed as part of the current FIKTION KONGO exhibition.
Hiromi Gut, artistic director and founder of guerillaclassics, who initiated this project, explains: “The Congo exhibition features an exciting change of perspective in which young Congolese artists are granted a voice. Our tour is structured in the same way, we work with musicians from Switzerland, Angola, Congo and South Africa and wish to explore different ways of playing”.
Radical and new approach to classical and contemporary music
Since its foundation in 2017, guerillaclassics has been committed to radically rethink both classical and contemporary music’s long-established structures, regarding both concert business as well concept and settings. Their diverse programmes pursue the clear goal of bringing what was usually relegated to concert halls into everyday life. The more unusual the setting, the better, whether on the road, construction sites or at a sport event in the mountains with a local yodelling club: guerillaclassics operates at the intersection of music with drama, dance and theatre, by changing the context of musical experiences with unusual concert formats.
“With guerillaclassics I wanted to fulfill the dream of making classical music an everyday part of society. To achieve this, the music must take place outside the confines of a shielded concert hall and brought into the various communities” says Hiromi Gut. For Gut, dealing with the history of apartheid and the strong social differences that still exist in South Africa is an important aspect of this project: “We play at sunrise for the commuters at Park Station in Johannesburg, Africa’s largest train station. Playing in a public space has a special relevance as access to classical European music is still associated with a white minority in South Africa”.
A link between cultures
For the South Africa tour as well as the concert at Rietberg Museum, the two composers Nik Bärtsch and Neo Muyanga have written pieces that deal with cultural exchange but also with their musical origins, placed in a larger context. The works of Zurich composer Nik Bärtsch explore different musical genres and traditions, searching for connections between cultures.
Nik Bärtsch, Ronin: Modul 45
For the journey, Bärtsch composed COSMIC APPROPRIATION for the four percussionists of the Cosmic Percussion Ensemble. He describes his approach as follows: “When composing, I like to use instruments as well as ritual techniques from different regions of the world and I am personally much more interested in how sound and playing techniques can be used, rather than in the origin of instruments. I don’t believe that music is a universal language, but I do think that there are certain codes, affinities as well as resonance and spaces that are used in the production and reception of music who are in fact universal”.
Neo Muyanga also uses various percussive traditions and traditional instruments like the ngoni or uHadi as well as the voice in his composition. The piece combines written elements with improvisation and is designed to incorporate playing styles from different regions such as the Xhosa tradition.
The audience is invited to search for the origins and roots of music and to discover something new in unusual contexts as well as to hear the old in a new way.
Trailer guerillaclassics: Percussion Threads from Zurich to Mzansi
Can a lake think? A musical tribute to the city of Biel
World premiere of Jean-Luc Darbellay’s melodrama “Belena” on February 19, 2020 at Kongresshaus Biel
The Biel Solothurn Symphony Orchestra is celebrating its 50th anniversary and to mark the event, its main conductor Kaspar Zehnder has commissioned Bernese composer Jean-Luc a bilingual work focused on the city of Biel and its surroundings.
Accordingly, Darbellay decided to collaborate with two different writers: French-speaking poet and novelist François Debluë and Guy Krneta, who writes his poetry in Swiss-German-dialect, approaching their complex texts musically in the form of a melodrama.
Rousseau and melodrama
This genre dates back to the late 18th century and is nowadays rather neglected. Between and on top of the music the words are spoken instead of sung. Its inventor is none other than the Geneva-born, French-Swiss philosopher and composer Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who in 1770 composed the very first melodrama in the history of music: “Pygmalion”.
Rousseau is at the core of Darbellays composition, as François Debluë’s text is based on a fictitious letter by Robert Walser concerning Jean-Jacques Rousseau, namely his stay on the St. Petersinsel in Lake Biel. Rousseau claimed to have spent the best time of his life there in the autumn of 1765. But the city of Berne’s Secret Council expelled the famous philosopher, also from Môtier (Val-de-Travers), where he lived with his companion Thérèse Levasseur, where he was no longer welcome and – so the story goes – stones were thrown at them. This prompts Debluë to a wide rêverie about stones. “Je sais le langage des pierres”. (French in the original text)
Guy Krneta reacts to Debluë’s text with an artistic Berndeutsch language study and develops a monologue on water set on the shores of Lake Biel “Chan e See dänke? Was würd’r dänke, wen’r chönnt dänke? und Steine Het e Schtei mau grännet?”. (Swiss-German in the original text)
“Schifere” and “Steineln”
The act of “ricochet” or throwing stones to make them bounce on water – “ds’Schifere” in Bernese dialect – is the central connection between Debluë’s and Krneta’s texts. As Krneta puts it: “Wen e Schtei über ds Wasser gumpet, vo Oberflächi zu Oberflächi, chan i ahne, wi’s isch gsi, wo d Schteine no gläbt hei, wo si gfloge sy wi Vögu” (When a stone jumps on water, from surface to surface, you can sense how it must have been, in the old days, when stones were still alive and flying like birds). In Debluë, it is round soft pebbles that bounce on water; if there were children there, they would compete in throwing them (“Steineln”). Mais il n’y a pas d’enfant (But there are no children) – in allusion to Rousseau, who placed his children in orphanages.
,Wenn ich denke‘, Guy Krneta for Jean-Luc Darbellay, Play SRF, Morgengeschichte, 5.10.2019
Jean-Luc Darbellay has decided to compose for this complex literary model, in a way that music does not try to compete with literature, but rather supports the words. The speaker should be able to develop freely and rhythm is therefore never precisely set. Sometimes music takes on an illustrative function, as for example in the case of stones flying over water. But often Darbellay simply leaves a chord to resonate or even completely renounces any presence of sound. In this way, both spoken languages come to full effect in their characteristic style and peculiarity.
Jean-Luc Darbellay, Pour une part d’enfance, für Sprecherin und Ensemble, Melodram über einen Text von François Debluë, 2018
The title “Belena” also refers to Biel, for the city’s name can be traced back to “Bĕlĕna” in linguistic history, although researchers still don’t know exactly what it refers to. Maybe a Celtic sun goddess? Or Belenus as a god of power? It remains a puzzle to this day – but fits this thoroughly “Biel”-related music-theatrical work perfectly.
Jean-Luc Darbellay, Belena, UA 19.2.2020 SOBS
The Biel Solothurn Symphony Orchestra makes its world premiere recordings available on neo.mx3, like the “Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra” (world premiere) by Jost Meier, recorded November 13, 2019 at the Kongresshaus Biel, you can stream here:
Jost Meier, Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, UA 13.11.2019 SOBS
Carnaval Bilingue, 6. Sinfoniekonzert SOBS, 19. Februar 2020, 19:30h, Kongresshaus Biel, Sinfonie-Orchester Biel Solothurn, Kaspar Zehnder – Leitung, Isabelle Freymond – Sprecherin
Antonin Dvorak, Carnaval, Konzertouvertüre op. 92
Jean-Luc Darbellay, Belena, Melodramatisches Konzert für eine Sprecherin und Orchester
Joseph Lauber, Sinfonie Nr.1
Sendungen SRF 2 Kultur: Im Konzertsaal, Do, 26.3.2020, Di, 19.5.2020
Concerto en Sol – the new cello concerto by grandmaster Wolfgang Rihm – will start its world premiere tour from January 20 onwards. “Sol” stands not only for the key but is also referring to the exceptional cellist Sol Gabetta, to whom the work is dedicated. In this interview Wolfgang Rihm talks about the background and the particular period of his life in which the piece was composed, but also tells us about inspiration and interpretation of his works.
Mr Rihm, after being awarded the author prize for your lifetime achievement at the beginning of 2019, your creative frenzy continues. You are at currently in high demand as composer, covered with prizes and flooded with commissions and requests: What does it take to secure a commission and how did the new work for the Basel Chamber Orchestra come about?
Sol Gabetta asked me if I wanted to write a concert piece for her more than five years ago. I was very happy and set to work, but a serious illness got in the way and the sketches were left on the table. When I re-emerged in 2017, I immediately tried to continue the piece, which worked fine and I enjoyed it very much, so I was able to complete the concerto in the same year.
What is the piece’s central idea?
It definitely relates on its dedicatee, whose melancholic elegance and powerful lines I appreciate very much. I didn’t want to come up with heavy artillery, but rather linger in the area of transparency and not outwardly turned mobility. What I liked best was the idea that everything unfolds from a vocal perspective – but this is something that applies to almost all my concert works.
Inspiration – a form of enthusiasm
You once said: ‘Inspiration is the only thing an artist possesses – it is all about putting inspiration into action’: What does ‘inspiration’ mean to you?
Inspiration? Maybe it’s a way of being enthusiastic? I can sense this in the fact that the many decisions involved can eventually lead to alternative paths that I would never have thought about at first. My advice: if an artist wants to be “consistent”, he should not want to be inspired – that would only lead to confusion. But since I’m very good at confusion…
Wolfgang Rihm ‘Marsyas‘, Lucerne Festival Academy, Leitung: George Benjamin , 1.9.2019
The solo part is tailor-composed for Argentinian-Swiss cellist Sol Gabetta. Gabetta’s playing style is characterized by both temperament and intimacy. She says that she almost dances on the cello and inwardly sings while playing: (How) were you inspired by a distinctive interpreter like Sol Gabetta?
I try to imagine how the interpreter would handle and respond to my notes – other than that, I write what I imagine as music.
Dmitrij Schostakovitsch, 2. Cellokonzert, hr-Sinfonieorchester | Frankfurt Radio Symphony, Sol Gabetta, Pablo Heras-Casado, Alte Oper Frankfurt, 14. Juni 2019
You usually demand ‘the extreme’ from your performers, whereby things are dared that were unimaginable before the collaboration – how do you get such ‘hidden’ potential out of the performers?
You have to ask the performers that… I think the most important thing is to have something to interpret at all, opening several unexpected possibilities, even to the composer. Interpretation is the opposite of ‘execution’. The best interpretation is probably the one that leaves a lot of incalculable things open, without stuffing the listeners with apparent certainties.
Melancholy – yes. But not too much darkness.
So every new work bears something unexpected for you too: were you surprised yourself while composing ‘Concerto en Sol’?
I hope that the piece develops and flows naturally. As if an event were to emerge out of context and give rise to the next one.
What surprised me was that after a long experience of illness three years ago, I was able to keep a relative state of ease throughout the piece. Melancholy – yes. But not too much darkness.
What can we expect in terms of sound and look forward to in particular?
The possibility of some kind of casual – unspectacular achievement…
Interview Gabrielle Weber
The program will combine Igor Stravinsky’s “Concerto in Re”, composed for Paul Sacher in 1947 and commissioned by KOB for the orchestra’s 20th anniversary, with Wolfgang Rihm’s “Concerto en Sol” and will be complemented by Felix Mendelssohn’s “Scottish Symphony”.
The Geneva concert will be recorded by RTS and made available immediately on neo.mx3 in full length.
We are looking forward to your feedbacks on the individual concerts on the Neoblog!
Concerto für Sol, Kammerorchester Basel, Leitung Sylvain Cambreling
Igor Strawinsky, Concerto in Re für Paul Sacher, UA KOB 1947
Wolfgang Rihm, Concerto en Sol für Sol Gabetta, Auftragswerk KOB, UA
Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy, Sinfonie Nr. 3 a-moll Op. 56 (‘Schottische‘)
Montag, 20.1., 20h: Genf, Victoria Hall
Dienstag, 21.1. 19:30h: Zürich, Tonhalle Maag
Mittwoch, 22.1. 19:30h: Bern, Kultur Casino
Donnerstag, 23.1., 19:30h: Basel, Martinskirche
Freitag, 24.1., 20:30h: Grenoble | F, MC2: Auditorium
Sonntag, 26.1., 20h: Freiburg | D, Konzerthaus
21.1.20: Kritik UA Genf in Kultur kompakt
22.1.20, 22h: SRF Kulturplatz
25.1.20, 10h / 26.1., 20h: Musikmagazin, Café mit Sol Gabetta
30.1.20, 20h: RTS Espace deux: Le concert du jeudi
20.2.20, 20h: SRF 2 Kultur: Im Konzertsaal
More diverse and gender-equity oriented practices in New Music: Vision, Option or Must?
In mid-November, three days of meetings and conferences with international figures were held at the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK) in order to exchange experiences and visions regarding the future.
‘Positionen’-Editor Bastian Zimmermann was there and draws his conclusions.
Quite far from the first and kind of subversive meeting held in a camping tent during the Darmstadt Summer Courses 2016, the GRiNM (Gender Relations in New Music) group is rapidly growing into an important platform where gender and diversity issues in contemporary music can be addressed and debated. The loose group of committed protagonists in the field of contemporary music met at the ZHdK and for the first time without the need to bind to another New Music festival.
They came together from Berlin of course, but also different parts of Europe and even Canada, with the mutual goal to present projects and strategies aiming at the development of a more diverse musical world based on gender equity, learn from each other and – at best – initiate and decide on new projects together. Although the rather unpleasant wish of an “outcome” usually hovers over so-called “network meetings”, this weekend undeniably enjoyed some kind of general “flow”. This may well be due to the fact that the GRiNM co-founders Meredith Nicoll, Brandon Farnsworth, Lucien Danzeisen or Rosanna Lovell, as well as all those who joined them, are driven by a real concern: The horrendous imbalance in the music business with partly 100 percent white male economy to be pointed out and concretely brought into an opposite “even harder imbalance”. Through actions such as statistical analyses, their publication and a call for change, GRiNM drew attention to the imbalance so successfully that currently vacant artistic leadership positions are hardly filled ‘only’ by men.
As a result of this attention, numerous leading male actors gathered in Zurich to reflect on the music business as well as their own work. Thorbjørn Tønder Hansen from the Ultima Festival in Oslo for example, who reported on the challenges of implementing changes or experiments like an all-female festival into a large complex of cooperation partners and donors. Dahlia Borsche discussed these difficulties within the DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst).
The network for women and non-binary persons Konstmusiksystrar (Art-Music-Sisters), represented by Anna Jackobsson and Rosanna Gunnarsson, presented, among other topics, a possible radical breaking through statute regarding common curatorial conventions: The idea to chose works received through calls for application randomly – which is in many ways challenging for the current mindset, an issue that has been subsequently discussed further.
There have also been attempts to discuss a “Global Music Network Initiative”, but this turned out to be a somewhat utopian undertaking with regard to inclusion and exclusion of musical genres and practices.
Each one of the three days started with a keynote speech, on the first day by Christina Scharff, a brilliant rhetorical and analytical lecturer at King’s College in London, on the thought of gender categories in contemporary music. Most productive, however, were the multiple initiated, moderated, but still open discussions and round tables among some 40 participants: On the basis of individual statements, such as “how to deal with the strengthening right-wing movement in the curatorial/artistic context”, the group discussed solutions in a lively and focused manner. And all this within a GRiNM framework in which more and more people who want to change something in the hierarchically organized music business will be able to gather in the future.
Some of the most recent engagements on the Swiss side were presented by Serge Vuille for Contrechamps Geneve, ZHdK and FHNW, Global Music Network Norient, Katharina Rosenberger from San Diego or SONART, Musikschaffende Schweiz.
Überläufer – Eine performative Klang-Raum-Komposition zu Wandel und Migration (Trailer), UA 2019 ©ZeitRäume Basel 2019
There is still quite some work to be done in Switzerland: Join in the discussion, share your experiences, thoughts and suggestions here on this blog. We are happy to exchange views on gender and diversity in New Music.
Whishing you a great start into the new year!
Gabrielle Weber, Editor/Curator of neo.mx3.ch
Read also: Neo-Blog:
GRiNM? = [GRiNäM]!: Interview with Brandon Farnsworth by Gabrielle Weber
Ensemble Contrechamps Genève – Expérimentation et héritage: Interview Serge Vuille / Contrechamps by Gabrielle Weber
Autumn is when the musical seasons traditionally start, in Ticino as elsewhere. Contemporary music has its own niche in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland, having a peculiar geographical structure with a relatively large area and uneven distribution of population.
Except for punctual or short events, the continuous presences, spread throughout the year are actually few. Among them, two in particular have marked and are still marking the cultural diversity of Italian-speaking Switzerland.
The first is the 1977 founded association Oggimusica, which has distinguished itself for years as the only institution organizing events in the most diverse present genres: from contemporary music to jazz, from rock to improvisation and world music. Many important artists, now considered part of the musical history of the second half of the twentieth century, such as Philip Glass, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Cathy Berberian, Steve Reich, Egberto Gismonti, Fred Frith, Laurie Anderson, Iva Bittova, Irène Schweizer, Luciano Berio and many others have been invited – often for the first and only time – to Ticino by Oggimusica.
Alberto Barberis: Oratorio Virtuale, A Stradella reloaded
The peripheral situation of the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland was obviously very different at the end of the seventies compared to the present day, but Oggimusica remains one of the few opportunities for musicians from other Swiss regions to have their contemporary voice heard in Ticino. During this 2019-2020 season, for example, this will be the case for the Neuma ensemble and their interplay between the voices and saxophones of Dominique Vellard and Giacomo Schiavo (tenors) and Pierre-Stéphane Meugé and Marcus Weiss (saxophones), skilfully moving between ancient and contemporary music, but also for the improvised music of Âme Sèche (Walter Fähndrich, Remo Schnyder, Christy Doran, Benedikt von der Mühll) or the Mondrian Ensemble with its “no reality” programme. These are just a few “Swiss examples” of programming.
Nadir Vassena, Markus Weiss, ‘Materia oscura’
Another more recent initiative, which has reached its fourth season, is EAR: Electro Acoustic Room. Music as pure listening experience. Acousmatic music is a young art form, originating from the radio, born only a hundred years ago. If the label “Contemporary music” is already ambiguous, stating everything and nothing at the same time, that of “electronic music” is perhaps even more so. The soul behind EAR can be seen, or rather heard, from the programming. It’s not club music, nor 90’s raves or Zurich’s Street Parade, but rather the search for a moment dedicated to intimate, concentrated listening. The verb “to hear” (sentire) can also mean or be synonym of “to feel” in the Italian language and there is an archaic link between the skin and the hearing related to the embryo’s development, as both organs – ear and skin – develop from the same germ layer. Just as touching always gives a feeling to be touched, when speaking, one can always hear the own voice. Knowing how to listen, to oneself and the others, is underestimated and should never be taken for granted as it is the foundation not only of musical experience, but also a fundamental aspect in the sphere of human relations.
RSI Rete due: Neo
Radio remains the privileged space to talk about (and listen to) these issues, both by vocation and institutional duty. It is therefore a pleasure to learn, that from October 29, 2019, every last Tuesday of the month at 20:05, Retedue of RSI will make room for contemporary music with ‘neo’, a programme curated by Valentina Bensi, that will look for and find material as well as themes on neo.mx3.ch, the new SRG SSR platform for Swiss contemporary music.
Esther Flückiger, Verso Nikà, 2019
Radio broadcasts neo / RSI, curated by Valentina Bensi:
Monday, December 23: meet Esther Flückiger, composer, representing Switzerland at the ISCM World Music Days 2020 in New Zealand.
Tuesday, October 29: meet Alberto Barberis, new artistic director of Oggimusica
Concerts Oggimusica: LAC teatrostudio, 12.1. / 16.2. / 1.4. / 15.5. / 5.6.2020
Concerts EAR: LAC teatrostudio, 28.2. / 20.3. / 24.4.2020
Olga Neuwirth’s ‘Opus summum’ Orlando is in the home stretch at Vienna’s Staatsoper, taking an institution known for being rooted in tradition on two new ventures. For the first time in its 150-year history, an opera has been commissioned to a woman and the Staatsoper shows commitment to a diverse society. Neuwirth tells Virginia Woolf’s story of a journey through time and gender over centuries up to the present day.
Lucas Niggli is involved as percussion soloist and reports directly from Vienna on translating the story into music as well as on the interaction with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.
“Orlando is a huge work transcending all genre boundaries, a very big spectacle and it is remarkable that something like that can be realised in such a traditionally oriented Opera house, especially in this day and age”. It needs a great deal of nerve and commitment, because the orchestra is very challenged. “Such a visionary piece of work cannot be consumed without friction, like some kind of fizzy powder drink. It requires hard work.” The second violins are microtonally tuned 60 cents lower for instance. The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra is not used to such things, which create a great richness in colours though. “It is a real pleasure to listen to,” Niggli says enthusiastically.
Niggli plays in costume for three extended sequences and is pushed on stage on a carriage together with his drums. Neuwirth wrote the drum part with drum-specific skills, alternating between “moments of freedom, big-band-like kicks and razor-sharp passages”. The interplay with the Vienna Philharmonic is particularly challenging in the sequences in which he doesn’t find himself playing in the pit, as “the Philharmoniker are famous for their laid back playing, while I am usually very focused on the downbeat”.
Lucas Niggli Solo, Alchemia Garden, 2017
The extremely modern plot portrays a personality that – in the character of Orlando – has completely changed over the centuries, also in terms of gender.
How is this translated into music? In Neuwirth’s story, Orlando also becomes a mother – her child is given by the queer singer-performer Justin Vivian Bond.
On the other hand, Orlando’s journey throughout the centuries is expressed with blunt and cheeky music history quotations. “There are quotes from Monteverdi, Rossini, Stravinsky to Lady Gaga and a nice passage where I’m allowed to improvise with an electronic sample,” explains Niggli. Neuwirth has precise and courageous ideas about the combination of musical genres. “She almost performs a genre-bending in parallel with the narrative gender-bending: Neuwirth’s music is a bit like chewing gum: very elastic, but still cohesive.”
Olga Neuwirth, Eleanor (extrait) 2014, Ensemble intercontemporain, Matthias Pintscher (conductor), Della Miles (voice)
Drums, electric guitar, wind instruments, sometimes jazz brass instruments play an important role also in other works by Neuwirth. “This is why she also composed a solo part for jazz percussion in this ‘Opus summum’, as she defines it herself. This is how I got this great, exiting assignment.”
Interview Annelis Berger, 2.12.19
In addition to conductor Matthias Pintscher, almost the entire artistic management team is female, with – for instance – particularly exciting costumes by Rei Kawakubo, chief designer of the fashion label “Comme les garçons”.
“For it is a love of oddities, of the paradoxical, the grotesque, virtuosity, exaltation and exaggeration that are the essence of this fictional biography, which aims to create a new morphology of a narration which is in a constant flow to create a fluid form. At all times it is also about (…) a sophisticated and highly subtle form of sexual attraction that rejects being pigeonholed in any one gender. As well as about refusing to be patronised and treated in a condescending manner – something that continually happens to women, with no end in sight” (Olga Neuwirth).
The performance of 18 December 2019 will be live-streamed on WIENER STAATSOPER live at home worldwide in HD.
Broadcaast SRF 2 Kultur: Musikmagazin, 7./8.12.2019
neo-profile: Lucas Niggli
Michèle Rusconi will premiere her composition “Les Souffrances de Job” at Basel’s Gare Du Nord. In this interview, she explains how the tragedy by Hanoch Levin has been adapted.
Michèle Rusconi, what fascinates you regarding Hanoch Levin’s text “Les Souffrances de Job”?
I consider Hanoch Levin one of the world’s most important authors of the second half of the 20th century. I am fascinated by his grandiose language, his wit, his satire and his bitter black humour, which allow him to speak the unspeakable.
How do you mean?
I admire Levin’s sharp, uncompromising gaze, while at the same time I fear the mirror he is so relentlessly holding up to me. Levin shifts Job’s story from the Bible to the Roman era, about a thousand years later, which results in a kind of alienation effect, like the one that can be found in Brecht’s work.
Can you identify yourself with Job’s character?
Job is a parable, a universal figure. In his tragedy, Levin describes the unjustly suffering of an unjustly punished man, whose misfortune has neither cause nor purpose. It is an atheistic attitude. Because Levin answers Job’s question to his friends : «does suffering have a different meaning than suffering?» with a « No ». Levin’s Job, a brother “in spirit” of Kleist’s Michael Kohlhaas, affects me. In contrast to the biblical Job, he is not rewarded by his faithfulness to God. His loss is definitive, he dies.
Michèle Rusconi, Ratafià, Streichquartett, 2009
How did you approach the material?
A friend and translator of numerous Israeli plays, sent me an extract of «Les Souffrances de Job». I selected individual sentences and dialogues by various characters: Job, his three friends, the bailiff, the beggars, the officer, the circus director and the dead. I did not proceed by narration, but exchanged chapters and began to compose using the French text. The Israeli soprano Tehila Nini Goldstein, who lives in Berlin, was enthusiastic about the project and shortly afterwards I was able to persuade Ensemble Meitar from Tel Aviv, then Desirée Meiser from Gare du Nord and a few months later actor Zohar Wexler from Paris.
This means the project became more and more complex?
At some point I decided that, in addition to the French translation, I also wanted to work with the original Hebrew text. The voice is crucial in this piece. Job’s substance is incredibly exciting: he cries, curses, roars, fights, laughs, whispers, becomes insane, despairs, gives up. The piece ended up being sung and spoken alternately in both languages.
The two languages’ emotionalism is completely different though.
Exactly! With a singer, an actor and two languages, I had new parameters, several octaves, different acoustic colours that these languages transmit. Suddenly there were many more ways to deal with the text. I actually hadn’t noticed untill then, that I had assigned Job’s text to a female voice. In addition there are surtitles: in Tel Aviv Hebrew, in Basel and Zurich German, and in Geneva French.
What can the public look forward to?
To the great text by Hanoch Levin! And the wonderful Meitar Ensemble, the agile actor Zohar Wexler, the great soprano Tehila Nini Goldstein and myself. This coming together is a small miracle itself.
Because it is hardly feasible, logistically I mean! (laughs). We work in four different cities and stage in three different languages, which doesn’t make it easy.
Interview: Björn Schaeffner
Meitar Ensemble, Ondřej Adámek, ‘Ça tourne ça bloque’, Pierre-André Valade
« Les Soufffrances de Job » is part of the two key themes of Gare du Nord’s current season, ‘Musiktheaterformen‘ and ‘Later Born‘: « Musiktheaterformen » illustrates aspects of contemporary music theatre in presentation and conversation. ‘Later born’, on the other hand, deals with the great traumas of the 20th century – National Socialism, the two world wars and their consequences – mirrored by the questioning look of those born after them.
The premiere in Basel will be followed by a panel discussion with Michèle Rusconi and Matthias Naumann (translator, publisher and author of a publication on Hanoch Levin).
5. 12.19, 20:30h Tel Aviv, Inbal Multi Cultural Ethnic Center
7.12.19, 20h Basel, Gare du Nord
9.12.19, 19:30h Genève, Salle Ansermet
10.12.19, 19:30h Zürich, Kunstraum Walcheturm
As part of the Focus Contemporary festival, Musikpodium Zurich is celebrating Urs Peter Schneider’s 80th birthday.
Tribute to a ‘one-of-a-kind’ by Thomas Meyer:
The 60s were a very exciting time for music, as forms dissolved and concepts, happenings, performances, aleatoric concepts and improvisation took the place of written works. While many soon returned to more traditional procedures, one group in Switzerland stubbornly devoted itself to this new openness: “Ensemble Neue Horizonte Bern”, founded in 1968 and still active to this day. “We will” – as one member of the ensemble once stated – “play until we drop”. Without this Ensemble there would probably be no Cage tradition as well as less conceptual music in Switzerland.
Swiss Cage Tradition
Urs Peter Schneider has occupied the special position of “Spiritus rector” in this composers and interpreters collective since the beginning. Born in Bern, currently living and happily crafting his compositions, texts, structures and concepts in Biel, he celebrates his eightieth birthday this year.
For this special occasion, Musikpodium Zürich is organising a concert as part of the Focus Contemporary festival: Dominik Blum will perform piano pieces by Schneider, his Neue Horizonte colleague Peter Streiff and Hermann Meier, whose almost forgotten work Schneider has consistently stood up for. In addition to his 1977 “Chorbuch”, the choir “vokativ zürich” will perform the new work “Engelszungenreden” (angel tongues speeches), whose title indicates that Schneider’s music also likes to point up, towards more spiritual directions.
Hermann Meier, Klavierstück für Urs Peter Schneider, HMV 99, 1987
Composer/pianist/interpreter/performer/educator in one, Schneider is one of those ‘one-of-a-kind figures’, that are not uncommon in Switzerland. It is not easy to describe his music as it can be extremely varied and he often changes his procedures. Schneider likes to work with strategies, essentially following the serial techniques in which his music has its roots, often tinkering for a long time and thoroughly with permutation of tones, instruments, volumes etc. until they finally come together. For this purpose, he develops his own radical gestures of persistence.
Urs Peter Schneider, ‘Getrost, ein leiser Abschied’ für zwei Traversflöten und Bassblockflöte, 2015
Radical persistence gestures
But it goes even further, as Schneider applies such strategies not only to tones, but also to words, graphics and theatrical actions, actually to almost everything that surrounds his work, including dates, or credits. The concert programmes are also composed – another important quality of Neue Horizonte. “The components of a performance relate, complement and comment each other in a sophisticated way”. Likewise, when books or CDs are published, his pieces are never loosely assembled, Schneider rather creates a new constellation for the entire oeuvre, being a strategist obsessed with order.
Every element is twisted and turned, in an ongoing discovery and invention of new processes. He can actually be defined as a process composer and thus very close to conceptual music, a genre he dedicated 2016 his book “Konzeptuelle Musik – Eine kommentierte Anthologie” to, which can be considered an exemplary and indispensable compendium.
The spontaneity of these open forms probably also acts as a corrective to strictness. Sometimes the liveliness and flexibility could get lost in these procedures and order might turn out to bury these aspects. But that is precisely when surprising things often occur. For Schneider’s work contains wit, even cheerfulness, in sometimes unusual places, other times with soothing self-irony.
The “Focus Contemporary Zürich” festival will take place from November 27, to December 1: Tonhalle Zürich, Collegium Novum Zürich, Zürcher Hochschule der Künste and Musikpodium Zürich will jointly present a selection between of experimental creations and works by renowned masters in five concerts at venues such as “Tonhalle Maag”, “ZKO-Haus” or “Musikclub Mehrspur” of the “Zürcher Hochschule der Künste”.
Focus Contemporary Zürich, 27. 11.- 1. 12, concerts:
27.11., 20h ZHdK, Musikklub Mehrspur: Y-Band: Werke von Matthieu Shlomowitz, Alexander Schubert
28.11., 19:30h Musikpodium Zürich, ZKO-Haus: Urs Peter Schneider zum Achtzigsten: Werke von Urs Peter Schneider, Hermann Meier, Peter Streiff
29.11., 19:30h Tonhalle Orchester, Tonhalle Maag: Heinz Holliger zum Achtzigsten: Werke von Heinz Holliger und Bernd Alois Zimmermann
30.11., 20h Collegium Novum Zürich, Tonhalle Maag: Werke von Sergej Newski (UA), Heinz Holliger, Isabel Mundry und Mark Andre
1. 12., 11h ZHdK, Studierende der ZHdK: Werke von Heinz Holliger, Mauro Hertig, Karin Wetzel, Micha Seidenberg, Stephanie Haensler
Neo-profiles: Zürcher Hochschule der Künste, Collegium Novum Zürich, Urs Peter Schneider, Hermann Meier, Heinz Holliger, Peter Streiff, Stephanie Haensler, Karin Wetzel, Gilles Grimaitre, Dominik Blum
The legendary “Concours de Genève” celebrates its 80th birthday this year, with the disciplines of composition and percussion. Founded in 1939, this contest is one of the major landmarks in contemporary music.
Live-Stream of the final concert percussion: 21.11., 8pm:
34 young international percussionists have been invited to compete on the basis of videos they submitted to prove their skills. Only three of them will make it to the final concert of November 21. Their solo performance with the “Orchestre de la Suisse Romande” in Geneva’s Victoria Hall could turn out to become a gateway leading into the international music scene.
25-year-old Till Lingenberg, born in Valais, is one of the lucky participants and give us his insights on how it feels to perform in front of a highly valued jury, the criteria regarding the choice of the repertoire and drums in contemporary music.
The competition having a high reputation internationally, an invitation to the “Concours de Genève” is already kind of an award. In addition, the studying of the repertoire is a very enriching process. “Preparing for the contest forces one to rehearse many new pieces and bring them to a stage-ready level – after all, we are talking about a two and a half hours performance”, says Lingenberg. “Participating in the final concert would be the icing on the cake and open up career opportunities, allowing me to enter the professional world. This competition is very important for launching a solo career”.
Lingenberg found his way to percussion through the violin – when he received his first violin lessons at the age of five, he was more interested in hammering on the violin than in producing beautiful sounds… so one thing led to another. He never regretted the change, as the drums are so versatile. “You’re not playing just one, but actually numerous instruments”.
Any role models? “I was never actually fascinated by the people playing the drums, but mostly by the instruments themselves. I admired them and it fascinated me to touch them and try things out, as far as I was allowed to”.
Lingenberg loves the contemporary repertoire – and considers himself lucky, because: “we have almost no choice but to play this music, given a repertoire that is never older than a century”. For the Concours, Lingenberg chose ‘Moi, jeu…’ for Marimba (1990) by Bruno Mantovani, a complex piece in which Mantovani “breaks the codes of the instrument” as Lingenberg puts it.
In ‘Assonance VII’ by Michael Jarrell (1992), the second piece he chose, the performer finds himself in the very heart of a percussion instruments park or playground. Vibraphone, Tamtam, gong, cymbals, bongos, wood-blocks, triangle etc. “It’s a fabulous piece, showing all the possibilities of multipercussion and radically different ways of playing, it experiments with resonances, sometimes almost to the inaudible”.
Interview: Benjamin Herzog / Gabrielle Weber
Michael Jarrell, Assonance VII (1992), Interpret: Till Lingenberg
The three finalists of the composition competition have been determined in a preliminary round. The “Lemanic Modern Ensemble” directed by Pierre Bleuse will present their pieces together with oboist Matthias Arter at the Studio Ansermet in Geneva on November 8.
Two special events complement the Concours: on November 14, Philippe Spiesser and the Ensemble Flashback will combine music, video, electronics and science at CERN and on November 20, the Eklekto Geneva Percussion Center will be presenting works by Alexandre Babel, Wojtek Blecharz and Ryoji Ikeda in the Alhambra, Geneva.
The qualifying rounds will take place from November 8 to 11 and are open to the public. The final concerts of both competitions will be broadcasted via live stream (video) on neo.mx3 as well as RTS Espace 2 on November 8, (composition) and November 21, (percussion).
Live-Stream of the final concert composition: 8.11., 8pm:
Émissions RTS Espace 2:
8 novembre, finale concours Composition au studio Anserme:
Présentation par Anne Gillot + Julian Sykes / Prise d’antenne 18h30 – 22h30
21 novembre: finale concours Percussions au Victoria hall:
Présentation par Julian Sykes / Prise d’antenne 18h – 22h30
-13 novembre, 17h, , Interview avec Philippe Spiesser, président du jury de percussion: Présentation par Anya Leveillé
-11 – 17 novembre: reportage sur les candidates, présenté par Sylvie Lambelet
RTS Culture: article avec video avant la finale percussion
Sendung SRF 2 Kultur:
16. / 17. November: Musikmagazin / aktuell, Redaktion: Benjamin Herzog
GRiNM Network-Conference: Experiences with Gender and Diversity in New Music – ZHdK, 14.-16. November 2019
GRiNM – standing for ‘Gender Relations in New Music’ – is an international, Berlin-based collective of curators. Born in 2016, during the “Darmstädter Ferienkurse”, it has since been present with targeted actions at several New Music festivals throughout Europe. GRiNM is now holding its first three-day international network conference on gender and diversity in Zurich, in collaboration with ZHdK’s Department of Cultural Mediation (DKV).
Interview with Brandon Farnsworth, GRiNM member and curator of the conference.
Can you explain this cryptic abbreviation GRiNM?
We are a heterogeneous collective with different backgrounds and attitudes, all representing and striving for diversity in New Music, drawing attention to our concerns through actions. We are united by our independence and by not having permanent positions in this domain, we are not a legal organization and don’t claim any financial funds for our GRiNM activities.
‘Music and context or form and content cannot be separated.’
Tell us about the origins of your commitment to gender issues?
My own approach is rather intuitive. It comes from a curator’s point of view: How do institutional framework and musical production relate to each other and what effect do the framework conditions have on musical production?
What does the term ‘gender’ stand for in this context?
Gender as label is a factor that reflects a lot already in purely statistical terms: 90% men – 10% women, when the going gets tough 80%-20% as a rule of thumb for teaching assignments, repertoire in concert halls, composition commissions at festivals, etc… Discussing statistics with such figures always led to topics such as Eurocentrism, social class, income and education levels. Gender involves a lot as it does not only refer to a sexual aspect. It is synonymous of diversity, questioning post-colonial exclusions as well as languages shaped by rich, well-educated, white, male Europeans.
“Gender is a collective term for different types of exclusion”.
GRiNM was founded 3 years ago, in 2016. Gender balance (e.g. in Donaueschingen) has shifted considerably: did GRiNM play its part in the change?
There is no proof of this. Our actions have certainly been significant. On one hand, we organized workshops on demand, twice at the Maerzmusik Berlin festival, 2017 as well as 2018, and made a sticker campaign with the provocative demand of 50%-50% or published statistics. On the other hand, we were present – although uninvited – at the edge of festivals, e.g. Darmstadt 2018. We offered a platform to talk about experiences around gender and diversity, which had no place within the festivals and noticed that there was a great need for it, but hardly any opportunities for exchange. With this conference we are now creating this most needed framework.
What is the aim of the conference?
Currently, numerous similar projects are taking place in different locations, but often hardly knowing about each other: there is a need for networking. We are creating a platform for the exchange of experiences and best practices or for tackling synergies – the size of the conference is unique. We have forty international participants.
Can you tell us more about topics and formats at the conference?
There will be project presentations and discussion forums. The first day will be focusing on general definitions and problems, the second day on education. For example, the Association of European Conservatories will present what is being done to increase diversity on their side. On the third day the focus will be on ensembles and festivals.
Interview Gabrielle Weber
The evening before the event, people will get the opportunity to meet during a network reception with SONART – Musikschaffende Schweiz and a concert in the Jazzclub Mehrspur, with two musicians from Berlin, Neo Hülcker and Stellan Veloce, as well as Fågelle from Sweden.
Ear action for earprotection and objects, Stellan Veloce and Neo Hülcker, dark music days 2017
Is the conference open to all those who are interested and will the results be published?
Yes, the conference is open to the public and we do plan a publication of the contributions as well as a selection of best practices and statistics.
neo-profile: Zürcher Hochschule der Künste
Helmut Lachenmann is invited at “Hochschule der Künste Zürich» and «Opernhaus» Zurich.
Helmut Lachenmann, one of the most important contemporary composers, wrote his first opera at the age of 62 and achieved the biggest success of his life with its world premiere in 1997. Avant-gardist and pupil of Luigi Nono, feared by the orchestras as “noise” composer, Darmstadt’s “victim” – as he amusingly defines himself – gives his take on Andersen’s fairy tale “Das Mädchen mit den Schwefelhölzern”, focusing mainly on the social and critical message of the material.
Lachenmann interprets the fairy tale as metaphor for the icy coldness of post-capitalist societies and breaks the narrative with texts by Leonardo da Vinci and Gudrun Ensslin. Synopsis: A girl tries in vain to sell matches on New Year’s Eve. She eventually lights the sticks herself and experiences the delight of bourgeois warmth for a brief moment in the “glow” of the flames. The girl ends up freezing to death and her dead grandmother takes her to heaven.
Interview with Helmut Lachenmann about Das Mädchen mit den Schwefelhölzern, Ruhrtriennale, Jahrhunderthalle Bochum 2013
Not a story, but “meteorological conditions.”
Lachenmann sees beauty as “denial of the accustomed” and music as a “liberated art of perception”, beginning with the creation of sound and the necessary efforts in order to achieve it. Lachenmann uses eight horns in his opera. “The eight horns are one single instrument. It all boils down to new ways of hearing and to do so I must start with suspending the melodious perspective.” Things he demands from the musicians are for example fluttering tongues, air noises, valve rattles and vibrations. This acoustically attractive effect results from the overlapping of two oscillations with frequencies only slightly differing from one another. But he goes even further and calls the opera a “pretext to write for singing voices”. The music does not tell a story but represents “meteorological conditions”. The girl is surrounded by freezing cold and feels burning fire for a moment.
The core of Lachenmann’s gestural music is actually theatrical. Those who experience it live can observe busy performers and invent their own scenery. Transforming these actions into the art form of ballet is a challenge. How can one create a choreography that goes beyond images and leaves room for music and its actors?
Helmut Lachenmann, Das Mädchen mit den Schwefelhölzern, Opernhaus Zürich 2019, Trailer
This new production: “Das Mädchen mit den Schwefelhölzern” is the focus of a three-day symposium, which the Zurich University of the Arts organises in cooperation with the Zurich Opera House, as well as the starting point for an interdisciplinary examination of Lachenmann’s work. Musicologist Hans-Ulrich Mosch illuminates Nono’s shadow, music journalist Julia Spinola the methods used in previous productions, dance scientist Stephanie Schroedter the transformation of musical score into movement. Finally, the composer and his choreographer Christian Spuck will discuss the opportunities and limitations of the new production with composer Isabel Mundry.
“Can an Adorno student be happy in the act of composing?”
Lachenmann’s utopian musical thinking has fallen out of date and is – perhaps for this very reason – of vital importance. In addition, the composer knows how to convey his beliefs in a humorous way. His colleague Hans Werner Henze once asked him if it was possible for him – as an Adorno pupil – to be happy in the act of composing. “No. Never happy, but I’ve been joyful.” What about the feeling of happiness after the premiere of a new production? “Every performance is an adventure and its outcome always uncertain.”
Helmut Lachenmann, Allegro sostenuto 1986/88, interpreted by Trio Caelum
ZHdK: Zu Gast: Helmut Lachenmann: Congress / conference / symposium, 8.-10.11.19
Opernhaus Zürich: ‘Das Mädchen mit den Schwefelhölzern‘, 12.10.-14.11.19
Composer Jürg Frey devoted four months to the composition of his new piece “Elemental Realities”, commissioned for the closing concert of the “Donaueschinger Musiktage”. In this interview he talks about this extreme state, about “listening” per se and the privilege of not having to compose on commission only.
The British music scene revolving around Cornelius Cardew and the London Scratch Orchestra or Christian Wolff played a decisive role in Jürg Frey’s early years. Today he is regularly played in London’s insider circles, but this hasn’t always been the case. For many years he was considered an insider tip, he hardly ever composed for the public and from the 90s onwards he did so in close collaboration with the composers collective and label “Wandelweiser”, a community of likeminded people aiming to do “radically quiet things”. Then, in 2015, as Composer in Residence at the Huddersfield Festival, he set off on a rather unexpected late international career.
Jürg Frey, Floating Categories 2015, live recording 2017
Jürg Frey, you define yourself “composer of silence”. How do you feel before the premiere of Donaueschinger Musiktage’s closing concert?
Calm right now. In my case tension is at its highest peak before the first rehearsal – the first meeting between my music, the conductor and the orchestra. If things go well then, I can attend the premiere in a confident state of mind.
How did this commission come about?
That is not clear to me neither (he laughs). I received an e-mail from Björn Gottstein, the artistic director, with the subject: “Attention, short-term request”. I thought it was going to be around 2020. I first took a few days to think about it but eventually agreed and set to work for four months, non-stop. I reached the limits of both my physical as well as mental capabilities.
How did you start to work on your new piece ‘Elemental Realities’?
The beginning, the first three to four weeks, was the most difficult time for me. At first there were hundreds of ideas, a real thunderstorm or flickering of them. Then the energy and direction of the piece started to take shape. In order to be able to work at all, I had to bring down the exuberant initial creativity to a reasonable level.
Were there guidelines or could you just set to work?
I could do whatever I wanted. The piece just shouldn’t turn out to be overly long: that’s the nice thing about short-term requests, no demands allowed.
In a quote regarding the piece you refer to “sheet of music as membrane” between silence and sound – and to the individual performer as fragile link between “private silence” and “music resonating in public space”…
Every single note occurs to me in awareness that it resonates into a room and that it comes in touch with silence on the back of the sheet. Each note has two directions and each note counts. The interpreter also stands on the threshold between sound and silence and this threshold is fascinating to me.
Jürg Frey, Extended Circular Music No.8 (excerpt), Live at Dog Star Orchestra, LA 2015
“The piece gives musicians the opportunity to shine.”
What can we expect concretely in terms of sound?
There are two components taking turns with each other. On one hand a two-dimensional one: for example strings or percussionists, playing continuous stationary sounds.
On the other hand, small musical elements, such as short melodies and chords, sequences of individual notes, all very delicately instrumented. The musicians are very challenged.
You spoke about the composition, conductor and acoustic entity triptych, but what role does the audience play?
The act of “listening” – be it carried out by the musicians or the audience – is crucial in my opinion. The connection to the audience occurs through listening. When musicians play but also listen precisely, this is conveyed to the audience, even in large concert halls.
“Mine is music for the ears, for the listeners’ eardrums – be they sitting in the concert hall or in the orchestra.”
Jürg Frey, Louange de l’eau, louange de la lumière, Basel Sinfonietta 2011
Donaueschingen, especially a closing concert performance, is regarded as a key moment in a composer’s career – has your composing changed since then?
It had no influence on the act of composing itself. But the work situation has changed since my music now has more resonance. In the past, 90% of my works were written without commission and my only motivation was artistic urge. Now I sometimes decline commissions because I wish to continue composing freely and if I feel the inner need to do so. I consider this freedom as a great privilege.
Interview Gabrielle Weber
The Donaueschinger Musiktage will take place from October 17th to 20th. In addition to Jürg Frey’s, the event will feature premieres and panel discussions by and with Michael Pelzel, Beat Furrer and the Collegium Novum Zürich.
World Premiere Jürg Frey: “Elemental Realities”, Donaueschinger Musiktage, Sunday, October 20, 17h, Saalsporthalle
Sendungen SRF 2 Kultur: t.b.a.
“ZeitRäume” festival welcomes you in the courtyard of Basel’s “Kunstmuseum” with a walk-through and interactive sound sculpture. Composer and sound artist Marianthi Papalexandri-Alexandri’s contribution to this major collaborative work is her mysterious tube instrument “Untitled VII”.
Theresa Beyer visited Marianthi Papalexandri-Alexandri for neo.mx3 at her studio in Wald – Zurich region.
In the old days, textiles used to be woven in these large and bright factory rooms. Today Marianthi Papalexandri-Alexandri and kinetic artist Pe Lang live and work here. Their loft is a lab full of machines, electronics and mechanical objects.
At the back of a workbench, Pe Lang flips a toggle switch and a disc starts turning on black cardboard, Marianthi pulls out needles of various sizes and sticks them into the cardboard. With this gesture, the object turns into an instrument: whenever the small tubes that pop up from the disc touch the needles, fine bell tones are generated. When several performers insert needles into the cardboard of several machines according to a certain pattern, this concept grows into the work “Resonators”. Conceiving this kind of acoustic settings is the core of Marianthis and Pe Lang’s work.
Marianthi Papalexandri-Alexandri und Pe Lang: Modular No.3
Long-term materials research
Each and every detail of these sound objects is the result of countless material tests – and “Untitled VII” – incorporated by “ ZeitRäume” Festival into the large sound sculpture “Rohrwerk/Fabrique Sonore” – makes no exception. In the studio, Pe Lang shows the prototype: “The 24 tubes are made of transparent acrylic, a material that has the potential to produce warm sound. Each tube is then covered with a TPE foil through which we have stretched a nylon string. And the wheels at the front of the small electric engines are made of hard cotton fabric and coated with a kind of rosin. Sound is produced by increasing the friction.”
Pe Lang turns on the small engines of the tube instrument, generating a continuous tone, the result is complex, organic and beautiful at once – an independent sound sculpture with the potential of growing into a composition. To unfold this potential, Pe Lang slips into the role of performer and slowly changes the speed of the engines, the tension of the nylon string and the position of the clamps attached to it. The sonic reaction is immediate – sometimes reminiscent of a modular synthesizer, sometimes of an organ rich in overtones, sometimes of Eliane Radigue’s or La Monte Young’s meandering drones.
Marianthi compares the delicacy and carefulness with which the instrument is to be played to a Japanese tea ceremony: “Although each and every gesture are the result of great calculation, it all appears to be effortless and simple. Each movement being part of a natural flow”.
Marianthi Papalexandri-Alexandri: Untitled II (“Untitled VII” is a sequel of “Untitled II.”)
The Charme of the flawed
There is one further element playing its role in “Untitled II”’s sound flow: the material itself. “The diaphragm’s tension decreases over time, the rosin wears off and the engines begin to wobble a bit,” says Pe Lang, “these inaccuracies have been incorporated deliberately. The tube instrument, pretending to be clean, minimalistic and controllable, is not a perfect machine after all.”
This is another reason why Marianthi’s and Pe Lang’s sound sculptures and compositions always move in spaces between accurate and inaccurate, object and performance, mechanical and electronic. And when they leave the studio in Wald, they end up somewhere between galleries and concert halls.
But who is actually composing here: the composer, the performer, or the instrument itself? Those are exactly the lines that Marianthi is trying to blur with her sound sculptures. “I want to place composer, performer and instrument on the same level and thereby also question the whole idea of authorship”. So finally, who or what is in charge always depends on the point of view.
Marianthi Paplexandri-Alexandri: Untitled VI
With its 30 projects, this year’s edition of “ZeitRäume – Biennale für neue Musik und Architektur” in Basel is the largest to date. The 45-metre-high sound tower “Rohrwerk/Fabrique sonore” can be experienced in the courtyard of the Kunstmuseum, from September, 15 to September, 21. Marianthi Papalexandri-Alexandri is one of the six composers and four musicians bringing this mixture of pavilion and musical instrument to life.
This year’s Swiss Music Prize will be awarded on September, 20, at the Kunstmuseum Basel, as part of the ZeitRäume festival. Among the nominees, Cod.act, Michael Jarrell, Pierre Favre, Laurent Peter (d’incise) and Kammerorchester Basel.
Broadcasts SRF 2 Kultur:
Musik unserer Zeit, Marianthi Papalexandri-Alexandri, Pe Lang: 11.September, 20h, Wiederholung 14.September, 20h;
Passage: Cod.act -Maschinenmusik aus La Chaux-de-Fonds: 20. September, 20h; Kontext, 20. September
“God can thank Bach, because Bach is proof that God exists.” When philosopher Emil Cioran coined this aphorism – as provocative as it is profound, and for many absolutely true – he certainly wasn’t concerned with the possibilities offered by translating the last name “Bach”… but Mario Pagliarani is.
With the 2019 edition of La Via Lattea – he decided to relate the highest and most metaphysical composition of the Leipzig genius (The Art of Fugue, BWV 1080) to the Italian translation of “Bach”, by choosing to travel along the southernmost “creek” of Switzerland.
The idea is to follow the river Breggia from its source (on the slopes of Monte Generoso) to its delta (Lake Como), while proposing a complete performance of Bach’s masterpiece alongside works by contemporary composers. A new dialogue between landscape and music, where The Art of Fugue’s Counterpoints and Canons are performed on historic instruments but also using contemporary arrangements with peculiar sounds – ranging from saxophone quartets to accordion quartets.
“Musical pilgrimage – ecological pilgrimage”.
Hiking through an entire valley, while listening to very special music is something that might be perceived like a real challenge by an ordinary audience, but for those who follow the creation of Pagliarani it has been a very welcome habit for sixteen years. “La Via Lattea” has been defined as “musical pilgrimage” as well as “ecological pilgrimage” from the beginning, in the sense of a creativity bringing about a combination of elements that are normally considered apart.
La Via Lattea 14, E la nave va
Mario Pagliarani is best known for being a composer, but throughout the years his “ordinary musical creativity” (the one carried out on staves) has found in “La Via Lattea” a counterpart escaping the ordinary categories with which we are accustomed to identify works, ie the only worthy achievements of artistic labour.
In his own words: “La Via Lattea is the representation of my way of thinking: the more time goes by, the more I realize that the first intuition – that of a path with stations – reflects my way of organising ideas. Something that must be part of my DNA”. So how does the act of creating not a piece of music but a sound-environmental sequence work? “It’s a game of Chinese boxes. A composition, or rather, a macro-composition in which, usually, I also include a new composition of mine. I create the ideal habitat where I can place my music as well”.
La Via Lattea 14, Trailer
As a matter of fact – in addition to the complete Art of Fugue – the five movements, to be held on September 21, 22, 27, 28 and 29, 2019, will also feature a new composition for clavichord by Pagliarani as well as several other works by contemporary composers, including – as world premiere – the Variationen über eine stillgelegte Fuge by Mischa Käser and Fantasia – zum Thema von Bachs Canon per augmentationem in Contrario Motu aus der Kunst der Fuge by Roland Moser (interpreted by Xasax Saxofonquartett).
Roland Moser, Ensemble Phoenix Basel, Eleven sizes – extendes moments II for eight instruments, 2014/14
But there will not only be music – which is usual for La Via Lattea – for poet Alberto Nessi (Schweizer Gand Prix Literatur 2016 and living in the Muggio Valley) as well as Raimund Rodewald (professor of landscape aesthetics at the ETH Zurich) will also be travelling alongside the pilgrims.
Festival La Via Lattea, 16: 21.-29. settembre 2019
Interview with Daniel Ott, co-initiator and member of the artistic committee Festival Neue Musik Rümlingen
“A l’ur da l’En” – INNLAND – AUsLAND
“Neue Musik Rümlingen” is a small festival, originally from the outskirts of Basel, but this year it will be hosted in the Lower Engadin. Pioneer in the field of staging sound in nature, it has been a sought-after insider tip for almost thirty years. This conversation with Daniel Ott, co-initiator and member of the artistic committee, revolves around staging music in public spaces, dealing with the unpredictable and the subjectivity of music.
Daniel Ott, with the upcoming festival edition you’ll be taking the Rümlinger idea from the Basel region to the Engadin: How did this visit come about?
Rümlinger “excursions” have a certain tradition; we have started to be itinerant and visit Basel and its surrounding villages from very early on. In 2013 the festival took place in a completely different location, as we hiked from Chiasso to Basel, played with local ensembles on the go and cooperated with likeminded festivals such as Klangspuren Schwaz (Tyrol – Austria), located very close to the Lower Engadin. At that time we started considering the idea of a stronger collaboration with Schwaz, which will come about this year. Together we’ll be offering two different “sound paths”, which can individually be covered in one day, one in the Lower Engadin, curated by Rümlingen, the other from Tyrol to the Engadin, curated by Schwaz. Other partners are the Fundaziun Nairs of Scuol, for visual installations and the Theater Chur, which will be holding its season opening in the Engadin. As highlight for the two “sound paths”, we meet in the middle, for a joint evening concert and celebration in Scuol.
In 2016, you and Manos Tsangaris took over the artistic direction of the “Biennale für Neues Musiktheater” in Munich, giving it a kind of urban environment approach: Where does this passion of yours for connecting sound and nature or public space come from?
There is a small background history to this: 20 years ago Peter Zumthor invited me to develop music for his “Klangkörper Schweiz”, the Swiss Pavilion at Expo 2000 in Hanover, and started reacting architecturally to the results of our common sound experiments. But it is neither realistic nor sustainable to have a new space built for each and every musical idea. That’s why I started to deal with sound in given situations, where I cannot influence all of the parameters. I started to considerate the resulting uncertainties as an asset and appreciate them. I am referring to John Cage, among others, who included coincidences in his compositional approach, in order to enable a greater variety of sound and music.
Festival Neue Musik Rümlingen, Ausschnitte 2017
Where do you locate the audience in this context of sound in public space?
People will always experience music in a subjective way. I would like to enable individual approaches and rather use the visual arts – where audiences always decide by themselves at which pace to perceive the works – as my guideline. Each part is representative and all points of view are valid.
“A piece is complete, even if one couldn’t hear or see its integrity.”
Landscapes bear stories; people hand down stories from generation to generation. Every single life is a novel. It is important to translate this into art. Art is communication.
What can we be particularly looking forward to in the Engadin?
To mark the entrance and set the frame, Peter Conradin Zumthor will wrap the church bells of Lavin in sheepskin, for his piece “Con Sordino”, which is a remake of a work previously presented in Rümlingen. The resulting sound is alienating and more reminiscent of electronic music than church bells.
We were able to persuade Beat Furrer to write music for a cycle of poems by Leta Semadeni, a Lavin poet who has been writing in Valader, the Lower Engadine Romansh, for decades. The premiere will take place in the beautiful, unadorned chapel of Sur En d’Ardez.
Peter Conradin Zumthor will immerse the old bridge of Lavin into fog, turning the wooden bridge into a fog-bridge.
Peter Conradin Zumthor, Grünschall7 (Rüttler) Solo Drums, 2019
A new Engadine version of Christian Wolff’s legendary “Stones” from 1968, will be performed with stones from the river Inn. In addition, Jürg Kienberger himself will present “Innehalten”, a theatrical play.
Many stations will be performed several times for small groups of listeners, which leads to very personal as well as different interpretations.
Interview Gabrielle Weber
Festival Neue Musik Rümlingen:
14./15. September 2019 Unterengadin; 16. November 2019, Epilog Kirche Rümlingen: