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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.
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:
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:
Basel Sinfonietta’s next concert will be dedicated to Heinz Holliger’s 80th birthday and on the same occasion, neo.mx3.ch – the new SRG platform – will be launched in the German-speaking part of Switzerland.
The third seasonal concert presented by the Basel Sinfonietta, directed by Peter Rundel is entitled “Tausendsassa” (Jack-of-all-trades), referring to Swiss composer, oboist, conductor, pianist, etc. Heinz Holliger, whose role and contribution to Swiss music has been decisive over the last six decades. Here is not the place to present our readers the list of the many achievements and qualities gained by this musical personality, from his excellent interpretations to the instrumental inventiveness (the oboe sounds different after Holliger) and compositions, not to mention his enthusiasm for his colleagues and for literature. There wouldn’t be enough room anyway.
I would rather like to emphasize – as a personal reminiscence – the unconditional, fervent passion with which this full-blooded musician engages himself. I first met him when I heard his “Siebengesang” many decades ago. From the first note of the oboe, one remains pervaded by this composition, which has considerably changed over the decades, but without losing its intensity.
Heinz Holliger, Cardiophonie, für Oboe und drei Tonbänder, 1972
After his 80th birthday in May, Heinz Holliger has been honoured in many ways and places and never lost the occasion to support music by accepting the awards and tributes. The Basel Music Academy is currently focusing on Holliger, although he never permanently studied or taught there and numerous events are scheduled until March 9, while the Vera Oeri Library also houses a highly informative exhibition about the musician.
The composing interpreter
His music is now appearing in several facets at the Basel Sinfonietta as well. On one hand, the composer with his orchestral piece (S)irató from 1992, on the other hand the composing interpreter with two Liszt transcriptions, in which Holliger did not simply orchestrate late piano pieces, but so to speak, continued composing them into the orchestra. In his own words: “an attempt to “push” (transcribe) these two enigmas of the late Liszt – who stand like erratic blocks, but also signposts into the unknown of the late 19th century musical landscape – into my own way of communicating, thinking and so to speak retrieve them from my subconscious”.
All his life, Holliger committed to the music of his colleagues, commissioned and/or conducted new pieces. Thus, the orchestral work “Tenebrae” by Klaus Huber, who died in 2017, will also be presented.
Klaus Huber, Des Dichters Pflug. In memoriam Ossip Mandelstam, Streichtrio 1989, Mondrian Ensemble
In addition, a very recent piece by German composer, pianist and singer Steffen Wick: “Autobiography” will be performed for the first time in Switzerland, commissioned by the Basel Sinfonietta. The composition aims to describe that moment in which a whole life, condensed, passes by.
Launch of neo.mx3 in the German-speaking part Switzerland
An excellent opportunity to present neo.mx3.ch – the new Swiss platform for contemporary Swiss music – which SRG has launched as pilot project in 2019.
Neo.mx3.ch offers an overview of the current composed and improvised musical landscape of the entire country, but also covers international events with a connection to Switzerland, such as the recent premiere of Olga Neuwirth’s opera “Orlando” in Vienna with the participation of Swiss percussion soloist Lucas Niggli. A place for previews, portraits and debates, but also for discussions via the neo-blog, moderated by editor Gabrielle Weber. In addition, musicians, ensembles and cultural institutions can present themselves in sound, video, image as well as text.
At last, because neo.mx3.ch finally closes a gap that had been lingering in Swiss music since quite a long time. Save the date in your agenda and get ready for a big surprise, for we will not yet reveal what is planned on February 2, for the official Swiss-German launch.
We are very much looking forward to your comments on the neoblog regarding text, concert, neo.mx3 launch as well as the Holliger series on SRF 2 Kultur!
2.2.2020, 19h, 3. Abo-Konzert Basel Sinfonietta, direction: Peter Rundel, Musicaltheater Basel
18:15h introduction: Florian Hauser talks with Heinz Holliger
Heinz Holliger, Zwei Liszt-Transkriptionen (1986)
Klaus Huber, Tenebrae (1966/67)
Stephen Wick, Autobiography (2017, CH-Erstaufführung)
Heinz Holliger, (S)Irató (1992)
Lancierung neo.mx3: Surprise-Talk:
Florian Hauser talks with:
Barbara Gysi, head radios & Musik SRF Kultur
Gabrielle Weber, curator neo.mx3
Katharina Rosenberger, composer
Basel Sinfonietta, Heinz Holliger, sonic space Basel / FHNW, Mondrian Ensemble, Klaus Huber, Steffen Wick
SRF 2 Kultur:
Kultur-Aktualität, 21.6.2019: Neue Schweizer Plattform für zeitgenössische Musik
Broadcasts SRF 2 Kultur:
Musik unserer Zeit, Mittwoch, 15.1.2020, 20h: Heinz Holliger und die Literatur
Neue Musik im Konzert, Mittwoch, 15.1.2020, 21h: Portraitkonzert Heinz Holliger
Musikmagazin mit Moritz Weber, Aktuell, 1./2.2.2020
neo-profiles: Heinz Holliger, Basel Sinfonietta, Klaus Huber, Mondrian Ensemble, Katharina Rosenberger