“A mix of sounds you’ve never heard before.”

Swiss composer Thomas Kessler is “Composer in Residence” at Lucerne Festival 2019.

Thomas Kessler, Basel 29.11.2018 ©Priska Ketterer

His over half a century long journey is filled with surprises and yet marked by intrinsic coherence. He’s known to have influenced a young generation of musicians in Berlin in the 1960s, such as Klaus Schulze or Edgar Froese, founder of the cult band “Tangerine Dream” and yet some were astonished when Thomas Kessler decided to broaden his horizons and break contemporary music boundaries again by starting a collaboration with a Californian hiphop poet.

“Utopia” – no perfectly smooth sound

Kessler’s work has been considered groundbreaking from his earliest pieces, in which the single performers had complete control over the electronic output of their playing instead of being routed to a central mixing console. But he went even further and dared to transfer this configuration to an entire orchestra, wanting to create something utopian – and called the piece “Utopia”.

Each time, this procedure led to a new journey of research and discovery, for as soon as a solution was found, it led to further possibilities and suggestions. Over the decades, a dozen of “Control pieces” originated from 1974’s “Piano Control” for instance, and “Utopia” also experienced two further orchestral transformations. In the third piece, which will also be performed in Lucerne, the orchestra – and thus the sound – will be distributed throughout the room.

Thomas Kessler: Trailer, Composer in Residence, Lucerne Festival 2019

This is quite representative of how Kessler (born 1937 in Zurich) proceeds. He is never satisfied with the achieved solutions and always yearns for something new and unique. This let him to systematically avoid the mainstream patterns of New Music. After his composition studies in Berlin, Kessler founded his own electronic studio, which soon became renowned. His reputation eventually reached Switzerland and from 1973 onwards he taught composition and theory at the Musik-Akademie in Basel, where he also built his prestigious Electronic Studio. He’s to be considered one of this country’s electronic and live-electronic music pioneers, alongside Bruno Spoerri and Gerald Bennett.

He always distanced himself from any kind of academicism and instead of aiming for a perfect, smooth sound, he would strive for the unusual – as in the “Utopia” orchestral pieces. One needs a certain amount of confidence, in order to delegate sound modulation during the concert, live and via laptop to each individual musician within the orchestra. Something new can emerge: “The result is an electronic orchestral sound, because nobody is absolutely precise. One is a bit louder, the other a little quieter, it’s not quite right and the result is a mix of sounds you’ve never heard before.”

Slam poetry and orchestra

When Kessler moved to Toronto, after his retirement in 2001, he was looking for new musical encounters, beyond the established concert scene: “on the street, in the pubs where young people meet on weekends, the place of vibrant slam poetry, an art form that impressed me deeply and that is highly popular over there. Although people tend to state that rap is dead, slam lives on and simply can’t be killed”.

Thomas Kessler und Saul Williams © Werner Schnetz

After some research he finally contacted slam poet Saul Williams and the two got along right away. Their first work for orchestra was based on lyrics, (“…said the shotgun to the head”), followed by a string quartet (“NGH WHT”), with a completely different style and use of musical idioms – but both unique in contemporary music, because of their bold but still accessible effect, that cannot leave the listener unaffected.
Thomas Meyer

Broadcasts SRF:
10.9., 10h: “Musikmagazin”
4.9., 21h: «Neue Musik im Konzert»: Late night 1

Concerts Lucerne Festival u.a.:
17.8.2019, Late night 1: Mivos Quartett, Saul Williams: u.a. NGH WHT
24.8.19, 15h, Moderne 1: Thomas Kessler u.a., Control-Zyklus III
24.8.19, Late night 2: Thomas Kessler, Saul Williams, Orchester der Lucerne Festival Academy, u.a. Utopia III, „…said the shotgun to the head“  

neo-profiles:
Thomas Kessler, Lucerne Festival Moderne, Lucerne Festival Academy

Music as universal language

The Festival Les Jardins Musicaux will take place from August, 17 to September, 1: Interview with Valentin Reymond, artistic director

Valentin Reymond conducts the Orchestre symphonique de Krasnoyarsk © Pierre-William Henry

Each year, the festival “Les Jardins Musicaux” presents an original and daring programme, mainly focussing on 20th and 21st century music. During the 2019 edition – from August, 17 to September, 1 – 240 musicians and 15 ensembles will perform in different venues, in the cantons of Neuchâtel, Berne, Jura and Vaud. In this interview, the artistic director and conductor Valentin Reymond discusses and explores the relationship between music, audience and modern society.

Valentin Reymond, “Les Jardins musicaux” is well established in the region and the audience is fond of the festival: what is your secret?

The festival has been able to establish numerous links between nature and culture, city and countryside, art and heritage… the choice of proposing one hour concerts, without any intermissions, as well as the unusual places where they take place (Evologia, the parks of the Chasseral and the Doubs) allow us to share our “imaginary museum” with a wide, curious and faithful audience, that is not exclusively made of music lovers. We always aim for an original and often demanding programme, this couldn’t be possible without the support of the artists, who believe in our approach.

Your programmes feature many contemporary compositions. Do you see yourself as a kind of contemporary music ambassador?

The most relevant aspect to us isn’t necessarily contemporaneity, but rather modernity. Maryse Fuhrmann and I choose works that are meaningful to us in the present moment.

“Les Jardins musicaux, a place to meditate on what the world is like today”

This year, a discussion panel on the current climate debate will take place before the “Woodstock 50” concert: what is the relationship with (contemporary) music?

Woodstock represents a great moment in history, music and protest. We are not aiming for a “remake”, but wish to enable today’s young creators to express themselves and address their concerns, both artistically and socially. Louis Jucker, Andreas Schaerer, Carolina Katun and Arthur Henry all embraced this challenge enthusiastically. While developing the project, it soon became apparent, that if we wanted to draw a parallel with Woodstock, the climate issue as well as youth’s engagement on this matter were crucial. That’s why we decided to organise a round table with a climatologist, a philosopher, a high school pupil and a university student.

Trailer La ralentie, création édition 2019 (Pierre Jodlowski, Henri Michaux)

What role does contemporary music play in today’s society?

Throughout history, some composers have been actively engaging themselves through their works. Beethoven and Britten are good examples. In our case, the Bal(l)ades project, which is run in collaboration with both the Chasseral and the Doubs parks, combines heritage with musical discoveries: “Welcome to the castle” by Nicolas Bolens will be performed in the “Musée des beaux-arts” of Le Locle, “Le Tribun” by Mauricio Kagel in the former pulp mill of Rondchâtel and major works by Galina Utvoslkaya in St-Imier.

What will be the contemporary music highlights of this year’s programme?

We commissioned a piece on Henri Michaux’s “La Ralentie” to Pierre Jodlowski and music for large orchestra for Buster Keaton’s film “Le Mécano de la Générale” to Martin Pring (premiere to be held on August, 24). The celebrations for Heinz Holliger’s eightieth birthday, will feature him conducting some of his own works, as well as Jacques Wildberger’s wonderful “Kammerkonzert”, a sophisticated piece that speaks to everyone.

El Cimarron, Les Jardins musicaux 2019 © Giona Mottura

Interview by Gabrielle Weber, Neuchâtel 27.6.19

 

Mentioned concerts:
Woodstock 50 (Louis Jucker – Louis Schild, Arthur Henry, Carolina Katun, Andreas Schaerer), le Tribun (Mauricio Kagel), La Ralentie (Pierre Jodlowski), Welcome to the Castle (Nicolas Bolens), Joyeux anniversaire Monsieur Holliger (Heinz Holliger, Jacques Wildberger), Le Mécano de la Générale (ciné-concert), La Femme marteau (Galina Ustvolskaya)

Panel: “Woodstock aujourd’hui : le climat ?”

Neo-profiles: Les Jardins Musicaux, Nicolas Bolens, Ensemble Batida, Heinz Holliger, Nouvel Ensemble Contemporain

Curation as Meta-Compositon: The Joy of Saying Yes

Patrick Frank and Moritz Müllenbach talk about the upcoming season of Ensemble Tzara

Ensemble Tzara: “The Joy of Saying Yes”, rehearsal picture season 2019/20 

Three overlapping part-concerts of one “meta-composition” build the upcoming season of Zurich-based Ensemble Tzara. They intertwine music with Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophy. As a collaborative project, the members of the ensemble, performer Malte Scholz, but also the audience will be involved during the concerts. Patrick Frank, composer, cultural theorist and curator of the season, together with Moritz Müllenbach of the Ensemble Tzara, describe their project in this article.

Ensemble Tzara, The man who couldn’t stop laughing, 2016 ©Dominique Meienberg

The renewed strengthening of hostile opposites, clearly reflected in the omnipresent populism, puts naysayers in the spotlight. By cleverly breaking taboos, they know exactly how to attract public attention. We are currently stuck in such a – populist – phase, in the aftermath of the global reorganization following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 89′ and the digital revolution.

Reason enough to re-read Nietzsche, who analysed naysayers as well as their way of shaping Western culture and – so to speak – “inventing” resentment. What we experience today is therefore nothing new. Nietzsche, on the other hand, fought for the right of the ‘Yes-Sayers, whose YES would become a culture of creators and self-achievers, with no need of rejecting the foreign or the unfamiliar.


Ensemble Tzara, Stephen Takasugi: The man who couldn’t stop laughing 2016

The book ‘Nietzsche and philosophy’ by French philosopher Gilles Deleuze (1925-95) is to be considered the starting point of Ensemble Tzara’s 19/20 season programme and namely its chapter “Religion, Morality and Insight”.

“Concert in three separately performed parts”

The curatorial task has been approached as a composition itself, or more precisely a “meta-composition”. For this reason, the season programme was conceived as a concert in three separate parts. The three parts are dedicated to Deleuze’s chapter “Religion, Morality and Knowledge”, which we related to the state of avant-garde music: religion becoming the law of truth, morality the law of critique and insight the law of structure, which led to the following decisions:

The three parts will be performed in the three different ‘spheres’ of nature, privacy and public space: in Zurich’s Stadtwald Käferberg, in a private living room and finally in the Gessnerallee theatre.

The performed works won’t always be played entirely, but instead mostly distributed among the entire meta-composition (the seasonal programme).

Sound example Patrick Frank:

“Siegel&Idee”: Festival Wien Modern 2016: Woher kommen wir? Wohin gehen wir? Und wo sind wir hier überhaupt?

The first part will feature works by Franz Schubert, Galina Ustwolskaia, Olivier Messiaen, Trond Reinholdtsen (UA) and Arvo Pärt. What exactly will be performed in parts two and three and will make it to the stage – or the living room – however, is only decided during part one. The meta-composition’s development (videos, texts, audience decisions, dates, times and places) can be followed on Tzara’s homepage and on their neo-profile.

Parts one and two will be filmed and the recordings partially integrated into the following part:  From part two onwards the live played music is alternated with video recordings (from the previous parts). The audience will be involved in shaping the parts to come.

Thus a plural meta-composition was and is created, trying to match the plurality in Nietzsche’s conception.

Patrick Frank / Moritz Müllenbach

Patrick Frank, composer &curator in residence Ensemble Tzara Saison 2019/20

Dates:
Meta-Composition part one: September 7th 2019, Stadtwald Käferberg
(time and place see neo-profile / Homepage Tzara)

information about further parts on: Homepage Ensemble Tzara, neo-profile Ensemble Tzara

Neo-profiles:

Patrick Frank, Ensemble Tzara, Moritz Müllenbach, Simone Keller

Transdisciplinarity as search engine

Ensemble Batida

In this post, Viva Sanchez Reinoso, pianist and co-founder of the Geneva based Ensemble Batida and “association Amalthea” examines certain creation processes relating to contemporary music. The text is based on her 10 years experience in the fields of interpretation, improvisation and interaction with other disciplines.

The challenges faced by independent musicians who manage an associative structure in order to produce multidisciplinary projects are many and they require an enormous amount of skills besides the one of being high-level performers: i.e. the understanding and handling of production and distribution networks governed by their own and often times not very transparent processes, but also project management including budget matters, or building and maintaining audiences from various horizons within “contemporary” music, which unfortunately often carries a stigmatizing label.

On top of that, they have to face forms of inertia, resulting from a certain conservatism: formalisation and standardisation of knowledge, fierce defence of intellectual property, and, essentially, a division of the creative area into disciplines and genres, whose definitions are constantly being revised.

Thus the question arises: how does one manage, when the practice lies between constantly shifting boundaries and the intellectual approach relates more to comparative branches of human sciences rather than inherited models of the classical musical tradition?

To untie contemporary music from this highly specialized niche – technically but also aesthetically – musicians should keep a permanent and dynamic link between their own practice and what other actors of today’s creative world are doing.

I am not only referring to fellow contemporary artists, but also to different musical genres, scientific as well as non-scientific fields and practices, in order to gradually reach fertile perspectives by breaking the boundaries of discipline. An array of practices that would challenge each other’s evidences allowing the shift between artistic territories by dealing with questions belonging to other branches.

Brice Catherin, Numéro 2, Athenée, Viva Sanchez Reinoso

In order to give an overview of this approach, which shouldn’t be project related, but rather general and based on a series of works, I have briefly summarised the next three productions I will be involved in, between June and November 2019.

BIG – the “Biennale des arts indépendants de Genève” (June 28 to 30), rebranded to “Biennale Interstellaire de Genève” for its third edition, is an event that will gather over 70 alternative structures such as theatres, booksellers, labels, collectives, festivals, grocery stores, radios and cinemas, developing a vision that transcends disciplines.

I will work with puppeteer-astronaut Padrut Tacchella and Pierre Dunand Filliol, an experimental musician specialised in crafting electronic instruments, to create a sound installation connecting the stars to the buzzing world of the people at the “Espace du Galpon”.

Les Jardins Musicaux will feature “Welcome to the castle” in Le Locle’s “Musée des Beaux-arts” on September 1st. This monumental project by the Ensemble Batida was commissioned to Nicolas Bolens in 2017. The framework conceived by the group is a composition inspired by psychedelic rock and tailor-made for a castle, the space where the work is not only meant to be performed but also a consisting part of the composition itself, requiring redesign for each occupied space.

“Welcome to the castle”, Nicolas Bolens, Ensemble Batida, premiere 2017 @Leon Orlandi

As part of the ABC season, Circo Bello and Amalthea will present Maurizio Kagel’s “Variety” at La Chaux-de-Fonds’ “Temple Allemand” from October, 24 to November, 3. It will be the first time in Switzerland, that a professional team of circus artists and musicians will perform this repertoire piece. The performances will be intoduced by a long on stage preparation with director Fabrice Huggler.

In these interdisciplinary procedures, the exclusive relationship between musician and score is challenged; particular universes are conceived and drawn, the musician’s vision of the musical phenomenon collides with dimension of space, physicality as well as perception of other performers. It’s all about co-constructing and putting a multitude of skills – like comprehending a musical text or sound texture through improvisation, develop and set up installations or the commission and interpretation of works by creating particular contexts and settings – into perspective.

I invite you to attend these productions and look forward to discuss my research further on this blog.

Viva Sanchez Reinoso

Neo-profiles:

Ensemble Batida, Les Jardins Musicaux, Association Amalthea

Festival Links:

BIG Biennale

Welcome to the castle

ABC

Pling! Plong! Brrr!

Michael Pelzel

Composer Michael Pelzel is currently polishing the final details of his first opera for the Opernhaus Zurich. In this interview, he talks about the razor’s edge, zero energy states and that certain degree of lightheartedness work sometimes needs. 

 

Michael Pelzel, how’s life?   

Very hectic at the moment, I am reaching my limits and I’m working from home right now. 

 

You’re on the home straight of your opera “Last Call”. 

I can fortunately rely on a great team. It’s a joint effort. As an opera composer, one must always deal with other art forms as well. 

 

Have there been arguments? 

Only on one particular issue. I personally had a dreamwalking final in mind for “Last Call”, some kind of gravity song, reminding both of a church chorale and a vocal quartet in the style of “Manhattan Transfer. I wanted to establish some kind of zero energy state at the end, but my partners Chris Kondek and Jonathan Stockhammer both believed that this had already been fulfilled earlier and wasn’t needed anymore at the end of the opera. They eventually convinced me. 

 

How did the idea for “Last Call” come about? 

Author Dominik Riedo from Lucerne reached out to me and we developed the material together in an inspiring kind of ping-pong working procedure. Riedo’s text approached my music using an onomatopoeic, almost comic-like language. Pling! Plong! Brrr! 

 

In Last Call”, humanity loses control over communication media and is therefore forced to dislocate to a distant planet. 

I’m sure you’re familiar with this – I experience it day in day out. As soon as you’re done answering your 30 mails, the inbox is full again. We are literally being attacked from all sides and on every possible channel. Then there are tech giants like Amazon or Google, who know more and more about our lives. It makes one wonder. 

 

The programme brochure defines the opera as grotesquely exaggerated. 

Yes, the idea is to get quirky, somewhere between Dürrenmatt’s “Die Physiker” or “Le Grand Macabre” by György Ligeti. I was also inspired by Christoph Marthaler, in whose productions you often don’t really know whether he’s being serious or not. I like walking on the razor’s edge. 

 

Michael Pelzel, Last Call, UA 28.6.19, Opernhaus Zürich ©Herwig Prammer

How did you approach “Last Call” in terms of composition? 

Many composers are in despair, hopelessly trying to harmonise each and every musical parameter. I believe one has to set to work with a certain degree of lightheartedness and knowing that for a 90-minute work, you can’t compose every note from scratch. I therefore developed and dwelled upon already existing themes and worked in theatrical sense of course.

What bothers me in contemporary opera is this latent tragedy and almost clichéd profundity that’s pervading everything. I wanted to work against that, so I took the liberty of being a little cheekier here and there.  

 

Cheekier? 

We slightly altered the “Sendung mit der Maus” melody for example. This is nothing new of course; variations within a composer’s own musical language can be found in Mozart’s works and Wagner sometimes suddenly and surprisingly tapped into baroque elements. 

 

What can the public look forward to? 

I am curious too, about how it will all come together. The child must stand on its own feet and then take flight. But the public can certainly look forward to Chris Kondek’s video art. He has this great way of conjuring a trashy kind of pop art into the opera with very few means. Then there’s the stage design by Sonja Füsti, highlighting video art very well and Ruth Stofer’s costumes everything actually. As said: it’s a joint effort. 

Michael Pelzel, Last Call, UA 28.6.19, Opernhaus Zürich ©Herwig Prammer

Interview by Bjørn Schaeffner, June 7, 2019

Neo-profiles:

Michael Pelzel, Opernhaus Zürich, Jonathan Stockhammer

SRF-Sendungen 

29.Juni 2019: “Musikmagazin“, Kaffee mit Michael Pelzel (auch als Podcast) 

1. Juli 2019, “Kultur-Aktualität“, Bericht zur Premiere; “Kultur Kompakt

 

The alchemy between analog, digital and the body

Charlotte Hug talks about four new CD releases.

Charlotte Hug: Portrait ©Alberto Venzago

Charlotte Hug, composer-performer, viola player, voice and media artist, navigates between composition and improvisation, intertwining music and visual art. Four new CDs reflect her diversified artistic personality. In this interview, she describes them as “harvest” of the recent years. 

 

Charlotte, in your performances you push the boundaries of your instruments – viola and voice – to their limit, adding a strong combination with visual aspects. Can you tell us more about the connection between these three elements? 

Solo work is an important starting point for me, but I am always in a state of dialogue. The voice and the viola communicate with each other. They often disagree. To me, music is about being in communication with people.

“The viola and I are looking for new dialogues day by day.”

The connection to the visual aspect is something I achieve through the so-called “Son-Icons”, a combination between music and image (or Sounds and Icons). I capture the music I perceive  – whether heard or imagined – as well as random ambient sounds with my hands, like several pens dancing with each other on semitransparent paper. The results can be small picture boards, meter-long paper sheets, room installations, animated video scores. With Son-Icons I created a composing procedure.

“Eye and ear often decide in different directions.”

The Son icons are stimuli and inspiration for music and make the energy of its origination visible.


Portrait Charlotte Hug, Son-Icons ©Art-TV 2016, Michelle Ettlin

Improvisation is an important foundation of your work. What does improvisation mean to you? 

Improvisation is an artistic elixir of life, especially the magic of musical encounters with other artists such as Lucas Niggli (CD Fulguratio). Improvisation means creating in the moment. When I play with the London Stellari String Quartet, which I founded in 2000 (CD Vulcan), every performance leads to new creations. The London improvisation scene has influenced me heavily for almost twenty years. First as permanent member, now as guest and guest conductor, I regularly played with the London Improvisers Orchestra (CD 20th anniversary).  

 

On the basis of this interaction-notation you developed, you elaborate intermedial compositions for orchestra and choir. How do these collaborations concretely look like? 

I draw an individual Son-Icon for each musician. It can be turned and reversed, mirrored, read as “Krebs” or Umkehrung, on the same principles as J. S. Bach’s or the Second Viennese School’s compositions. I then hold individual coaching sessions and every musician develops his or her own musical material based on the Son-Icon.

“Interaction-Notation enables musical encounters at eye level, the use of various artistic resources, precise interplay without cultural barriers.

The Interaction-Notation is a structuring method. An interface combines conventional western notation, Son-Icons, graphic notations, movement symbols, or plays live recordings. This creates the framework condition for musicians with different cultural or interdisciplinary backgrounds to interact with each other.

Charlotte Hug, Son-Icon ©Alberto Venzago

How do you work as a conductor in intermedial settings with larger ensembles?

I see myself as a giant ear. I create an ambiance and a state of trust and acceptance, so that courageous things can happen. If routine creeps in, I stimulate awareness through the unexpected.

The new Son-Icons CD features intermedial compositions. How can this connection between visuals and sound translate to a soundonly medium like the CD? 

An intermedial performance on stage is a celebration, an immersive sensual experience one can dive into, a state of aggregation. But Son-Icons do also work in exhibitions as “visual music” without sound. They awaken inner music.  

Charlotte Hug, Moscow Contemporary Music Ensemble, Lucas Niggli ©MAMM 2018 

On the other hand, as recordings don’t carry any visual impulses, the music awakens the listener’s inner images. The advantage of a CD is that you can take it with you, listen to it on your own, play it again, immerse into it more than just once.

“Music and Son-Icons are self-sufficient – they act as different states of aggregation.”

Tell us about your upcoming projects, do you have a dream project? 

In my solo work I am mainly researching with live electronics, particularly focusing on the alchemy and connections between analog, digital and the body.  

On the other hand, there is this coming together of Son-Icons with scenic-intermedial elements as well as vivid musical dramaturgy I have in mind – perhaps some kind of “commedia dell’ascolto intermediale interculturale 

Interview by Gabrielle Weber, Zurich, May 8, 2019

Neo-profiles:

Charlotte Hug, Lucas Niggli

CDs:

Fulguratio Duo Niggli-Hug, Label: Sluchaj

Son-Icon Musik von Hug für Chor und Orchester (Lucerne Festival Academy Orchestra, via nova Chor München), Label: Sluchaj
CD Vulcan, Stellari String Quartet, Wachsmann, Hug, Mattos, Edwards Label: Emanem
Doppel-CD Twenty years on London Improvisers Orchestra 

Sendungen SRF:
Swisscorner, Musikmagazin, Annelis Berger zu CD Fulguratio, 27.4.19
Die grosse Nachtmusik, Passage, 9.12.11 

Ensemble Contrechamps Geneva – Experimentation and legacy

Interview with Serge Vuille, Artistic Director Ensemble Contrechamps Geneva

Serge Vuille

After spending ten years in London, Serge Vuille, percussionist and former director of the contemporary music ensemble WeSpoke, is back in his native Romandie (French-speaking part of Switzerland), where he has taken over the artistic direction of the ensemble Contrechamps”. In this interview, he tells us about the ensemble’s positioning within the contemporary music scene and the first concert season under his direction (starting in September 2019) 

 

Serge Vuille, as a young musician-percussionist and programmer, your background is rather experimental. Now you’re leading the most important as well as steeped in tradition ensemble of this part of Switzerland. What is your position regarding the ensemble’s tradition and history? 

Contrechamps40-years strong history is a legacy I consider to be very important. 

The historical side of a contemporary ensemble consists in regularly playing and fostering important masterpieces of the repertoire, which is crucial. On the other hand, the ensemble’s take on creation, research and experimentation is a critical aspect too. I enjoy combining and linking these two angles in my programmes.

 

Contrechamps being an instrumental ensemble in the traditional sense, how do you position yourselves in relation to the interdisciplinary and multimedia trends? 

This is a key point within the regular activity of an ensemble like Contrechamps: What place do acoustic instruments occupy within the scope of 21st century sound and music experimentation? I’ve noticed that there is still great fascination for such things as instrumental music, the concept of virtuosity and even simply acoustic sound.

“There is something that remains absolutely magical about sitting in a silent room and hearing the sound of an instrument.”

It is important to find a balance between the repertoire, which is part of the history and DNA of the ensemble and innovative solutions in order to create instrumental or hybrid music, in a musical landscape that went through major revolutions over the past ten years. For this upcoming season, we will not only invite classical composers, but also artists and dancers approaching the concept of composition.

Concert, Maryanne Amacher, Geneva, May 7, 2019, Ensemble Contrechamps

In this current season, you have scheduled two concerts that will be linked with two of the main aspects of your work during the past few years: the collaborative space between visual arts and instrumental music… 

The first one is called Sculptures sonore (Sound Sculpture), for which I invited the sound sculptress Rebecca Glover. The musicians find different placements around the audience during the concert, while Rebecca interacts with her electronic instruments. The programme also included works by Rebecca Saunders, Alvin Lucier and Paula Matthusen.

Rebecca Saunders, Concert Sculptures sonores, Genève 1.11.2018 ©Contrechamps 

The second concert featured Marianne Ammacher, an American composer working with sound perception and the physiological awareness of listening, with a significant part of electronics, in a unique combination with the instruments.

“If I had to name the things I like best in a programme, those would be the kind of creations that are highly risk-taking and focused on experimentation, but still framed in  contemporary music’s  historical context and relating to its  canon.

One thing that is clearly noticeable when looking at your programmes, is your commitment towards gender balance. 

Gender balance is more of a general, societal issue, not specifically related to contemporary music. Arts must also act as role model in society. Finding balance, however, requires a target-oriented approach. Being convinced by my research’s findings, I believe that the quality of my programme is achieved through this balance.

You are particularly interested in the social aspect of the concert, the ritual that comes with it… 

The social side of artistic approach is constantly neglected in the contemporary music world. We have to find formats that encourage daring contents while allowing spontaneous exchanges. My experience as curator of the Kammerklang series at the “Café Otto” in London has proved that it is possible to create a relaxed atmosphere, whilst keeping the necessary focus. But one must pay attention to it. 

Concert Sculptures sonores, Genève 1.11.2018 ©Samuel Rubio

What can we expect from the upcoming season? 

The season is called résonance par sympathie (sympathetic resonance), a physical process through which instruments placed close to a sound source begin to resonate even if they are not being touched. In Geneva, I was able to meet with many partners and I could feel this kind of resonances taking place and starting to vibrate. A major part of the season is based on this concept.

There will be twelve concerts, many creations and a lot of experimentation, for example an opera by Mathieu Shlomowitz, in collaboration with the Grand Théâtre de Genève.  

As for the compositions, we invited Christine Sun Kim, a deaf-mute visual artist, the electronic musician Thomas Ankersmit, Geneva composer Jacques Demierre, Canadian Chiyoko Szlavnics, the Geneva-based Punk-Rock band Massicot and many more. For three concerts the ensemble Counterchamps has been invited to the “Gare du Nord” in Basel.  

The season will start with a pre-opening, on August 25th, at six in the morning at Les Bains des Pâquis with Olivier Messiaen’s Quatuor pour la fin du temps; at sunrise, by the lake, outdoors, in a truly magical atmosphere….

Any wishes left for the Ensemble? 

My wish is to present the scene in all its diversity and richness, paying attention to the balance between past, present and future, between genres and formats, as well as between the artists and the public. 

Interview by Gabrielle Weber, Lausanne, May 13, 2019

Neo-profiles:

Contrechamps, WeSpoke,

 

 

Out of the box

Out of the box

Interview with Oscar Bianchi, Artistic Director of the International Young Composers Academy at “Ticino Musica” Festival.

Out of the box: Bianchi@Musica viva, Munich, May 2018 © Astrid Ackermann

Classical compositions combined with trans-disciplinary formats as well as Dance build the cornerstones of the third International Young Composers Academy within the scope of the “Ticino Musica” festival, while Dmitri Kourliandski and the Ensemble Modern Frankfurt provide for international appeal.

In this interview, Oscar Bianchi talks about some defining aspects of the Composers Academy.

 

Oscar, three years ago you took over the artistic direction of the International Young Composers Academy from its founder, Mathias Steinauer – tell us about the innovations you introduced?

Since 2018 we have been inviting an established contemporary music ensemble. In addition, each year the focus will be on a different format. This year we will host the Ensemble Modern Frankfurt.

How did the collaboration with Ensemble Modern come about and what is this year’s format?

I already know the ensemble’s energy and commitment from previous collaborations, for example the project Connect in Frankfurt 2016, that was focusing on the interaction between composer, ensemble and audience.

“Personal experience is my filter to bring aboard the right partners.”

The ensemble’s members have a clear musical vision combined with stylistic openness, but most important they are curious regarding young composers’ works and research.

Two categories have been considered for the competition: instrumental works and multidisciplinary projects. There will be two corresponding concerts and we received over 100 applications. Together with Olga Neuwirth, head of the jury, 14 composers from all over the world… Taiwan, Iran, South and North America, Europe or South Africa have been selected and thanks to our collaboration with the “TicinoInDanza“ festival they will get the opportunity to work with dancers and choreographers. These kind of experiences and encounters lead to new perspectives.

“It is important for composers to think “out of the box”.”

14 composers are quite a few. Can you tell us more about workflow and collaborations?

(laughs) Not to mention ten further passive observers…

We explicitly focus on working as a group, which benefits both the music and the exchange of ideas and experiences. Elitist, competitive thinking, in order to elect a winner is not our goal.

“The key concept is “collective project”. Group over elite.”

There will be various conferences and lectures, from which everyone can profit, i.e. with Dmitri Kourliandski and other guests like Katharina Rosenberger or Michael Wertmüller.

Nevertheless, a particularly good composition sticks in one’s mind, goes without saying.

Ensemble Modern &Oscar Bianchi ©Walter Vorjohann

What kind of venues did you pick for these two different concert formats?

The “classical” contemporary Concert is going to be held in the LAC’s (Lugano Arte e Cultura) “foyer”, a venue conceived for various artistic activities as well as crossroad for locals and tourists to meet, whereas the multidisciplinary concert will take place in Mendrisio’s “Chiostro dei Serviti”, an outdoor courtyard.

Couldn’t this choice of a courtyard performance in Mendrisio turn out to be risky? The contemporary music community in Ticino is rather small.

The concert is scheduled to be part of the “Musica nel Mendrisiotto” festival, a recurring event that can rely on an interested and already established public, furthermore its visual components, as well as interactions with other art forms make it suitable for a broader audience.

Concert Int. Composers Academy 2018, Mendrisio Museo Vela ©Ticino Musica

Do you have other plans and visions for the Composers Academy – where do you see further development potential?

Thanks to the support of the “Art Mentor Foundation Lucerne”, we have been able to invite a top ensemble and award scholarships. My vision would be to make the Academy available free of charge, including travel and accommodation, so that participation would be open to all. Contemporary Music is part of a restrictive system that can lead to exclusion. I’m determined to stop this kind of discrimination.

“The contemporary music scene on a level playing field. That would be my dream.”

Interview by Gabrielle Weber, Berlin, March 23, 2019

Neo-profiles:

Oscar BianchiEnsemble Modern, Ticino Musica, Mathias Steinauer, Katharina Rosenberger, Michael Wertmüller

Concerts:

27 Luglio 2019, 18:00, Ticino Musica, Mendriso, Chiostro dei Serviti

28 Luglio 2019,  21:00, Ticino Musica, Lugano, LAC

Synergies:

Musica nel Mendrisiotto, TicinoInDanza