Our memory tends to remember extremes

Gabrielle Weber
Donaueschingen’s centenary – a historic event: since 100 years now, this defining institution commits to contemporary music’s preservation and spread. The most important European festival re new music – renown place of world premieres, encounter and debate – will celebrate its 100th birthday with numerous events from October 14 to 17, featuring many historic friends and companions.  

The young, Swiss-based ensemble Nikel will be part of this celebration. Yaron Deutsch, electric guitarist and head of Nikel, has already been to Donaueschingen several times with the ensemble and as a soloist. For its anniversary, Nikel will perform new pieces by Rebecca Saunders and young Turkish composer Didem Coskunseven. Deutsch is also the soloist of a new piece by Stefan Prins with the Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg.

 

Portrait Ensemble Nikel 2016 © Markus Sepperer
Ensemble Nikel  2016, zVg. Ensemble Nikel


Founded in 2006, Nikel now tours worldwide and celebrates its fifteenth anniversary. Its unusual instrumentation, with electric guitar, piano, saxophone and percussion dates back to the very first performance and provides their characteristic ‘alternative chamber music sound’ with a mixture of electronic and organic sounds. The constantly expanding repertoire consists exclusively of original pieces composed for the ensemble.

I had an early morning talk with Yaron Deutsch from his hotle room in Parma via Zoom, on a Saturday. He is a morning person and was up since 4:30am. After performing at the Traiettorie festival for contemporary music, he would head to rehearsals in Bern.  

How did you find your way to contemporary classical music with the electric guitar…?

In 2005 I was searching for my own musical identity. As electric guitarist I was playing mainly rock and jazz, but felt like a ‘copy cat’ of an American culture that doesn’t belong to me. I then came across a piece by Luis Andriessen: ‘Hout‘ (1991) for saxophone, electric guitar, percussion and piano, that felt like a ‘eureka’ moment. The piece mixes musical genres and elements in a straightforward way. I found a connection to my European roots that felt like home in the European classical music avant-garde, that somehow showed me the direction of the musical landscape I was looking for.

 

Ensemble Nikel / Yaron Deutsch 2016, zVg. Ensemble Nikel

 

How did Nikel come about and why this line-up?

With ‘Hout‘ we gave our first concert in Tel Aviv and its instrumentation became Nikel’s permanent line-up. After a few changes, we now have a regular line-up since almost ten years: Brian Archinal on percussion, Antoine Françoise, piano, Patrick Stadler, saxophone, and me on electric guitar. We inspire each other.

Where does the name Nikel come from?

Three points: First, I didn’t want a music related name, then it should feature ‘metal’ as is one of our timbres and lastly, it is reminiscent of Israeli artist Lea Nikel and her abstract colour-intensive works. She was active in Paris and New York in the sixties and seventies and died in Tel Aviv in 2005.

 

It’s like water drops slowly gathering into an organism.


How come you settled in Switzerland?

Three out of four members live in Switzerland. I have always been a ‘missionary’ of non-nation related music-making and ensembles without national nor local definition: for me it’s all about working with the musicians I’m most interested in, who inspire me, no matter where they live. That’s how I got to Patrick Stadler in Basel, for instance. But our vision is international.  

It’s like water drops slowly gathering into an organism.  

Starting from an invitation for a concert we get together. Our task as artists is to be fascinating, interesting and also good enough to create a demand. It’s about passion: as long as we are passionate, we exist as a group.

 


Anne Cleare, the square of yellow light that is your window (excerpt), UA 2014 Ensemble Nikel


How did your first performance in Donaueschingen come about?

In 2010 we performed at the Darmstadt Summer Courses. The new artistic director at the time was Thomas Schäfer and he wanted to present new voices in his first edition, so he invited us and our performance had a great echo. Shortly after, Armin Köhler, Donaueschingen’s artistic director, called and invited us to the festival two years later. In 2012 we were there for the first time.

What did this performance do for Nikel?

The performance in front of a large audience with international resonance was one thing. But Donaueschingen also enabled us to play four world premieres by four important composers who wrote especially for us and our instrumentation. We wouldn’t have had the financial means to commission such pieces ourselves. We have played these completely different pieces all over the world ever since.

This mechanism continues by the way: when the festivals invite us, they commission pieces for us which we then keep in our repertoire. We always get involved in the selection process and suggest composers we are enthusiastic about and this enthusiasm is tangible during our performances.   

For the anniversary edition you’ll be performing a new piece by Rebecca Saunders, with contralto Noa Frenkel and another piece by the young Turkish composer Didem Coskunseven: how did this choice of repertoire come about?

Rebecca Saunders had wanted to work with us since a long time, because I had interpreted pieces by her in other contexts, with Klangforum Wien for example. But it never happened. Then we got lucky, as a large commission could not be realized due to the pandemic, so Rebecca suggested to work on a piece with us and a singer as an alternative. The composer Didem Coskunseven came up with the idea in a conversation with Björn Gottstein.

Nikel’s performances are known for an often radically loud electronic sound – How does Nikel work with the voice…?  

First of all, I have to reject this ‘loud’ ensemble definition as we also play many subtle pieces, quiet, tactile music. Probably our virtuoso quality leads to the impression: “the musicians can make walls shake…. “. (he laughs…)

Masculine power, is not our thing. Our memory tends to remember extremes. But so much happens outside the extremes, in fact most…

After the first week of rehearsals, Rebecca emphasized the good balance between the singer and us. We ‘serve’ her music, give the singer space and found a specific sound for the piece. We are like an ‘electrified string quartet’, an organism that works very well together and whose sound mixes very well. We are able to finetune and find balance between loud and soft.

 


Stefan Prins, Fremdkoerper 2 (excerpt), UA 2010 Ensemble Nikel


Is there a specific Nikel sound?

We always play pieces that are eclectic, mixing elements, but never random or unnecessary. A clear musical, not one-dimensional line connects everything. Nikel concerts always sound different. In this concert you can hear two completely different sides, two completely different timbres.

And how would you describe the timbre  of Didem Coskunseven’s piece?  

Her style cannot be summed up in one sentence, that wouldn’t do her justice.  

It’s safe to say that she works with minimalist material, in a very colourful, expressive and subtle way, not loud. Through continuity and minimalism, variations come to fruition.

 

Didem Coskunseven, Day was departing, UA Manifeste 2021, Ircam / Paris

Let’s step back a bit: was the first appearance in Donaueschingen a career start for Nikel?

Donaueschingen was not the start, but it was a decisive ‘boost’: the familiarity with the international scene was very important for our growth.  

 

Making music is comparable to sports. We always want to give the best…

You are part of the 100th anniversary celebration: what does that mean for Nikel?

There are two answers: a concert is a concert. Making music is comparable to sports. We always want to give our best, no matter how big or small the setting.

But having said that it’s an incredible honour. We are historically conscious people and musicians and Donaueschingen is a ‘ historical platform ‘, the longest existing New Music Festival. We are grateful that our work is so appreciated that we were asked to be part of this important celebration.
Interview: Gabrielle Weber

____________________________

Ensemble Nikel, Louis AndriessenThomas Schäfer, Armin KöhlerBjörn Gottstein, Didem Coskunseven, Stephen MenottiTrio Accanto

 


Performances Ensemble Nikel / Yaron Deutsch @Donaueschingen:

Friday, 15.10.2021, 20h: solo performance, world premiere by Stefan Prins, Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg directed by Stefan Volkov.

Sunday, 17.10.2021, 11h: Ensemble Nikel and Noa Frenkel (contralto), World Premiere Rebecca Saunders and Didem Coskunseven

November Music, s’Hertogenbosch:
12.11.21: retake concert Donaueschingen: UA Rebecca Saunders / Didem Coskunseven

WienModern Festival:
14./27./28.11.21: Werke von Thomas Kessler, Klaus Lang, Hugues Dufourt, Leitung Jonathan Stockhammer

broadcasts SRF 2 Kultur:
Künste im Gespräch, 14.10.21, 9:00 Uhr: 100 Jahre Donaueschinger Musiktage, autor Florian Hauser

Kultur Aktuell, 18.10.21, 8:15 Uhr: autor Florian Hauser

Musik unserer Zeit, 3.11.21, 20 Uhr: 100 Jahre Donaueschinger Musiktage, autor Florian Hauser

neo-profiles:
Ensemble Nikel, Donaueschinger Musiktage, Rebecca Saunders, Beat Furrer, Alexandre Babel, Lucerne Festival Contemporary Orchestra, Daniel Ott, Johannes Kreidler, Marcus Weiss, Thomas Kessler, Jonathan Stockhammer

Embellishment- instead of conspiracy-theories

Johannes Kreidler, a Berlin based conceptual artist, likes to be present in the medias and often works on political and social topics. In doing so, he also deliberately stirs up controversy time and again. Since 2020 he teaches composition at the Basel University of Music (FHNW). At the upcoming Donaueschingen Music Festival, he will present a humorous film composition dedicated to otherwise neglected aspects of contemporary music. A portrait by Cya Bazzaz.

 

Portrait Johannes Kreidler © Esther Kochte

Cya Bazzaz
Anti-Corona-Demo – Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz Berlin – 16 May 2020. A dangerous cocktail of more or less right-wing activists gathers to protest and demonstrate against the government’s Corona measures, accompanied by a sound with which the conspiracy ideological community apparently bases itself on ancient myths. As all this wasn’t bizarre enough, in the midst of it one can also find a very special artist, who knows how to put himself in the limelight and make him and his content be heard: Johannes Kreidler, composer, media and conceptual artist.  

His demands are: end the economic growth obsession, a fairer distribution of wealth, ecological and sustainable agriculture. This time of standstill should be used to direct energies sensibly to where the real opportunities lie and not get caught up in abstruse ideas, Kreidler claims.

 

Critical participation in social debate

Kreidler’s works essentially belong to the so-called ‘conceptual music’. As in conceptual art, the focus lies just as much in the concept or the elaborated idea as in the artistic result itself, Kreidler usually incorporates multimedia processes into his work.  

As one of the few composers, Kreidler has critically participated in the social discourse since the beginning of the pandemic. On social media, for example, he commented events like the high demand for toilet paper, conspiracy theories or simply current political affairs in a mostly ironic and humorous way, often mixed with musical allusions.

Here some highlights of his Twitter timeline: “Gesang der Impflinge, K. Stockhausen, Priority Groups for 3 Orchestras”, “Student Restaurant: Robert’s Kochinstitut” or “I hate Corona like the plague”.

He often exaggerated the arguments of the conspiracy mystics in his posts or even reversed them, creating some kind of ‘competitor narratives’.

 

Johannes Kreidler, Corona Komposition 24.3.2021

 

“Scientific Sonification as an artistic method.”

In addition to political activism, Kreidler also addressed this crisis in artistic or artistic-pedagogical terms.  

One of the methods he uses in dealing with political as well as social issues is ‘sonification’. This method, which originates in science, serves to represent or create sound out of abstract data by precisely assigning individual musical elements. Trough scientific sound approach Kreidler creates a hybrid form of music making, by combining acoustic visualization with aesthetic interpretation.

In his course “Theory and Aesthetics of Electronic Music” at the FHNW, Kreidler used this compositional technique as a basis to develop various so-called “coronifications” in a joint project with his students. These were finally presented online.

“Coronifications”

In the Basel course, Kreidler also addressed the question of the extent to which it is morally adequate to aestheticize the data of a crisis, as in the case of the Corona pandemic. His conclusion: listeners should form their own, personal judgement.  

The way Kreidler dealt with purely scientific dry data in this project was not new to him, as he had already dealt with matters like the stock market crash or the Iraq war in his “Charts Music” in a similar way. He used software to elicit harmonic melodies from the drastically descending stock market curves or the increasing number of deaths of US soldiers in the charts, or he drew exact points into the diagrams with a graphics program which he then transferred into a traditional five-line system in order to convert them into notes and sound. The result is a three minutes long music video, a chart medley in ringtone style.

 

Johannes Kreidler, Charts Music: Crisis sounds so cool!

Kreidler also expressed his views on the above methods in theoretical treaties, as dealing with such issues is of particular concern to him as composition professor at the Hochschule für Musik Basel (FHNW). As a kind of manifesto for his teaching, he published the text “The composition class as an aesthetic think tank” in the “neue musikzeitung”: “In terms of the program, it is now crucial for us artists to assert ourselves in the face of the political: to bring artistic freedom, internationality and global awareness, historical consciousness, a sense of possibility and aesthetically challenging things back into society again and again,” says Kreidler.

The crisis also inspired Kreidler to compose new works. In the spring/summer of 2020, he created “Music-19”, a series of graphic scores that are to be interpreted musically.

 

Johannes Kreidler, Musik-19, graphische Partitur

The line-up is completely free to choose and acting, objects as well as video can also be integrated. During the performance the respective graphic scores should be visible, for example by projecting them on a wall.  

Contribute to creating a more beautiful world…

 

On social media, Kreidler called on followers and friends to interpret, record, and publish these graphs.

In his “think tank” theory, he writes: “Develop the foundations of the musically possible, intervene in the whole, contribute to make the world more beautiful place. Even the smallest work counts, just like in democratic elections where every vote counts.”

What does Kreidler’s approach mean for the art music scene?

 

According to Kreidler, musicians and artists should not only reflect on social processes, but also actively participate in shaping them. This is the way they have a chance of future survival, without being relegated into the unworldly and elitist. His energetic consistency and creative force fascinate me especially now, during the global pandemic. Kreidler will, I hope, prompt some artists to radically rethink their approach.
Cya Bazzaz

 

Johannes Kreidler, Musik-19, graphische Partitur

 

Cya Bazzaz studies composition and piano at UDK in Berlin. After a guest lecture by Johannes Kreidler at UDK, he has been intensively involved with his work.  

Johannes Kreidler is professor for composition at the Hochschule für Musik Basel (FHNW) since 2019/20.

*Course: ‘Theory and Aesthetics of Electronic Music‘: Summer Semester 2020, Hochschule für Musik Basel (FHNW)

**Johannes Kreidler, Text nmz, The composition class as an aesthetic think tank

 

Donaueschinger Musiktage / Donaueschingen music days 2021
15.10.2021, 9:45h: ‘Rhythms of History‘ for film
29./30.11./3.12.21: Music-19, Delirium Ensemble, Konzerte Schweiz

broadcasts SRF 2 Kultur:
Musik unserer Zeit, 12.6.2019: Johannes Kreidler, der Konzept-Virtuose, autor Moritz Weber

Musik unserer Zeit, 4.3.2015: die neuen enfants terribles der E-Musik, autor Cécile Olshausen

neo-profiles: Johannes Kreidler, Donaueschinger Musiktage, sonic space Basel

un projet est avant tout une rencontre…

Composer, performer and curator Alexandre Babel has been awarded one of the Swiss Music Prizes of the Federal Office of Culture 2021. The award ceremony took place in Lugano on September, 17 2021. In this interview, Babel explains his point of view on composition and curation and how he combines these two activities.

 

Portrait Alexandre Babel © Felix Brueggemann 2021

Gabrielle Weber
Alexandre Babel, percussionist, composer and curator, can be seen on avant-garde concert stages, at jazz festivals, in galleries and at art biennials. Based between Berlin and Geneva (his hometown), he combines classical avant-garde music, sound art, experimental improvisation and performance.  

There are as many ways of composing as there are composers, says Babel and he therefore prefers to define composition as “the organisation of sounds in time and space”. Curating is also close to this understanding of composition. “Same here, it’s all about setting existing sound objects in motion in a certain place at a certain time and then connecting these objects with other objects.  

Composing and curating are different aspects of the same activity. Babel creates, conceives, stages, networks and interprets.  

Alexandre Babel, born in Geneva in 1980, first found his way to jazz through drum lessons in Geneva. He then specialised in New York with jazz legends such as Joey Baron or Jeff Hirshfield and played in various formations. “What fascinated me about jazz was not just the aesthetics, but rather how musicians interacted to create music. Mixing repertoire and improvisation: that was the basis of making music for me.”  

Also being attracted by the classical avant-garde, Babel soon switched to classical percussion and, back in Europe, found his way to composition. John Cage, Morton Feldman, Alvin Lucier, Heiner Goebbels or Helmut Lachenmann were the ground-breaking figures and inspirators in Babel’s compositional path.

From his very first pieces already, such as music for small audiences for snare drum solo, the importance of the performer plays an important role.
Music for small audiences was the beginning a real love affair between me and the snare drum..”

 


In one of his first pieces, ‘music for small audiences‘ Babel explores new sounds for solo snare drum and brings the role of percussion in the music business into focus.

 

Performer – Improviser – Composer

As a drummer, Babel is a touring musician wearing many hats: a fine, quiet improviser, loud, experimental drummer, for example with the band “Sudden infant” in a duo with Joke Lanz, or an interpreter of contemporary drum repertoire in various formations.   

Additionally, he composes, curates and develops projects for his own formations, such as the Berlin collective Radial, together with video artist Mio Chareteau.  

“To make music includes several processes in my opinion. First of all ‘thinking’ the music, which means composing, then transmitting the music and finally perform it for an audience: I’m fascinated by all of them.”   

All of his activities are linked by a convergence of creation and interpretation, as well as an interest in the visual, spatial and performative aspects.

“What do I want to see and what do I want to hear…. ”

For Babel, composing always begins with or even boils down to an encounter. Thus, his compositions are mostly created for specific musicians.  

He always has the performers in mind when writing and is also inspired by their movements and gestures. In the piece The way down for Duo Orion, for example, Babel took the duo’s interplay as starting point and staged it acoustically and also performatively.

 

Alexandre Babel, The way down pour violoncelle et piano, Duo Orion (Gilles Grimaître, piano, Elas Dorbath, Cello) 2020

 

“At the beginning of a project I ask myself: ‘What do I want to see and what do I want to hear’: To me, the visual side is just as important as the sound. Duo Orion, for example, has a special physicality when performing. I developed a piece for them in which the gestures are almost athletic. It almost became dance or a choreography,”.

Curating as a permanent dialogue

Babel says that his three activities – composition, interpretation and curation – have ideally come together in the artistic direction of les amplitudes Festival (La-Chaux-de-Fonds, autumn 2020). “I had the chance to combine all aspects within one object -the festival and at the same time the city of La Chaux-de-Fonds: I thought of the festival as a giant composition in separate parts – an art exhibition, live performances, drum sets and spatial compositions blending together in one new unity”.  

Since 2013, Babel has led the percussion ensemble Eklekto Geneva Percussion Center, consisting of some 20 musicians in a loose line-up. “Eklekto offers me the opportunity to develop unusual percussive situations. All projects are created in close exchange and collaboration with the composers and the musicians. “Curating is a permanent dialogue with the musicians involved”.  

 

Attentive listening

Pauline Olivero’s piece Earth ears, a so-called ‘Sonic Ritual‘ from 1989 for free instrumentation, is characteristic of Babel’s understanding of curation: “The musicians play by ear and there is no written score. One has to listen to himself as well as to the whole ensemble and react to it. The piece is about sound, space and attentive listening: to me, those are the basics of making music”.

 


Pauline Oliveros’ piece ‘Earth ears’, a ‘sonic ritual’ and openly interpretable piece from 1989, is characteristic of Babel’s approach to curation.

 

Another important project is his large percussion ensemble with 15 percussionists from the Eklekto pool. “We have clear rules: we play by heart and there is no conducting: playing without a leader creates an enormous energy and presence and at the same time opens up new ways of communication, in an almost radical way”.

 

Choeur mixte reflects the classical setting of chamber music and at the same time puts the often underestimated classical instrument ‘snare drum’ in a new spot-light. Another declaration of love to the snare drum.

 

In the piece ‘choeur mixte’ for 15 snare drums, the percussionists play their instruments standing in the shape of a wedge, on a lit, empty stage. They act strongly in relation to one another and the piece radiates power as a group and at the same time individual responsibility of the performers.

 

Music without sound

 

Among other things, Babel is currently working on a composition commissioned by the Venice Art Biennale 2022, designing the Swiss pavilion together with Swiss-based Franco-Moroccan visual artist Latifa Echakhch. Babel faces a special challenge in this case, as Echakhch wants him to create a composition without real sound. “This is an important and special task for me: through the joint creation process, we are approaching solutions on how music can sound without sound,” says Babel. At the moment, short pieces of music are being created for this purpose, which will form the basis for the final Music of Silence. Gabrielle Weber

 

Portrait Alexandre Babel ©Felix Brueggemann (2021)

 

On Friday, September 17, 2021, the Swiss Music Price ceremony will take place at Lugano Arte e Cultura (LAC) in Lugano. During that weekend, some of the prize winners will perform as part of Lugano’s Longlake Festival.  

This year’s Grand Prix musique went to Stephan Eicher.
The other prize winners are:
Alexandre Babel, Chiara Banchini, Yilian Canizares, Viviane Chassot, Tom Gabriel Fischer, Jürg Frey, Lionel Friedli, Louis Jucker, Christine Lauterburg, Roland Moser, Roli Mosimann, Conrad Steinmann, Manuel Troller and Nils Wogram.

Concerts Alexandre Babel:
Sunday, 19.9.21, 10:30h at Studio Foce, Lugano:
Alexandre Babel e Niton +ROM visuals 

23.4.-27.11.2022 Biennale Arte Venezia: Alexandre Babel & Latifa Echakhch @Swiss Pavilion Venezia Biennale

 

Joke Lanz, Joey BaronJeff Hirshfield, Pauline Oliveros, Biennale Arte 2022, John Cage, Morton Feldman, Alvin Lucier, Heiner Goebbels, Helmut Lachenmann, Latifa EchakhchKollektiv Radial, Mio Chareteau, Elsa Dorbath

 

Sendungen SRF 2 Kultur:
in: Musikmagazin, 18./19.9.21: Alexandre Babel – Träger BAK-Musikpreis 2021 im Gespräch mit Gabrielle Weber, Redaktion Annelis Berger

Musik unserer Zeit, 16.6.21: Alexandre Babel – Perkussionist, Komponist, Kurator, Redaktion Gabrielle Weber

neoblog, 14.10.2020: La ville – une composition géante, Text Anya Leveillé

 

Neo-Profiles:
Alexandre Babel, Les amplitudes, Eklekto Geneva Percussion Center, Duo Orion, Gilles Grimaître

Infinite game worlds  

Zeiträume Basel, Biennale for New Music and Architecture, is taking place for the fourth time this year. The festival is dedicated to the interweaving of music and space and always features new and unusual venues. Lucerne composer Michel Roth will premiere his new work “Spiel Hölle” on September 18, at Basel’s Flipperclub. Jaronas Scheurer talked to him about the piece as well as the club members’ passion for pinball.  

 

Spiel Hölle-Portrait Michel Roth © Prismago zVG ZeitRäume Basel 2021

 

Jaronas Scheurer 
Basel’s Zeiträume festival brings new music to unusual places and enables the audiences to make both musical and architectural discoveries. This year, some 20 productions will take place around the theme “Verwandlung” (Transformation), on a disused ship in Basel’s harbour area as well as in a former water filtration plant, but also at the city’s Kaserne- and Flipperclub. The latter is located in an unadorned commercial building of the greater Basel area. When entering the premises one isyou are greeted by over 50 flashing and sounding pinball machines, some of them 60 years old. For this club, Lucerne composer Michel Roth composed “Spiel Hölle”, which will be premiered by the Ensemble Soyuz21 at the Zeiträume Festival.   

Rather than on the venue’s architecture, Michel Roth mainly focuses on how the space is enlivened by the club members’ passion for these sounding boxes. What fascinates him is the social space. By approaching one of the many pinball machines, another space opens, according to Roth: “A space behind glass, which is also designed three-dimensionally with insanely elaborate constructions. A narrative space in which one is also told about Star Wars or Star Trek, thereby entering a dialogue, not only mechanically, but also concretely, as the newer machines actually speak to the player and comment on what’s happening during the game.”  

 


Michel Roth: pod for two ensembles and live-electronics (2017), Ensemble Vortex and ensemble proton bern.  pod is about musicalized game theory.

 

Overkill Pinball  

In the interview Michel Roth speaks enthusiastically about pinball machines: the way they clatter and flash and sound and loudly invite you to play again. The acoustic dimension of the gaming machines is crucial to his fascination, but isn’t a room crammed with over 50 such boxes an acoustic sensory overload? Of course, that’s where the title “Spiel Hölle” “Gaming Hell” comes from, he states. Because the “overkill”, the sensory overload, is both an aspect of the “real” gambling spaces as well as the composition’s theme and the complex acoustic environment of the pinball machines is precisely the starting point of the piece.  

It starts like a normal pinball club evening. After a welcome by the club members, the audience is allowed to have a go at the pinball machines. Imperceptibly, Michel Roth’s music begins to “smuggle” itself into the evening of games and blends into the sound atmosphere, the whole composition being based on these pinball boxes. The instruments, for example, are manipulated with components from the machines: the saxophone is filled with pinballs, the drummer plays on springs that catapult the balls into the box. The musicians do not play to a fixed score, but react and interact to what is happening around them, so exactly like the ball in the box, the composition can take one direction or another.  

 

Commentary and confrontation  

 

Michel Roth’s “Spiel Hölle” is thus derived entirely from the “real” gaming hell of the pinball club, but over time, the musical events emancipate themselves more and more from the clinking and tinkling of the machines and begin to comment ironically or confront.   

 


Michel Roth, Die Zunge des Gletschers for voice and contrabass (UA 2017), Aleksander Gabrys : Michel Roth piece treats the influence of game and coincidence on composition.

 

Michel Roth’s hope is to “bring to a boil the often very dark narration of the individual boxes and the collective vibration of this gambling hell” through his composition. Even though this year’s theme “transformation” wasn’t Roth main focus while composing “Spiel Hölle”, he hopes for a transformation in the audience, so that a “we are all actually inside a big pinball box” effect might arise. 

In “Spiel Hölle” Michel Roth and his musicians Sascha Armbruster (saxophone), Mats Scheidegger (electric guitar), Philipp Meier (keyboards and synthesizer), Jeanne Larrouturou (drums) and Isaï Angst (electronics) embark on a humorous and fascinating exploration of what is hidden in an unadorned commercial space on the outskirts of Basel: each one of the 50 blinking, sounding and clattering boxes contains its own game world full of endless possibilities. Michel Roth’s “Spiel Hölle” thus fits in very well into the Zeiträume festival: it opens up a complex network of acoustic and narrative spaces in which the audience can lose itself until “game over”.
Jaronas
Scheurer 
 

 

 

ZeitRäume Basel – Biennale for New Music and Architecture, will take place from September 9 to 19, 2021 in various locations and public spaces in the city of Basel, with numerous world premieres by (among others) Barblina Meierhans, with “Script” in the reading room of the Basel University Library (17.9.), “Niemandsland“, spatial immersion by Dimitri de Perrot at Kaserne Basel (10.-12.9.), or the opera “Poppaea” by Michael Hersch and Stephanie Fleischmann at Don Bosco (in cooperation with WienModern 10./12.9.).  


Michel Roth’s “Spiel Hölle” will be performed four times on September 18 and 19 at the Flipperclub Basel, premiere is on September 18, at 16h.   

In the festival’s pavilion on the Mittlere Brücke, live performances, sound installations, cocktails and SUISA talks or participatory activities will put you in the right mood for the festival from September 4th onwards.  

Three installations will open their doors before the festival’s official kick-off: 7.9., 18h, Jannik Giger “Blind audition“, 8.9., 19h, Cathy van Eck “Der Klang von Birsfelden” and on the ship “Gannet” on 9.9. at 11h “Phase 4” a collectively developed multidisciplinary walk-in sound space in the ship’s belly. 

 

Dimitri de Perrot, Stephanie FleischmannMichael HerschSascha ArmbrusterIsaï Angst

broadcasts SRF 2 Kultur:
Musik unserer Zeit, 29.9.2021, Reportage Barblina Meierhans: Skript, autor Benjamin Herzog

Neo-profiles: Michel Roth, soyuz21, Zeiträume Basel, Barblina Meierhans, Cathy van Eck, , Philipp MeierJeanne LarrouturouMats Scheidegger, Aleksander Gabrys, Ensemble Vortex, ensemble proton bern

Orchestra of excellence for new music

Benjamin Herzog

Lucerne Festival Contemporary Orchestra is the name of a newly created orchestra, whose activity began on August, 13 at the Lucerne Festival. The orchestra is strongly integrated into the newly created “Contemporary” section, a distinctive structure for the performance of new music within he Lucerne Festival. Felix Heri, head of the Contemporary section, explains what is so unique about it.
Its components are between 30 and 35 years old, both current and former Lucerne Festival Academy participants and since this year they are part of an orchestra that, according to Felix Heri, is intended to become an “orchestra of excellence for new music”. Its ambition is similar to that of the Lucerne Festival Orchestra (LFO), founded almost twenty years ago. Under the direction of its first conductor Claudio Abbado, this orchestra was said to perform in an almost magical way.

 

Portrait Felix Heri ©Gregor Brändli / zVg Lucerne Festival

 

35-year-old Felix Heri is the head of the Lucerne Festival’s new “Contemporary” section. He studied clarinet in Lucerne and cultural management in Basel, after six years of managing director for the basel sinfonietta, he is now directing the Lucerne Festival Contemporary.

 

Lucerne Festival Contemporary is an umbrella under which a three-part structure is organically growing and constantly evolving. Academy, Orchestra and a new festival (instead of the cancelled Piano Festival) in November, called Lucerne Festival Forward. “We have a unique network of 1300 people around the world,” Heri explains, “musicians who attended the Festival Academy at some point and played in the Academy orchestra at the time or in the alumni orchestra, inside and outside the festival,  of which the best and most motivated now play in the Lucerne Festival Contemporary Orchestra (LFCO).”

 

Founder Boulez

 

The Festival Academy’s goal is to deepen knowledge of how new orchestral music is played. The academy has been founded in 2003 by Pierre Boulez, who died in 2016, as a kind of master class for new music, led for five years by Wolfgang Rihm. Festival visitors have so far been able to enjoy the results of this work during the orchestra’s academy concerts. “An orchestra that – even if only very slightly – had the scent of a student orchestra,” as Heri says today.

 

Magic attraction

 

In 2013, the former academics formed an “alumni orchestra”, shifting gera to the next, more professional level. Apparently, the Lucerne magnet works, as those who have studied here under greats such as Pierre Boulez or Wolfgang Rihm want to come back. The alumni orchestra also played outside the festival and outside Lucerne, performing premieres in New York, London, Beijing, Zurich as well as Lucerne of course testify the ensemble’s network character and charisma.


Wolfgang Rihm, Dis-Kontur für grosses Orchester (1974/84): Lucerne Festival Alumni, conductor Ricardo Chailly, 8.9.2019 KKL Lucerne Festival, in house production SRG SSR

 

Logical further development

 

The now newly founded LFCO is the logical development of this structure, merging the two former orchestras, which were never completely separate in terms of personnel anyway. “All members of the LFCO have attended the Festival Academy at least once,” explains Heri. “This is where the best and most talented of those young talents play.”  In addition, there is one “leader” per segment, fifteen in all. These leaders select the other members of their segment, who gain the right to play in the orchestra for a maximum of two years. These mutual decisions allow an organic growing.

Alumni Lucerne Festival Academy in “Gedenkkonzert für Pierre Boulez”, conductor
Matthias Pintscher (Luzern, 20.03.2016) © Priska Ketterer / zVg Lucerne Festival

 

Excellence meets from excellence

 

The leaders, to name a few examples, are currently the four members of the Arditti Quartet, as well as Dutchman Marco Blaauw for the trumpets and pianist Nicolas Hodges for the keyboard instruments. The fact that the LFCO does not judge its members according to which rung of the career ladder they are on, but rather according to personal dedication, is demonstrated by the fact that there is no age limit and that neither academics nor already established musicians are excluded. Thus, musicians from Klangforum Wien, Ensemble Intercontemporain or Frankfurt’s Ensemble Moderne also play in the LFCO.

In this respect, the new Lucerne Modern Orchestra is very similar to its older brother, the Lucerne Festival Orchestra. Both orchestras feature professionals from the leading orchestras of their genre. In future, both orchestras will have an equally strong external impact on the festival.

 

With or without director? – Participation of the orchestra

 

But unlike the LFO, currently led by Riccardo Chailly, the new orchestra has no chief conductor. “We are discussing whether this is necessary,” says Felix Heri. Such a position having advantages as well as disadvantages, he adds. “The advantages are clear: more charisma, renown, a different kind of network. But it’s also good to select the conductors specifically in each case and for each project.” Another choice, this one, in which LFCO relies on mutual decision by all members. Participation is also important in the choice of the programme, as the artistic orchestra’sartistic director, Wolfgang Rihm, is still responsible for the summer program. However, the programme of the new autumn festival “Forward” will be influenced by the l orchestra’s leader themselves, acting collectively as co-curators.

 

Barblina Meierhans, Auf Distanz, for Bassflöte and kleines Ensemble (UA 2020), Lucerne Festival Alumni, conductor Baldur Brönnimann, Lucerne Festival KKL 23.8.2020, in house production SRG SSR

 

A showcase for new music

This year, LFCO will already perform at the renowned Donaueschingen Music Festival and the Berlin Festival and an international tour is planned for 2022. However, according to Heri, the autumn festival in Lucerne in particular is intended to become a “showcase of new music”, highlighting current trends from Europe, the USA and Asia. This is made possible by the global networking of the orchestra’s members as well as their different leaders.

 

Collective mastermind 

Heri is familiar with fully democratic structures within an orchestra from his earlier work with the “basel sinfonietta”. Although LFCO does not go that far, mutual decisions and discussions generate a strong sense of identification,” emphasizes Heri. This is much more necessary in an orchestra specializing in new music than in a classical symphony orchestra. “We take people and their ideas seriously.” which, he says, is a unique starting point. “We are a collective mastermind.”

He furthermore stresses: “For me, the orchestra should set standards. We want to be brave and perform new concert formats. The integration into the Lucerne Festival is of course an advantage, at the same time, however, we wish to take the necessary liberties to become a counterpart to the Festival Orchestra. That is our goal, that is what we measure ourselves by.”
Benjamin Herzog

 

rehearsal Lucerne Festival Academy, conductor Heinz Holliger © Stefan Deuber / zVg Lucerne Festival

 

The LFCO also performs this year’s Lucerne Theatre opera production in co-production with the Lucerne Festival, Mauricio Kagel’s “Staatstheater” (premiere September 5), programme until September, 19.

 

Lucerne Festival Contemorary Orchestra’s concerts at Lucerne Festival 2021

The new autumn festival for contemporary music Lucerne Festival Forward takes place from november 19. until 21. 2021.

Klangforum WienEnsemble IntercontemporainEnsemble ModernDonaueschinger MusiktageRiccardo ChaillyFelix HeriPierre BoulezWolfgang RihmMauricio KagelClaudio AbbadoArditti QuartetMarco BlaauwNicolas Hodges

broadcasts SRF 2 Kultur:
neoblog, 1.8.21Engagement für neue und neuste Musik – Rebecca Saunders composer in residence @ Lucerne Festival 1, Text Gabrielle Weber

Kontext – Künste im Gespräch 26.8.2021: Rebecca Saunders: composer-in-residence Lucerne Festival, Redaktion Annelis Berger

Kultur kompakt Podcast, 30.8.2021 (ab 4:59min): Lucerne Festival Contemporary Orchestra, Redaktion Florian Hauser

Musik unserer Zeit, 22.9.2021, 20h: Rebecca Saunders, Redaktion Annelis Berger

Neue Musik im Konzert, 22.9.2021, 21h: Portraitkonzert Rebecca Saunders 2, u.a. the mouth & skin

neo-profiles:
Lucerne Festival Contemporary OrchestraWolfgang RihmLucerne Festival AcademyLucerne Festival ContemporaryBasel Sinfonietta

Of swarms, bells and insects

Michael Pelzel, Composer in Residence at this year’s Musikfestival Bern, shows the range of his compositional work through numerous world premieres. He can also a renowned organ player and interpreter. A conversational portrait by Friederike Kenneweg.

 

Portrait Michael Pelzel zVg Michael Pelzel

 

Friederike Kenneweg
When I tried to arrange an interview with Michael Pelzel in mid-July 2021, he was not easy to reach and there’s a good reason for that: the works to be premiered featuring him as Composer in Residence at the Musikfestival Bern are piling up on his desk. “It’s one after the other,” he tells me, when we finally manage to talk. The piece that is in front of him as we speak on the phone is called Aus 133 Fenstern. Although “composer in residence” in Bern doesn’t mean that you actually have to be there for an extended period of time, the conditions at the festival venue have inspired Michael Pelzel to create a special spatial composition.

From the multitude of windows that open out from the PROGR Cultural Center onto the courtyard, the audience is treated to bells, triangles, lotus flutes and ocarinas, played by children and young people and even if the target of 133 musicians is not quite reached, there is no doubt that a unique spatial and sound event awaits the audience.

 

Probe zur Uraufführung von Aus 133 Fenstern für 133 Musizierende, UA im Progr am Musikfestival Bern ©Martin Bichsel / zVg Musikfestival Bern

 

The piece is composed and written out in detail. Pelzel however does not expect the amateur musicians to manage to play in synch with each other under the special spatial circumstances. “Even professionals can’t manage to hit the percussion instruments at exactly the same time,” says Pelzel. But it is precisely this blurring tonal effect, the composer is particularly interested in. “Composers are, after all, always on the lookout for new, unheard sounds and the choral use of these metal percussion instruments is – in my opinion – not yet been explored in its full potential.”

 

“Micro Arpeggios”

 

Pelzel’s fascination with metal percussion instruments comes to the fore in several occasions during the festival. In composition Glissomaniac for two pianos and two percussionists, for example, where tubular bells produce this kind of blurs as the two percussionists and pianists play in unison. “Micro-arpeggios” is how Michael Pelzel defines the result. “It’s a bit like a river delta. Many little tributaries, each one with its peculiar course, but all with a common direction, flowing towards the sea.”

 

Michael Pelzel already combined vocal ensemble and percussion in 2019 in the piece Hagzusa zum Galsterei, premiered by the SWR Vokalensemble at Eclat Festival Stuttgart.

 

Michael Pelzel also relies on this effect in the vocal composition Luna for eight singers and percussion, with not only the percussionist using instruments, but also the eight singers playing triangles of different sizes. Due to the minimal temporal shift in the attack, metal sound clouds of different dimensions and never entirely predictable arise again and again.

Luna is a work commissioned by KlangForum Heidelberg as part of the ensemble’s series of works “Sternbild: Mensch” (Constellation: Man) and was actually to be premiered elsewhere. But as so often, had to be postponed due to the pandemic.

The work has already been premiered, but so far only in digital form. The “analogue” premiere in front of a physically present audience will now be able to take place in Bern: a special highlight in the context of a concert entitled Ferne Lichterschwärme.

.


Michael Pelzel, La Luna, KlangForum Heidelberg, ‘Uraufnahme’ online june 2021

 

In combination with Pelzel’s piece La Luna, the programme also includes orchestral works by Georg Friedrich Haas (born 1953) and György Ligeti (1923-2006) and Pelzel’s compositions will be presented together with works by Haas and Ligeti also during other concerts. Probably because there is a certain affinity between the three composers, as – just like Ligeti – Pelzel appreciates intricate micro-rhythms and shares a passion for microtones with Georg Friedrich Haas. Accordingly, the combination of his works with these two greats suits him perfectly: “Between Georg Friedrich Haas, who was my esteemed teacher and György Ligeti, an important musical reference for me in many respects, I feel very comfortable”.

 

Michael Pelzel, in memoriam György Ligeti: intricate micro-rhythms link the works of György Ligeti and Michael Pelzel, inhouse production SRG/SSR

 

György Ligeti also plays an important role for Michael Pelzel as an organist. Accordingly, the organ concert with Michael Pelzel as part of the festival will feature Ligeti’s organ work Harmonies from 1967. The composition …stream of debris… by Michael Pelzel, which he will premiere himself, is seen by the composer as part of the same tradition. “It’s also a bit of a tribute to Ligeti, who worked a lot with clusters in his organ music. When I improvise on the organ myself, I also take clusters as a starting point, but I try not to simply repeat that, but also to further develop Ligeti’s approach for the present times.”

Streamed Polyphony for strings, which will be premiered by CAMERATA BERN, is appropriately announced in the programme as a “swarmig piece” in line with the festival motto “swarms”. “Swarming is not actually correct,” says Pelzel when I ask him about it. “I rather thought of three insects buzzing around a light source while composing it.”

That is why the distribution of the musicians in the room plays an important role in this piece, allowing the sound of the strings to literally buzz around the room. Even if the title of the composition no longer suggests the association with insects: perhaps the swarming and buzzing effect will still be recognizable to the listeners during the CAMERATA BERN concert.
Friederike Kenneweg

 

Michael Pelzel © Manuela Theobald / zVg Musikfestival Bern

 

 

This year’s Bern Music Festival will take place from September 1 to 5 under the motto “schwärme” (swarms) with works and world premieres by Salvatore Sciarrino, Fritz Hauser, Jürg Frey, Johanna Schwarzl, Hans Eugen Frischknecht, Pierre-André Bovey, Thomas Kessler and Jean-Luc Darbellay, among others.

The festival also features a cinema matinée on György Ligeti (documentary: Wenn die Zahnräder Menschen sind, 1996) followed by a discussion between Michael Pelzel, composer in residence, and Thomas Meyer, music journalist (Thursday, 2.9., 10h).

________________________________

World creations by Michael Pelzel:
Aus 133 FensternMittwoch, 1.9. 17h
Streamed Polyphony, in concert: Open the Spaces, Mittwoch, .1.9. 19h
Glissomania, in concert: Durch unausdenkliche WälderFreitag, 3.9. 21h
La Luna, in conczert: Ferne LichterschwärmeSamstag, 4.9. 19h
Harmonies / ...stream of debris… in concert: Con Passione, Sonntag, 5.9. 17h

Neo-Profiles:
Musikfestival BernMichael PelzelCamerata BernGyörgy LigetiGeorg Friedrich HaasThomas KesslerJürg FreyJean-Luc DarbellayFritz HauserPierre-André Bovey

Lucerne Festival – Commitment to new and newest music

Gabrielle Weber: Rebecca Saunders: composer-in-residence @ Lucerne Festival1

The celebrated British composer Rebecca Saunders is composer-in-residence at Lucerne Festival, featuring eight Swiss premieres and one world premiere of hers, many of which to be performed by the new ‘Lucerne Festival Contemporary Orchestra’. This represents the festival’s long-term commitment to new and cutting-edge music and forms the artistic core of ‘Lucerne Festival Forward’, the new autumn festival for contemporary music.

Neoblog portrays the new focus on contemporary music at Lucerne Festival with several contributions and posts: The first focusing on Rebecca Saunders – composer-in-residence during the summer festival.

 

Portrait Rebecca Saunders © Astrid Ackermann / zVg Lucerne Festival

Gabrielle Weber
Rebecca Saunders, winner of the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize 2019 and highly in demand worldwide, can be experienced up close in Lucerne this year. Since studying with Wolfgang Rihm in Karlsruhe, the British composer has been living in Berlin and is present at every important contemporary music festival: be it with chamber music, orchestral works or even performative sound installations.

In Lucerne, the public can now immerse comprehensively in Saunders’ music, characterised by silence, colour and physicality.  

“Silence is like the screen behind the sound, it frames the sound,” says Saunders, who mixes silence with timbres and quiet changes in timbre. Often the first thing Saunders has in mind when composing is one single sound, a real colour or a mood. “You go into a landscape, into a sonic situation when you compose and at some point, you reach absolute focus – from then on, everything you do is right.”  

Whenever possible, Saunders tackles her new pieces with the interpreters, carefully approaching the instruments’ peculiarities with them. “What could be better than exchanging ideas with the musicians and discussing every little detail until the very end?”  

Saunders composed the solo piece blaauw from 2004, for example, for the Dutch trumpeter Marco Blaauw, who will perform it in Lucerne. In this work, Blaauw uses the double funnel trumpet he developed to conduct a conversation, not only between the two partial trumpets, but also with the room’s acoustics, with a grand piano, in whose resonance chamber the trumpet plays, and with the audience. The title stands for the performer Blaauw and is at the same time a gentle winking allusion to Saunders’ love of colours.  

 

Rebecca Saunders: blaauw, 2004, Nenad Markovic, trumpet / Ensemble Laboratorium, Davos Festival 2012, in house-production SRG/SSR

 

Blaauw’s double funnel trumpet can not only play quarter tones, but also subtle and abrupt changes in timbre or extremely long and large glissandi.  

The “glissando technique” also defines the new piano concerto To an Utterance, written for pianist Nicolas Hodges, in which Saunders explores the almost physical limits of pianistic virtuosity, as she explained in a preliminary talk with Marc Sattler, festival dramaturge for contemporary music at the Lucerne Festival.   

Together with pianist Nicolas Hodges, she explored the feasibility of extreme glissandi under various conditions, e.g. including only all black or all white keys. These energy-loaded sound gestures, combined with melodic lines, run through the piece and create a colourful richness.

 

Portrait Rebecca Saunders © Astrid Ackermann / zVg Lucerne Festival

 

“The piano is my home,” says Saunders. The strong relationship with the instrument is the reason why she has written many pieces for it and felt a strong desire to write a piano concerto for years. With the premiere of To an Utterance, her first piano concerto, the dream will now come true in Lucerne.

 


Rebecca Saunders, The underside of green for Clarinet, Violin &Klavier 1994, Collegium Novum Zürich, in house-production SRG/SSR: The underside of green is part of a series of compositions inspired by the final monologue of Molly Bloom in James Joyce’s Ulysses.

 

Literature, prose, poetry but also lexical and non-fiction texts have always fascinated Saunders and authors such as Samuel Becket or James Joyce constantly accompany her composing.  

This fascination sometimes blossoms into pure instrumental pieces, based on texts or words, but without words. Then Saunders translates the colour of language into sound, as she did in Fletch (première 2012), a string quartet transforming the hissing pronunciation of the word fletch, into arrow-like, impulsive gestures of the string sound.  

Or they result in vocal works focusing on text, or sometimes single words. Nether for soprano and ensemble (premiere 2019), for example, revolves around Molly Bloom’s monologue from the last chapter of James Joyce’s epic poem ‘Ulysses’. The vocal part will be performed in Lucerne by the British soprano Juliet Fraser, with whom Saunders has worked for a long time.  

Her aim is not just to set a text to music, but to render what makes a text audible and perceptible, explains Saunders. A lot happens ‘behind and in between the lyrics’, hidden beneath the surface as the title suggests. Molly’s monologue becomes an emotional, almost theatrical, spatially arranged vocal performance. “The listeners are inside the music,” says Saunders, “as if they were sitting in the middle of a musical sculpture, in the fabric of sound.”

The Mouth for soprano and tape as well as Skin for voice and ensemble were specifically written for Fraser’s body or voice. Saunders sees mouth and skin are two of the most important interfaces between a human’s inner and outer world. For The Mouth, Saunders worked closely with Fraser to develop ‘unused forms of articulation’, in order to make this interface tangible.

 

Rebecca Saunders, The mouth, Juliet Fraser, World premiere 2020, Centre Pompidou Paris

 

In the composer’s own words, the piece wants to ‘penetrate from the surface of the sound to the essence of the voice: the physical body that produces that sound’. – Saunders re. The Mouth (UA 2020) – “Sound is a physical experience, one that engages all five senses,” says Saunders.  
Gabrielle Weber

 

Portrait Rebecca Saunders © Johannes List – Ernst von Siemens Musikstiftung / zVg Lucerne Festival

 

Rebecca Saunders – composer-in-residence at Lucerne Festival

Portrait concerts:
21.8., 11h: Marco Blaauw, trumpet, Arditti Quartet, Trio Accanto (including blaauw, fletch).
4.9, 11h: Juliet Fraser, soprano, soloists of the Lucerne School of Music: Daniela Argentino, soprano, Clemens Heil, conductor (a.o. The Mouth / Skin)

Other mentioned concerts:
28.8., 22h: Juliet Fraser, soprano, ensemble of the Lucerne Festival Contemporary Orchestra, conductor: Johanna Malangré (among others Nether, Swiss premiere).
4.9., 18:30h: Nicolas Hodges, piano, Lucerne Festival Contemporary Orchestra, conductor: Ilan Volkov (among others to an utterance, world premiere)

 

Rebecca SaundersWolfgang Rihm, Juliet Fraser, Marco Blaauw, Arditti Quartet, Trio Accanto

Broadcasts SRF2Kultur:
Kultur-Aktualität, 17.1.2019: Ernst von Siemens Musikpreis an Rebecca Saunders: die Lautmalerin der Stille, Redaktion Florian Hauser (verlinken):

Musikmagazin, 22.10.2016: Kaffee mit Rebecca Saunders, Redaktion Florian Hauser

Kontext – Künste im Gespräch 26.8.2021: Rebecca Saunders: composer-in-residence Lucerne Festival, Redaktion Annelis Berger

Musik unserer Zeit, 22.9.2021, 20h: Rebecca Saunders, Redaktion Annelis Berger

Neue Musik im Konzert, 22.9.2021, 21h: Portraitkonzert Rebecca Saunders 2, u.a. the mouth & skin

 

Neo-profiles:
Rebecca SaundersLucerne Festival ContemporaryLucerne Festival Contemporary Orchestra, Davos Festival – Young artists in concert, Collegium Novum Zürich

All that defines our human race….

Basel composer Roland Moser received one of the Swiss Music Prizes from the Federal Office of Culture. His former composition student Burkhard Kinzler, now established composer and theory lecturer in Zurich himself, gives an insight into Moser’s procedures and work.

 

Roland Moser ©Louis Moser zVg Roland Moser

 

Burkhard Kinzler
in 1992 I was a young aspiring composer with a background in church music and I travelled from Heidelberg to Basel for the first time to meet with Roland Moser, I could not yet have guessed how formative, indeed decisive for my life, these lessons would turn out to become. I was curious, but also sceptical: I didn’t know my future teacher at all. My first choice was actually Kelterborn, from whom I had sung a few pieces, but he had no availabilities. «You can try Moser,» I thought to myself, «and if it doesn’t work, just quit again.»

After the first lesson, this thought was wiped away – there was a spark. Roland Moser opened my eyes, his view of old as well as new music was a revelation to me. This man knew EVERYTHING. And I had never before encountered such independent musical thinking, with no compromises and concretely score-oriented.

His gift for reading my compositional attempts, thinking his way into them and then asking questions is something I have admired more and more. It has brought me forward by quantum leaps. His questions more than once unmasked the unaccomplished in a lovingly discreet way.

Others must have felt the same way, no wonder that most of my fellow theory lecturers at the ZHdK* come from Roland’s school.

 

Roland Moser ©Louis Moser zVg Roland Moser

 

I did not know a single note of music by Roland Moser, so I soon began to look for his works (which was much more difficult back then than today), study them and also perform them, first with my small ensemble for new music and as part of my professorship in Mannheim. The precise and enigmatically humorous pieces of his «Kabinetts mit Vierteltönen» for 2 pianos for example, enchanted both me and my students.

Roland later jokingly reproached me for performing almost exclusively his “occasional works”. At the same time suggesting that these pieces, seemingly only marginal products, play in an intricate way an absolutely essential role in his – in the meantime impressively comprehensive – oeuvre.

A good example is his “Quatre cadres harmoniques” for flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano, the first movement of which for alto flute and bass clarinet solo represents something like the secret core of Roland Moser’s work to me.

It is no coincidence that he also uses this sparse two-and-a-half-minute piece, fitting on one page, in other compositions, such as “Kleine Differenzen über einen Grund” for wind quintet (6th movement). Here too, appearing as a starting point and intellectual centre.

 


Roland Moser, Kleine Differenzen über einen Grund für Bläserquintett, Ensemble Contrechamps 2005, in house-production SRG

 

How I came to this statement?
On the basis of these few notes actually, essential directions of thought and sound of Roland Moser’s music can be pointed out:
First of all, there is the strict, unflattering economy: not a note too much, no “ornamentation” whatsoever, every sound precisely heard and exactly in the place where it is needed.

 

No “Just-Intonation Sauce” – No Spectralist Spectacle

Then there is the preoccupation with the overtone series, which in Roland Moser’s work does not simply lead to a “just-intonation sauce” or “spectralist spectacle”; Moser’s reflection on the conflicts between (natural) physics and (tempered) culture produces sounds in which this conflict becomes an experience. The counterpoint of the two instruments in this movement is designed in such a way that literally every sound together is in a part-tone relationship; at the same time, the interpreters are urged not to adjust their intonation, but to remain in the equal temperament. Thus, natural sound appears as a chimera that seems to be grasping with hands (or ears) and yet turns out to be only a mirage.

For all this to happen in the listener’s ear, the composer needs patience and the ability to slow down. Roland Moser has both in abundance.

Also worthy of mention is the rhythmically unbound but always gesturally unambiguous style of durational notation that Roland Moser learned from his friend György Kurtag.

All of the above-mentioned basic conditions lead to a piece – featuring only two intruments – of tremendous concentration and an expressive power arising directly from the sound conception that is unparalleled.

 

Partiturseite «Quatre cadres harmoniques», erster Satz für Flöte, Klarinette, Violine, Cello und Klavier: für Burkhard Kinzler ‘ein heimliches Zentrum von Roland Mosers Schaffen’

 

The “Romanticism Project”

Now it would be absolutely unjustified to reduce Roland Moser’s wide-ranging oeuvre to this “little piece”, as he himself would probably call it. There are major projects that have defined his entire compositional life, such as the “Romantic Project”. At a time when Romantic poetry was considered by most of his contemporaries to be out of fashion in comparison with late and post-expressionist modes of expression, Roland Moser unflinchingly occupied himself with poets such as Heine and above all Brentano. He managed to tap into the anarchic potential of this seemingly sweet language in order to find his own, new tonality for it.

This context also includes permanent confrontation with the music of Franz Liszt and above all Franz Schubert, to which Roland has profound things to say and to which he has repeatedly reacted in his own work. For example in «Echoräumen» after Schubert’s Trauermusik or in his arrangement of the Andante in B minor for fragmentary orchestra.

 


Roland Moser,  Echoraum after Schuberts Trauermusik (Nonett D79) for Kammerorchester, Kammerorchester Basel, 2018, in house-production SRG

 

Moser’s relationship to the orchestra – which he himself described as “broken” – is also evident here and yet he was able to write such weighty works as “WAL – für schweres Orchester”.

 


Roland Moser,  WAL für schweres Orchester mit 5 Saxophonen (1980/83), Basel Sinfonietta und Xasax Saxophonquartett, in house-production SRG

 

His great opera “Avatar” also revolves around romantic and fantastic values, as does his second stage work “Rahel and Pauline”, although in a completely different manner, achieving to bring an exchange of letters (between Rahel Varnhagen and Pauline Wiesel) onto a stage, or to life.

There is so much more that could be said about Roland Moser’s work and activities. Roland Moser’s cosmos has points of contact and inspiration throughout human history – this is where his deeply humane, philanthropic attitude manifests itself. His work is the expression of a profound and at the same time critical and affectionate examination of the human being as well as communication with everything that defines our human race.
Burkhard Kinzler

 

Roland Moser am Komponieren ©Louis Moser zVg Roland Moser

*Theorie-professors ZHdK among others: Felix Baumann, Kaspar Ewald, Mathias Steinauer, Felix Profos, Bruno Karrer, Lars Heusser

The Romantic Project continues this year with a world premiere of Schubert’s last symphonic poems, performed by the KOB directed by Heinz Holliger..

24. Juli 2021, Lübeck, Schleswig-Holstein Musikfestival: World premiere of the three-movement version of the last symphonic sketches by Franz Schubert (D 936A) by Roland Moser. Basel Chamber Orchestra, directed by Heinz Holliger. Further date:
15.8. Stadtcasino Basel

21. August, Festival Les Jardins musicaux, Rondchâtel Villiers bei Biel/Bienne: World premiere of “Die Europäerin”, music theatre by Roland Moser, based on the Mikrogrammm 400 by Robert Walser; with Leila Pfister, Niklaus Kost, Jürg Kienberger, Conrad Steinmann (also a 2021 prize winner), Alessandro d’Amico/ Helena Winkelman    Trogen AR ,
Further dates:
18. September: Festival Rümlingen 2021, Musiktheater#3
29./30. Januar 2022: Basel Gare du Nord

A new CD will be released in summer 2021: cello solos and duos with piano, violin, oboe d’amore, recorder (with: Katharina Gohl Moser, Anton Kernjak, Helena Winkelman, Matthias Arter and Conrad Steinmann).

Detlev Müller-Siemens, György Kurtág, Felix Baumann, Bruno Karrer, Lars Heusser, Leila Pfister, Katharina Gohl Moser, Jürg Kienberger

Neo Profils
Roland Moser, Burkhard Kinzler, Kammerorchester Basel, Festival Les jardins musicauxHeinz Holliger, Kaspar, Neue Musik Rümlingen, Mathias Steinauer, Felix Profos, Matthias Arter, Helena Winkelman, Basel Sinfonietta, Anton Kernjak, Xasax Saxophonquartett