Sorry, this entry is only available in German.
“Sprechstunde neue Musik” (new music consultations) is an online offer by Musikfestival Bern based on the slogan: “Listening to and discussing music”. Tobias Reber, composer and performer, is responsible for the festival’s communication program. He initiated the format in 2019 already, when the consultation hours took place live and now offers them as video conferences.
Gabrielle Weber talked with Reber about this format, field recordings and Terry Riley’s work “In C”.
Recently you held the first online “Sprechstunde neue Musik”, under the title Schichtungen (Layering) you discussed Terry Riley’s piece “in C”, a work belonging to the minimal music genre, insistently focused on the note C. Why this particular work?
I decided to start with this piece because on the one hand it is accessible and on the other hand it relates to the festival theme of tectonics. It is a layering work in which layers of sound are shifted over and against each other.
Terry Riley, In C, Ensemble Ictus live, 2012
The title “Sprechstunde neue Musik” (new music consultations) is to be interpreted in an entertaining way – people are usually rather reluctant to consult their doctor…
On one hand, consultations are of course meant literally, as the idea is to speak together. At the same time, it has an ironic twist, as some sort of “hotline”, because contemporary music can also cause headaches. It has a problem with reaching a larger audience. My concern is: how can I stimulate the desire for the multi-faceted nature of this music. I often encounter the fear of having to understand everything and would like to get rid of it.
Let us take gourmet cuisine as an example or analogy. If I were to eat in a molecular restaurant, I don’t expect to have to understand that either. I am consciously embarking on something new. New music is also about getting involved sensually, trying, tasting.
“I would like to offer a large buffet.”
The consultations are unique, taking place in the here and now, albeit virtually – whoever is present experiences an exclusive interactive moment… how did that come across?
Actually, everyone thoroughly enjoyed the idea of being together in that particular moment.
There is a need to experiment with virtual encounters. We are all learning to build trust, for example with strangers via video conferencing, it is almost a new cultural technique.
The next dates are themed: “Klingende Welten” (Sounding Worlds) and “Brüche, Störungen, Falten” (Fractures, Disturbances, Wrinkles) – which sounds a bit general: can you provide further information?
“Klingende Welten” is about real sounds recorded in the “real” world, so-called field recordings. For example, the sound of earth movements recorded by dedicated sensors, or of ice floes moving or rubbing against each other, recorded by hydrophones or waterproof microphones in Arctic waters.
In the final talk, we will discuss works that have been created for a specific location, in the form of performances or sound sculptures for example.
Tobias Reber, Polyglot, 2013
The talks are completely open and aimed at experts as well as interested amateur audience: how does this combination work?
During the first online session we had a good combination of professional musicians and amateurs. All of them brought very different angles and knowledge. But we had to establish a common ground first, which was enriching for both sides.
I defined the initiative as an experiment and encouraged people to make suggestions, in order to find out together what works well.
How exactly did you approach Terry Riley’s “In C”?
I started by preparing a private, dedicated playlist on Soundcloud, which I shared and we compared three very different interpretations. There is a recording with musicians from Mali for example, where they improvise on the themes instead of repeating them, which – by the way – is absolutely in Terry Riley’s nature.
Terry Riley, Africa Express, In C Mali, live at Tate Modern, 2015
Is there anything in the next talk we can look forward to in particular?
Last winter we experienced the so-called “singing ice” phenomenon. I experienced it myself in the Upper Engadine by the frozen Lake St.Moritz. One of the recordings I bring along has to do with that…
Musikfestival Bern will take place from September 2, to September 6. This year’s festival is themed “Tectonics”.
35 years ensemble für neue music zürich
Setting significant standards since three decades: the “ensemble für neue music zürich” was founded in 1985, when contemporary music was only just beginning to emerge – today it is facing particular challenges.
A review with perspective by Thomas Meyer.
One must remember the musical situation in Zurich around 1980. The Conservatory still lived up to its name: a place of preservation, not at all focusing on creation as it is today. Premieres for instance were highly unappreciated at the Tonhalle. There were small concert series dedicated to new music, but no specialist ensemble for it. There was a lot to be done.
When the “Tage für Neue Musik” were first held in 1986, a young ensemble, simply called “ensemble für neue musik zürich” emerged. It had presented itself for the first time only one year earlier and gathered a handful of musicians who were looking for something new. The musicians supported young composers of their generation and their environment and who had a very broad concept of music. Everything started with a concert by the “Gruppo Musica Insieme di Cremona” during the Zurich Junifestwochen, with mezzo-soprano Cathy Berberian. “It was an eye-opener: I felt the urge to do something like that,” says flutist Hanspeter Frehner, who founded the ensemble with other young students and still leads it today. Together with the pianist Viktor Müller, he is the only member of the original line up.
Two essential characteristics define the ensemble: open-mindedness and consistency. Their open-mindedness is reflected, for example, by the choice of presenting female composers’ programmes from very early on, commissioning works to Liza Lim or Noriko Hisada. Another characteristic is asking jazz musicians to compose – which launched, for example, the career of Dieter Ammann. They also dedicated themselves to the visual arts, as in their homages to the Zurich sculptor Hans Josephsohn or in their collaboration with the experimental artist Peter Regli.
Verwandtschaft, composer: Junghae Lee, UA Winterthur, Villa Sträuli 2019, ensemble für neue musik zürich
But above all, they pushed music theater to a new level: the ensemble’s instrumentation is based on Schönberg’s cabaret-like “Pierrot lunaire”: flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano, complemented by percussion, similar to Peter Maxwell Davies’ “Fires of London”. With two short operas by Davies, the “ensemble” proved early on that it was possible to create grandiose musical theatre with a few, consistently applied means. Another experiment, together with director Herbert Wernicke, was a radical version of the “Merry Widow” – so bold that Léhar’s heirs promptly banned it. Since then, chamber operas have been a permanent feature of the programme. Next November, for example, the operetta “Neues vom Weltuntergang” by Dortmund composer Johannes Marks is on schedule.
Their consistency is reflected in the long collaboration among each other, but also with the composers. Noriko Hisada, from Japan, states for example, that “ensemble für neue music is one of those groups in which I have deep trust” and Sebastian Gottschick has been the ensemble’s guest conductor for a long time. These days, the “Hat Hut” record label (ezz-thetics) is releasing two new CDs with his “Notturni” as well as arrangements of Charles Ives songs. A remembrance of composer Franz Furrer-Münch, who died in 2010, is also planned for next autumn. This all shows that it’s not only a matter of featuring the big names of new music, but also about working, as well as promoting, from the base upwards…
Trailer ZUHÖAN, composition duo: Christoph Coburger / Sebastian Gottschick, UA 2015, ensemble für neue musik zürich
This is how the “ensemble” has been setting standards for some three and a half decades. Some time ago, the rumour started to circulate, that the musicians were gradually reaching retirement age. Actually, financial support from the city of Zurich will expire at the end of 2021, but Frehner says there are still a few ideas and projects beyond that. Moreover, he believes that it would be perfectly fine, if the regular city support were invested in the future, i.e. a young ensemble.
One has to consider the situation in Zurich today: New Music does not have a fixed venue such as the Gare du Nord in Basel and with the Walcheturm in Kaserneareal, at least one option for the independent scene is available. The Tage für Neue Musik are on the verge of a new conception, the orchestral concerts are not exactly bursting with innovations. Although creation is flourishing at the ZHdK and the city has a fixed chamber orchestra “Collegium Novum Zurich”, a new smaller ensemble would also require support and there is still a lot to be done.
The concerts planned for May and June were cancelled due to the current Covid-19 restrictions and will be made up on the following dates:
Stöckli/Neumann/Ustwolskaja (instead of 16.5.20): 5.2.21
CD Taufe Ives/Gottschick (instead of 14.6.20): 12.12.20
Grüsse an Regli (instead of 28.6.20): 29.6.21
Klanglieferservice (Sound delivery) Gare du Nord Basel
The Gare du Nord – Bahnhof für Neue Musik Basel team, came up with a special programme for these lockdown times: sound delivery service (Klanglieferservice).
Their motto: imaginative travel is a good way to stay mobile and keep your soul warm, especially these days.
Like any other music hall, the Gare du Nord – Bahnhof für Neue Musik Basel is closed since mid-March. As one of the most important contemporary music venues in Switzerland, it offers a unique year-round programme. In an interview with Gabrielle Weber, the artistic director Désirée Meiser, explains how Gare du Nord is coping with the current corona situation.
Désirée Meiser, the Gare du Nord website welcomes its visitors with the message: “We are working from home”: What are your days like at the moment?
We are amazed, as days are actually very busy. We’re taking care of cancellations and postponements, of course, but the programming has to go on as well. We have different chatrooms for this. Qualitatively all works well, but quantitatively it can get tiring sometimes.
You were in the middle of two seasonal highlights, “Later Born” and “Musiktheaterformen”. What does the near future look like now that all events have been cancelled for the time being?
In the worst case, we won’t be able to offer anything during this season – but that’s not certain yet. On May 8th, for example, a major cooperation project should have taken place as part of ‘Later Born’: the silent movie “The City without Jews” (1924, Karl Breslauer) with a new composition by Olga Neuwirth (premiere WienModern, 2018), performed by the Basel Symphony Orchestra. It’s a highly political project that was very important to us. But – together with the symphony orchestra – we are now planning to postpone.
Olga Neuwirth, Die Stadt ohne Juden, UA Festival WienModern, Wiener Konzerthaus 7.11.2018
How does the current situation affect you, your team and all those involved in the various projects?
It is a great challenge. We have now requested part-time work for part of the team and at the moment, we still manage somehow, but long-term forecasts are very difficult. We are trying to deal with it as solidly as possible, also with regard to the musicians and the ensembles, who find themselves in difficult situations.
Gare du Nord called for solidarity with action such as #ichwillkeingeldzurück / #solidaritätmitfreienkünstlerinnen: a very important initiative – how did it come about?
We got the idea from existing initiatives and find it important and useful. We’re discussing with the ensembles and trying to postpone certain concerts, but many are still pending. What we are experiencing is definitely great understanding from the audience as well as great empathy for all those involved in culture.
“A great deal of flexibility – also mental flexibility – is now required of everyone”
You came up with a programme to fill this gap for your audience: the sound delivery service: how did this idea originate?
Following the high streaming services demand, the idea came about to counteract this fast pace of life and the constant need to offer something new. We wanted to open windows and possibilities to browse through selected archive recordings. There are such wonderful programmes, conversations and concert recordings, especially from SRF 2 Kultur.
Performing new pieces is important and good. But a lot of great existing music is too seldom proposed. The fact that we all have to stay at home now is a great opportunity to turn our attention to works that had been forgotten.
Football was also an inspiration: as the games can no longer take place, football fans started to watch legendary games from the past. (laughs)
What is special about the sound delivery service – and why should one listen to it?
We have asked experts to send us their personal favorites and got a great flow of beautiful finds, which are always surprising and a pleasure to listen to.
aus: Klanglieferservice GdN, Tipp: Anja Wernicke, 9.4.20
Terms like ‘physical distancing’ or ‘social distancing’ are omnipresent: Do you feel socially close to your audience and your team, despite physical distance? The sound delivery service also symbolically stands for music as a unifying element…
We don’t want to overwhelm the audience with a flood of mails during this break. The sound delivery service is intended to be kind of a virtual connection, in that we find ourselves in a virtual space and listen to something together. That may give a certain comfort, but commonly experiencing live sound in a real space is something unique that cannot be replaced.
Right now, our team is incredibly precious. Despite sometimes great geographical distances, we are all highly motivated and have a strong sense of cohesion.
The emergency state as “wake-up call”
Does this Corona period also offer opportunities or potential?
One of the phenomena of this strange state of emergency triggers, is some kind of ‘wake-up call’ – we appreciate what we had and have with new awareness…
Interview: Gabrielle Weber
The sound delivery service started on March 30 and features personal highlights on the GdN homepage daily. The selections have been proposed, among others, by Mark Sattler, Author Lucerne Festival, Bernhard Günther, artistic director of WienModern and ZeitRäume Basel festivals, Anja Wernicke, managing director and main producer of ZeitRäume Basel, Uli Fussenegger, head of Neue Musik FHNW or Désirée Meiser, artistic director GdN, as well as SRF 2 Kultur music editors.
Broadcasts SRF 2 Kultur:
Musik unserer Zeit: Heinz Holliger und die Literatur
Klassiker der Moderne: Concorde Sonata von Charles Ives
Neue Musik im Konzert: Wassermusik, within: UA Katharina Rosenberger: Rein
neo.mx3: Antoine Chessex, écho/cide
The submission deadline for Impuls neue Musik’s funding 2020 is the first of May.
The competition is looking for music projects contributing to the exchange between German- and French-speaking regions, as well as cultural areas throughout Germany, France and Switzerland.
Impuls neue Musik is a transnational funding programme for contemporary music. Since years the project fund commits to creating links between the music scenes of Germany, France and Switzerland, i.e. through ‘idea workshops’ giving a concrete expression to cultural exchange on international level. In 2020, two new jury members joined the board: German composer Brigitta Muntendorf and French journalist Anne Montaron.
Gabrielle Weber interviewed Brigitta Muntendorf regarding Impuls neue Musik, the current situation, digital networking and long-term potential of international cooperation.
Brigitta Muntendorf, you usually travel a lot and constantly work with different teams and partners in different places: tell us about the current situation?
I’m currently working from home – like any other musician or composer – as all planned events have been cancelled for the time being. Trying to change that, wanting to travel or mourning cancelled events wouldn’t make any sense. What makes sense is to trust the artists, their creativity and capability to come up with ideas.
“Music can be many different things and have different meanings”
How would you personally like to contribute to Impuls neue Musik?
I am curious about themes and questions other artists or ensembles deal with, as well as the connections they seek and their motivation to do so. That’s the approach I would like to keep, when looking at projects. Artistically, I believe that contemporary music can be very broad and I would like to encourage that.
What is special about the Impuls financing…?
The focus being on international cooperation and internationality always carries the challenge of thinking on a larger scale.
Joint adventure, Ensemble C Barré und Neue Vokalsolisten, Eclat 2020
…and the combination of the three countries – Germany, France and Switzerland?
The three countries are geographically close of course, but each of them has its distinctive characteristics: Contemporary Music in France, for example, is based on a compositional background that is completely different from the one of Germany and Switzerland. At the same time, all three countries pursue similar formats, festivals and structures in their current practice. They come from different cultural origins but find themselves in a common performance ground.
“the potential to exit one’s own comfort zone”
What are the challenges of international cooperation?
Already existing contacts are essential. Many things can only be achieved by joining forces – with partners in one’s own country, but also abroad. As for Impuls Neue Musik, the main questions are: how high is the potential to exit one’s own comfort zone and what are the specific reasons that make a project meaningful and working in the mentioned countries. But curiosity can also be a factor and produce something that no one had foreseen.
… you don’t often get to meet across borders in order to brainstorm.
With regard to climate and climate change, I think it is important to carefully think about why people should meet and when other communicational means might be insufficient. The quality of a meeting primarily depends on how much thought both sides have given it in advance, not on how often one travels from A to B.
What about sustainability – does it make sense to work together just once?
Sustainability plays an important role in cooperation. In not planning single projects, but focusing on long-term cooperation for instance. The longer the planning, the more artistic benefit the partners involved will enjoy.
What do co-production projects achieve better than others?
In co-production projects, the nature of contact has a different quality. Creation is supported as such and in the early stages of a project, the specific peculiarities and characteristics of the participants are strongly taken into account.
We find ourselves in a special situation, with national borders exceptionally closed – do you consider this a threat to the basic idea of Impuls?
I believe that ‘wanting to connect’ across borders is something that is firmly rooted in our minds since the digital revolution at the very latest, especially among younger generations. The current situation calls for a new way of approaching basic questions like: how to make art, how to show art, what is the meaning of art? But also: what new ways and forces could be found in order to connect and cooperate? We have to dwell into digital approaches and interactions – keeping in mind that the digital world also has its limits.
IScreen, YouScream!, Brigitta Muntendorf, Ensemble Garage, Eclat Festival
Which direction could Impuls take in the long run? What is your vision?
Borders between art forms are becoming increasingly blurred – like between music and performance, or music and transmedia. The concept of composer and musical material are also changing. I believe this is where Impuls neue Musik should position itself more strongly and there is an even more sustainable funding project I have in mind, built upon long-term relationships with artists.
Interview, Gabrielle Weber
New jury members 2020:
After studying in Bremen, Cologne, Paris and Kyoto, Brigitta Muntendorf has been awarded numerous prizes, including the “young talents” GEMA Music Authors’ Prize in 2017. She holds a professorship at the Cologne University of Music.
Anne Montaron, Germanist and musicologist, has been working as an author at Radio France (France Musique) for more than 25 years. Her most famous format is her weekly programme on improvisation: A l’Improviste.
Impuls neue Musik was founded in 2009 on the initiative of the French Embassy in Germany, the Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication, SACEM and Bureau Export de la musique française. In the meantime, various partners from France and Germany joined the fund’s committee and its financing. Since 2020, the Institut français (Paris) acts as responsible institution, while the fund is managed in Berlin (Director: Sophie Aumüller).
Switzerland joined in 2018 with Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia as partner. Jury members for Switzerland are Xavier Dayer, composer, Thomas Meyer, freelance music journalist and Bernhard Günther, artistic director of the WienModern and ZeitRäume Basel festivals.
Shaker Kami, Nik Bärtsch und Percussions de Strasbourg, Jazzdor 2020
Funded projects are regularly shown and enthusiastically received at the most important international festivals. To name a few examples, the French-Swiss co-production between Eklekto, Geneva Percussion Center and the vocal ensemble NESEVEN for the opening of the Wittener Tage für Neue Kammermusik 2019, the Joint Venture project with Marseille’s Ensemble C Barré and the Neue Vocalsolisten at the Eclat Festival Stuttgart 2020 or the world premiere Shaker Kami project, with Nik Bärtsch and the Percussions de Strasbourg at Jazzdor Festival in Strasbourg.
Deadline for applications regarding this year’s funding is May 1, 2020 and only transnational projects with a performance date not earlier than August 1, 2020 will be considered.
La Chaux-de-Fonds’ Nouvel Ensemble Contemporain (NEC) celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and invites to its anniversary weekend. “Time to Party” is the event tied to the big birthday concert of Saturday March 14, with works by Anton Webern, Claire-Mélanie Sinnhuber and Daniel Zea, followed by a marathon of mini-concerts from Louis Jucker’s ‘Suitcase Suite’ on Sunday.
“Most people don’t immediately think of the NEC if questioned about contemporary music in Switzerland, but as soon as the ensemble is mentioned, it brings a smile to their faces.” – says Antoine Françoise, pianist and artistic director of the Nouvel Ensemble Contemporain (NEC, when asked regarding the secret weapon or superpower of NEC. Putting a smile on your face sums up NEC’s philosophy pretty well. About 25 years ago, a group of musicians from La Chaux-de-Fonds gathered together to share their passion for new music.
A group of friends – a solid institution
A lot happened in the meantime: the group became a solid institution in the Swiss music scene and new musicians, including Antoine Françoise, joined. He first joined NEC as pianist, about 13 years ago and replaced founding member Pierre-Alain Monot as artistic director in 2016.
Antoine Françoise dirigiert das Nouvel Ensemble Contemporain in: Mathis Saunier, Palindrome for String Orchestra, am Antigel Festival Genève 2019,
For Françoise, ongoing change is essential. He intends to remain artistic director as long as he’ll be able to change the NEC’s aesthetic and if he can no longer do so, he hopes to hand over the reins to someone with new and fresh ideas. But what remains despite all the change is the common love for music, so NEC can still be summed up as a group of friends who want to share their passion for new music.
A full week of partying
To celebrate its 25th anniversary, NEC is presenting itself and La Chaux-de-Fonds with an entire week of concerts, beginning with a series of mini-concerts presenting solo pieces in various city locations. On Friday, the ensemble will be equipped with self-made instruments to perform the “Suitcase Suite” by punk rock guitarist Louis Jucker, on Saturday NEC will perform the big birthday concert with the fitting title “Time to Party” and for the finale, on Sunday, the NEC musicians will present the mini-concerts’ solo pieces in public.
Saturday’s concert will be particularly representative of the Nouvel Ensemble Contemporain: starting with 1940’s Variations for Orchestra, op. 30 by Anton Webern, one of 20th century music most important work, arranged for ensemble by its former director, Pierre-Alain Monot followed by “Soliloque” by French composer Claire-Mélanie Sinnhuber. It is the first time that NEC will play a one of Sinnhuber’s works. The piece “Pocket enemy” from 2017 by Colombian composer Daniel Zea, who has worked with NEC on several occasions and composed “Pocket enemy” for Antoine Françoise, will complete the evening.
Daniel Zea, Pocket enemy, Ensemble Vortex, 2017
So first a classic of the 20th century with a greeting to the former conductor Pierre-Alain Monot, followed by a more recent work by a friend of the ensemble and the discovery of a new composer – a good summary of NEC’s philosophy. All three pieces are written for a large ensemble so that, as many NEC musicians as possible, can be involved. Françoise’s only rule for putting together NEC’s programmes is the following: “I don’t shape the programmes to please the audience, but to please my musicians and when musicians are happy, I know the audience can feel it.” Goes with NEC’s goal to put a smile on everyone’s face…
friday, march 13, 6:30pm, opening and vernissage, Théâtre ABC, Ausstellung: Annick Burion & Pablo Fernandez (opening hours Sa: 11-24h; So: 11h-20h), musical intervention: Matthieu Grandola
8:30pm Louis Jucker, The Suitcase Suite, Temple Allemand
10pm Marcel Chagrin, tourneur de 78 tours
saturday, march 14, 8:30pm, Time to party, Temple Allemand La Chaux-de-Fonds:
Anton Webern, Variations pour orchestre op. 30, nouvel arrangement pour ensemble Pierre-Alain Monod, création
Claire-Mélanie Sinnhuber, Soliloque pour ensemble
Daniel Zea, Pocket enemy pour sampler et ensemble
sunday, march 15, from 2pm, Miniatures, Temple Allemand La Chaux-de-Fonds
2pm Miniatures I
2:40pm Pierre Jodlowski: Typologies du regard pour piano et électronique
3pm Apéritif SONART
4pm Miniatures II
4:40pm Matthieu Grandola, flûte: pieces from Eliott Carter, Toru Takemitsu, Kaija Saariaho, Ofer Pelz
5:15pm MIniatures III
25ans le NEC: SRF 2 Kultur, Kultur aktuell, 12./13.3.20: editorial Annelis Berger
The Percussion Threads from Zurich to Mzansi concert at Zurich’s Rietberg Museum, is a meeting of both musicians and compositions from Switzerland and South Africa and will subsequently go on tour in the two countries.
How does classical music sound in the 21st century? How does musical exchange work in the decolonization era? And in what context should it take place?
The Swiss initiative guerillaclassics is engaged in a wide range of projects, searching for answers and investigating the current relevance and formats of classical music. In the spring of 2020, Zurich’s Cosmic Percussion Ensemble will tour South Africa with local musicians.
Cosmic Percussion Ensemble, Trailer
The event will be launched on March 6th with a concert at Zurich’s Rietberg Museum, in which new works by Swiss composer Nik Bärtsch and South African composer Neo Muyanga will be performed as part of the current FIKTION KONGO exhibition.
Hiromi Gut, artistic director and founder of guerillaclassics, who initiated this project, explains: “The Congo exhibition features an exciting change of perspective in which young Congolese artists are granted a voice. Our tour is structured in the same way, we work with musicians from Switzerland, Angola, Congo and South Africa and wish to explore different ways of playing”.
Radical and new approach to classical and contemporary music
Since its foundation in 2017, guerillaclassics has been committed to radically rethink both classical and contemporary music’s long-established structures, regarding both concert business as well concept and settings. Their diverse programmes pursue the clear goal of bringing what was usually relegated to concert halls into everyday life. The more unusual the setting, the better, whether on the road, construction sites or at a sport event in the mountains with a local yodelling club: guerillaclassics operates at the intersection of music with drama, dance and theatre, by changing the context of musical experiences with unusual concert formats.
“With guerillaclassics I wanted to fulfill the dream of making classical music an everyday part of society. To achieve this, the music must take place outside the confines of a shielded concert hall and brought into the various communities” says Hiromi Gut. For Gut, dealing with the history of apartheid and the strong social differences that still exist in South Africa is an important aspect of this project: “We play at sunrise for the commuters at Park Station in Johannesburg, Africa’s largest train station. Playing in a public space has a special relevance as access to classical European music is still associated with a white minority in South Africa”.
A link between cultures
For the South Africa tour as well as the concert at Rietberg Museum, the two composers Nik Bärtsch and Neo Muyanga have written pieces that deal with cultural exchange but also with their musical origins, placed in a larger context. The works of Zurich composer Nik Bärtsch explore different musical genres and traditions, searching for connections between cultures.
Nik Bärtsch, Ronin: Modul 45
For the journey, Bärtsch composed COSMIC APPROPRIATION for the four percussionists of the Cosmic Percussion Ensemble. He describes his approach as follows: “When composing, I like to use instruments as well as ritual techniques from different regions of the world and I am personally much more interested in how sound and playing techniques can be used, rather than in the origin of instruments. I don’t believe that music is a universal language, but I do think that there are certain codes, affinities as well as resonance and spaces that are used in the production and reception of music who are in fact universal”.
Neo Muyanga also uses various percussive traditions and traditional instruments like the ngoni or uHadi as well as the voice in his composition. The piece combines written elements with improvisation and is designed to incorporate playing styles from different regions such as the Xhosa tradition.
The audience is invited to search for the origins and roots of music and to discover something new in unusual contexts as well as to hear the old in a new way.
Trailer guerillaclassics: Percussion Threads from Zurich to Mzansi
Can a lake think? A musical tribute to the city of Biel
World premiere of Jean-Luc Darbellay’s melodrama “Belena” on February 19, 2020 at Kongresshaus Biel
The Biel Solothurn Symphony Orchestra is celebrating its 50th anniversary and to mark the event, its main conductor Kaspar Zehnder has commissioned Bernese composer Jean-Luc a bilingual work focused on the city of Biel and its surroundings.
Accordingly, Darbellay decided to collaborate with two different writers: French-speaking poet and novelist François Debluë and Guy Krneta, who writes his poetry in Swiss-German-dialect, approaching their complex texts musically in the form of a melodrama.
Rousseau and melodrama
This genre dates back to the late 18th century and is nowadays rather neglected. Between and on top of the music the words are spoken instead of sung. Its inventor is none other than the Geneva-born, French-Swiss philosopher and composer Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who in 1770 composed the very first melodrama in the history of music: “Pygmalion”.
Rousseau is at the core of Darbellays composition, as François Debluë’s text is based on a fictitious letter by Robert Walser concerning Jean-Jacques Rousseau, namely his stay on the St. Petersinsel in Lake Biel. Rousseau claimed to have spent the best time of his life there in the autumn of 1765. But the city of Berne’s Secret Council expelled the famous philosopher, also from Môtier (Val-de-Travers), where he lived with his companion Thérèse Levasseur, where he was no longer welcome and – so the story goes – stones were thrown at them. This prompts Debluë to a wide rêverie about stones. “Je sais le langage des pierres”. (French in the original text)
Guy Krneta reacts to Debluë’s text with an artistic Berndeutsch language study and develops a monologue on water set on the shores of Lake Biel “Chan e See dänke? Was würd’r dänke, wen’r chönnt dänke? und Steine Het e Schtei mau grännet?”. (Swiss-German in the original text)
“Schifere” and “Steineln”
The act of “ricochet” or throwing stones to make them bounce on water – “ds’Schifere” in Bernese dialect – is the central connection between Debluë’s and Krneta’s texts. As Krneta puts it: “Wen e Schtei über ds Wasser gumpet, vo Oberflächi zu Oberflächi, chan i ahne, wi’s isch gsi, wo d Schteine no gläbt hei, wo si gfloge sy wi Vögu” (When a stone jumps on water, from surface to surface, you can sense how it must have been, in the old days, when stones were still alive and flying like birds). In Debluë, it is round soft pebbles that bounce on water; if there were children there, they would compete in throwing them (“Steineln”). Mais il n’y a pas d’enfant (But there are no children) – in allusion to Rousseau, who placed his children in orphanages.
,Wenn ich denke‘, Guy Krneta for Jean-Luc Darbellay, Play SRF, Morgengeschichte, 5.10.2019
Jean-Luc Darbellay has decided to compose for this complex literary model, in a way that music does not try to compete with literature, but rather supports the words. The speaker should be able to develop freely and rhythm is therefore never precisely set. Sometimes music takes on an illustrative function, as for example in the case of stones flying over water. But often Darbellay simply leaves a chord to resonate or even completely renounces any presence of sound. In this way, both spoken languages come to full effect in their characteristic style and peculiarity.
Jean-Luc Darbellay, Pour une part d’enfance, für Sprecherin und Ensemble, Melodram über einen Text von François Debluë, 2018
The title “Belena” also refers to Biel, for the city’s name can be traced back to “Bĕlĕna” in linguistic history, although researchers still don’t know exactly what it refers to. Maybe a Celtic sun goddess? Or Belenus as a god of power? It remains a puzzle to this day – but fits this thoroughly “Biel”-related music-theatrical work perfectly.
Jean-Luc Darbellay, Belena, UA 19.2.2020 SOBS
The Biel Solothurn Symphony Orchestra makes its world premiere recordings available on neo.mx3, like the “Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra” (world premiere) by Jost Meier, recorded November 13, 2019 at the Kongresshaus Biel, you can stream here:
Jost Meier, Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, UA 13.11.2019 SOBS
Carnaval Bilingue, 6. Sinfoniekonzert SOBS, 19. Februar 2020, 19:30h, Kongresshaus Biel, Sinfonie-Orchester Biel Solothurn, Kaspar Zehnder – Leitung, Isabelle Freymond – Sprecherin
Antonin Dvorak, Carnaval, Konzertouvertüre op. 92
Jean-Luc Darbellay, Belena, Melodramatisches Konzert für eine Sprecherin und Orchester
Joseph Lauber, Sinfonie Nr.1
Sendungen SRF 2 Kultur: Im Konzertsaal, Do, 26.3.2020, Di, 19.5.2020