Wave after wave

Friedemann Dupelius: 40+1 years of Basel Sinfonietta

Friedemann Dupelius
“An orchestra, unlike a chamber ensemble, has a certain inertia that one must first overcome in order to activate all its instruments and sounds,” says Kevin Juillerat. Although the Franco-Swiss composer is not a physicist, he is quite familiar with both properties and treatment of sound waves. Proof is the grey acoustic treatment on the walls of his current Paris residence at IRCAM, the electronic paradise. From there he discusses Waves, his first composition for the large orchestra that will be premiered on January 16, 2022 as 3rd concert of the Basel Sinfonietta’s anniversary season.  

The Sinfonietta’s history has little to do with inertia though. In 1980, enthusiastic musicians founded an orchestra that remained unique to this day with its exclusive focus on contemporary music. The Basel Sinfonietta is still self-governing and democratic with a board consisting of orchestra members and elected from within the ensemble, as is the programme commission. Daniela Martin, its managing director since September 2020 states: “Starting from its free spirit, the orchestra grew to become firmly anchored in the professional music scene”.

 

The Basel Sinfonietta likes to present thematic concerts, like the legendary “Sport and Music” programme, directed by Mark Fitz-Gerald in September 1989.

 

Without a doubt, its 40th year was also Basel Sinfonietta’s most difficult one, marked by uncertainty and distance both from the audience as well as between the musicians, instead of great anniversary celebrations. Suddenly, distances had to be kept, which also brought acoustic consequences – the much-cited distancing takes on an audible quality when the musicians are far apart in the room. With the no less difficult return to a normal line-up, the audience has also been welcomed back and with great news: the number of subscribers having increased during lockdown and times of streaming concerts. This means that the slightly belated anniversary “40+1” can now be celebrated in front of a growing pool of fans and curious people. Daniela Martin speaks highly re the Basel audience: “People get involved and there is a dense atmosphere during the concerts, a palpable enthusiasm. People are not there to criticise, but to listen with open ears to the new and newest music.”

 


Isabel Klaus, Dried – Für Orchester, UA Basel Sinfonietta 2007, in-house production SRG/SSR: One of Basel Sinfonietta’s main goals is to provide a platform for young Swiss composers. Many others have benefited from this before Kevin Juillerat, such as Isabel Klaus with her work Dried.

 
Does a contemporary music orchestra tend to look back or forward when it celebrates an anniversary? “Both.” Daniela Martin says “But mainly we look to the present and the future. What social perspectives and utopias can we illuminate in our programmes?” In this special season, the Sinfonietta is addressing issues such as migration and relationships between Western and non-European music. In October, for example, the Bolivian “Orquestra Experimental de Instrumentos Nativos” was invited to perform an intercontinental programme together with the Basel Sinfonietta, featuring music by South American and Swiss composers.

 


Roberto Gerhard, Sinfonie Nr. 4 „New York“ (UA 1967), Basel Sinfonietta 2003, in-house prodduction SRG/SSR: Migration shaped the life of the Olten-born composer Roberto Gerhard. The Basel Sinfonietta already recorded his 4th Symphony with Johannes Kalitzke in 2003; the first will be performed during the January 16 concert.

 

The concert on the 16th of January at Stadtcasino Basel runs under the motto “Gravity Migration”, implying both external and internal migratory movements – the former, for example, in Roberto Gerhard’s work. This Catalonia born composer, who died in 1970, had family roots in Olten and wrote music from his British exile. He is represented with his 1st Symphony, dating from 1952/53. With Hèctor Parra, the journey goes inwards and at the same time into the widest distances – his 2011 work InFALL is about gravity and cosmological meditations on human existence.  

 

With Waves, commissioned to Kevin Juillerat, the Basel Sinfonietta continues its mission to offer a platform to young Swiss composers – especially those who, like Juillerat, have never written for orchestra before. Does he feel pressured by the task? “Rather challenged, even though I work a lot with electronic as well as rock music influences, I always felt connected to the symphonic tradition. It doesn’t scare me. The orchestra is a great instrument.”

 

Portrait Kevin Juillerat © Didier Jordan / Archiv Basel Sinfonietta

 

The 1987 born composer and saxophonist, thereby reveals his approach to the symphonic entity, which he sees it as a great meta-instrument able to create new timbres through combination and slow processes. He also incorporates techniques from electronic music, such as ring modulation – a simple form of sound synthesis in which two sound signals can be manipulated to create a third and new one.

 

Kevin Juillerat, Le vent d’orages lointains – for piano and strings, Camerata Ataremac / Gilles Grimaitre 2018, in-house production SRG/SSR: Layers of timbre and slowly changing textures can also be found in Kevin Juillerat’s “Le vent d’orages lointains” (2018) for piano and strings.

“In my last electroacoustic pieces, I worked a lot with slowly evolving textures. I wanted to implement that with the orchestra as well, so towards the end of the piece there’s a drone, that is a very long held tone, which is changed in its spectrum through ring modulation.” Specifically, Juillerat puts tones on the drone to go with this modulation, derived from the core cell of his piece: six notes obtained from the letters B-A-S-E-L and SI for Sinfonietta. “I worked a lot on ever changing timbres, trying to disguise the individual instruments in terms of their identification. It’s all about colours,” Juillerat emphasises.  

 

It was this quality of his music that impressed Baldur Brönnimann when he performed a piece by Juillerat with the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne. That’s why the Basel Sinfonietta main conductor suggested Juillerat for the commissioned work, which will make its first waves before the Basel audience on 16 January. As slowly as an orchestra needs to really get going – and, once it is moving, as gracefully as the Basel Sinfonietta would like to tackle the next 40+1 years.
Friedemann Dupelius

You can enjoy a large selection of the Basel Sinfonietta audio and video archive on its neo.mx3 profile.

 

Basel Sinfonietta: Saison 40+1:
upcoming season

IRCAM, Roberto Gerhard, Daniela Martin, Hèctor Parra, Baldur Brönnimann, Orquestra Experimental de Instrumentos NativosOrchestre de Chambre de Lausanne

neo-profiles:
Kevin Juillerat, Basel Sinfonietta, Isabel Klaus, Gilles Grimaitre

Nature’s superiority

Eiger, a new opera by Fabian Müller, will be premiered by Theater Orchester Biel Solothurn on December 17. Christian Fluri spoke to the composer before the premiere about his relationship with this mountain, which fascinated him for a long time. 

Christian Fluri
“The story of the second attempt to scale the Eiger’s north face can hardly be topped drama wise,” says composer Fabian Müller enthusiastically about his work. In 1936, two German climbers, Toni Kurz and Andreas Hinterstoisser, along with two Austrian colleagues, were the first to attempt to scale the mountain’s mighty north face. They failed and all four died. The film and opera director Philipp Stölzl already devoted himself to this story in his 2008 film Nordwand, now writer and librettist Tim Krohn and Fabian Müller are giving it another go. When asked if they had been influenced by the movie, Müller denies. “We tell the drama from a completely different angle and although the historical framework is the same, the story allows a lot of freedom.”

 

Portrait Fabian Müller rehearsing Eiger zVg SOBS 2021

 

 

The story of the Eiger opera tells the initial enthusiasm with which the climbing tour began, through the looming failure, all the way to the battle against death, which even expert Toni Kurz loses in the end. “The opera is about powerlessness of men against nature’s superiority.” Müller gives the mountain a voice – a woman’s voice. “As it were the song of the mountain, which, towards the end of the opera, gazes in bird’s-eye view over the storm, the drama and the weather’s wildness. The dying man is torn between last attempts to save his life and the mountain’s seductive song, which makes him slip more and more into a surreal, otherworldly state.”

 

At the foot of the Eiger

 
16 years before the premiere of the opera, Fabian Müller had already been dealing with the Eiger and its north face. In 2004, he was commissioned by the Interlaken Music Festival to write
Symphonische Skizze Eiger and did so in his composer’s cottage, a chalet in Grindelwald, at the foot of the mountain, where he had spent his holidays with his parents as a child and teenager.

 

Fabian Müller, Eiger – Eine symphonische Skizze, UA 2004, Latvian Symphony Orchestra, Dirigent Andris NelsonsMüller integrates music history in his compositions. In his Symphonische Skizze Eiger (2004), he partly used serial techniques.

 

 

“Since my childhood I have been connected with the mountain landscapes around Grindelwald” says Müller about this place of inspiration. After his training, the chalet became a retreat where his creativity could flourish. When he wrote his symphonic sketch in 2004, “the Eiger looked down on me, watching me scribble my notes on the paper,” he says.  

 
Even at that time, he thought that the 1936 drama would make excellent operatic material. “Now, starting from the sketch, I have developed the music into the opera and used everything that is in the sketch in some way – although rarely identically,” he explains.  
“I encounter many of my former pieces like a stranger and in general, it’s often quite hard for me to dive back into an older composition of mine. The
Symphonische Skizze Eiger, on the other hand, has always remained present. Perhaps because the opera was still to be written.” However, the opera’s composition hardly ever took place at the foot of the Eiger, but mostly at home in Zurich.
 

The lyrics’ musicality


Müller began his composing work with Tim Krohn’s libretto on his table. He has great confidence in the musicality of his librettist, with whom he is already working for the third time: “Tim Krohn has an affinity for music and a great understanding of the musicality that a libretto must have. There was nothing in his text for which a musical solution could not be found.”  Even tricky passages became a delightful challenge. Of course, he maintained an intensive exchange with Tim Krohn; but “in the end, we didn’t make a single change to the libretto.”

 
Both German and the Austrian alpinists of that period showed closeness to National Socialism in their thinking and often in their acts as well which is also a subject of Tim Krohn’s libretto. It draws the characters in their ambivalence, Müller notes. “Their political stance resonates in the drawing of their characters. It also becomes a problem when it comes to trust each other, which is essential in climbing. This characters’ ambivalence also finds expression in my music.”

 

Portrait Tim Krohn zVg SOBS

 

While Müller was still in the composing process – for the opera with a large orchestra – he received a commission for Eiger from Theater Orchester Biel Solothurn (TOBS). After completing the score, he therefore wrote an additional version for chamber orchestra, which will now be premiered in Biel in a production by Barbara-David Brüesch and directed by  Kaspar Zehnder.

 

Letting music happen 

But what does Müller’s music sound like? He is certainly not one of the experimental composers, nor does he want to be. He is convinced that the tonal possibilities of a symphony orchestra are exhausted today. But something new can arise in the combination and the connection of sounds and sound figures.  
 
In his compositions, Müller always keeps music history in mind: he is not afraid to use traditional harmonies or sound structures. His points of reference are Gustav Mahler, young Arnold Schönberg, Alban Berg, as well as the French music of the early 20th century and feels related to today’s Scandinavian, Eastern European and Anglo-American composers, to name but a few.

 


Fabian Müller, Munch’s Traum(a) für Violine Solo, UA 2010:Müller’s music is about emotional expression. He cites Gustav Mahler, young Arnold Schönberg or Alban Berg, but also György Ligeti and Olivier Messiaen as music points of reference.

 

Of course, he has intensively studied the German and French avant-garde of the post-war period and its history – such as the serial technique, which for him, however, clearly belongs to the past. “György Ligeti already overcame it in 1961 with his grandiose work Atmosphères, and the same goes for others of his contemporaries.Ligeti and Olivier Messiaen are important pillars for him. but he also greatly appreciates the composers “who broke new ground in the 1970s” – away from experimental paths, such as the Finn Einojuhani Rautavaara (1928-2016), with whom he was linked by a long correspondence.  

Müller describes himself as an intuitive composer who is always concerned with emotional expression. “Once the composition process has begun, I let myself be guided by the music itself. As to why my music sounds the way it does, all I can really say is that it’s the music I perceive internally when I’m doing what interests me most, namely composing.”
Christian Fluri

 


Composer Fabian Müller introduces his opera Eiger

 

Theater Orchester Biel Solothurn, opera Eiger
Premiere on December 17, 2021 at Theater Biel, further performances during season 21/22

Toni Kurz, Andreas Hinterstoisser, Philipp Stölzl, Tim Krohn, Gustav Mahler, Arnold Schönberg, Alban Berg, György Ligeti, Olivier Messiaen, Einojuhani Rautavaara

neo-profiles:
Fabian Müller, Sinfonie Orchester Biel Solothurn

Into the Future with experimental Music

SONIC MATTER Festival to start in Zurich
What does the city sound like underground? Does music sound different when it’s played for a single person? Can it help to survive in a damaged ecosystem? December 2 to 5 2021, artists and festival organisers of SONIC MATTER Festival in Zurich will be looking for answers to these and other questions of our time.

 

George Lewis Soundlines Skirball © Digitice Media Team

 

Friederike Kenneweg
This year’s festival motto is TURN. Different formats, like of course concerts, but also exhibitions and round tables, address such moments of change in music, but also in environment and society.

The Walcheturm art space, for example, will be transformed into a 48-hour listening and video lounge during the festival under the title “weichekissenheisseohren”.

 

Danceable music, anticipating the catastrophe

 

At the same venue, Andreas Eduardo Frank explores the relationship between „Musik&Katastrophen“ (“music & catastrophes”) in the “border line club culture”. Being electrified, expecting the inevitable, tense and on the verge of discharge – Frank translates this pandemic era attitude to life into electronic music with his synthesiser. The tense audience can let the steam out by dancing. At the end of the festival, the GLENN will loudly invite the Walcheturm art space audience to dance.

 

Process-oriented and sustainable

 

The festival should be process-oriented and sustainable, as artistic director Katharina Rosenberger put it in an interview with SRF 2 Kultur in May 2021. The composer has founded a collective with artist and director Julie Beauvais and cultural manager as well as music journalist Lisa Nolte to manage the festival. The three women attach great importance to long-term cooperation with artists and the continuous development of contact with the audience. That’s why they also have a SONIC MATTER website, serving as platform for artistic exchange, research and encounters. Some of the results of this collaboration will be presented during the festival.

SONIC MATTER_OPENLAB, for example will feature works by artists, scientists and activists from Bolivia, Canada, Ecuador, the USA, Brazil and Switzerland in a joint performance. From very different places in the world, all these actors use their respective means to draw attention to the threats facing our planet. In a deep listening experiment, these different voices, approaches and perspectives are made accessible to the audience.

The SONIC MATTER_village explores the sound of Zurich’s city districts together with its residents. Audio pieces have been created during workshops with residents and will be presented in the festival programme.

The opening concert at the Schauspielhaus Zurich will feature the International Contemporary Ensemble from New York under the title CONNECTIVITY. The programme includes compositions by George Lewis, Nicole Mitchell, Helga Arias and Murat Çolak. A work by the Swiss composer Jessie Cox from Biel, but currently studying in New York and very recently premiered at Lucerne Festival Forward, will also be performed.

 


Jessie Cox’s Black as a Hack for Cyborgification, world creation 2020 online (concert recording october 7th 2021 with International Contemporary Ensemble, Target Margin Theatre in Brooklyn) will be performed at concert CONNECTIVITY.

 

The orchestra’s sensuality

Entirely in the spirit of the festival’s motto, the orchestra concert in the Tonhalle Zurich will feature Dieter Ammann’s 2010 work TURN, which traces the transformation from one state of things to another with the means of the orchestra. “Exactly where the music becomes quite clear, easily graspable for the listener, the turn happens, a turning point at which the previous sonority completely implodes and abruptly changes into another sound image,” says Dieter Ammann about his work. “It’s comparable to a scene on a stage, where lighting and technology suddenly create a new atmosphere.”

 

Dieter Ammann, Glut for orchestra, world premiere september first 2019 Lucerne Festival Academy, conductor George Benjamin, inhouse-production SRG/SSR

 

Das Stück für großes Orchester dropped.drowned von Sarah Nemtsov aus dem Jahr 2017 spielt auf feinsinnige Art mit den Klangfarben des Orchesters und macht im Gegensatz dazu Wandlungsprozesse erfahrbar, die sich eher allmählich vollziehen.

 

Chasing the sound of the city

 

Those who want to tune their ears to this kind of sensuality by listening to the sounds of the city can do so on Friday afternoon during a listening walk with sound artist Andres Bosshard, who will set out from the viaduct at the Markthalle in search of special soundscapes or tranquillity and listen, among other things, to the water murmuring of the river Limmat.

At the sound trail “Unter der Klopstockwiese” by sound artist Kaspar König, Zurich’s sound is presented from a completely different perspective: from down below. „Begehbare Hörlandschaft unter der Erde“ (“walkable listening landscape under the earth”) opens a distorted listening world, turning familiar sounds into something alien: enraptured and ghostly.
Friederike Kenneweg

 

Kaspar König let’s us listen to the sound of Zürich over/under the earth..

 

Julie Beauvais / Lisa Nolte / Katharina Rosenberger, Andres Bosshard, George Lewis, Nicole Mitchell, Helga Arias, Sarah NemtsovInternational Contemporary EnsembleKaspar König

 

FESTIVAL SONIC MATTER, 2.-5.12.21:
SONIC MATTER_OPENLAB
SONIC MATTER_village

 

concerts mentioned:
2.12.21, 20h, Schauspielhaus Zürich Schiffbau-Box: CONNECTIVITY,
3.12.21, 19:30h, Tonhalle Zürich: TURN
5.12.21, 19h, Alte Kaserne: DIĜITA

 

broadcasts SRF 2 Kultur:
Musik unserer Zeit, 8.12.21, 20h: Sonic matter – ein neues Festival in Zürich, Redaktion Moritz Weber
neoblog, 11.11.21: neue Hörsituationen für neue Musik – Lucerne Festival Forward / u.a. zur UA von Jessie Cox, Autorin Gabrielle Weber
neoblog, 17.11.20: musique de création – Geheimtipp aus Genf im GdN Basel: Gabrielle Weber: Interview mit Jeanne Larrouturou zum Projekt Diĝita

neo-profiles:
Festival Sonic Matter, Katharina Rosenberger, Jessie Cox, Dieter AmmannAndreas Eduardo Frank, Ensemble Batida, Kaspar König

New listening environments for new music

Gabrielle Weber
Lucerne Festival Forward
– the festival’s name sounds like the future, which is exactly what the new Lucerne Festival for Contemporary Music stands for. Ist fisrt edition will take place from November 19 to 21. The Lucerne Festival is thus once again committing to new and cutting-edge music and creating another platform for its Lucerne Festival Contemporary Orchestra (LFCO), freshly founded this summer.  

Future means diversity, mindfulness in dealing with each other and the environment, a close dialogue with the audience and examination of essential questions of our time. Behind the intitution is not a single head, but an 18-member collective, which sets new standards, as the responsibility for an entire festival belongs to a collective of young musicians, composers and performers.

Before the opening, I spoke with Stephen Menotti, trombonist and co-curator from Basel, as well as with Swiss composer Jessie Cox, who will have his new piece “Alongside a Chorus of Voices for ensemble” premiered.

 

Portrait Jessie Cox ©Adrien-H.-Tillmann / zVg. Lucerne Festival Forward. Cox’ Musik is dealing with the Universe and our future in it.

 

The curative process behind the festival programme is elaborate. In April 2021 calls for entries in the Academy network started and the network reached some 1300 musicians, consisting of musicians from all over the world who have attended the Festival Academy at some point and played in the former Academy Orchestra and later in the Alumni Orchestra. Many of them now also play in the LFCO. On the one hand, one could apply for a ‘Leadership Programme’, on the other hand for a ‘Call for Proposals’ with own concert programmes. The many high-quality, complementary applications led to the high number of 18 curators, says Menotti. He is delighted that he can now be part of the curatorial collective as co-curator and contemporary leader.

The newly elected collective started by examining the concert proposals. Certain ‘leitmotifs’ came up again and again, Menotti explains. The future of our planet, our coexistence and our interaction with nature, but also experimentation with concert forms and listening environments. These themes became the festival’s common thread and shaped the final concert programmes.

The uniqueness about this unusually large curatorial collective and its work was that the participants came from very different corners of the world, like the USA, Asia or Canada, bringing very different perspectives. In this way, everyone could benefit from the others and a truly “democratic team” emerged, says Menotti.   

The festival starts on Friday evening with an ‘opening/happening’ in KKL and on Europaplatz with “Workers Union”, an openly interpretable piece by the recently deceased Dutch composer Louis Andriessen from 1975 – a kind of politically engaged, rhythmic and explicitly loud street music between classical music and jazz. The fact that the audience is physically involved is welcome here, unlike in the classical concert formats.

LFCO’s musicians strike quieter notes at the «Kunstmuseum im KKL», where they improvise to works by artist Viviane Suter. In doing so, they interpret Suter’s works, hanging in the middle of the room, as visual scores. The importance of creating new listening environments is once again highlighted as the audience does not sit on chairs, but moves freely through the space with the musicians.

Intimate listening situations are proposed in the realm of the so-called one-to-one performances by violinist, performer and curator Winnie Huang, who – in short solo performances for only one listener – adapts her performance, facial expressions and body language individually to her counterpart.

 

LFCO concerts

 

Four concerts in the KKL concert hall will be performed by the LFCO ensemble, directed by Mariano Chiachiarini and Elena Schwarz. The concerts bear titles such as “Water/Nature“, “From darkness to light” or “Rainfall“. A mixture of works by young and established composers, all involving the space, with the musicians moving around the concert hall, or involving the audience. One piece even takes place in the dark.

Kirsten Milenko, ‘Traho‘ for orchestra, a composition commissioned by the Roche young composer commission, was premiered at the Lucerne Festival 2021 by LFCO, directed by Lin Liao at KKL Luzern.

 

 

Water and Memory” by Annea Lockwood stands for learning from nature. The piece by the New Zealand-American electronic pioneer develops from a polyphonic humming, with the performers distributed around the room coming up with their personal memories – and finally involving the audience in the collective humming.

 

Portrait Annea Lockwood © Nicole Tavenner / zVg. Lucerne Festival Forward. Lockwood’s music deals with the balance between nature and mankind, in the piece “Water and Memory” water carries personal memories.

 

Space travelling

The new piece by Jessie Cox is also future oriented. The composer and percussionist, who grew up in Biel, is currently studying in New York and is considered an international insider tip. His music is focussing on nothing less than the universe and our future in it with an approach he describes as “space-travelling”, borrowing from Afrofuturism aesthetics, with the aim to create visionary future spaces in which black lives are definitely welcome.

“My music thrives on the exchange between different geographical, cultural and temporal spaces,” Cox says. In his new piece “Alongside a Chorus of Voices for ensemble”, Cox uses small bells, representing a stereotypical sound of Switzerland on one hand and African-American history on the other as they were used in the USA during slavery times to locate slaves by landlords. These different levels of meaning intertwine.

 


Jessie Cox has been working with bells for some time. In the string quartet conscious music, for instance they play a role that changes over the course of the piece – at first they can be localized, then they gradually become a free component of the piece.

 

During the performance, the musicians pass the bells on to the audience in order to raise questions about how we want to live together in the future. This also involves a confrontation with racism in Switzerland. “Music is a suitable place to negotiate this matter” says Cox.
Gabrielle Weber

Louis Andriessen, Annea Lockwood, Winnie Huang, Liza Lim, Kirsten MilenkoMariano Chiachiarini, Elena Schwarz

Lucerne Festival Forward will take place
from Friday November 19, to Sunday 21.

concerts mentioned:
Opening/Happening, Freitag, 19.11., 22h, Europlatz
Museum Concert, Samstag, 20.11., 16h, Kunstmuseum
Forward Concert 1, Samstag, 20.11.21, 19:30h: “Water/Nature
Forward Concert 2, Samstag, 20.11.21, 22h: “From Darkness to light

neo-blog-Lesende erhalten vergünstigte Karten für folgende Konzerte:
-Forward-Konzert 1: 20.11., 19.30h mit Werken von Annea Lockwood, George Lewis und Liza Lim unter Angabe des Codes PRO1M0AR
-Forward-Konzert 2: 20.11., 22.00h mit Werken von Pauline Oliveros, Luis Fernando Amaya, José-Luis Hurtado und Jessie Cox unter Angabe des Codes PROMA1KR.

 

Radiofeatures SRF 2 Kultur:
Kultur kompakt, Fr. 19.11.21, Redaktion Annelis Berger
MusikMagazin, Sa/So, 20./21.11.21, Café mit Winnie Huang, Redaktion Annelis Berger
Musik unserer Zeit, 1.12.21: Lucerne Festival Forward – neue Hörsituationen für neue Musik, Redaktion Gabrielle Weber

neoblogs:
Exzellenzorchester für neue MusikAutor Benjamin Herzog, online 26.8.2021

Lucerne Festival – Engagement für neue und neuste Musik, Autorin Gabrielle Weber, online 1.8.2021

neo-profiles:
Jessie Cox, Stephen Menotti, Lucerne Festival Contemporary, Lucerne Festival Contemporary Orchestra (LFCO), Lucerne Festival Academy

New Music nomads

Portrait Collegium Novum Zurich – Season 21/22 – starting October 30, 2021

Since summer 2019, cellist and musicologist Johannes Knapp is Collegium Novum Zürich’s new artistic director, focussing on new artistic perspectives as well as on broadening the audience for the ensemble. The previous season having to be downscaled due to pandemic reasons, now the first season curated by Knapp can finally take off. Thomas Meyer spoke to him before the second concert, which took place on October 30, under the direction of Emilio Pomàrico in the newly restored main hall of Zurich’s “Tonhalle”.

 

Portrait Collegium Novum Zürich, Konzert Tonhalle Maag Zürich, zVg Collegium Novum Zürich ©François Volpe

Thomas Meyer
New music may not be so young anymore, but it always knows how to rejuvenate itself. This becomes clear when two works written half a century apart, a classic and a newcomer, meet in the 3rd concert of Johannes Knapp’s Collegium Novum Zürich’s (CNZ) season on December 18. Éclat-Multiples will be performed together with (Re)incarnation [Yerlik]: a central work by Pierre Boulez from 1970, next to that of a 34-year-old composer whose name not many are likely to know: Kazakh Sanzhar Baiterekov who based this work on the processes of an old Tengrist myth from his homeland, dealing with the underworld and rebirth.  

Such encounters have a long tradition at the CNZ. Since its founding in 1993, it has pursued on one hand the performance of important contemporary works, which set standards and are important for the musicians’ education, but also for the audience. CNZ has so established an important role in Zurich’s musical life and some of the musicians are part of the collegium since its foundation.  

On the other hand, the ensemble is in quest of the young, the unknown, the challenge and the opening. Cellist and musicologist Johannes Knapp is also on the lookout for “music announcing and embodying of what tomorrow will bring”. He took over the artistic direction and management two years ago, but his first season had to be reduced due to corona.

 

Portrait Johannes Knapp ©Alessandra Carosi

 

Only four concerts and in front of small audiences could take place. Therefore, some performances were streamed for Idagio. In addition, the ensemble tackled three CD projects to be completed this year, one with music by Boulez and one featuring Swiss composer William Blank, as well as a series of student-teacher double portraits such as Heinz Holliger/Sándor Veress or Klaus Huber/Willy Burkhard. That’s also why Huber’s “Remember Golgotha” opened the new season.

 


Klaus Huber, Psalm of Christ, Collegium Novum Zürich, Bariton: Robert Koller, conductor Heinz Holliger, Tonhalle Zürich, in house production SRG/SSR 2015

 

Myths and legends
 

This time the focus will be on myths and legends in contemporary music, which is more to be seen as a stimulating starting idea than an ongoing motto. According to Knapp, myths have a deep connection to music because they transcend logic and words and cannot be clearly fixed. They are attempts to deal with the uncertain, even the horror.  

Therefor several famous myths will appear in the programme: Orpheus in Orpheus falling by Sarah Nemtsov, the creation myth (Day 6) in Eufaunique by Stefano Gervasoni, the Egyptian sun god Ra in Sortie vers la lumière du jour by Gérard Grisey and Cathy van Eck, who teaches in Bern, will transform the Tonhalle into a “forest through which the wind blows” for Daphne’s myth in her new performance.

 


Gérard Grisey: Sortie vers la lumière du jour (1978), Ensemble Phoenix Basel, Leitung Jürg Henneberger, in house production SRG/SSR, Gare du Nord Basel 2016

 

Finally, the season will end with animal legends by Igor Stravinsky (Renard), Ruth Crawford Seeger or Frank Zappa, who was strongly influenced by Edgard Varèse and Stravinsky in his early days.  

 

Encounter with baroque instruments
 

Such programs also question the absolutist dogmas of new music. Why should new music always have to “sound” “new”? Can it not overcome historical boundaries? Questions like these led to an encounter with baroque instruments, specifically with La Scintilla, the early music ensemble of Zurich’s Opera, with French composer Philippe Schoeller presenting his new work Kátoptron which revisits the ancient myth of Echo and Narcissus.  

This is how Collegium Novum Zurich travels down the road. “Crazy nomads of Zurich” is how somebody once wittingly phrased the acronym CNZ, as the ensemble has no fix venue and is always looking for new ones, i.e. the Grossmünster’s crypt this year. As Knapp notes in his season editorial: “Travelling as an exploration of soundscapes by ear. Art means never arriving.”
Thomas Meyer

 

Pierre Boulez, Sanzhar Baiterekov, Sarah Nemtsov, Stefano Gervasoni, Gérard Grisey, Frank Zappa, Igor Strawinsky, Ruth Crawford Seeger, Edgar Varèse, La Scintilla, Philippe Schoeller, Emilio PomàricoChristoph Delz, Dahae BooKelley SheehanMichael Wendeberg

 

Portrait Collegium Novum Zürich @Tonhalle Maag Zürich, zVg Collegium Novum Zürich ©François Volpe

 

upcoming concerts CNZ:
Grosse Tonhalle Zürich, 30.10.21: And falls into the Netherworld, Dirigent: Emilio Pomàrico, Werke von Sarah Nemtsov, Aureliano Cattaneo, Rebecca Saunders, Stefano Gervasoni
Grosse Tonhalle Zürich, 4.12.21: Konzert 3, Dirigent: Johannes Schöllhorn, Stefan Wirth Klavier; Werke von Kelley Sheehan, Tobias Krebs, Dahae Boo, Christoph Delz

broadcasts SRF 2 Kultur:
Neue Musik im Konzert, 1.12.21: Konzert CNZ, Tonhalle Zürich, 30.10.21

neo-profiles:
Collegium Novum Zürich, William Blank, Heinz Holliger, Sandor Veress, Klaus Huber, Willy Burkhard, Cathy van Eck, Gare du Nord, Ensemble Phoenix Basel, Rebecca Saunders, Tobias Krebs

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