(Français) Et après 2_2

Impacts of the pandemic on musicians in Switzerland and the United States

Laurent Estoppey, composer, saxophonist, sound artist and artistic director of the Ensemble Babel Lausanne, has been a musical bridge between Europe and the United States for many years.

As expert of both continents, I invited him to state his points of view on the consequences of the corona virus pandemic relating to musical creation on both sides of the Atlantic.

Read the second part of his large-scale survey:

Portrait Laurent Estoppey©Wayne Reich

(re)inventing the aftermath ⎜2/2 

Laurent Estoppey
The most important losses and needs musicians faced during lockdown times are easily identifiable and generally shared: playing with others, playing in front of an audience, hugging family and friends.

However, this situation allowed some people to develop a great variety of long-term thoughts and projects, explore new paths, at a different pace. Approaches to the digital world and its possibilities are also very different from one person to another.

“Physical distancing opens up interesting ways of reflection and questions related to performance in a constraining framework for example, the limits of the body and the way in which sound flows out of it, inhabits the space, extends a gesture, encounters others. This kind of directions captures my attention at the moment.”


Laurent Estoppey, Caroline County

New forms of projects are born and it is still very difficult to know if they will be really satisfactory, but they do respond to a desire, an urge to create, to pursue a quest. (see links below)

Many “records” will be released in the next few years…but for which public? And at what price?

For if musicians clearly need an audience, we don’t know if the opposite is true? Has free music made its way into the minds of the (digital) public?

The example of a rock concert in Geneva in May, watched by 13’000 people of which everyone was kindly asked to pay a proposed amount or make a free offer… and only 13 people paid something, is obviously worrying.

The “revival” initiated by some cities by offering free shows – where the artists were payed – also leaves one wondering. The public is accustomed access easily and free, preventing it from being truly professionalized.

“I am afraid that as the economic situation is improving, this interlude only served to forge the next speeches on crisis and austerity, despite the promises of support regarding some essential professions and the promise to review priorities.

I hope, however, that the fact of having experienced a rare moment of “deviation” in our production pace, including in the cultural industry, will remain in the memory of a few people who will look at all this differently.”


Dragos Tara, Horde

The passion of musicians on both sides of the Atlantic is intact, but will we have the energy to make our activities viable and recognized as real professions?

Many artistic questions remain:
Do we have to reinvent the concert situation in terms of new and sustainable health standards?

Will the creation and performance modes of the recent months become the new standards and if so, will we settle for lesser quality and experiences?

Will the crisis reinforce our demands and our artistic needs or will it push towards a quasi-economic renunciation of musical practice as experienced in the USA?

What we realise, is also that musicians’ associations such as SONART or FGMC (Fédération genevoise des musiques de création) also have a very important role to play in the reflection and management of the “aftermath”.


Viva Sanchez, Brice Catherin, Numéro 2

In conclusion, two reflections by American musicians:
I believe the music scene was very exciting but definitely dying. What I miss the most is maybe something that actually never existed.

The pandemic saved me from a burnout. I appreciate this period and try to make the most of it, through meditation, reflection and gardening. The health crisis and the (potential) political awakening are extremely inspiring and stimulating for composing music and songs. »

It’s up to us to react and to dream!

Laurent Estoppey (2/2)

Here some links to specific projects carried out during lockdown times:
Atomwrec Bob Parking Garage Bidness
Brice Catherin / Noisebringers
Jacques Demierre Decálogo Sonoro – 3° entrega
Nicolas Lira 72 seconds solos
Dragos Tara Lisières (avec entre autres Patricia Bosshard, Laurent Estoppey…)
Andrew Weathers Llano Estacado Monad Band
Association Insubordinations / Cyril Bondy, Jacques Demierre, Anouck Genthon…
ensemBle baBel Walking Venezia
Hyper-Duo (Julien Mégroz et Gilles Grimaître)
Article suggested by Julien Mégroz

Quotes in italics are from musicians who participated in the survey:
Antonio Albanese, Aaron Bachelder, Cyril Bondi, Patricia Bosshard, Laurent Bruttin, Brice Catherin, Vattel Cherry, Jacques Demierre, Susan Fancher, Edmée Fleury, Antoine Francoise, Shawn Galvin, Anouck Genthon, James Gilmore, Gary Heidt, Jonas Kocher, Antoine Läng, Nicolas Lira, Julien Mégroz, David Meier, David Menestres, Luc Müller ,Raphaël Ortis, Robert Pence, Will Redman, Noëlle Reymond, Viva Sanchez, Dragos Tara, Vinz Vonlanthen, Andrew Weathers.

Many thanks to you all!

Neo-Profiles: Laurent Estoppey, Association Amalthea, Julien Mégroz, Jonas KocherDragos Tara, Ensemble Babel, Jacques Demierre

What next???

Impacts of the pandemic on musicians in Switzerland and the United States

Laurent Estoppey, composer, saxophonist, sound artist and artistic director of the Ensemble BaBel Lausanne, has been a musical bridge between Europe and the United States for many years and launched many intercontinental collaboration projects between experimental, transdisciplinary, improvised music as well as sound art.

As expert of both continents, I invited him to state his points of view on the consequences of the corona virus pandemic relating to musical creation on both sides of the Atlantic.

After conducting a large-scale survey, Estoppey concluded that the pandemic revealed the system’s fragility and encouraged a fundamental questioning of the music industry as such, but also inspired new methods of creation and collaboration.

Read his insights in the two-part series below:

Portrait Laurent Estoppey©Wayne Reich

1/2 face the facts

Laurent Estoppey
Well, let’s not beat around the bush, we’ve all been hit very heavily by this situation and not “only” financially, but deeply and on all levels, we faced an existential crisis that forces us to imagine and seek other possibilities.

Is the pandemic and its consequences experienced in the same way on both sides of the Atlantic?

To try and answer this question – since there are almost as many situations as there are musicians – at the beginning of June I sent a short questionnaire to some forty musicians who all have rather independent activities in the fields of contemporary, improvised and experimental music.


Ensemble Babel, Christian Marclay: Screenplay part.2

I was particularly touched by the feedback’s generosity and honesty, which of course reflects the need to express oneself in this time of need and frustration. I had expected rather short answers, but many developed several points and gave numerous inputs for reflection.

To my great surprise, the artistic reactions are absolutely the same for most of them.

The only big difference is that musicians in the United States have little or no possibility of compensation (knowing that fees – when they exist – are much lower than in Switzerland or Europe in general and the possibilities of private or public subsidies are five to ten times lower).


Ensemble Batida, Haiku

“We all realize that, even if money is important, it is not the main thing. The last few months have prevented projects from happening, which generates an immense feeling doubt for most of us. »

“This situation influences my life and therefore also my artistic practice, but in a rather global way, which will reveal itself entirely only later on, I believe.»

If for many Americans, making music has little to do with economic aspects, Swiss musicians faced the great precariousness of our profession through the pandemic. “Like many people in this profession, I protect myself by having a second job. »


Julien Mégroz, Défibrillation décongelée

The general reactions to the crisis were – of course – quite similar: first frustration, the reaction to the forced stop, then discovery of other spaces, physical as well as temporal, which led to a deep introspection and to a great questioning – at least until the activities seemed to start again – of the “previous” situation.

“Am I creator or project manager?”

Let’s go back to that “previous” situation with a few statements many can relate to:

In a way this shows the fragility of a system. Music is the weakest link of performing arts. Mainly because it has not been able to professionally develop and establish itself in the same way as theatre or dance.”

This crisis highlights the precarious way the musician’s profession is considered in Switzerland, one does what he or she can to earn a living and put aside enough time to create».

This brought the precariousness and dysfunctions of the creative music branch to light. »

Does this approach really generate quality or does it just add ‘events’ to the quantity of cultural products in an area?

What do I really have to say as an artist? Do I want to depend on a cultural market and state or private funding and support for a long time to come? 

Am I creator or project manager?


Laurent Estoppey, Always something there

All the issues that were already at hand before the crisis are crucial. However, there is a frightening difference on both sides of the Atlantic. Whereas the Americans have long since given up on the possibility of real income through their artistic activities (most of them teach full-time or have totally different professions “to pay the bills”, such as computer scientists, translators, graphic designers, etc. and very little time to devote to concerts), the Swiss want to believe in a greater appreciation of their art.
But: “We are asked to be creative, to bounce back, find solutions, whereas in my opinion the fight is political and the question is: do we want real and proper working conditions for artists and musicians? »
Laurent Estoppey (1/2 )

Here some links to specific projects carried out during lockdown times:
Atomwrec Bob Parking Garage Bidness
Brice Catherin / Noisebringers
Jacques Demierre Decálogo Sonoro – 3° entrega
Nicolas Lira 72 seconds solos
Dragos Tara Lisières (avec entre autres Patricia Bosshard, Laurent Estoppey…)
Andrew Weathers Llano Estacado Monad Band
Association Insubordinations / Cyril Bondy, Jacques Demierre, Anouck Genthon…
ensemBle baBel Walking Venezia
Hyper-Duo (Julien Mégroz et Gilles Grimaître)
Article suggéré par Julien Mégroz

Quotes in italics are from musicians who participated in the survey:
Antonio Albanese, Aaron Bachelder, Cyril Bondi, Patricia Bosshard, Laurent Bruttin, Brice Catherin, Vattel Cherry, Jacques Demierre, Susan Fancher, Edmée Fleury, Antoine Francoise, Shawn Galvin, Anouck Genthon, James Gilmore, Gary Heidt, Jonas Kocher, Antoine Läng, Nicolas Lira, Julien Mégroz, David Meier, David Menestres, Luc Müller ,Raphaël Ortis, Robert Pence, Will Redman, Noëlle Reymond, Viva Sanchez, Dragos Tara, Vinz Vonlanthen, Andrew Weathers.

Many thanks to you all!

Neo-Profiles: Laurent Estoppey, Association Amalthea, Julien Mégroz, Jonas KocherDragos Tara, Ensemble Babel, Jacques Demierre

“We consider space and sound as one”

On July 4 and 5, the closed-down chemical factory of Uetikon am See will host Al(t)chemiefestival, a small, carefully curated music festival presenting a wide musical spectrum ranging from classical to contemporary music, performance and sound art. The disused factory site is of particular importance in the festival context.

Die Chemische @Uetikon am See

“Die Chemische” as it’s lovingly called, is a 200-year-old chemical factory and a monument of industrial culture situated in a prime location on the lake of Zurich.

A new complex will be built there by 2028, hosting a school, offices, apartments and commercial premises. Currently artists and musicians have established studios and workshops there, as the large area will be used for cultural purposes until the conversion is completed.

Marcel Babazadeh, sound engineer, and Sophie Krayer, stage designer, have been running the Klang und Raum studio in the “Chemische” for some time now, offering sound consulting for public spaces and creating artistic projects that combine music with space. During the lockdown, the Atelier caused a sensation with live streaming of digital concerts, during which an enthusiastic social media community of well over 1000 people came together each Monday.

This is how the idea of Al(t)chemiefestival came to life.

Pianist Tamriko Kordzaia has been working with the duo for a long time and contributed to the Digital Concerts with a contemporary solo recital. She is the third member of the curators-directors team.


Tamriko Kordzaia, Karolina Öhman, Iannis Xenakis (Artarea 2020)

According to Kordzaia, the idea of promoting the musical side of the area through a festival had been around for some time now. Corona had initially inhibited the plan, but as the restrictions loosened up it became an inspiration to spontaneously take up the idea again. And – especially due to numerous requests for participation from ” starving ” artists – the project took off and expanded into a two-day festival.

Portrait Tamriko Kordzaia

Furthermore, the area is perfect regarding the current corona guidelines. According to Kordzaia: “One can play in different rooms and change places, play music indoors and outdoors, but also take a walk by the lake in between or simply linger”. For example, one concert takes place in a vintage furniture hall, while others take place outdoors.

“we would like to take advantage of the artistic synergies of the entire area” (Kordzaia)

The place is not just a backdrop for the festival, according to Babazadeh “We are in dialogue with the space, with the place and also with history”.

With the Al(t)chemiefestival, the trio of directors wants to set an example. Kordzaia  says: “Through Corona and the paralysis of all artistic activities, it is important to us to involve as many musicians from the area as possible and to give them the opportunity to play”.

The musical leitmotif of the festival is very personal, as musicians perform pieces of their own choice that they have been working on intensively during the lockdown, freshly created compositions or projects that were postponed during the break. Trombonist Nils Wolgram, for example, presents new pieces of a CD that will be released in autumn.


Nils Wogram: Sneak Preview, Soloprogramm 2020

The line-up includes both new and traditional works: composer Stefan Wirth for instance plays his own but also Beethoven’s piano works and Dominique Girod performs outside on the double bass.

There is also electroacoustics, for example by Nicolas Buzzi, as well as a sound installation, a “sonic sphere”, by Krayer and Babazadeh.


Nicolas Buzzi: ssssscccccaaaaallllleeeee, 2019

“Al(t)chemie” or “alchemy” – the (t) is in brackets and this ambiguity refers to musical variety but also to the magic of the place. “It’s a killer area – and when it mixes with sound and live performance, it becomes unique,” says Babazadeh.
Gabrielle Weber

Die Chemische

The Al(t)chemie festival will take place on July, 4 and 5 in the closed down chemical factory of Uetikon am See.

On both days there three concert blocks will start at 15h00 and given the current corona situation, the audience is kindly asked to register.

Due to the great demand, the Digital Concerts will continue until the end of August.

Al(t)chemiefestival, Digital ConcertsStefan Wirth, Dominique Girod, Nils Wogram, Kappeler-Zumthor, Karolina Öhman, Isa Wiss, Sophie Krayer, Tobias Gerber/Ensemble Werktag, Philipp Schaufelberger

Neo-Profiles: Al(t)chemiefestival, Tamriko Kordzaia, Stefan WirthNicolas Buzzi, Karolina Öhman, Peter Conradin Zumthor

The now In Sound

The renowned Swiss-based online magazine Norient, founded in 2002, has recently been integrated into the new online platform Norient Space – The Now In Sound. With a community of 700 journalists*, musicians* and scientists* from over 70 countries, this new platform bundles digital reflection on global contemporary and experimental music creation.

Snapshot Iokoi ©Norient

On March 5th, Norient Space’s beta version was launched at “Haus der Kulturen der Welt” in Berlin. A panel as well as a sound installation complemented the opening of this new “virtual transdisciplinary gallery and community platform between art, journalism and science”. The Swiss launch is scheduled for September 24.

Julia Vorkefeld was there at the Berlin launch and reports for neo.mx3 about Norient Space and the panel Life after Music Magazines-the Norient Way.

The independent Swiss music and media art platform Norient reinvents itself after almost 20 years. Culture’s glory days are over and in times when music analysis consist of the hearts and likes of the post-digital era, the challenge for music journalism is to keep innovative. The Now In Sound is Norient’s motto and the sound of now is a mirror of global events – which is what makes music journalism still relevant. The platform relaunched its project in a strategically smart way, starting from Berlin with an event in the prestigious “Haus der Kulturen der Welt”.

Snapshot Bruno Spoerri ©Norient

A relaunch is a rather brave undertaking these times. We had no idea that shortly after the Berlin launch, a virus would completely freeze all cultural industries and throw many of its actors into even greater precariousness. Not to mention that many renowned music magazines, such as Spex and Groove, had buried their analogue products and the Swiss magazine Dissonance had to abandon completely.

Independent music journalism has therefore eventually been declared an endangered species. The relaunch’s kick-off was accordingly complemented by a panel on the future of music journalism under the title “Life after Music Magazines-the Norient Way” which announced the fact that virtual, interdisciplinary, global, collaborative and transmedial should be some of the solutions for contemporary music journalism.

No – Orient: virtual, interdisciplinary, global, collaborative and transmedial..

Under the motto Connecting the dots – the network stands for shared knowledge production and its makers pursue ambitious ideas with it. Norient has been committed to diversity from the very beginning, long before it became a buzzword in the German-speaking cultural branch. Diversity not just as an empty phrase, but as serious policy for the name alone, a play on words from No and Orient, contains the avoidance musical exoticism and the associated power relations.


Norient Snaps Trailer 2020

The panel reflects the platform’s internationality and diversity and global players, such as Jenny Fatou Mbaye (Centre for Culture and the Creative Industries, City University of London), Faisal M. Khan (curator, Akaliko Collective, Dhaka) or Kamila Metwaly (music journalist, musician Savvy Contemporary Berlin) were involved.

The main focus was on how the platform could improve its content and formal orientation, with the aim of achieving more diversity, more internationality, new formats and events, and thus more quality overall.


Joy Frempong, The sample shapes the song, 2012

We care about content – is another motto and all speakers agreed that journalism in general and thus also music journalism should refocus on quality and that creating high-quality content has its price. However, since music platforms and editorial offices usually pay poorly, it is no wonder that music journalism is degenerating more and more into a badly paid hobby. It is a sad fact that music reviews are used as a corporate and marketing tool by global brands such as RedBull or Ballantines, as in these cases money would actually be available for cultural knowledge production. In order not to leave the shaping of culture to the brands, other solutions for financing independent music platforms, free of advertising, censorship and algorithms must be found. One solution the speakers pointed out could be more generosity in sharing content.

Financial precariousness in music journalism, however, was not discussed in depth and as I personally raised the issue, it was clear that all those involved were well aware of the problem. The input to consider as many professional areas as possible was however hardly convincing.

Snapshot No Orientalism ©Norient

Norient tries to finance itself through a membership model. Connoisseurs who appreciate the platform support its content through subscriptions, and selected in-depth content such as dossiers or specials is reserved for subscribers while the rest of the platform is free of charge.

Whether Norient will be able to survive with its new model is not certain but we really hope so, because in an era of ethnic backlash, such cultural platforms are deeply needed.
Julia Vorkefeld

Norient Space is currently in beta mode. The official digital launch will take place on September 24th.

Norient – The Now In Sound, Wael Elkholy, Jing Yang, Jonas Kocher, Joy Frempong/Oy

Sendungen SRF 2 Kultur, 22.1.2020

Neo-Profiles: Norient, Wael Sami Elkholy, Jing Yang, Jonas Kocher, Bruno Spoerri

“Now we can reinvent Usinesonore!”

The small and eclectic Usinesonore festival in the Bernese Jura should have taken place from June 10 to 13. Unfortunately the new resolutions and guidelines issued by the authorities and allowing certain smaller events to take place came have been communicated slightly too late, even if the new rules would have applied precisely from the first day of the festival onwards. This is all the more painful as the festival is only a biennial event and we may have to wait until 2022 for the next edition. On the other hand, the Les “Battements de l’Abbatiale” concert series in Bellelay will be taking place.

Portrait: Julien Annoni©Lucas Dubuis

Julien Annoni, co-director of Usinesonore and director of Les Battements de l’Abbatiale, tells us about new opportunities during these Covid-19 times and why streaming cannot be considered an option for these kinds of events.

Interview: Bjørn Schaeffner

Julien Annoni, Usinesonore was to take place from 9 to 13 June. What will we miss out on?
As always, a diverse programme ranging from contemporary music to traditional music and other artistic disciplines. We try to keep things as close as possible to the audience. As for the big names: Among others, a concert with Renaud Capuçon. Plus we had designed a wonderful tent again, especially for this year’s edition.

When did you realise that the festival had to be cancelled?
Early April. Two months before the official start of the festival was the very last deadline we had set, in order to keep things as harmless as possible organization wise.

Now the lockdown is over…
I’m glad, of course. It’s positive signal for Switzerland and for all those who work in the cultural field!

Doesn’t it bother you that the festival could theoretically have taken place? The authorities just decided that events with up to 300 people will be allowed again from June, 6 onwards.
The only possible way would have been to reduce Usinesonore and we knew from the beginning that this was not an option. Under these circumstances, the atmosphere of the festival would have been distorted.


Usinesonore 2018, Gérard Grisey, Le noir d’étoiles, WeSpoke

Why is that?
Because it would have happened at the expense of quality and we don’t want any compromise on that aspect.

But again: Isn’t it annoying to miss it all by a hair’s breadth?
It’s of course a pity. We had already put a lot of heart and soul into it. But in hindsight, one’s always much smarter.

What does the cancellation of the festival mean for you financially?
We’re doing relatively well. The Canton of Berne as well as the majority of the foundations supporting the festival have been very accommodating and kept their subsidies and contributions.

And what does it mean for the artists?
We can pay a large part of their fees and production costs and thus partly compensate for their work loss.

You have made the Biel festival premises which have become vacant, available to other artists free of charge.
Yes, of course, we did that very spontaneously so that people can rehearse there, or work on productions. Artists will be working there until the end of July, be it just for a few days or a week. Among others, Collective Mycelium, Camille Emaille, Lucie Tuma, Paquita Maria or Adrien Gygax with lot of enthusiasm even if nothing will be presented to the public!

Usinesonore Festival 2018

Are you, as a musician, affected by the crisis yourself?
I sure felt it financially. On the other hand, I enjoyed spending more time with my family, as in normal times I am on the road a lot.

A streaming Usinesonore was never an option?
We thought about the possibility, but decided against it. Usinesonore lives from the exchange with the audience and the whole atmosphere, which could never be replaced by a streaming format.

Trailer Usinesonore Festival 2014

Can you imagine digital formats for Usinesonore in the future?
Yes, definitely, but the outcomes are completely open. We are brainstorming, researching and setting bases something new.

Will Usinesonore take place next year?
It might, but it could also not take place until 2022. We don’t know yet. We are taking advantage of the time at hand, to intensively think about how the festival could be shaped in the future.

So you see this crisis as an opportunity?
Right. It is quite unique to get the chance to completely reinvent a festival.

Usinesonore Festival 2018

What else are you looking forward to?

To the concerts in the historical abbey of Bellelay, but those have nothing to do with Usinesonore. It is the result of three years of work, a season of ensemble concerts – I had invited Carine Zuber (Moods), Claire Brawand (Label Suisse) and Arnaud Di Clemente (Cully Jazz) as programmers. We had to cancel the part of the season, but at least some of the planned events between end of August and mid-September will take place.
Bjørn Schaeffner

Usinesonore Festival takes place biennially in June in La Neuveville. The next planned edition is in 2022.

The “Les Battements de l’Abbatiale” concert series will take place – as one of the first events in the Jura – from 29 August (Ensemble Contrechamps Genève) onwards.

Usinesonore Festival, Les Battements de l‘Abbatiale, Julien Annoni/WeSpokeKollektiv Mycelium

Neo-Profiles: Usinesonore Festival, Les Battements d’Abatiale, WeSpoke, Kollektiv Mycelium

“Sprechstunde für neue Musik” @Musikfestival Bern

“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”.

Portrait Tobias Reber © Samira Reber

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…
Gabrielle Weber

Klang-Spaziergang mit Radio.Antenne.SA © Musikfestival Bern 2019

Musikfestival Bern will take place from September 2, to September 6. This year’s festival is themed “Tectonics”.

Musikfestival Bern, 2.-6. September, Tektonik
Registrations for “Sprechstunde neue Musik”: Sprechstunde für neue Musik @Tobias Reber

Neo-Profiles: Musikfestival Bern, Tobias Reber

Open-mindedness and consistency

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.

ensemble für neue musik zürich

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.

Hanspeter Frehner Portrait

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.
Thomas Meyer

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

ensemble für neue musik zürich, Hat HutSebastian Gottschick, Liza Lim, Franz Furrer-Münch, Dieter Ammann, Hans Josephsohn, Johannes Marks, Peter Regli

Neo-Profilesensemble für neue musik zürich, Dieter Ammann, Junghae Lee

…inspired by football

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.

Gare du Nord: Klanglieferservice ©Alexa Früh

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.

Germán Toro-Peréz / Reise nach Comala, Hörspielfassung Juan Rulfo, GdN / IGNM Basel

“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.

Klanglieferservice / GdN

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

Neo-profiles:
Gare du Nord, Antoine Chessex, Eklekto Geneva Percussion Center, Lucerne Festival, Lucerne Festival Academy, Lucerne Festival Alumni, Germán Toro-Peréz, Katharina Rosenberger