“In maletg da mia veta”

Gion Antoni Derungs (1935-2012) is not only Graubünden’s most prominent composer. He is also considered one of Switzerland’s outstanding musical personalities. Ten years after his death, he is receiving an extensive tribute through a biography and a Derungs Festival was held in Chur.
Portrait by Laura Decurtins.

 

Laura Decurtins
The wide-ranging works of Gion Antoni Derungs reflect artistic imagination, strong musical identity and an irrepressible creative urge; he himself described them as the “image of his life”. In his productive engagement with the local musical traditions as well as with the international musical currents of the 20th and 21st centuries, Derungs achieved an unmistakable personal style. Today, his name stands for high-quality musical works of art that range from simple songs to complex instrumental works, speaking to amateurs and professional musicians alike.


Portrait Gion Antoni Derungs zVg. Fundaziun Gion Antoni Derungs

 

Folk Songs as “Roots” and “Source”

Gion Antoni Derungs was born on September 6, 1935 in the small village of Vella in the Val Lumnezia. After his father’s premature death, the family had to make ends meet with hardly any means, but the highly talented mother – sister of the famous musician Duri Sialm – nevertheless attached great importance to the musical education of her children. Romantic piano music, operas and the folk songs of Surselva surrounded Derungs from an early age. Furthermore, he was sometimes allowed to accompany church services on the harmonium, so that he also became familiar with the old Catholic hymns of the Surselva. The “canzun romontscha” became both a musical identity root as well as a source for Derungs’ compositions.

From piano student to musical director

In 1949 Derungs entered the grammar school of Disentis abbey and was taught piano and organ by village music teacher Giusep Huonder as well as by his uncle Duri Sialm. After graduating from high school, he was offered to study at the conservatory in Zurich, where – in addition to piano – he took composition, music theory, organ, conducting and score playing lessons; while at the same time studying school singing at the music academy. In 1960, while still in his studies, he was appointed musical director in Lichtensteig (Toggenburg) as his uncle’s successor and in 1962 he was finally appointed piano and organ teacher at Chur’s Bündner Lehrerseminar, as well as organist and director of the Romansh city choirs Alpina and Rezia.

Guinea pigs and “house interpreters”

In 1968, together with Pastor Gieri Cadruvi, Derungs founded the record series “Canzuns popularas” (CPLP) to promote Romansh songs. Until 1987, 13 recordings were released with a wide variety of programmes and performers. The main interpreter was the Ensemble Quartet grischun, an elite chamber choir founded by Derungs himself and with whom he was able to try out his latest, avant-garde vocal creations, such as the Missa pro defunctis op. 57, for which he won the gold medal at the international composition competition in Ibagué (Colombia).

 

Gion Antoni Derungs, Quintett op 25 für Flöte, Klarinette, Violine, Violoncello und Klavier, in house-production SRG/SSR

 

Derungs’ colleagues at the teacher seminar, including his cousin, organist Esther Sialm, became the actual “house interpreters” of his instrumental chamber music. Between 1969 and 1971, Radio Rumantsch offered Derungs’ so-called “musica moderna” a platform – which promptly earned him an ambiguous “modernist” reputation. The works presented included the Quintet op. 25 for flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano, a “symbiotic” combination of linear-polyphonic moments with cluster sounds and noise explosions, as well as the Silhouettes op. 17b for clarinet and piano, where silhouette-like contours increasingly emerge from an initial “jumble of lines and dots”.

 

Gion Antoni Derungs, Silhouetten op. 17b für Klarinette und Klavier, in house-production SRG/SSR

 

From the avant-garde back to tonality

Derungs composed such “musica moderna” from 1968 to the mid-1970s. Even as a student, he was fascinated by the experiments of the post-war musical avant-garde, serialism, aleatoric and minimal music, but also by the Polish School of the 1960s with its sound surface and timbre music. However, he kept his distance from the Darmstadt circles and their Summer Courses for New Music, which were setting the tone at the time.

In the mid-1970s, Derungs turned to the “simpler”, neo-tonal music of postmodernism, but without wanting to join the relevant circles. He always used the musical languages of his century very freely and undogmatically, whereby everything had to have its justification. Derungs saw “hopeful perspectives” for the further development of his personal style in the regained tonality. However, since he never sought instant success, many works waited decades “in the drawer” for a first performance.

 

“Looking ahead”: breakthrough and success

Derungs achieved his breakthrough in Graubünden with a vocal work written during this period: the opera-ballet Sontga Margriata op. 78. In his perception, returning to tonality also meant getting back to his musical roots: “Preserving tradition means looking forward”, and the folk songs allowed him to create contemporary music with a native tone. From what is probably the oldest Romansh song, La canzun da Sontga Margriata, he created a contemporary work that enjoyed a successful premiere in 1981 through a Graubünden-Geneva collaboration. This nationwide success motivated him to use the Romansh language also for genres that had no tradition in Graubünden: the art song on the one hand, but above all: the grand opera, which he “invented” in 1984 with Il cerchel magic op. 101. The work received a positive response also abroad – but in Romansh-speaking Graubünden, this first “opera rumantscha” has since been regarded as a musical milestone.

 


Gion Antoni Derungs, Il cerchel magic (der magische Kreis), 1984, in house-production SRG/SSR

 

Over the years, Derungs composed a large number of instrumental works: from small-scale chamber music and solo concertos to large symphonies – all of which he composed on his own initiative. Over the years, however, he also received commissions from a wide variety of formations at home and abroad, for which he created works tailored to the performers in the shortest possible time. Furthermore, Derungs also set a crime story, a fairy tale and the dramatic life of Red Cross founder Henry Dunant to music; his later work were three sacred vocal operas for the Origen Festival in Surses, based on multilingual libretti by its director Giovanni Netzer. The works are based on a mixture of free-tonal harmonies, impressionistic colours, motet-like techniques and a strong word-sound relationship.

 

“Everyone must step down at some point”

This tonal language showed its maturity in his last a cappella choral work, the Nachtgebet Complet op. 189, which Derungs completed in 2011. In that year he was diagnosed with cancer and suddenly had to get used to the idea of imminent death. In fact, death had accompanied him since childhood and over the years it also found its way into various compositions, connecting them to a certain extent thematically, for example the Requiem op. 74 with the 2nd Symphony op. 110, the Mourning Symphony, or the Sontga Margriata with the 8th Symphony «Sein-Vergehen» (“To Be – To Pass Away”). “Everyone must step down at some point,” Derungs noted about his 8th Symphony. “And we are all aware of this.”

 


Gion Antoni Derungs, Sinfonie Nr.8, op. 158 (2002/2003), in house-production SRG/SSR

 

Gion Antoni Derungs died on September 4, 2012, two days before his 77th birthday. He left a huge oeuvre with 191 opus works and hundreds of compositions without opus numbers. As early as 1996, he was awarded the honorary title of «Orpheus der Rätoromanen» (“Orpheus of the Rhaetians”), an artist who transcends borders and transfers the local musical tradition into art. However, the highest honour that can be received by a Graubünden citizen was to follow posthumously: in 2015 Derungs was chosen by the Romansh media as “in dils nos” (one of ours).

He never denied his Romansh roots and always considered the “little wishes” of his homeland.
Laura Decurtins

Laura Decurtins is the author of the new biography on Gion Antoni Derungs, published by Chronos in the fall of 2022.

The Chur Gion Antoni Derungs Festival took place from September 1 to 4, 20220, among other places at the Theater Chur, and was mainly performed by the ensemble ö! The concerts were recorded in total on video by RTR and are available on neo.mx3.

 

Gion Antoni Derungs / Fundaziun

Duri Sialm, Giusep Huonder, Gieri Cadruvi, Quartet grischun, Esther Sialm, Giovanni NetzerHenry Dunant

radio features SRF 2 Kultur:
Neue Musik im Konzert, 14.12.22: Gion Antoni Derungs-Festival in Chur, author Cécile Olshausen

neo-profiles:
Gion Antoni Derungs, Ensemble ö!

Communiquer au-delà de la musique

Eric Gaudibert, pianist, composer and lecturer from Geneva has been a key figure in the contemporary and experimental music scene of French-speaking Switzerland. Deceased ten years ago, he influenced a whole generation of musicians as teacher and promoted important ensembles for contemporary music. From December 9 to 17, they will jointly organise a tribute festival and concert marathon in Geneva’s Victoria Hall, which will include the premiere of 22 miniatures composed by his former students.

 

Gabrielle Weber
They are called Contrechamps, Ensemble Vortex, Eklekto Geneva Percussion Center or Nouvel Ensemble Contemporain (NEC) and have two things in common, they are very active in the contemporary music scene of French-speaking Switzerland and they all have a strong connection to Eric Gaudibert.

Daniel Zea, Serge Vuille and Antoine François, artistic directors of Vortex, Contrechamps and NEC, initiated the festival as a collaborative project: “the idea came up spontaneously, talking about Eric and tackling it together came very naturally,” says Daniel Zea, because Gaudibert has been important for the development of the whole scene. The Haute école de musique Genève (HEMG) will host a conference, a film screening with table ronde, and a concert by Vortex, followed by the concert marathon with the HEMG orchestra at Victoria Hall.

 

Portrait Eric Gaudibert ©DR zVg. Contrechamps

 

Gaudibert described his urge to teach as “communiquer au-delà de la musique”, communicating beyond music. He first experienced this communication in France, where, he worked from 1962 in the fields of “animation” as well as music transmission, in rural regions, after studying piano in Lausanne and composition in Paris. After returning to Switzerland, he taught composition for many years at the Conservatoire Populaire de Genève and then at HEMG. Michael Jarrell and Xavier Dayer, both renowned composers and teachers with roots in Geneva, were his students and he accompanied many other national and international careers as an artistic guiding figure, promoter and networker.

Serge Vuille, director of Contrechamps, did not study with Gaudibert directly, but was still impressed by the “Gaudibert phenomenon” and its lasting presence in the scene, also demonstrated by how quickly other partners agreed to participate in the festival. Contrechamps works constantly with Gaudibert’s former students, be they interpreters or composers. “That’s why I wanted to show this teacher-pupil aspect and its two sides at the festival,” says Vuille.

On one hand, there is Nadia Boulanger, Gaudibert’s theory teacher in Paris: Contrechamps will perform one of her orchestral works. She taught many composers who are now performed all over the world, but her own works are rarely performed. According to Vuille, she is overlooked as composer because she is mainly perceived as a teacher.

On the other hand, Contrechamps commissioned Gaudibert’s former students with short compositions. Considering the high number of 45 graduates, “only” a regionally manageable circle of those still working in or connected with French-speaking Switzerland were asked and, with two exceptions, all of them accepted. “The strong commitment by his students was very impressive,” says Serge Vuille.

Guidelines were a duration of only one minute, but open instrumentation, from large ensemble to solo and even tape, 22 miniatures will now be performed, including works by Arturo Corrales, Fernando Garnero, Dragos Tara or Daniel Zea.

Daniel Zea highlights another aspect of the teacher-pupil communication: “We are all very grateful for what he gave us and what he made possible. At the same time, it was a game of give and take: Eric was open and curious – he was interested in what we were interested in. We influenced him, for example, with traditional music from our countries.” Zea, like some of the graduates of Gaudibert’s composition class, comes from South America. His ensemble Vortex came together in Gaudibert’s classes and was accompanied and supported by him until the end.   


Hekayât, pour rubâb, hautbois, hautbois baryton, alto et percussion, 2013, in house-production SRG/SSR, performed by Khaled Arman on the rubâb, an Arabic lute, is one of Gaudibert’s late works, in which he seeks to integrate instruments, their performers, and modes of play from other cultural spaces.

 

Electroacoustics and diversity 

Gaudibert, born in Vevey in 1936, studied in Paris with Nadia Boulanger and Henry Dutilleux. He is best known for his poetic and visual instrumental works, but there are also other, lesser-known sides: Back in Switzerland, he researched electronic sounds during the early seventies in his self-described “experimental” phase at Lausanne’s radio experimental studio.

 

Portrait Eric Gaudibert zVg. Contrechamps  

Vortex’s concert of December 10 is entirely dedicated to his electroacoustic works, which is consistent with the ensemble’s multimedia orientation: “it’s an important phase of his work that is rarely revealed,” says Daniel Zea. Together with John Menoud, composer and multi-instrumentalist, he visited Gaudibert’s widow Jacqueline and together they went through many videos, audio cassettes and scores. Pieces for instruments and tape or live electronics, often performed only once or twice, will be performed by musicians who worked closely with Gaudibert. Benoît Moreau, for example, who will play En filigrane for epinette (spinet) and tape, which was performed only once, by Gaudibert himself, at the premiere 20018 – with Moreau present.

The choice of repertoire for the final concert shows Gaudibert’s versatility. “We decided to combine key works such as Gong – his last major ensemble work – with rarely performed pieces to show the diversity of his oeuvre,” says Vuille. Gong is dedicated to pianist Antoine Françoise, who will also interpret it at the festival, together with Contrechamps. François, now an internationally sought-after solo pianist and director of the NEC, also had a close relationship with Gaudibert, who, pianist himself, accompanied and supported François’ development from their first meeting when he was 16 years and relied on his skills for Gong’s demanding part when he was only 24.

 


Gong &Lémanic moderne ensemble, in house-production SRG/SSR


In addition to his instrumental works, Gaudibert’s electroacoustic phase will also be represented at Victoria Hall: Vortex performs Ecritures from 1975 for one voice and tape, created in Lausanne’s Experimental Studio, in a new version for four voices distributed in the room. “The piece lives on with new technical possibilities, which would have been in Gaudibert’s spirit,” says Zea. Eric Gaudibert would certainly have welcomed the fact that his former students continue to work together – in communication beyond music.
Gabrielle Weber

 

Nadia Boulanger, Henri Dutilleux

 

“Eric Gaudibert, pianiste, compositeur, enseignant”. Film Plans fixes, 48mn, Suisse, 2005 : In this 2005 film portrait, Gaudibert talks about his most beloved themes, such as his fondness for literature and painting, his times in Paris, teaching and the influences of other cultures on his musical work: the film is the focus of a panel at Geneva Festival Gaudibert on December 10.

 

Festival Gaudibert:

9/10 décembre 2022, HEMG : Congrès / Concerts : Composers and lecturers Xavier Dayer, Nicolas Bolens and ethnomusicologist as well as interpreter Khaled Arman, among others, will discuss the portrait at HEMG.
17 décembre 2022, Victoria Hall Genève, 18:30h : Concert marathon Contrechamps, Eklekto, le NEC, Vortex, orchestre de la HEMG, chef d’orchestre : Vimbayi Kaziboni, Gaudibert, Boulanger, UA 22 miniatures

Neo-Profils
Eric Gaudibert, Daniel Zea, Antoine Françoise, Arturo Corrales, Fernando Garnero, Dragos Tara, Ensemble Vortex, Contrechamps, Nouvel Ensemble Contemporain, Eklekto Geneva Percussion Center, John Menoud, Benoit MoreauEnsemble Batida, Xavier Dayer, Michael Jarrell

Lucerne Festival Forward comes to “a clean end”

Jaronas Scheurer
The Lucerne Festival Forward has taken place in Lucerne from November 18 to 20, 2022. Alongside big international names such as Anna Thorvaldsdottir, Patricia Kopatchinskaja and Tito Muñoz, the programme also included the collective intervention A Clean End to end the festival.

The Lucerne composer, musician and expert on cleaning machines Urban Mäder, zVg. from Urban Mäder.

During an interview, Lucerne composer and musician Urban Mäder described himself as an expert on all kinds of cleaning machines – and there is a good reason for that. Because for the closing of this year’s Lucerne Festival Forward (LFF), for once it is not the musicians of the Lucerne Festival Contemporary Orchestra (LFCO) who are in the spotlight, but, among others, KKL’s cleaning staff and their various types of hoovers, mops and cleaning machines.


Urban Mäder and Peter Allamand: sound installation ‘Balgerei’ at the festival Alpentöne, Altdorf 2015.

Researching at 6 o’clock in the morning

After LFF’s first edition last year and the performance of Ricefall by Michael Pisaro by 49 amatuers, another participative action took place this year: A Clean End. The action is called a collective intervention and its driving forces are Urban Mäder, Nora Vetter, Pia Matthes and Peter Allamand. The intervention took place as closing event of the last concert.

But what is there to do at the end of a festival or a concert? Well, cleaning, so that the whole thing has “a clean end”. This was the premise on which the four artists based their work and dealt intensively with the used cleaning equipment. After every KKL concert, a fifteen people strong cleaning team from Vebego arrives at 6 AM on the following morning and cleans each and every corner of the place, concert hall, foyer, toilets and the numerous rooms. They do not use buckets and brooms, however, but various ultra-modern cleaning machines, which Mäder, Vetter, Matthes and Allamand studied intensively, examining exactly the different sounds they could generate, as Urban Mäder reports. They even went to the KKL at 6 o’clock in the morning to watch the Vebego team at work. Their research and work eventually gave birth to a composition for a group of amateurs who responded to a call from LFF to become the actual A Clean End performers.

The violist, composer and performer Nora Vetter, zVg. from Nora Vetter.

The team behind A Clean End

A Clean End is an initiative by Lucerne composer and improvisation teacher Urban Mäder; violist, composer and performer Nora Vetter; artist and scenographer Pia Matthes, who has a strong bond with sound art and Urban Mäder’s long-time collaborator Peter Allamand. Each of the four artists brought in a different perspective, says Nora Vetter in conversation. Urban Mäder has his very own language and a huge experience in this field, Pia Matthes has a  good feeling for dramaturgy and, as a trained product designer, an eye for visuals, Peter Allamand knows very well how things work and takes great pleasure in trying things out and fiddling around. For example, he brought a leaf blower to a meeting of the four so that they could try out directly in the café where they met how such things sounds and works. As for herself, Nora Vetter explains that, in addition to the focus on the sound and compositional aspects which she shares with Urban Mäder, the political dimension in this work has been of great importance. Thus, she says, it was important for the actual cleaning staff to appear. As a result, fourteen of the fifteen employed cleaners were actually featured and while the musicians on stage come from all over the world and are rightly celebrated for their performances, the cleaning staff, who are often migrants, usually remain hidden. Furthermore, the cliché is attached to this occupation that the cleaners unfortunately have no other choice. “But,” says Nora Vetter, “at the end of the day, both making music and cleaning are work tasks and both are equally necessary for a festival like the LFF to happen.”

 


Nora Vetter: ‘Dream Paralysis’, latenz ensemble, Zürich 2021.

To be taken seriously

To be taken seriously are perhaps the keywords that can be used to summarise the various concerns behind the collective intervention A Clean End. Both the people who do the important but invisible work of cleaning and tidying up, as well as the sonic, even musical potential of the cleaning equipment are to be taken seriously.

The concert hall of the KKL, which will be cleaned at the “clean end” on the 20th of November. ©KKL Luzern

The initiative’s aim is not to put on a funny show, but to take the sonic possibilities of the cleaning activity and the cleaning equipment seriously, says Urban Mäder. Their intervention is based on a clear musical idea, which is comparable to classical compositions. “When you compose for the orchestra, over time you get to know the woodwinds, the brass, the percussion instruments and so on. Now we know about all the cleaning machines and how they sound.” And above all – the audience finally sees the people who make sure that the KKL presents itself clean, tidy and in impeccable at every concert and can thank these mostly invisible people with the applause they deserve.
Jaronas Scheurer

 

Trailer of the intervention “A clean End” from Urban Mäder, Nora Vetter, Peter Allamand and Pia Matthes. Lucerne Festival Forward, November 20 2022, KKL Luzern.

 

The Lucerne Festival Forward took place from November 18 to 20 in Lucerne.
The collective intervention was premiered at the final concert on the 20th of November in the concert hall of the KKL.
Beside Urban Mäder and Nora Vetter, Pia Matthes and Peter Allamand are part of the team behind A Clean End.

Neo-Profile:
Urban Mäder, Nora Vetter, Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Lucerne Festival Contemporary Orchestra

The composer with the soldering iron

When she is not on the road presenting her music, which is played by the most important contemporary ensembles and large symphony orchestras, Lisa Streich lives with her family on the Swedish island of Gotland. She uses the most modern compositional techniques to create a universal musical language that speaks directly to the audience and captures today’s zeitgeist without being ingratiating. Annelis Berger tries to find out how she manages in a conversation.

 

Portrait Lisa Streich zVg. Lisa Streich

 

Annelis Berger
Contrasts, over and over again: sharp whip beats penetrate the ear, and in the gaps – these horrible gaps between the beats – hover strangely enraptured pianissimo chords, where one does not know whether the ear is deceiving itself or the orchestra musicians are softly singing along. One sits there amazed and immersed in a surprising musical language that somehow “makes sense”, although complex and multi-layered. Segel is the title of Lisa Streich’s piece, which premiered at the Lucerne Festival in 2018.

It is my first contact with the Swedish composer’s music. Later, I realised that this musical language is typical of Lisa Streich’s works: they surprise, and at the same time speak directly to the listener. One does not feel excluded, not even at first hearing. There is no hermetic superstructure that one first has to figure out to find access to the music, despite the fact that each of the pieces is the result of very elaborate intellectual, artistic and technical work.

 


In Segel from 2017, Lisa Streich used a “spectral tonality” for the first time.

 

Lisa Streich was born in Sweden in 1985, she trained as organist and later studied composition in Berlin, Stockholm, Salzburg, Paris and Cologne. She avoids the spotlight, the stage is not her thing. But in the gallery, alone at the organ, this “breathing creature that doesn’t belong to you and that smells different in every church”, that’s where she feels comfortable. The same goes for composing at home on the island of Gotland, which lies on the Baltic Sea between the Baltic States and Sweden and where, close to the sea and in the midst of a picturesque landscape, she alternately occupies herself with family fife and composition. This also includes tinkering, handicrafts, building devices. At some point, Lisa Streich started to incorporate electronics into her music, small machines that she builds in an old shed next to her house: She soldered, built, assembled and then, for example, in the piece Pietà for motorised cello and ensemble, created an almost mechanical sound that is so exciting precisely because it becomes universal through mechanical anonymity.

Pietà ends quietly. All of Lisa Streich’s pieces, without exception, end in piano. During the interview, she tells me that, until now, she has forbidden herself to allow loud endings; a fortissimo finale feels like plagiarism to her, like a worn out, cheap effect. Such statements are typical of the Swedish composer, who speaks perfect German. She has a high, almost moral claim to be honest with her music. That is why a statement by the Greek composer Georges Aperghis, according to which an artist must be a good liar, still concerns her today. Somehow, she can see what he means and it makes sense, but it doesn’t work for her, she says.

No, that doesn’t work for Lisa. Her music is instead distinguished by a playful spirituality, one not achieved through artifice, but through authenticity, honesty, not a moralistic sourness, but a sensual truthfulness. How she achieves this remains a secret, but, she says, she perhaps captures a certain feeling of the times with her music, which corresponds to today’s audience. Naturally, one does not have control over this. But sometimes something creeps into a work that hits the core of our time.

 

Portrait Lisa Streich zVg. Lisa Streich

 

So what are the most important compositional elements that make Lisa Streich’s music so authentic, exciting and “current”?

 

Spectral tonality and electronic sounds

 

There is, for example, the so-called spectral tonality, which Lisa Streich used for the first time in the above-mentioned work “Segel”. To create such floating chords, she looks for recordings of amateur choirs, which by their very nature are not perfect. She takes chords from these intonationally not quite clean recordings and makes a spectral analysis of them. She then works with this spectrogram in order to create a microtonal or “spectral tonality”. Lisa Streich says that she loves tonal music, but that through frequent playing and listening she gradually felt nothing more about it. On the other hand, when she listens to amateur choirs that don’t have a completely clean intonation, she experiences tonality in a new way. In other words, when familiar chords are a little off, you can experience major and minor anew.

 

Another compositional mean in Lisa Streich’s music is electronic sounds, which she creates by attaching small devices to the instrument. This creates a very unique, soulful, mechanical atmosphere – often in contrast with sharp ensemble sounds that collide with these mechanical “Olimpia worlds” (E.T.A. Hoffmann).

 

Echoes of Roman polychoralism

There is also an affinity with the human voice and choral traditions that runs through Lisa Streich’s oeuvre. For example, in the wonderful work Stabat for 32 voices and four choirs, written in Rome during Streich’s stay at Villa Massimo. It is one of her longest pieces and inspired by Roman polychoral music, which, unlike the Venetian, is hardly cultivated any more, as it is very expensive to perform this 400-year-old, multi-choral music. In those days, boys sang on the balconies and even in the dome of St. Peter’s, connected to the conductor only by hatches. In the church of S. Giovanni in Laterano, for example, where the choral work was first performed, there are twelve balconies. This many-choir system was originally used to create a kind of unplugged Dolby Surround sound system, which fascinated Lisa Streich and she tried to bring this sound into the 21st century in a four-choir work. The resulting piece is a kind of meditation for choir, suggesting a vast landscape, or a timeless and spaceless level into which one can fall without landing softly nor hard. One simply IS.

 


32 voices distributed over four choirs can be heard in Stabat by Lisa Streich from 2017. Here she translates the 400-year-old Roman polychoral into the 21st century.

 

Lisa Streich answers the question about religious content of such works, which already refer to an ecclesiastical tradition from their title, hesitantly. Yes, religion used to play an important role in her life. Less so today, but it is still important. However, it is less linked to a specific religion. “I am sure that there is a world that is invisible, but stronger and bigger than our visible one. Music, too, allows us to experience or feel things that are perhaps not of this world at all.”

In fact, Streich’s music offers the possibility of spiritual openings, if one allows oneself to be drawn into it. Perhaps this is precisely what appeals in the composer’s work, not the programme, but an underlying current that one consciously or unconsciously perceives.
Annelis Berger

On Saturday, October 8, at 7:3pm, the Collegium Novum Zurich will premiere her piece OFELIA at Zurich Tonhalle.

Georges Aperghis

broadcasts SRF 2 Kultur:
Musik unserer Zeit, 12.10.22, 20h / 15.10.22, 21h: Im Innern der Orgel: Lisa Streich, composer and organist, author Annelis Berger

Neo-Profiles: Lisa StreichCollegium Novum Zürich,

Thomas Adès, the alchemist

Thomas Adès, one of the most successful and played composers of our time, is “composer in residence” at the Lucerne Festival this summer 2022. In many ways, the 51-year-old Adès is a perfect fit for this year’s motto “Diversity”.

 

Moritz Weber
It is not a very common thing these days to see a busy and internationally active composer also appear regularly as a conductor and instrumentalist. British composer Thomas Adès, however, appears in the music world in many different ways: in addition to his creative work, he gives concerts as a pianist, chamber musician and song accompanist, records works and conducts his own works as well as the classical-romantic repertoire.

 

Portrait Thomas Adès ©Marco Borggreve

 

In his professional life, most of his time is spent composing, “because no one but myself can compose my pieces,” says Thomas Adès laconically in his deep bass voice.

During Lucerne Festival too, he’ll appear in all three roles, plus as conducting teacher. Playing, conducting and composing are obviously very compatible for him: “Playing the piano always goes along with it, so to speak, because I compose on the piano. But during one activity I can also well recover from the other. In contrast to the creative process, playing, for example, is a more muscular process, the fingers have to stay fit and you have to train them like a racehorse,” says Adès, showing his impressive paws.

 

Time for imagination and dreams at the piano

 

When he has time for himself, not practising or composing, he likes to take any scores from his shelf and play whatever he feels like. “It stimulates the imagination and dreaming. I love playing other people’s music, feeling its shape and form in time.” Very often it is Schumann and also Beethoven’s scores “usually don’t make it back to the shelf”. But Adès also likes to play other great composers such as Chopin, Haydn, Mozart or Couperin again and again.

He explicitly refers to François Couperin in three of his works, Sonata da Caccia (1993) for horn, baroque oboe and harpsichord, Les baricades mistérieuses (1994) for chamber ensemble and Three Studies from Couperin (2006) for chamber orchestra.

 


Thomas Adès, Three studies for Couperin for chamber orchestra, Tonhalle-Orchester, conductor Alan Gilbert, 2006, inhouse-production SRG/SSR

 

Thomas Adès generally likes to draw inspiration from already existing music. Like many contemporary composers, he draws on various styles and periods and is not an avant-gardist in the sense that his cause is to radically break with all tradition. Igor Stravinsky, for example, was and is in some respects a “guiding star” for Adès, a kind of mentor and “father figure”.

 

Varied, brilliant music

Thomas Adès achieved an international breakthrough in his early 20s. Compositions such as Still Sorrowing (1992) for prepared piano earned praise, and his stellar career was further fuelled, among other things, by winning the prestigious Grawemeyer Award for his first major orchestral work, Asyla (1997) – making him the youngest awarded composer.

 

Opera about an outcast

The choice of material for his first full-length stage work, the chamber opera Powder her face (1995) was daring and audacious. “I sat down with lyricist Philip Hensher and told him that I would like to write an opera about a person who is brought down by external forces. This would fit well with my musical language.” Hensher immediately suggested the scandalous divorce of Margaret Campbell, which had been widely exploited by the media. “We can’t do that,” was Adès’ first reaction, but the two quickly came up with ideas for individual scenes.

In the resulting tragicomic grotesque about the love affairs of hedonistic and fun-loving Duchess of Argyll, the composer was able to bring in his humor. But not only: “It was actually also about ourselves: two adolescent gay men in 90s London against the backdrop of the AIDS crisis. We felt that the society we were living in perceived us as scandalous, sacrilegious and even dangerous – a society that outrageously pretended it had never heard of oral sex. We wanted to put this and hypocrisy at the centre of my first opera. Because even if it’s hard to admit: I think there’s one or two of the Duchess’ characteristics in most of us.”

The result is a cheeky, swinging and extremely stage-effective chamber opera full of ravishing tango and music hall echoes, including a musically very explicit fellatio aria by the Duchess.

 


Thomas Adès, Powder her face, Ópera de Cámara Teatro Colón 2019

 

Towards the end of the piece, on the other hand, the composer found a touching tone for the Duchess, who is dying because of society’s given prudery and cruelty. Every note radiates compassion and identification with his character there.

Two more full-length operas with large casts followed this first coup: the modern Shakespearean opera The Tempest (2003) and the supernaturally creepy The Exterminating Angel (2016), inspired by Luis Buñuel’s film of the same title.

 

Creation as a Piano Concerto

This year’s Lucerne Festival will also feature one of Adès’ few multimedia works, a piano concerto on creation entitled In Seven Days (2008) with visuals by his then life partner, filmmaker and video artist Tal Rosner. Formally, they are variations on a chord progression that the composer already had in mind for The Tempest, but didn’t find the right place for it in the opera. One of the particularly charming moments in this concert piece is the fifth part: a tricky fugue with which Adès portrays the creation of animals and their scurrying out into the world.

 

Portrait Thomas Adès Photo © Marco Borggreve

 

Premiere of the new piece for violin and orchestra with Anne-Sophie Mutter

This year’s commission from “ Roche Commissions” is a work for soloist and orchestra, simply called “Air” and will be premiered by violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter. In contrast to Adès’ first violin concerto, which swirled up in whirling figures, the movement here seems more concentrated, almost reduced, after a first glance at the score. Mainly in quiet quarter notes, a seemingly endless song unfolds, hovering for almost 15 minutes in those ethereal the composer loves so much. “The endurance, concentration, purity and clarity of her playing inspired me to write this music” says the composer. “Musically, several lines shift against each other in a tight canon. In terms of content, it is also a contemplation on what we have experienced during this pandemic, a kind of lament. During the composition, I condensed the texture more and more, deleted a lot – as I often do – until I finally got to the essence of the music.”

 

Older and new chamber music  

The wide-ranging spectrum of Thomas Adès’ oeuvre will be rounded off with chamber music with Quatuor Diotima performing the early string quartet Arcadiana (1996) and, together with clarinettist Mark Simpson, the clarinet quintet Alchymia, premiered last year. The title refers to the alchemists of Elizabethan London around 1600: “I think all creative artists, including myself, act alchemically, so to speak. We bring motionless material to life and magically transform it into gold, if all goes well. In Alchymia I was able to express in a very intimate way how I personally feel and think about the world.”
Moritz Weber

 

Thomas Adès, faber musicTal Rosner, Philip Hensher

Thomas Adès at Lucerne Festival – concerts mentioned
20.8.22., 22h, Luzerner Saal KKL, Lucerne Festival Contamporary Orchestra, conductor Elena Schwarz, u.a. In Seven Days
27.8.22., 19:30h, Konzertsaal KKL, Anne-Sophie Mutter, a.o. Air
4.9.22., 16h, Musikhochschule Salquin Saal, chamber music Quatuor Diotima

broadcasts SRF 2 Kultur
Musik unserer Zeit, 7.9.22, author Moritz Weber
Weltklasse live aus Luzern, 27.8.22, u.a. UA “Air”, with Florian Hauser
MusikMagazin
, 10.9.22 Thomas Adès: talk with Moritz Weber
SRF-online-Text: Früher gemobbt, heute berühmt: Thomas Adès steht für Vielfalt, author Moritz Weber

neo-profiles
Thomas AdèsLucerne Festival Contemporary Orchestra

Yello – Swiss art project receives the 2022 Swiss Grand Award for Music

2022. After forty years and 14 albums together, the duo consisting of sound tinkerer Boris Blank and frontman Dieter Meier, with his sonorous voice, has been radiating from Switzerland to the world.

 

Portrait Yello zVg. Yello ©Helen Sobiralski

 

Gabrielle Weber
The rhythmic-groovy sound and word creations like “Oh Yeah” or “Claro que si” have left their mark on a whole generation of people who grew up in the eighties. Forty years later, Yello’s rhythms, word and image creations still have an impact, even though they seem to have changed very little – but only in appearance.

1981 – in ‘The evening’s young’ video, dancing, colourful glow sticks form the word Yello. A close-up of a  young man’s face: Boris Blank – from the front, from the side, his whole body in shadow play, rapid cuts, different perspectives, strong colours, then Dieter Meier at the microphone, monochrome colours changing in the background. Everything is coloured over, flows away and starts again. Cross-fades, cuts, light and colour. The sound is rhythmically varied, accompanied by spoken word singing on one pitch. An audiovisual art product that exploits its possibilities musically and visually in an experimental way but without overdoing it: simple, playfully light, elegant, self-confident and self-ironic.

 


Yello: The young, Video 1981

 

This is how Yello presents itself through the years: Blank creates the soundscapes from samples and rhythmic patterns, while Meier provides visuals and voice. Meier likes to say of himself that he is an amateur, that he has never learned anything artistic and that everything happens by pure chance, Blank, on the other hand, describes himself as a sound painter and lovingly gives his samples individual names.

If the video for The Evenings Young can look homemade, ‘Bostich’ from 1984, the song that topped the worldwide charts as a “natural born hit” on vinyl Maxisingle, is more sophisticated: with Blank and Meier as main characters, this time accompanied by rhythmically dancing devices and machine parts. It comes across as very light, with an indie touch.

 


Yelllo: Bostich, Video 1984

 

The eighties also saw the birth of Music Television, MTV, in New York: with some 50 regional spin-offs, the new distribution channel consolidated numerous pop careers. Yello’s audiovisual orientation is naturally suited to this new medium and the duo exploits it not “only” for music videos, but also to spin humorous and subversive bizarre stories, such as in the performance Dr. Van Steiner from 1994, where Blank, as rainforest researcher interviewed by Meier, plays hidden sounds and mimics them.

 


Yello Video@MTV: Dr. Van Steiner, 1994

 

These videos are cult, all the more so because Yello – in contrast to many other bands – deliberately avoids live concerts: after a few early gigs in Zurich, still as a trio – with founding member Carlos Peron – and a first legendary gig in 1984 at the Roxy DJ club in New York, Yello made itself scarce until 2016: for the album toy, when major sold-out gigs started again at Berlin’s Kraftwerk with a wind ensemble.

The fact that Yello was labelled Swiss export pop band, also through this new medium, does the duo hardly any justice, as Yello is an art project that defies common classifications and Blank and Meier were part of the experimental scenes before that. Meier attracted attention with absurd actions in Zurich and New York in the 1970s or at the Documenta in Kassel in 1972 and even represented Switzerland at the Swiss Avantgarde show in New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 1971. His subversive side can be heard in some of Yello’s music. Blank is an electronics pioneer and sample virtuoso, who started out in Zurich’s and London’s experimental electro-underground scene, inspired by jazz and new music legends such as John Coltrane, Pierre Boulez and György Ligeti. He displays the spirit of innovation into Yello’s sound paintings, to which Meier adds his deep voice.

 

Prizes from different corners

The prizes the duo has been awarded with over the years have come from different corners: Art Prize of the City of Zurich in 1997, Swiss music award for the album touch yello in 2010, Echo Prize for 35 years of Yello in 2014, to name just a few. The thick anniversary volume “Oh Yeah!”, published in 2021 with a simple black-and-white cover, Yello artfully looks back on 40 years of joint history, both musically and visually.

In the music projects that Blank and Meier pursue alongside Yello, the two explore other sides and personalities. Meier uses his voice differently in his band Out of chaos, which he founded in 2012 and for which he also composes, while Blank integrates other voices into his own projects and digs into his rich sound library with a different focus. In 2014, for example, he worked closely with singer Malia for the album Convergence, or – in the same year – he recycled and digitised old analogue pieces from the pre-Yello era for a limited special edition in all formats – vinyl, DVD, CD, cassette, in combination with own videos for Electrified. With today’s digital tools, he likes to experiment both visually and acoustically.

Sophisticated, catchy rhythms and soundscapes, combined with crisp lyrics and colourful visuals that come across as unpretentious, mixed with subversive irony and light elegance. Yello maintained this tone and image throughout 14 albums and successively, the duo adopted new technical tools and played with digitalisation.

 


Yello, Wabaduba, point, Video 2020

 

Yello, Wabaduba, point

2020: On Wabaduba their latest release and 14th album, Meier and Blank dance in sync: both around seventy years old, in a simple computer-animated, black-and-white sci-fi big-city backdrop, Meier in a suit and Blank in James Bond look, black turtleneck sweater and sunglasses. The world passes by – Meier and Blank stay – and surprise us again and again.

Regarding Yellofire, an app with which anyone can generate Yello-like sounds, developed by Blank and launched only a few years ago, Dieter Meier says: “Maybe there will be live performances with it – we still have some 30 years ahead of us.”

The two gentlemen are cool and remain true to themselves. A brand that changes gently with the times, skilfully exploits each and every new media development and yet always remains unmistakable: that’s what makes Yello trendsetters and a comprehensive art project to this day.
Gabrielle Weber

 

Portrait Yello zVg. Yello ©Helen Sobiralski

 

Yello’s and Boris Blank’s neo-profiles contain previously unreleased videos, including for example ‘The pick up’, where Boris Blank blends autobiographical material with sound and image experiments to form a personal narrative.

40Jahre Yello – Oh Yeah!: Ed. Patrick Frey; Boris Blank: Electrified 2014; Boris Blank&Malia: Convergence 2014; Malia; Dieter Meier: Out of chaos; Label Suisse, Carlos Perón

Grand Prix Musik: Yello
Other Swiss Musikprices:
L’Orchestre Tout Puissant Marcel Duchamp
Fritz Hauser; Arthur Hnatek; Simone Keller; Daniel Ott; Ripperton; Marina Viotti
Spezialpreise Musik:
AMR Genève; Daniel “Duex” Fontana; Volksmusiksammlung Hanny Christen

The price celebration will take place on September 16th September in Lausanne during Festival Label Suisse.

broadcasts SRF 2 Kultur:
Musik unserer Zeit, 27.7.22., 8pm: Yello – Gesamt-Kunstprojekt erhält Grand Prix Musik 2022, Redaktion Gabrielle Weber
Passage, 28.8.22, 3pm
MusikMagazin, 14./15.5.22: Yello – Das Schweizer Elektropop-Duo bekommt den Grand Prix Musik, Redaktion Annelis Berger

neo-profiles:

Yello, Boris Blank, Swiss Music Prize

Super instruments and beautiful monsters – Xenakis turns 100

Xenakis-Tage Zürich will take place on May 28 and 29 2022, to mark Iannis Xenakis’ 100th birthday. The festival was initiated by the musicologist Peter Révai, who managed to bring Iannis Xenakis to Zurich in 1986, during the “concert series with computer music” founded by Révai. The three concerts of the Xenakis-Tage present a wide range of the composer’s work.

 

 

Portrait Iannis Xenakis 1973 © les amis de Xenakis

 

Cécile Olshausen
Composer Iannis Xenakis (1922-2001) is usually defined as follows: Greek resistance fighter with a severe facial injury, Le Corbusier’s assistant (later also competitor), and musical mathematician. His daughter Mâkhi brings another and surprising aspect into play, reporting that her father was actually a romantic and that Johannes Brahms was his favourite composer. The book that Mâkhi Xenakis wrote about her father in 2015 is soon to be published in German and co-editor Thomas Meyer will present it in Zurich. Father and daughter were bound by a loving but also ambivalent relationship. Xenakis absolutely wanted his daughter to follow the mathematical and scientific path, with art coming later; just as he had exemplified. As a compromise, Mâkhi Xenakis studied architecture, but she became a sculptor and painter.

So apparently Xenakis loved Brahms while developing his visionary sound worlds. He worked with electronic music and percussion because he saw a great potential for sounds that had never been heard before.

 


Iannis Xenakis often worked with percussion, an instrument in which he saw great potential for new sounds, Rebonds B for percussion (1987-1989), Marianna Bednarska, Lucerne Festival 22.8.2019, SRG/SSR production

 

But he also transformed one of the most traditional genres, the string quartet, into something new. His string quartets will be performed in their entirety in Zurich by the Arditti Quartet, for whom Xenakis composed three of the four quartets. A tour de force, because the works are extremely difficult to play.


«Superinstrument» String Quartet

Goethe Bonmot’s statement that one hears “four reasonable people talking among themselves” in a string quartet does not match these works. Xenakis breaks with almost each and every tradition of the string quartet. There is no exchange of musical thoughts, no development of motifs, no individual statements. Rather, Xenakis seems to be writing for a single, intricate “super instrument”, tracing and racing through the entire tonal space, from extremely low to pointedly high, constantly changing timbres with tremoli, pizzicati of all kinds and “col legno” parts, i.e. notes played or struck with the wooden part of the bow. And above all: the four string players whiz their fingers across the fingerboards, leaving trails of fire behind. Especially in the first two quartets (ST/4 and Tetras), the glissando is Xenakis’ favourite musical medium. With it, he creates a fascinating weightlessness of sound. Xenakis also realised this floating in his architecture: the Philips Pavilion he designed for the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels, with its bold curves, is glissando music cast in concrete.

 


In Phlegra for ensemble from 1975 Xenakis’ fondness for glissandi can be heard well, Ensemble Phoenix Basel, Dir. Jürg Henneberger, Gare du Nord, 3.11.2018, SRG/SSR production

 

Rarities will also be part of the Xenakis-Tage Zürich and they reveal a completely different side of his oeuvre, namely chamber music reminiscent of folk music. These compositions belong to Xenakis’ early days. The composer was born in Romania and the very first music he heard as a child was folk music, played in the coffee houses and on the radio of his native city Brăila. That is why traditional Romanian and Greek music finds an echo in his early chamber music works.

Another aspect of Xenakis’ work will be featured during a matinée on Sunday morning in the Pavillon Le Corbusier, with his last electronic composition: GENDY3 from 1991, where Xenakis’ great dream of a composing automaton became reality. In GENDY3, the computer uses random operations to control not only the sound events, i.e. rhythm, pitch and tone sequence, but also the timbres. Compared to some of today’s computer-generated music, which is not meant to sound like a computer at all, GENDY3 embraces the fact that a machine is in charge, roaring and squeaking and humming. Xenakis once said that he hoped his music would not sound “like a monster”. But GENDY3 does sound like a living thing – a fantastic, beautiful monster.
Cécile Olshausen

 

Portrait Iannis Xenakis 1988 © Horst Tappe

Les amis de XenakisIannis XenakisJohannes BrahmsMâkhi XenakisThomas MeyerArditti QuartetLe CorbusierPhilips PavilionPeter RévaiPavillon Le Corbusier

 

Xenakis Tage Zürich, 28. and 29. May 2022

mentioned events:
Saturday 28. May, 20:00, Concert String Quartets, Arditti Quartet, Vortragssaal Kunsthaus Zürich
Sunday 29. May, 11:00, Concert and discussion, GENDY3, Pavillon Le Corbusier
Sunday 29. May, 18:00, Concert introduction with Thomas Meyer / Concert Chamber Music, Swiss Chamber Soloists, Kirche St. Peter Zürich

radio programs SRF 2 Kultur:
Musik unserer Zeit, Wednesday, 25.5.2022, 20:00, Musik und Architektur – Iannis Xenakis zum 100 Geburtstag, editor Cécile Olshausen
Musik unserer Zeit, Wednesday, 23.6.2021, 20:00, Nackte Wucht: Iannis Xenakis’ “Metastasis”, editor Moritz Weber

neo-profiles:
Iannis XenakisArditti Quartet

Dieter Ammann turns 60: a portrait

Dieter Ammann, composer of major orchestral works and self-confessed slow writer, celebrates his 60th birthday with concerts by the Basel Sinfonietta and the Lucerne Symphony Orchestra, among others.

Music editor Florian Hauser met him for a personal portrait interview:

Dieter Ammann Portrait © Dieter Ammann

 

 One soul

…of a man. Who, if he takes his time, will ask, tell, laugh and live, during an interview for example, over coffee and Easter eggs and tobacco, and very slowly, imperceptibly, gets to the point, through various layers of concentration. Or – that can also be the case – the associations jump and the topics chase each other. A meeting with Dieter Ammann is a direct expression of what is going on in his mind. Where they live: the …

 

Two souls

… in his chest. From which he sucks energy: There’s the improvising, forward-rushing one, and the composing, reflecting one. They fuel each other and one appears like the reverse image of the other. When they meet, forces that pull in different directions and stretch the music to breaking point are being created. When improvising, the performance, the fellow musicians, the groove forces you to stay in the flow and keep going. When he has an idea, he plays it. If, on the other hand, he has an idea as a composer, then he dissects it, puts it to test. That’s when this unconscious is stopped. Time is stopped. He then tries, experiments, tests the ideas to see if they are any good and how good they are. In this way, the music Ammann composes is like a frozen improvisation. “When I’m finished with a piece,” says Ammann, who is a slow writer, “it’s like a piece of jewellery for me, a gem that I’ve polished. I then put it away, look in the next box – which is completely empty and I start all over again.”

 


From 2014 to 2016, slow writer Dieter Ammann composed his orchestral work “glut”, here in the recording with the Lucerne Festival Academy Orchestra, Dir. George Benjamin, September 1, 2019, KKL Lucerne Festival, SRG/SSR production

 

Many souls

Dieter Ammann has jammed with old rocker Udo Lindenberg as well as jazz legend Eddie Harris, he played trumpet, saxophone and bass with the Donkey Kongs and in Steven’s Nude Club, and performed at the Cologne, Willisau, Antwerp and Lugano jazz festivals.

He studied composition and theory with Roland Moser, Detlev Müller-Siemens, Witold Lutoslawski and Wolfgang Rihm. Then, at the beginning of the 1990s, the Ensemble für Neue Musik Zürich presented him during a concert with composing jazz musicians. That was an initial spark with many consequences: first a CD, then awards and he became more and more known, as composer-in-residence in Davos for example and subsequently at the renowned Lucerne Festival. One prize after the other: Swiss Music Prize, main prize of the IBLA Foundation New York, sponsorship prize of the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation (one day he might receive the Siemens main prize, ‘Nobel Prize’ of music…).

What is so special about Amman’s fast, vital music? That it knows no idle time. It bears constant movement as well as the unexpected and it can constantly implode or explode.

With the result that the energy of his music immediately comes through, it is not the kind of music where you feel you have to bite through a thick shell before you can get to the core. No, the connection is quickly established, one is not only invited, but virtually pulled and carried along.

 

Even more souls

This is something that his students sense and benefit from as well. For over 30 years, Ammann has taught classical composition, jazz composition and arrangement as well as classical theory at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts. He encourages and challenges his young colleagues, because he is by no means the kind of teacher that whishes to breed successors. “I don’t want to force students into predefined aesthetic directions, but rather encourage them to go their own way and develop the musical language that is already present in each and every one of them.”

 


Two orchestral works by Dieter Ammann’s students will also be premiered at the Basel Sinfonietta’s birthday concert, including one by young composer Aregnaz Martirosyan (*1993), orchestral piece Dreilinden: first creation Armenien national Philharmonic Orchestra, Mai 14th 2021

Where else will his own language lead him? In which direction will it develop? No idea and that is just fine. “Perhaps it is precisely this uncertainty and this permanent search that really attracts me to composing. The exciting thing about composing is this “it’s-so-not-there-yet” and I have to work it out somehow.”

Ammann is the kind of guy who can watch the work do itself and observe from a bird’s eye view, so to speak. “I’m not the bird, I’m more the frog. When I see two crossed blades of grass in front of me, I have to decide whether to go around to the right or left, slip through the middle or jump over. But I can’t look at the blades of grass from above. An example: vertically, i.e. harmonically, every tone has to be set is in a meaningful relationship to every other tone. It is obvious that this leads to an extremely lengthy decision-making processes, especially in an orchestral texture. As an intuitive composer, I cannot shift any responsibility to the predisposition of the musical material, since these actually don’t exist. Apart from the pitch, the same applies to all other musical aspects, including the unplannable development of the overall form: in all matters, I am the only, always uncertain (and insecure) judge.”

Ad multos annos, dear frog!
Florian Hauser


Udo Lindenberg, Eddie Harris, Detlev Müller-Siemens, Witold Lutoslawski, IBLA-Foundation – New York, Ernst von Siemens MusikstiftungJazzfestival WillisauEstival Jazz Lugano
Basel Sinfonetta «Musik am Puls der Zeit», 23.5.22: Dieter Ammann – Sechzig Jahre im Groove, talk with Robin Keller and Baldur Brönnimann

 

birthday concerts:
Basel Sinfonietta:
Donnerstag, 26. Mai, 19h, Stadtcasino Basel : 5. Abo-Konzert «60 Jahre im Groove», Dieter Ammann: «Unbalanced instability» für Violine und Kammerorchester (2013), «Core» (2002), «Turn» (2010), «Boost» (2000/01) für Orchester, Dirigent Principal Conductor Baldur Brönnimann, Solistin Simone Zgraggen (Violine)
18h Pre-Concerttalk Dieter Amman & Uli Fussenegger (Leiter Zeitgenössische Musik Hochschule für Musik FHNW) / Vorkonzert Studierende FHNW

Sonntag, 22. Mai,19h, Club auf dem Jazzcampus Basel: Dieter Ammann live in concert im intimen Rahmen als Improvisator auf Keyboards, an der Trompete und am Bass, mit Jean-Paul Brodbeck (Piano), Christy Doran (Guitar) und Lucas Niggli (Drums, Percussion)

Luzerner Sinfonieorchester:
Dieter Ammann zum 60. Geburtstag: “Glut”, 31. 5. 2022, KKL, 19:30h, Dir. Michael Sanderling

Sendungen SRF 2 Kultur:
Musik unserer Zeit, Mittwoch, 18.5.2022, 20h / Samstag, 21.5.2022, 21h: Durchwachte Nacht. Mit und zu Dieter Ammann, Redaktion Florian Hauser.

Musik unserer Zeit, Neue Musik auf dem Sofa, Mittwoch, 23.2.2022: u.a. über glut von Dieter Ammann, mit Doris Lanz und Marcus Weiss, Redaktion Benjamin Herzog

neoblog, 21.8.2020: Ich bin einer der langsamsten Komponisten Europas, Dieter Ammann im Gespräch zum Film Gran Toccata, Autorin Gabrielle Weber

Neo-Profiles:
Dieter Ammann, Basel Sinfonietta, Wolfgang Rihm, Roland Moser, ensemble für neue musik zürich, Aregnaz Martirosyan, Davos Festival young artists in concert, Lucerne Festival ContemporarySwiss Music Prices, Luzerner Sinfonieorchester

The world’s madness

Cécile Olshausen
“Sometimes I feel like I’m living on a train,” says Helga Arias and she laughs. The Basque composer was born in Bilbao in 1984 and now lives in Switzerland. She describes herself as a nomad, because she has been on the move since her childhood and lived in many different places. In the spring of 2020, however, everything suddenly had to stop because of Corona.

 

Portrait Helga Arias zVg Helga Arias

 

Hours of video calls

Helga Arias had actually planned a longer stay in the USA; the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), an artists’ collective from New York, having invited her as composer in residence. But she had to stay in Europe because of the pandemic and the ICE‘s musicians in New York were also isolated and could not rehearse because of the lockdown. This standstill triggeerd creative energies in Helga Arias though and so the work I see you for amplified string quartet and live video was created and premiered at the opening concert of the SONIC MATTER Festival in Zurich in December 2021.

As real encounters as well as planned collective forms of work were not possible, Helga Arias brought the ensemble together through video call. First connecting individually with each member, recording sounds and tones for hours, but also having conversations about art, taste, music and mental states. She assembled audio-visual material and then distributed it among the quartet’s members. Bringing them together, even though everyone was stuck at home. An artificial, but also artful form of communication.

It was only a few hours before the premiere in Zurich that the composer and the quartet finally met in person and were able to assemble the virtually created video and score of I see you on. During the pandemic, a creative and different model of collaboration emerged, one in which all participants, both composer and players, are artistically involved on an equal level.

 

Helga Arias, I see you, International Contemporary Ensemble, UA Festival Sonic Matter Zürich, 2.12.2021 / Sound-recording: Eigenproduktion SRG/SSR

 

Intoxicated by stimuli

Helga Arias is sensitive and modern, observing everything without ever ignoring the world, including the virtual world of digital media, when composing: Hatespeech, Me Too debates and Fake News are elements of her music. “Contact with society is very important to me,” she explains, “it’s called contemporary music, so it has to be contemporary. What happens in the world also has an effect on my musical ideas.”

In her performance Hate-follow me – world premiered during the Bern Music Festival in September 2021 – Arias mixes the vocal sounds of four sopranos with intrusive signals of mobile phones and social media rush images on video: spiteful insults alternate with intrusive body poses, a mixture of senseless seduction and hatred, accompanied by incessant vibrating, ringing, tweeting and beeping.

 

Helga Arias: Hate-follow me, UA Musikfestival Bern, UA 5.9.2021

 

This oppressive excess of acoustic as well as visual inputs ist the composer’s goas though which Helga Arias draws our attention to the waterfall of messages that pours in on us every day. Even if we could read one message, it is immediately replaced by the next. The individual piece of information losing its meaning. In the process, the composer condenses sound and image in a scary, fascinating way and one begins to suspect why hate news in particular spreads so quickly and so widely.

 

“So sorry”

Hate-follow me drastically shows that the unlimited space of the World Wide Web is not used for maximum openness and diversity. Rather, the perspective narrows when influencers and bloggers spread standardised clichés and cement old role models. Instead of celebrating differentiated polyphony, uninhibited hate speech silences many on the internet. Hate-follow me ends – after a mediatic collapse – in a torrent of apologies. But this is not conciliatory, for the thousands of them “sorrys” seem tacky and hypocritical. This piece is an astonishing paradox: Helga Arias composes music that won’t let us go, by asking us to turn it off. If we do, we withdraw from the madness of the world; if we don’t, we submit to it.

 

For Helga Arias, works like Hate-follow me or I see you are opportunities to reflect on her role as composer as well as her relationship with performers and audiences: “The performers of my music are not playing machines and I am not their boss telling them what to do! It’s about complex interactions.” Also with the audience. Thus Helga Arias does not and doesn’t want to convey a message. We listeners have to find out for ourselves how to cope with the contradictions and craziness.
Cécile Olshausen

 

Portrait Helga Arias zVg Helga Arias

 

International Contemporary Ensemble

On March 26, Helga Arias will be in Ascona for a conferenza-concerto as part of the Festival Ticino Musica.

Radio programs SRF 2 Kultur:
Musik unserer Zeit: I see you – die Komponistin Helga Arias, editor Cécile Olshausen, Wednesday, 9.2.22, 20:00h / Saturday, 12.2.22, 21:00h
SRF-online, 14.2.22: Komponistin Helga Arias – Sie macht auch Hate Speech zu Musik, Text Cécile Olshausen

neo-profiles:
Helga AriasFestival Sonic MatterMusikfestival BernTicino Musica

Portrait of our time

Gabrielle Weber: Ensemble Vortex @Start of season GdN Basel 24.2.2022

Vortex – the one inside the hurricane, the overpowering one from which one cannot escape. The name says it all: whirling up and remixing – that’s what the Geneva Ensemble Vortex is all about.  

In Geneva, in French-speaking Switzerland and abroad, the Ensemble Vortex is an institution – in German-speaking Switzerland it has hardly ever performed. It will now be featured as part of „Focus Romandie“, the French-speaking Switzerland series of Basel’s Gare du Nord opening season.  

I spoke with Daniel Zea, composer, co-founder and director, about the ensemble’s perception and direction as well as the upcoming season.

 

Portrait Daniel Zea © zVg Daniel Zea

 

In the beginning, there was a common interest in exploring interfaces: improvisation, jazz, dance, theatre, installation, radiophony and visual arts. “We were united by curiosity for experimentation and fascination for the new,” says Daniel Zea. This led a handful of graduates from the Geneva Conservatoire to join forces and form the ensemble. That was in 2005 and the ensemble decided electroacoustics would always be present which “was not an obvous thing at all at the time,” says Zea.  

They come from Switzerland, Europe and South America and most of the founders are still part of the ensemble. In addition to Zea – who grew up in Colombia before moving to Geneva – its members are composers Fernando Garnero, Arturo Corrales and John Menoud, and performers Anne Gillot and Mauricio Carrasco. “We were all still studying and very young: we wanted to hear and play our pieces and those of other young composers. We wanted to work on them as freely as possible, together with the performers,” says Zea. The members – the permanent core counts about ten – often take on both roles.  

Vortex exclusively performs new pieces commissioned for the ensemble, they are premiered and then added to the repertoire. Some 150 new works have already been written by a large circle of composers.  

An important pioneer was Geneva composer and lecturer Eric Gaudibert, who supported the ensemble’s founding and stood by its side until his death in 2012. “Eric Gaudibert was an important personality for the new music scene in French-speaking Switzerland and for Vortex. He had a great network, inspired and advised us and made many things happen” says Zea. To close the season, Vortex is therefore organising a mini-festival in Geneva in order to commemorate the 10th anniversary of his death. This will take place in December, as – unlike those of other actors – Vortex’s seasons are based on the calendar year.


Eric Gaudibert, Gong pour pianofort concertante et ensemble, Lemanic Modern Ensemble, conductor William Blank,  2011/12, inhouse-production SRG/SSR

 

They always have a main theme. In season 17, the motto is ‘Resonance comes between notes and noise’ and the focus ison society after the pandemic, which reshuffled the parameters of our dealings with each other and shifted many things towards digital. Present times face a lot of pressure, which is what they want to express, says Zea.  

Good examples are the two pieces to be performed in Basel at the opening of the season: The Love letters? by Zea (premiere 2019), and Fabulae by Fernando Garnero (premiere 2016). “Both pieces reflect today’s society in different ways and paired they form a portrait of our time,” says Zea.

 

“Staging the weakening of the human being through technology”.

 

In The Love letters? two performers – a man and a woman – sit opposite to each other, both at the computer. Movements, facial expressions and glances are recorded and shown on a large video screen – live, delayed, superimposed, alienated – and translated into electronic music and text.

 

Daniel Zea: The Love Letters?, Ensemble Vortex: Anne Gillot, Mauricio Carrasco, world creation 2019

 

Zea questions communication in digital space through facial recognition. In search engines, smartphones, social media or state surveillance, it is used by algorithms, usually without us being aware of it. The title carries a question mark: Is what is recorded/shown real or is it the real actors on stage? Can feelings exchanged via digital devices be ‘real’?  

“Love Letters? is a love dialogue that shows how absurd today’s communication has become. Social media are taking over, the work stages weakening of the human being through technology,” says Zea.  

For Zea, the piece, which was written in 2018, is almost prophetic as during the pandemic, digital communication became omnipresent.

 

Alienate the supposedly familiar

 

Fernando Garnera’s Fabulae also alienates the supposedly familiar through additional perspectives. Video, electronics and additional texts add further narrative levels to well-known Grimm fairy tale Cinderella and expose outdated moral concepts. Thus, it is transposed into a bizarre digitally transformed present-day future.  

“Behind this lurks a hidden critique of today’s capitalist society, intensified by the pandemic,” says Zea.

 

Fernando Garnero, Fabulae, Ensemble Vortex, world creation 2016

 

A radically different approach to our society is conveyed by the season’s following project: Suma, a collaboration with the Cologne’s Ensemble Garage. Starting from the question of how music could be made differently today, together and in the present, now that working together from different places became a habit. The result is a kind of answer to the pandemic, says Zea. “We are collectively creating a common contemporary ritual through which music reconnects with the ‘sacred’, with nature, based on memory, ritual and shamanism. In doing so, we question today’s role of technology and communication.”  

 

Composer’s next generation

 

Vortex also regularly focusses on the next generation – not least to remain ‘young’ itself. Its biennial interdisciplinary laboratory Composer’s next generation promotes young talents. In 2021, it took place for the fourth time with five young composers or sound artists selected through a call for projects. Vortex then works closely with them for a season, the result is a carte blanche at the Archipel Genève new music festival and follow-up commissions at l’Abri, a venue for visual and sound art in the heart of Geneva. In this way, Vortex continues to bind participants to the ensemble and the Geneva scene. “Participants included Cloé Bieri, Barblina Meierhans and Helga Arias – all of them were still kind of beginners at the time and are now travelling internationally and continue to be closely associated with Vortex,” says Zea.

 

Ensemble Vortex / Composer’s next generation

 

Vortex is stirring things and shaking them up – also in Geneva, as most of the region’s contributors are associated with the ensemble through joint projects by now, plus of course the Vortexians have also made a name for themselves individually at home and abroad.  
Gabrielle Weber

 
Ensemble VortexDaniel Zea, Chloé Bieri, Anne Gillot, Mauricio Carrasco, Ensemble Garage, Festival Archipel, L’Abri, Festival acht Brücken Köln

upcoming concerts Ensemble Vortex:
23.2.22, 20h, Gare du Nord Basel: The Love letters? / Fabulae, after concert talk with the participants

Suma: Ensemble Vortex & Ensemble Garage:
6.4.22 Archipel; 2.5.22 Köln: Festival acht Brücken

remember Eric Gaudibert – Mini-Festival: 10./17.Dezember 22, Genf

neo-profiles:
Daniel Zea, Ensemble Vortex, Eric Gaudibert, Arturo Corrales, Fernando Garnero, John Menoud, Barblina Meierhans, Helga Arias, William Blank, Lemanic Modern Ensemble