(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

Happy Birthday Nouvel Ensemble Contemporain!

La Chaux-de-Fonds’ Nouvel Ensemble Contemporain (NEC) celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and invites to its anniversary weekend. “Time to Party” is the event tied to the big birthday concert of Saturday March 14, with works by Anton Webern, Claire-Mélanie Sinnhuber and Daniel Zea, followed by a marathon of mini-concerts from Louis Jucker’s ‘Suitcase Suite’ on Sunday.

Le NEC Nouvel ensemble contemporain © Pablo Fernandez, 25 mars 2017, Temple Allemand, La Chaux-de-Fonds

Jaronas Scheurer
“Most people don’t immediately think of the NEC if questioned about contemporary music in Switzerland, but as soon as the ensemble is mentioned, it brings a smile to their faces.” – says Antoine Françoise, pianist and artistic director of the Nouvel Ensemble Contemporain (NEC, when asked regarding the secret weapon or superpower of NEC. Putting a smile on your face sums up NEC’s philosophy pretty well. About 25 years ago, a group of musicians from La Chaux-de-Fonds gathered together to share their passion for new music.

A group of friends – a solid institution 

A lot happened in the meantime: the group became a solid institution in the Swiss music scene and new musicians, including Antoine Françoise, joined. He first joined NEC as pianist, about 13 years ago and replaced founding member Pierre-Alain Monot as artistic director in 2016.


Antoine Françoise dirigiert das Nouvel Ensemble Contemporain in: Mathis Saunier, Palindrome for String Orchestra, am Antigel Festival Genève 2019,

For Françoise, ongoing change is essential. He intends to remain artistic director as long as he’ll be able to change the NEC’s aesthetic and if he can no longer do so, he hopes to hand over the reins to someone with new and fresh ideas. But what remains despite all the change is the common love for music, so NEC can still be summed up as a group of friends who want to share their passion for new music.

A full week of partying

To celebrate its 25th anniversary, NEC is presenting itself and La Chaux-de-Fonds with an entire week of concerts, beginning with a series of mini-concerts presenting solo pieces in various city locations. On Friday, the ensemble will be equipped with self-made instruments to perform the “Suitcase Suite” by punk rock guitarist Louis Jucker, on Saturday NEC will perform the big birthday concert with the fitting title “Time to Party” and for the finale, on Sunday, the NEC musicians will present the mini-concerts’ solo pieces in public.

Portrait Daniel Zea

Saturday’s concert will be particularly representative of the Nouvel Ensemble Contemporain: starting with 1940’s Variations for Orchestra, op. 30 by Anton Webern, one of 20th century music most important work, arranged for ensemble by its former director, Pierre-Alain Monot followed by “Soliloque” by French composer Claire-Mélanie Sinnhuber. It is the first time that NEC will play a one of Sinnhuber’s works. The piece “Pocket enemy” from 2017 by Colombian composer Daniel Zea, who has worked with NEC on several occasions and composed “Pocket enemy” for Antoine Françoise, will complete the evening.


Daniel Zea, Pocket enemy, Ensemble Vortex, 2017

So first a classic of the 20th century with a greeting to the former conductor Pierre-Alain Monot, followed by a more recent work by a friend of the ensemble and the discovery of a new composer – a good summary of NEC’s philosophy. All three pieces are written for a large ensemble so that, as many NEC musicians as possible, can be involved. Françoise’s only rule for putting together NEC’s programmes is the following: “I don’t shape the programmes to please the audience, but to please my musicians and when musicians are happy, I know the audience can feel it.” Goes with NEC’s goal to put a smile on everyone’s face… 
Jaronas Scheurer

Les musiciens du NEC © 2019 Pablo Fernandez. La Chaux-de-Fonds, février 2019

friday, march 13, 6:30pmopening and vernissage, Théâtre ABC, Ausstellung: Annick Burion & Pablo Fernandez (opening hours Sa: 11-24h; So: 11h-20h), musical intervention: Matthieu Grandola
8:30pm Louis Jucker, The Suitcase Suite, Temple Allemand
10pm Marcel Chagrin, tourneur de 78 tours
saturday, march 14, 8:30pmTime to party, Temple Allemand La Chaux-de-Fonds:
Anton Webern, Variations pour orchestre op. 30, nouvel arrangement pour ensemble Pierre-Alain Monod, création
Claire-Mélanie Sinnhuber, Soliloque pour ensemble
Daniel Zea, Pocket enemy pour sampler et ensemble
sunday, march 15, from 2pmMiniatures, Temple Allemand La Chaux-de-Fonds
2pm Miniatures I
2:40pm Pierre Jodlowski: Typologies du regard pour piano et électronique
3pm Apéritif SONART
4pm Miniatures II
4:40pm Matthieu Grandola, flûte: pieces from Eliott Carter, Toru Takemitsu, Kaija Saariaho, Ofer Pelz
5:15pm MIniatures III


25ans le NEC: SRF 2 Kultur, Kultur aktuell, 12./13.3.20: editorial Annelis Berger

Nouvel Ensemble Contemporain, Daniel Zea, Claire-Mélanie Sinnhuber, Louis JuckerSONART – Musikschaffende Schweiz

broadcasts SRG:
RTS, musique d’avenir, editorial: Anne Gillot
SRF 2 Kultur:
Aktuell & Kultur kompakt, 12./13.3., editorial Annelis Berger
Musikmagazin, 14./15.3., editorial Annelis Berger

neo-profiles: Nouvel Ensemble Contemporain, Daniel Zea