Infinite game worlds  

Zeiträume Basel, Biennale for New Music and Architecture, is taking place for the fourth time this year. The festival is dedicated to the interweaving of music and space and always features new and unusual venues. Lucerne composer Michel Roth will premiere his new work “Spiel Hölle” on September 18, at Basel’s Flipperclub. Jaronas Scheurer talked to him about the piece as well as the club members’ passion for pinball.  

 

Spiel Hölle-Portrait Michel Roth © Prismago zVG ZeitRäume Basel 2021

 

Jaronas Scheurer 
Basel’s Zeiträume festival brings new music to unusual places and enables the audiences to make both musical and architectural discoveries. This year, some 20 productions will take place around the theme “Verwandlung” (Transformation), on a disused ship in Basel’s harbour area as well as in a former water filtration plant, but also at the city’s Kaserne- and Flipperclub. The latter is located in an unadorned commercial building of the greater Basel area. When entering the premises one isyou are greeted by over 50 flashing and sounding pinball machines, some of them 60 years old. For this club, Lucerne composer Michel Roth composed “Spiel Hölle”, which will be premiered by the Ensemble Soyuz21 at the Zeiträume Festival.   

Rather than on the venue’s architecture, Michel Roth mainly focuses on how the space is enlivened by the club members’ passion for these sounding boxes. What fascinates him is the social space. By approaching one of the many pinball machines, another space opens, according to Roth: “A space behind glass, which is also designed three-dimensionally with insanely elaborate constructions. A narrative space in which one is also told about Star Wars or Star Trek, thereby entering a dialogue, not only mechanically, but also concretely, as the newer machines actually speak to the player and comment on what’s happening during the game.”  

 


Michel Roth: pod for two ensembles and live-electronics (2017), Ensemble Vortex and ensemble proton bern.  pod is about musicalized game theory.

 

Overkill Pinball  

In the interview Michel Roth speaks enthusiastically about pinball machines: the way they clatter and flash and sound and loudly invite you to play again. The acoustic dimension of the gaming machines is crucial to his fascination, but isn’t a room crammed with over 50 such boxes an acoustic sensory overload? Of course, that’s where the title “Spiel Hölle” “Gaming Hell” comes from, he states. Because the “overkill”, the sensory overload, is both an aspect of the “real” gambling spaces as well as the composition’s theme and the complex acoustic environment of the pinball machines is precisely the starting point of the piece.  

It starts like a normal pinball club evening. After a welcome by the club members, the audience is allowed to have a go at the pinball machines. Imperceptibly, Michel Roth’s music begins to “smuggle” itself into the evening of games and blends into the sound atmosphere, the whole composition being based on these pinball boxes. The instruments, for example, are manipulated with components from the machines: the saxophone is filled with pinballs, the drummer plays on springs that catapult the balls into the box. The musicians do not play to a fixed score, but react and interact to what is happening around them, so exactly like the ball in the box, the composition can take one direction or another.  

 

Commentary and confrontation  

 

Michel Roth’s “Spiel Hölle” is thus derived entirely from the “real” gaming hell of the pinball club, but over time, the musical events emancipate themselves more and more from the clinking and tinkling of the machines and begin to comment ironically or confront.   

 


Michel Roth, Die Zunge des Gletschers for voice and contrabass (UA 2017), Aleksander Gabrys : Michel Roth piece treats the influence of game and coincidence on composition.

 

Michel Roth’s hope is to “bring to a boil the often very dark narration of the individual boxes and the collective vibration of this gambling hell” through his composition. Even though this year’s theme “transformation” wasn’t Roth main focus while composing “Spiel Hölle”, he hopes for a transformation in the audience, so that a “we are all actually inside a big pinball box” effect might arise. 

In “Spiel Hölle” Michel Roth and his musicians Sascha Armbruster (saxophone), Mats Scheidegger (electric guitar), Philipp Meier (keyboards and synthesizer), Jeanne Larrouturou (drums) and Isaï Angst (electronics) embark on a humorous and fascinating exploration of what is hidden in an unadorned commercial space on the outskirts of Basel: each one of the 50 blinking, sounding and clattering boxes contains its own game world full of endless possibilities. Michel Roth’s “Spiel Hölle” thus fits in very well into the Zeiträume festival: it opens up a complex network of acoustic and narrative spaces in which the audience can lose itself until “game over”.
Jaronas
Scheurer 
 

 

 

ZeitRäume Basel – Biennale for New Music and Architecture, will take place from September 9 to 19, 2021 in various locations and public spaces in the city of Basel, with numerous world premieres by (among others) Barblina Meierhans, with “Script” in the reading room of the Basel University Library (17.9.), “Niemandsland“, spatial immersion by Dimitri de Perrot at Kaserne Basel (10.-12.9.), or the opera “Poppaea” by Michael Hersch and Stephanie Fleischmann at Don Bosco (in cooperation with WienModern 10./12.9.).  


Michel Roth’s “Spiel Hölle” will be performed four times on September 18 and 19 at the Flipperclub Basel, premiere is on September 18, at 16h.   

In the festival’s pavilion on the Mittlere Brücke, live performances, sound installations, cocktails and SUISA talks or participatory activities will put you in the right mood for the festival from September 4th onwards.  

Three installations will open their doors before the festival’s official kick-off: 7.9., 18h, Jannik Giger “Blind audition“, 8.9., 19h, Cathy van Eck “Der Klang von Birsfelden” and on the ship “Gannet” on 9.9. at 11h “Phase 4” a collectively developed multidisciplinary walk-in sound space in the ship’s belly. 

 

Dimitri de Perrot, Stephanie FleischmannMichael HerschSascha ArmbrusterIsaï Angst

broadcasts SRF 2 Kultur:
Musik unserer Zeit, 29.9.2021, Reportage Barblina Meierhans: Skript, autor Benjamin Herzog

Neo-profiles: Michel Roth, soyuz21, Zeiträume Basel, Barblina Meierhans, Cathy van Eck, , Philipp MeierJeanne LarrouturouMats Scheidegger, Aleksander Gabrys, Ensemble Vortex, ensemble proton bern

Musique de creation – An insider tip from Geneva at GdN Basel

Gabrielle Weber: Interview with Jeanne Larrouturou, Ensemble Batida & Diĝita: Romandie @GdN Basel_1, 26.11.10

The instrumentation is unusual… and convincing: three percussionists and two pianos. Even more unusual is the collaboration with the cartoon collective Hécatombe. At Diĝita, Geneva-based ensemble Batida combines music with comics. On November 26, at the Gare du Nord, focus of the “Romandie” season.

Basel’s Gâre du Nord, the Station for New Music’s main focus extends over three seasons, with three times three concerts. In the long run, this will build solid bridges to the other Swiss language region, which is of high importance, especially now, as the ensembles of the French-speacking part of Switzerland cannot perform there due to the regional lockdown.

Neoblog portrays the guest ensembles and neo.mx3 accompanies the concerts’ live broadcasts together with RTS.
Episode one: Ensemble Batida Genève: A portrait

Gabrielle Weber
I met Jeanne Larrouturou, percussionist and co-artistic director, for a conversation via Zoom during the Geneva Lockdown. Larrouturou comes from France, grew up in Geneva, and after her studies at the Haute école de musique Genève (HME), she specialised in contemporary music at the Musikhochschule Basel. Since then she has been acting as bridge-builder between the two regions’ music scenes.

Ensemble Batida: Concert Le Scorpion © Pierre-William Henry

Batida’s lineup was rather accidental. Larrouturou explains that the ensemble originated as a “classic Bartok formation”, referring to Bartok’s 1937/38 sonata for two pianos and percussion. In 2010 four of the ensemble members formed for a concert at the HME and further joint performances followed. When a percussionist left for abroad, Larrouturou stepped in and stayed. The core formation has since then remained unchanged: three percussionists Jeanne Larrouturou, Alexandra Bellon and Anne Briset complement Viva Sanchez Reinoso and Raphaël Krajka on piano.

A stroke of luck, because many new works were created for this unique lineup. On one hand by composers, on the other hand by collective composition of the ensemble’s members themselves, which also began by chance. During a project with a dance company, the choreographer asked Batida to compose something. “This is how the first composition commission happened and we carried on composing together afterwards. Next came music for a project with a puppet theatre,” says Larrouturou.

Ensemble Batida, Haïku, collective composition 2013

“The way we compose strongly draws on experimentation. We start from an idea of general structure, a concept and then we “go”: we play, we listen to each other, record ourselves, listen to the recordings together. We structure, organise and record “. A kind of creation that combines improvisation and notation. Generally, the improvisational elements are retained.

musique de création

Batida does not want to get stuck in a set musical genre. “We see ourselves in contemporary music, but don’t like what’s behind that label very much” says Larrouturou. In France there are several more fitting designations: ‘Musique de création’ is the most appropriate for her: “it’s sufficiently open, but at the same time excludes traditional ‘contemporary music’.”

Ensemble Batida: Mean E, kollektive Komposition 2013

The ensemble has hardly had performances in German-speaking Switzerland so far. After the Concours Nicati in Bern 2014, performances at the festival Zeiträume Basel and in Andermatt followed. Quite the opposite to the Romandie , as well as abroad, where the ensemble performed at many festivals, toured France, Russia, Portugal and Cyprus. Another tour – with Diĝita – was planned in the USA (but had to be postponed due to the pandemic).

Larrouturou explains the meagre exchanges between language regions as follows: “I have been living in Basel for about four years now and my network is in Basel, Geneva and Lausanne. It never ceases to amaze me how little the scenes know each other. At the university in Basel, I noticed that there were fundamental differences in aesthetic orientation. Certain very highly considered musicians in Basel, are hardly known in the French-speaking part Switzerland. The French-speaking part is more closely linked to France, while the German-speaking part is to Germany,”.

Larrouturou curates the Lausanne concert series Fracanaüm together with composer Kevin Juillerat, a fellow student from Basel, based in Lausanne. They try to transcend such divisions. “We don’t even ask ourselves where someone comes from and invite musicians from our network from both regions. I’m convinced that these small initiatives create and develop long term relationships”.

But Batida is also about building bridges between divisions. Most projects are transdisciplinary and developed in collaboration with other artists, with dance, puppet theatre, architecture, video or comic artists.

The collaboration with the Geneva-based drawing collective Hécatombe is ongoing, since their first joint project in 2016.

Ensemble Batida & Hécatombe: Oblikvaj, collective composition 2016-2018

“In our first project Oblikvaj (2016-2018), it immediately became apparent, that we were on the same wavelength. Each of the five members of Hécatombe created a graphic score, in form of a 24-page black and white comic strip and Batida reacted with collective compositions. It worked brilliantly”. Concerts with live encounters followed.

Diĝita is primarily about the joint creation process. “In the summer of 2019 we took a 14-day retreat in an old farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. We didn’t bring any instruments, but collected and recorded existing sounds, for example big machines, tractors and engines.

Diĝita, Trailer ©Gare du Nord, Batida & Hécatombe

The title Diĝita stands on one hand for the ‘fingers’, on the other hand for digital vs. analogue. The recorded and sampled sounds refer to the digital realm, while the music performers work with their fingers. The musicians perform within a transparent cube, with screen-display walls onto which 3D videos by the drawing collective are projected: life-size comic figures on the videos overlap and thus alienate the real bodies of the musicians in the cube.

Diĝita was able to give a concert in Lausanne on 31 October: “It was an extreme experience as we all knew that we wouldn’t be playing live again for a while, so we enjoyed the moment even more,” says Larrouturou. The Diĝita tour with follow-up concerts in Geneva was unfortunately interrupted by the lockdown.

During our conversation, it turned out that Batida is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year. A party with partners and audience is planned in Geneva, but due to the pandemic it will not take place before 2021.
Gabrielle Weber

Ensemble Batida Portrait ©Batida

Ensemble Batida: Klaviere: Viva Sanchez Reinoso, Raphaël Krajka
Percussion; Jeanne Larrouturou, Alexandra Bellon, Anne Briset
Diĝita: Video: Giuseppe Greco, Ton: David Poissonnier

Gare du Nord: Batida & Hécatombe: Diĝita, 26.11.20, 20h
(because of lockdown in Basel, they played twice for 15 persons, combined with a Livestream for everybody else)

Ensemble Batida, FracanaümKevin Juillerat, haute école de musique genève – neuchâtel, Hochschule Musik Basel, Hécatombe,

broadcast RTS:
l’écho des pavanes, 20.11.20, rédaction Anne Gillot, Gespräch mit Désirée Meiser, Intendantin Gare du Nord
broadcast SRF 2 Kultur:
in Musik unserer Zeit zu neo.mx3, 21.10.20, Redaktion Florian Hauser / Gabrielle Weber

neo-Profiles: Ensemble Batida, Gare du NordAssociation Amalthea, Kevin Juillerat