New listening environments for new music

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

LFCO concerts

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

Space travelling

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

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

 


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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

neoblogs:
Exzellenzorchester für neue MusikAutor Benjamin Herzog, online 26.8.2021

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

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

Lucerne Festival – Commitment to new and newest music

Gabrielle Weber: Rebecca Saunders: composer-in-residence @ Lucerne Festival1

The celebrated British composer Rebecca Saunders is composer-in-residence at Lucerne Festival, featuring eight Swiss premieres and one world premiere of hers, many of which to be performed by the new ‘Lucerne Festival Contemporary Orchestra’. This represents the festival’s long-term commitment to new and cutting-edge music and forms the artistic core of ‘Lucerne Festival Forward’, the new autumn festival for contemporary music.

Neoblog portrays the new focus on contemporary music at Lucerne Festival with several contributions and posts: The first focusing on Rebecca Saunders – composer-in-residence during the summer festival.

 

Portrait Rebecca Saunders © Astrid Ackermann / zVg Lucerne Festival

Gabrielle Weber
Rebecca Saunders, winner of the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize 2019 and highly in demand worldwide, can be experienced up close in Lucerne this year. Since studying with Wolfgang Rihm in Karlsruhe, the British composer has been living in Berlin and is present at every important contemporary music festival: be it with chamber music, orchestral works or even performative sound installations.

In Lucerne, the public can now immerse comprehensively in Saunders’ music, characterised by silence, colour and physicality.  

“Silence is like the screen behind the sound, it frames the sound,” says Saunders, who mixes silence with timbres and quiet changes in timbre. Often the first thing Saunders has in mind when composing is one single sound, a real colour or a mood. “You go into a landscape, into a sonic situation when you compose and at some point, you reach absolute focus – from then on, everything you do is right.”  

Whenever possible, Saunders tackles her new pieces with the interpreters, carefully approaching the instruments’ peculiarities with them. “What could be better than exchanging ideas with the musicians and discussing every little detail until the very end?”  

Saunders composed the solo piece blaauw from 2004, for example, for the Dutch trumpeter Marco Blaauw, who will perform it in Lucerne. In this work, Blaauw uses the double funnel trumpet he developed to conduct a conversation, not only between the two partial trumpets, but also with the room’s acoustics, with a grand piano, in whose resonance chamber the trumpet plays, and with the audience. The title stands for the performer Blaauw and is at the same time a gentle winking allusion to Saunders’ love of colours.  

 

Rebecca Saunders: blaauw, 2004, Nenad Markovic, trumpet / Ensemble Laboratorium, Davos Festival 2012, in house-production SRG/SSR

 

Blaauw’s double funnel trumpet can not only play quarter tones, but also subtle and abrupt changes in timbre or extremely long and large glissandi.  

The “glissando technique” also defines the new piano concerto To an Utterance, written for pianist Nicolas Hodges, in which Saunders explores the almost physical limits of pianistic virtuosity, as she explained in a preliminary talk with Marc Sattler, festival dramaturge for contemporary music at the Lucerne Festival.   

Together with pianist Nicolas Hodges, she explored the feasibility of extreme glissandi under various conditions, e.g. including only all black or all white keys. These energy-loaded sound gestures, combined with melodic lines, run through the piece and create a colourful richness.

 

Portrait Rebecca Saunders © Astrid Ackermann / zVg Lucerne Festival

 

“The piano is my home,” says Saunders. The strong relationship with the instrument is the reason why she has written many pieces for it and felt a strong desire to write a piano concerto for years. With the premiere of To an Utterance, her first piano concerto, the dream will now come true in Lucerne.

 


Rebecca Saunders, The underside of green for Clarinet, Violin &Klavier 1994, Collegium Novum Zürich, in house-production SRG/SSR: The underside of green is part of a series of compositions inspired by the final monologue of Molly Bloom in James Joyce’s Ulysses.

 

Literature, prose, poetry but also lexical and non-fiction texts have always fascinated Saunders and authors such as Samuel Becket or James Joyce constantly accompany her composing.  

This fascination sometimes blossoms into pure instrumental pieces, based on texts or words, but without words. Then Saunders translates the colour of language into sound, as she did in Fletch (première 2012), a string quartet transforming the hissing pronunciation of the word fletch, into arrow-like, impulsive gestures of the string sound.  

Or they result in vocal works focusing on text, or sometimes single words. Nether for soprano and ensemble (premiere 2019), for example, revolves around Molly Bloom’s monologue from the last chapter of James Joyce’s epic poem ‘Ulysses’. The vocal part will be performed in Lucerne by the British soprano Juliet Fraser, with whom Saunders has worked for a long time.  

Her aim is not just to set a text to music, but to render what makes a text audible and perceptible, explains Saunders. A lot happens ‘behind and in between the lyrics’, hidden beneath the surface as the title suggests. Molly’s monologue becomes an emotional, almost theatrical, spatially arranged vocal performance. “The listeners are inside the music,” says Saunders, “as if they were sitting in the middle of a musical sculpture, in the fabric of sound.”

The Mouth for soprano and tape as well as Skin for voice and ensemble were specifically written for Fraser’s body or voice. Saunders sees mouth and skin are two of the most important interfaces between a human’s inner and outer world. For The Mouth, Saunders worked closely with Fraser to develop ‘unused forms of articulation’, in order to make this interface tangible.

 

Rebecca Saunders, The mouth, Juliet Fraser, World premiere 2020, Centre Pompidou Paris

 

In the composer’s own words, the piece wants to ‘penetrate from the surface of the sound to the essence of the voice: the physical body that produces that sound’. – Saunders re. The Mouth (UA 2020) – “Sound is a physical experience, one that engages all five senses,” says Saunders.  
Gabrielle Weber

 

Portrait Rebecca Saunders © Johannes List – Ernst von Siemens Musikstiftung / zVg Lucerne Festival

 

Rebecca Saunders – composer-in-residence at Lucerne Festival

Portrait concerts:
21.8., 11h: Marco Blaauw, trumpet, Arditti Quartet, Trio Accanto (including blaauw, fletch).
4.9, 11h: Juliet Fraser, soprano, soloists of the Lucerne School of Music: Daniela Argentino, soprano, Clemens Heil, conductor (a.o. The Mouth / Skin)

Other mentioned concerts:
28.8., 22h: Juliet Fraser, soprano, ensemble of the Lucerne Festival Contemporary Orchestra, conductor: Johanna Malangré (among others Nether, Swiss premiere).
4.9., 18:30h: Nicolas Hodges, piano, Lucerne Festival Contemporary Orchestra, conductor: Ilan Volkov (among others to an utterance, world premiere)

 

Rebecca SaundersWolfgang Rihm, Juliet Fraser, Marco Blaauw, Arditti Quartet, Trio Accanto

Broadcasts SRF2Kultur:
Kultur-Aktualität, 17.1.2019: Ernst von Siemens Musikpreis an Rebecca Saunders: die Lautmalerin der Stille, Redaktion Florian Hauser (verlinken):

Musikmagazin, 22.10.2016: Kaffee mit Rebecca Saunders, Redaktion Florian Hauser

Kontext – Künste im Gespräch 26.8.2021: Rebecca Saunders: composer-in-residence Lucerne Festival, Redaktion Annelis Berger

Musik unserer Zeit, 22.9.2021, 20h: Rebecca Saunders, Redaktion Annelis Berger

Neue Musik im Konzert, 22.9.2021, 21h: Portraitkonzert Rebecca Saunders 2, u.a. the mouth & skin

 

Neo-profiles:
Rebecca SaundersLucerne Festival ContemporaryLucerne Festival Contemporary Orchestra, Davos Festival – Young artists in concert, Collegium Novum Zürich