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Tuns contemporans: Ligeti 100th anniversary @Theater Chur 29.3. – 2.4.2023
Tuns contemporans, Biennale für Neue Musik Graubünden, will take place for its third edition from March 29 to April 1. With this years’ motto is 100 years of Ligeti, it highlights the pioneering composer from a present day perspective. Atmosphères, Ligeti’s monumental orchestral work known from Kubrik’s Space Odyssey 2001, will be reinterpreted at the Theater Chur as a space-spanning sound installation.
A conversation with Martina Mutzner, initiator and artistic director of the project.
28 May 1923: 100th birthday of György Ligeti
If any key work of the musical avant-garde has had unexpectedly wide circulation, it surely is Atmosphères by György Ligeti. Stanley Kubrik’s epic Space Odyssey 2001 from 1968 helped make Ligeti’s impressive orchestral work, premiered at the Donaueschingen Music Festival in 1961, famous all over the world. In the film, it accompanies an almost ten-minute tracking shot through abstract, flowing space colour fields that are considered among the most advanced camera and animation techniques possible back then.
Or was it maybe the other way round: do the images follow the music?
Sound colour surface composition
Atmosphères, Ligeti’s micropolyphonic 87-voice orchestral work, had already gained the composer a major breakthrough in professional circles. His new approach, in which tonal colours and surfaces replace structural elements, was received with enthusiasm at the premiere in Donaueschingen and played twice at the request of the audience. Ligeti, on the other hand, was in a yearlong legal dispute with Kubrik because the latter had initially used Atmosphères without asking nor paying the composer.
György Ligeti, Atmosphères, Sinfonieorchester Basel, 2015, inhouse-production SRG/SSR
The Chur project takes the idea of composing with sound colour surfaces as well as the familiarity of the work as starting points. In an immersive participatory concert sound installation, Ligeti’s Atmosphères is reborn, interpreted by 81 vocal groups: over the course of six months, school classes, semi-professional musicians and amateurs, with members aged between 7 and 77, developed their own sound surfaces. The musicians of Chur’s ensemble ö! as well as the Graubünden Chamber Philharmonic, helped creating individual layers of a large overall sound during a series of workshops.
It is now possible to immerse oneself into this soundscape during the entire festival through a loudspeaker system and embedded in a light scenography à la Kubrik set up at Chur’s Theatre.
Apparitions for orchestra (1958/59) is one of the first works in which György Ligeti composed with sound surfaces, recording with Basel Sinfonietta under Johannes Kalitzke, 2003, inhouse-production SRG SSR
Ligeti’s idea of greatest possible compositional freedom was this mediation project’s decisive factor, says Martina Mutzner, dramaturge at Theater Basel and in charge of the project.
“With Atmosphères, Ligeti wrote a piece that defied the compositional dogmas of the time. It is representative of a free-spirited approach to both artistic material and, in a figurative sense, also human beings”. There is no right or wrong. That is why it is so suitable for a shared project featuring also amateur musicians.
Inventories and botanic approach
They decided to “go the opposite way”. First, inspired by Atmosphères, they improvised, developed and recorded sounds. “We collected the sound surfaces. It was like making an inventory or some kind of a botanic approach,” says Mutzner. David Sontòn, artistic director of the Biennale, then created scores for instrumental parts from the recordings, with flute, harp and string groups complementing the vocal and noise soundscapes to Ligeti’s prescribed 87 voices.
The result is a compositional association with Ligeti’s sound-surface composition in the broadest sense and thus something completely new, fitting in perfectly with the concept of a Biennale featuroing Ligeti at its centre and relating mentors and students. The four major concerts at the Chur Theatre will feature works by Béla Bartók and Sándor Veress, two of the composers who influenced Ligeti, but also by Detlef Müller-Siemens, Michael Jarrell or Alberto Posadas, whom he in turn influenced, as well as world premieres in dialogue with Ligeti’s oeuvre.
Michael Jarrell, music for a while pour orchestre 1995, Ensemble Contrechamps, conductor Jürg Henneberger, inhouse-production SRG SSR
Mutzner brings her passion for contemporary music and its transmission to the project: “We chose Atmosphères also because it found its way into popular culture through Kubrick’s Space Odyssey. Many people heard it without knowing what it is.” Of the many contributors and also ensemble leaders, some had hardly had any exposure to contemporary music before. “In the end, the recordings sounded as if they were rehearsing regularly in a contemporary music ensemble. The musicians were in an eager flow, which gets transmitted to the listeners,” says Mutzner.
A consistent opening of contemporary music
The consistent aim of presenting contemporary music to a wider audience is a general concern of the Chur Biennale. While the 2021 concerts could only be held online due to the pandemic, this edition will also be entirely live-streamed. In addition, the tuns contemporans is also committed to a balanced mix of genres in the classical field as well as to a renewal of the orchestral repertoire. In 2021, a “Call for Scores for ladies only!” took place for the first time, resulting in three world premieres by female composers. Three new pieces will also be premiered in this edition. Los tiempos del alma for small ensemble by recently deceased young Argentinian composer Patricia Martinez (*1973-2022), leer for large ensemble by Areum Lee (*1989) from Korea and la via isoscele della sera for string orchestra by Italian composer Caterina di Cecca (*1984).
Oscar Bianchi, Contingency für Ensemble (2017), aufgezeichnet mit dem Ensemble der Lucerne Festival Alumni, conductor Baldur Brönnimann, 2020, inhouse-production SRG SSR.
A collaboration with the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana for the Saturday evening concert – including a performance of Oscar Bianchi’s Exordium from 2015 – and Mario Venzago as guest conductor or the closing concert with the Ensemble Vocal Origen, in the “roter Turm” on top of the Julier Pass, stand for both synergies and an opening of contemporary music beyond the local scene for this third festival edition.
Tuns contemporans – Biennale für Neue Musik Graubünden 2023
Atmosphères: participatory intergenerational concert project featuring professional musicians, passionate semi-professional musicians, music students and enthusiastic amateurs.
György Ligeti, Detlev Müller-Siemens, Alberto Posadas, Béla Bartók, Sándor Veress, Origen Festival Cultural, Mario Venzago, Caterina di Cecca, Areum Lee, Patricia Martinez, Martina Mutzner: Musiksalon
broadcasts SRF 2 Kultur:
Musik unserer Zeit, 24.5.2023: György Ligeti 100: author Michael Kunkel
neoblog, 7.4.2021: tuns contemporans 2021 – Graubünden trifft Welt, author Gabrielle Weber
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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
musique d’avenir, 6.2.2023: Festival Gaudibert 2022, author: Anne Gillot
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 Moreau, Ensemble Batida, Xavier Dayer, Michael Jarrell
The tree price winners are:
1. price: Yiquing Zhu (Shanghai) for Deep Grey (Basel Sinfonietta / Peter Rundel)
2. price: Arthur Akshelyan (Yerevan) for Three pieces for Orchestra (Sinfonieorchester Basel / Francesc Prat)
3. price: Miguel Morate (Valladolid) for Comme s’en va cette onde (Kammerorchester Basel / Frank Ollu)
The Basel Composition Competition (BCC) is taking place for its third edition. During one week, Basel will become the centre of new orchestral music.
Twelve international candidates will compete with new compositions, premiered by three major orchestras: Basel Symphony Orchestra, Basel Sinfonietta and Basel Chamber Orchestra. Due to the pandemic, the concerts will take place without an audience, but played live and streamed online. During the final concert on Sunday, three to five selected works from the preliminary rounds will be performed again and the jury will award the prizes live, on location.
The international and biennial competition’s goal is to encourage the creation of new orchestral works and in doing so, it carries on the tradition of Paul Sacher’s promotion of such significant compositions. The Paul Sacher Foundation is also represented in the competition’s jury and contributes with its know-how.
The fact that such a large-scale project could become a reality in Basel is due to initiator and director Christoph Müller, who also manages the Basel Chamber Orchestra. His enthusiasm for contemporary music is such, that he believes it deserves more than being relegated to encores next to the orchestral common practice period repertoire and hopes that the competition will help the pieces find their way into the standard repertoire of the three competition-, as well as other important orchestras.
12 candidates have been invited to the competition. Their new works will be premiered by the three orchestras during three concerts. Seven for symphony orchestra, five for chamber orchestra, which is amazing in pandemic times.
Müller is particularly happy about the Don Bosco venue, Basel’s new cultural centre, offering ideal conditions. For example, pandemic-related distances between the musicians can be maintained and there is enough room between jury and orchestra.
Sakiko Kosaka, Micro roots, candidate BCC 2019
The Basel competition – unlike others – hardly imposes any exclusion criteria or restrictions, like ages limit or diplomas. The only condition is that the submitted works must not have been performed nor awarded prizes before.
Candidates from all over the world
The high number of applications also shows that the Basel Composition Competition fulfils certain needs and demands, says Müller. Not all composers follow a ‘straight path’ and are ‘ripe’ for a competition at exactly the right age.
There were 355 applications in total, from all age groups – with candidates between 14 and 87 years of age, from all over the world and with the most diverse musical backgrounds. The percentage of women was very modest however, at only 8%.
Of course the competition is also made attractive by conductors Peter Rundel, Franck Ollu and Francesc Prat, who promise the highest musical level, the online distribution and the total prize sum of 100’000 Swiss Francs, which guarantees considerable prizes.
The procedure for the preliminary round was anonymous, as the submitted scores were evaluated, without considering the corresponding CVs.
A high-calibre international jury, chaired by composer Michael Jarrell from Geneva, was responsible for the pre-selection, which took place during an intensive weekend in November 2020.
The jury includes Korean composer Unsuk Chin, living in Berlin, Swiss composers Beat Furrer and Andrea Lorenzo Scartazzini and Dr. Felix Meyer, director of the Paul Sacher Foundation, joined by three representatives of the participating orchestras.
With the exception of two candidates who, due to the pandemic, are participating via zoom, all the invited candidates have travelled to the competition even from far away, like Japan, Korea, China, Spain, Germany or the United States. Usually, the composers also attend the rehearsals of their fellow competitors, but for this edition – due to the pandemic – they are only assisting the creation of their own piece.
Swiss music is underrepresented this time. Artur Ashkelyan from Armenia is a composer that can be considered part of the Swiss scene as he studied composition at the Haute école de musique de Genève. For him, the competition has a special significance, because unlike most of the other candidates, he has so far composed mainly in the realm of chamber music. His new piece Three pieces for orchestra will now be premiered by the Basel Symphony Orchestra.
Artur Akshelyan, candidate 2021 / 2nd price 2021: Sinouos for Piano Trio 2015
The edition of 2019 of the highly remunerated Basel Prize had experienced controversial debates, for – despite a gradually greater gender balance in the relevant New Music institutions – the young competition apparently did not succeed in integrating female composers into the jury.
Efforts were made to recruit suitable women for the jury, says Müller. Several were approached, but for various reasons, they were turned down.
Things look a little different now, as Unsuk Chin, an internationally renowned female composer, is part of the jury.
On the other hand, unlike for the 2017 and 2019 editions, not a single woman made it into the final competition in this year’s edition. This is alarming, but not surprising given the low number of works submitted by women. Müller would therefore like to specifically encourage women to apply.
The Basel Composition Competition sends out the important message that large orchestras can work together in order to promote contemporary music. This is crucial, especially at a time when there are hardly any performance opportunities and orchestras have to cope with high pressure.
Feedback from the composers who made it into the competition confirms this. Having a new piece will be performed live by a great orchestra and made accessible to a worldwide audience, especially now, is an invaluable opportunity, says Oliver Mattern, a candidate from Germany. His fellow competitor from Japan, Hiroshi Nakamura, who has travelled from Tokyo, can hardly believe that his piece will be conducted by Peter Rundel, a conductor he admires ever since he attended a performance of Luigi Nono’s Prometeo conducted by him in Japan, at a very young age.
There will definitely be exciting works to listen to: 12 pieces from all over the world, 12 completely different approaches to the genre of orchestral works. Many pieces refer to other genres and media, to visual art, philosophy, Nô theatre, or physics and astronomy. They also deal with the present, the current pandemic situation or spirituality and religion.
The suspense continues until the end, when the three prizes will be awarded.
Let’s hope for a higher number of female jurors next time, and above all more female candidates as well as prize winners of course.
The three competition concerts (Thu-Sat, 4-6-3.21) will be streamed live and can be listened to afterwards on neo.mx3.ch and youtube.
The competition entries of the last edition 2019 (11 concerts) are also available on neo.mx3.
Basel Composition Competition, 3. Durchführung: 4.-7.März 2021
Live-Stream 1. Wettbewerbskonzert, Donnerstag, 4.3.21., 19h: Basler Sinfonieorchester, Leitung Francesc Prat
2. Wettbewerbskonzert, Freitag, 5.3.21., 19h: Basel Sinfonietta, Leitung Peter Rundel
3. Wettbewerbskonzert, Samstag, 6.3.21., 19h: Kammerorchester Basel, Leitung Franck Ollu
Final concert, sunday, 7.3.21., 20h: on Idagio Global Concert Hall (until april 14th 2021)
broadcasts SRF 2 Kultur:
Musikmagazin, 6./7.3.21 (beginning): Annelis Berger talks with Gabrielle Weber about the BCC, editorial Annelis Berger
Kultur Aktuell / Kultur kompakt, 8.3.21: critique final concert, editorial Benjamin Herzog
Musik unserer Zeit, 21.4.21: Basel composition competition – , editorial Gabrielle Weber
The legendary “Concours de Genève” celebrates its 80th birthday this year, with the disciplines of composition and percussion. Founded in 1939, this contest is one of the major landmarks in contemporary music.
Live-Stream of the final concert percussion: 21.11., 8pm:
34 young international percussionists have been invited to compete on the basis of videos they submitted to prove their skills. Only three of them will make it to the final concert of November 21. Their solo performance with the “Orchestre de la Suisse Romande” in Geneva’s Victoria Hall could turn out to become a gateway leading into the international music scene.
25-year-old Till Lingenberg, born in Valais, is one of the lucky participants and give us his insights on how it feels to perform in front of a highly valued jury, the criteria regarding the choice of the repertoire and drums in contemporary music.
The competition having a high reputation internationally, an invitation to the “Concours de Genève” is already kind of an award. In addition, the studying of the repertoire is a very enriching process. “Preparing for the contest forces one to rehearse many new pieces and bring them to a stage-ready level – after all, we are talking about a two and a half hours performance”, says Lingenberg. “Participating in the final concert would be the icing on the cake and open up career opportunities, allowing me to enter the professional world. This competition is very important for launching a solo career”.
Lingenberg found his way to percussion through the violin – when he received his first violin lessons at the age of five, he was more interested in hammering on the violin than in producing beautiful sounds… so one thing led to another. He never regretted the change, as the drums are so versatile. “You’re not playing just one, but actually numerous instruments”.
Any role models? “I was never actually fascinated by the people playing the drums, but mostly by the instruments themselves. I admired them and it fascinated me to touch them and try things out, as far as I was allowed to”.
Lingenberg loves the contemporary repertoire – and considers himself lucky, because: “we have almost no choice but to play this music, given a repertoire that is never older than a century”. For the Concours, Lingenberg chose ‘Moi, jeu…’ for Marimba (1990) by Bruno Mantovani, a complex piece in which Mantovani “breaks the codes of the instrument” as Lingenberg puts it.
In ‘Assonance VII’ by Michael Jarrell (1992), the second piece he chose, the performer finds himself in the very heart of a percussion instruments park or playground. Vibraphone, Tamtam, gong, cymbals, bongos, wood-blocks, triangle etc. “It’s a fabulous piece, showing all the possibilities of multipercussion and radically different ways of playing, it experiments with resonances, sometimes almost to the inaudible”.
Interview: Benjamin Herzog / Gabrielle Weber
Michael Jarrell, Assonance VII (1992), Interpret: Till Lingenberg
The three finalists of the composition competition have been determined in a preliminary round. The “Lemanic Modern Ensemble” directed by Pierre Bleuse will present their pieces together with oboist Matthias Arter at the Studio Ansermet in Geneva on November 8.
Two special events complement the Concours: on November 14, Philippe Spiesser and the Ensemble Flashback will combine music, video, electronics and science at CERN and on November 20, the Eklekto Geneva Percussion Center will be presenting works by Alexandre Babel, Wojtek Blecharz and Ryoji Ikeda in the Alhambra, Geneva.
The qualifying rounds will take place from November 8 to 11 and are open to the public. The final concerts of both competitions will be broadcasted via live stream (video) on neo.mx3 as well as RTS Espace 2 on November 8, (composition) and November 21, (percussion).
Live-Stream of the final concert composition: 8.11., 8pm:
Émissions RTS Espace 2:
8 novembre, finale concours Composition au studio Anserme:
Présentation par Anne Gillot + Julian Sykes / Prise d’antenne 18h30 – 22h30
21 novembre: finale concours Percussions au Victoria hall:
Présentation par Julian Sykes / Prise d’antenne 18h – 22h30
-13 novembre, 17h, , Interview avec Philippe Spiesser, président du jury de percussion: Présentation par Anya Leveillé
-11 – 17 novembre: reportage sur les candidates, présenté par Sylvie Lambelet
RTS Culture: article avec video avant la finale percussion
Sendung SRF 2 Kultur:
16. / 17. November: Musikmagazin / aktuell, Redaktion: Benjamin Herzog
“ZeitRäume” festival welcomes you in the courtyard of Basel’s “Kunstmuseum” with a walk-through and interactive sound sculpture. Composer and sound artist Marianthi Papalexandri-Alexandri’s contribution to this major collaborative work is her mysterious tube instrument “Untitled VII”.
Theresa Beyer visited Marianthi Papalexandri-Alexandri for neo.mx3 at her studio in Wald – Zurich region.
In the old days, textiles used to be woven in these large and bright factory rooms. Today Marianthi Papalexandri-Alexandri and kinetic artist Pe Lang live and work here. Their loft is a lab full of machines, electronics and mechanical objects.
At the back of a workbench, Pe Lang flips a toggle switch and a disc starts turning on black cardboard, Marianthi pulls out needles of various sizes and sticks them into the cardboard. With this gesture, the object turns into an instrument: whenever the small tubes that pop up from the disc touch the needles, fine bell tones are generated. When several performers insert needles into the cardboard of several machines according to a certain pattern, this concept grows into the work “Resonators”. Conceiving this kind of acoustic settings is the core of Marianthis and Pe Lang’s work.
Marianthi Papalexandri-Alexandri und Pe Lang: Modular No.3
Long-term materials research
Each and every detail of these sound objects is the result of countless material tests – and “Untitled VII” – incorporated by “ ZeitRäume” Festival into the large sound sculpture “Rohrwerk/Fabrique Sonore” – makes no exception. In the studio, Pe Lang shows the prototype: “The 24 tubes are made of transparent acrylic, a material that has the potential to produce warm sound. Each tube is then covered with a TPE foil through which we have stretched a nylon string. And the wheels at the front of the small electric engines are made of hard cotton fabric and coated with a kind of rosin. Sound is produced by increasing the friction.”
Pe Lang turns on the small engines of the tube instrument, generating a continuous tone, the result is complex, organic and beautiful at once – an independent sound sculpture with the potential of growing into a composition. To unfold this potential, Pe Lang slips into the role of performer and slowly changes the speed of the engines, the tension of the nylon string and the position of the clamps attached to it. The sonic reaction is immediate – sometimes reminiscent of a modular synthesizer, sometimes of an organ rich in overtones, sometimes of Eliane Radigue’s or La Monte Young’s meandering drones.
Marianthi compares the delicacy and carefulness with which the instrument is to be played to a Japanese tea ceremony: “Although each and every gesture are the result of great calculation, it all appears to be effortless and simple. Each movement being part of a natural flow”.
Marianthi Papalexandri-Alexandri: Untitled II (“Untitled VII” is a sequel of “Untitled II.”)
The Charme of the flawed
There is one further element playing its role in “Untitled II”’s sound flow: the material itself. “The diaphragm’s tension decreases over time, the rosin wears off and the engines begin to wobble a bit,” says Pe Lang, “these inaccuracies have been incorporated deliberately. The tube instrument, pretending to be clean, minimalistic and controllable, is not a perfect machine after all.”
This is another reason why Marianthi’s and Pe Lang’s sound sculptures and compositions always move in spaces between accurate and inaccurate, object and performance, mechanical and electronic. And when they leave the studio in Wald, they end up somewhere between galleries and concert halls.
But who is actually composing here: the composer, the performer, or the instrument itself? Those are exactly the lines that Marianthi is trying to blur with her sound sculptures. “I want to place composer, performer and instrument on the same level and thereby also question the whole idea of authorship”. So finally, who or what is in charge always depends on the point of view.
Marianthi Paplexandri-Alexandri: Untitled VI
With its 30 projects, this year’s edition of “ZeitRäume – Biennale für neue Musik und Architektur” in Basel is the largest to date. The 45-metre-high sound tower “Rohrwerk/Fabrique sonore” can be experienced in the courtyard of the Kunstmuseum, from September, 15 to September, 21. Marianthi Papalexandri-Alexandri is one of the six composers and four musicians bringing this mixture of pavilion and musical instrument to life.
This year’s Swiss Music Prize will be awarded on September, 20, at the Kunstmuseum Basel, as part of the ZeitRäume festival. Among the nominees, Cod.act, Michael Jarrell, Pierre Favre, Laurent Peter (d’incise) and Kammerorchester Basel.
Broadcasts SRF 2 Kultur:
Musik unserer Zeit, Marianthi Papalexandri-Alexandri, Pe Lang: 11.September, 20h, Wiederholung 14.September, 20h;
Passage: Cod.act -Maschinenmusik aus La Chaux-de-Fonds: 20. September, 20h; Kontext, 20. September