un projet est avant tout une rencontre…

Composer, performer and curator Alexandre Babel has been awarded one of the Swiss Music Prizes of the Federal Office of Culture 2021. The award ceremony took place in Lugano on September, 17 2021. In this interview, Babel explains his point of view on composition and curation and how he combines these two activities.

 

Portrait Alexandre Babel © Felix Brueggemann 2021

Gabrielle Weber
Alexandre Babel, percussionist, composer and curator, can be seen on avant-garde concert stages, at jazz festivals, in galleries and at art biennials. Based between Berlin and Geneva (his hometown), he combines classical avant-garde music, sound art, experimental improvisation and performance.  

There are as many ways of composing as there are composers, says Babel and he therefore prefers to define composition as “the organisation of sounds in time and space”. Curating is also close to this understanding of composition. “Same here, it’s all about setting existing sound objects in motion in a certain place at a certain time and then connecting these objects with other objects.  

Composing and curating are different aspects of the same activity. Babel creates, conceives, stages, networks and interprets.  

Alexandre Babel, born in Geneva in 1980, first found his way to jazz through drum lessons in Geneva. He then specialised in New York with jazz legends such as Joey Baron or Jeff Hirshfield and played in various formations. “What fascinated me about jazz was not just the aesthetics, but rather how musicians interacted to create music. Mixing repertoire and improvisation: that was the basis of making music for me.”  

Also being attracted by the classical avant-garde, Babel soon switched to classical percussion and, back in Europe, found his way to composition. John Cage, Morton Feldman, Alvin Lucier, Heiner Goebbels or Helmut Lachenmann were the ground-breaking figures and inspirators in Babel’s compositional path.

From his very first pieces already, such as music for small audiences for snare drum solo, the importance of the performer plays an important role.
Music for small audiences was the beginning a real love affair between me and the snare drum..”

 


In one of his first pieces, ‘music for small audiences‘ Babel explores new sounds for solo snare drum and brings the role of percussion in the music business into focus.

 

Performer – Improviser – Composer

As a drummer, Babel is a touring musician wearing many hats: a fine, quiet improviser, loud, experimental drummer, for example with the band “Sudden infant” in a duo with Joke Lanz, or an interpreter of contemporary drum repertoire in various formations.   

Additionally, he composes, curates and develops projects for his own formations, such as the Berlin collective Radial, together with video artist Mio Chareteau.  

“To make music includes several processes in my opinion. First of all ‘thinking’ the music, which means composing, then transmitting the music and finally perform it for an audience: I’m fascinated by all of them.”   

All of his activities are linked by a convergence of creation and interpretation, as well as an interest in the visual, spatial and performative aspects.

“What do I want to see and what do I want to hear…. ”

For Babel, composing always begins with or even boils down to an encounter. Thus, his compositions are mostly created for specific musicians.  

He always has the performers in mind when writing and is also inspired by their movements and gestures. In the piece The way down for Duo Orion, for example, Babel took the duo’s interplay as starting point and staged it acoustically and also performatively.

 

Alexandre Babel, The way down pour violoncelle et piano, Duo Orion (Gilles Grimaître, piano, Elas Dorbath, Cello) 2020

 

“At the beginning of a project I ask myself: ‘What do I want to see and what do I want to hear’: To me, the visual side is just as important as the sound. Duo Orion, for example, has a special physicality when performing. I developed a piece for them in which the gestures are almost athletic. It almost became dance or a choreography,”.

Curating as a permanent dialogue

Babel says that his three activities – composition, interpretation and curation – have ideally come together in the artistic direction of les amplitudes Festival (La-Chaux-de-Fonds, autumn 2020). “I had the chance to combine all aspects within one object -the festival and at the same time the city of La Chaux-de-Fonds: I thought of the festival as a giant composition in separate parts – an art exhibition, live performances, drum sets and spatial compositions blending together in one new unity”.  

Since 2013, Babel has led the percussion ensemble Eklekto Geneva Percussion Center, consisting of some 20 musicians in a loose line-up. “Eklekto offers me the opportunity to develop unusual percussive situations. All projects are created in close exchange and collaboration with the composers and the musicians. “Curating is a permanent dialogue with the musicians involved”.  

 

Attentive listening

Pauline Olivero’s piece Earth ears, a so-called ‘Sonic Ritual‘ from 1989 for free instrumentation, is characteristic of Babel’s understanding of curation: “The musicians play by ear and there is no written score. One has to listen to himself as well as to the whole ensemble and react to it. The piece is about sound, space and attentive listening: to me, those are the basics of making music”.

 


Pauline Oliveros’ piece ‘Earth ears’, a ‘sonic ritual’ and openly interpretable piece from 1989, is characteristic of Babel’s approach to curation.

 

Another important project is his large percussion ensemble with 15 percussionists from the Eklekto pool. “We have clear rules: we play by heart and there is no conducting: playing without a leader creates an enormous energy and presence and at the same time opens up new ways of communication, in an almost radical way”.

 

Choeur mixte reflects the classical setting of chamber music and at the same time puts the often underestimated classical instrument ‘snare drum’ in a new spot-light. Another declaration of love to the snare drum.

 

In the piece ‘choeur mixte’ for 15 snare drums, the percussionists play their instruments standing in the shape of a wedge, on a lit, empty stage. They act strongly in relation to one another and the piece radiates power as a group and at the same time individual responsibility of the performers.

 

Music without sound

 

Among other things, Babel is currently working on a composition commissioned by the Venice Art Biennale 2022, designing the Swiss pavilion together with Swiss-based Franco-Moroccan visual artist Latifa Echakhch. Babel faces a special challenge in this case, as Echakhch wants him to create a composition without real sound. “This is an important and special task for me: through the joint creation process, we are approaching solutions on how music can sound without sound,” says Babel. At the moment, short pieces of music are being created for this purpose, which will form the basis for the final Music of Silence. Gabrielle Weber

 

Portrait Alexandre Babel ©Felix Brueggemann (2021)

 

On Friday, September 17, 2021, the Swiss Music Price ceremony will take place at Lugano Arte e Cultura (LAC) in Lugano. During that weekend, some of the prize winners will perform as part of Lugano’s Longlake Festival.  

This year’s Grand Prix musique went to Stephan Eicher.
The other prize winners are:
Alexandre Babel, Chiara Banchini, Yilian Canizares, Viviane Chassot, Tom Gabriel Fischer, Jürg Frey, Lionel Friedli, Louis Jucker, Christine Lauterburg, Roland Moser, Roli Mosimann, Conrad Steinmann, Manuel Troller and Nils Wogram.

Concerts Alexandre Babel:
Sunday, 19.9.21, 10:30h at Studio Foce, Lugano:
Alexandre Babel e Niton +ROM visuals 

23.4.-27.11.2022 Biennale Arte Venezia: Alexandre Babel & Latifa Echakhch @Swiss Pavilion Venezia Biennale

 

Joke Lanz, Joey BaronJeff Hirshfield, Pauline Oliveros, Biennale Arte 2022, John Cage, Morton Feldman, Alvin Lucier, Heiner Goebbels, Helmut Lachenmann, Latifa EchakhchKollektiv Radial, Mio Chareteau, Elsa Dorbath

 

Sendungen SRF 2 Kultur:
in: Musikmagazin, 18./19.9.21: Alexandre Babel – Träger BAK-Musikpreis 2021 im Gespräch mit Gabrielle Weber, Redaktion Annelis Berger

Musik unserer Zeit, 16.6.21: Alexandre Babel – Perkussionist, Komponist, Kurator, Redaktion Gabrielle Weber

neoblog, 14.10.2020: La ville – une composition géante, Text Anya Leveillé

 

Neo-Profiles:
Alexandre Babel, Les amplitudes, Eklekto Geneva Percussion Center, Duo Orion, Gilles Grimaître

All that defines our human race….

Basel composer Roland Moser received one of the Swiss Music Prizes from the Federal Office of Culture. His former composition student Burkhard Kinzler, now established composer and theory lecturer in Zurich himself, gives an insight into Moser’s procedures and work.

 

Roland Moser ©Louis Moser zVg Roland Moser

 

Burkhard Kinzler
in 1992 I was a young aspiring composer with a background in church music and I travelled from Heidelberg to Basel for the first time to meet with Roland Moser, I could not yet have guessed how formative, indeed decisive for my life, these lessons would turn out to become. I was curious, but also sceptical: I didn’t know my future teacher at all. My first choice was actually Kelterborn, from whom I had sung a few pieces, but he had no availabilities. «You can try Moser,» I thought to myself, «and if it doesn’t work, just quit again.»

After the first lesson, this thought was wiped away – there was a spark. Roland Moser opened my eyes, his view of old as well as new music was a revelation to me. This man knew EVERYTHING. And I had never before encountered such independent musical thinking, with no compromises and concretely score-oriented.

His gift for reading my compositional attempts, thinking his way into them and then asking questions is something I have admired more and more. It has brought me forward by quantum leaps. His questions more than once unmasked the unaccomplished in a lovingly discreet way.

Others must have felt the same way, no wonder that most of my fellow theory lecturers at the ZHdK* come from Roland’s school.

 

Roland Moser ©Louis Moser zVg Roland Moser

 

I did not know a single note of music by Roland Moser, so I soon began to look for his works (which was much more difficult back then than today), study them and also perform them, first with my small ensemble for new music and as part of my professorship in Mannheim. The precise and enigmatically humorous pieces of his «Kabinetts mit Vierteltönen» for 2 pianos for example, enchanted both me and my students.

Roland later jokingly reproached me for performing almost exclusively his “occasional works”. At the same time suggesting that these pieces, seemingly only marginal products, play in an intricate way an absolutely essential role in his – in the meantime impressively comprehensive – oeuvre.

A good example is his “Quatre cadres harmoniques” for flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano, the first movement of which for alto flute and bass clarinet solo represents something like the secret core of Roland Moser’s work to me.

It is no coincidence that he also uses this sparse two-and-a-half-minute piece, fitting on one page, in other compositions, such as “Kleine Differenzen über einen Grund” for wind quintet (6th movement). Here too, appearing as a starting point and intellectual centre.

 


Roland Moser, Kleine Differenzen über einen Grund für Bläserquintett, Ensemble Contrechamps 2005, in house-production SRG

 

How I came to this statement?
On the basis of these few notes actually, essential directions of thought and sound of Roland Moser’s music can be pointed out:
First of all, there is the strict, unflattering economy: not a note too much, no “ornamentation” whatsoever, every sound precisely heard and exactly in the place where it is needed.

 

No “Just-Intonation Sauce” – No Spectralist Spectacle

Then there is the preoccupation with the overtone series, which in Roland Moser’s work does not simply lead to a “just-intonation sauce” or “spectralist spectacle”; Moser’s reflection on the conflicts between (natural) physics and (tempered) culture produces sounds in which this conflict becomes an experience. The counterpoint of the two instruments in this movement is designed in such a way that literally every sound together is in a part-tone relationship; at the same time, the interpreters are urged not to adjust their intonation, but to remain in the equal temperament. Thus, natural sound appears as a chimera that seems to be grasping with hands (or ears) and yet turns out to be only a mirage.

For all this to happen in the listener’s ear, the composer needs patience and the ability to slow down. Roland Moser has both in abundance.

Also worthy of mention is the rhythmically unbound but always gesturally unambiguous style of durational notation that Roland Moser learned from his friend György Kurtag.

All of the above-mentioned basic conditions lead to a piece – featuring only two intruments – of tremendous concentration and an expressive power arising directly from the sound conception that is unparalleled.

 

Partiturseite «Quatre cadres harmoniques», erster Satz für Flöte, Klarinette, Violine, Cello und Klavier: für Burkhard Kinzler ‘ein heimliches Zentrum von Roland Mosers Schaffen’

 

The “Romanticism Project”

Now it would be absolutely unjustified to reduce Roland Moser’s wide-ranging oeuvre to this “little piece”, as he himself would probably call it. There are major projects that have defined his entire compositional life, such as the “Romantic Project”. At a time when Romantic poetry was considered by most of his contemporaries to be out of fashion in comparison with late and post-expressionist modes of expression, Roland Moser unflinchingly occupied himself with poets such as Heine and above all Brentano. He managed to tap into the anarchic potential of this seemingly sweet language in order to find his own, new tonality for it.

This context also includes permanent confrontation with the music of Franz Liszt and above all Franz Schubert, to which Roland has profound things to say and to which he has repeatedly reacted in his own work. For example in «Echoräumen» after Schubert’s Trauermusik or in his arrangement of the Andante in B minor for fragmentary orchestra.

 


Roland Moser,  Echoraum after Schuberts Trauermusik (Nonett D79) for Kammerorchester, Kammerorchester Basel, 2018, in house-production SRG

 

Moser’s relationship to the orchestra – which he himself described as “broken” – is also evident here and yet he was able to write such weighty works as “WAL – für schweres Orchester”.

 


Roland Moser,  WAL für schweres Orchester mit 5 Saxophonen (1980/83), Basel Sinfonietta und Xasax Saxophonquartett, in house-production SRG

 

His great opera “Avatar” also revolves around romantic and fantastic values, as does his second stage work “Rahel and Pauline”, although in a completely different manner, achieving to bring an exchange of letters (between Rahel Varnhagen and Pauline Wiesel) onto a stage, or to life.

There is so much more that could be said about Roland Moser’s work and activities. Roland Moser’s cosmos has points of contact and inspiration throughout human history – this is where his deeply humane, philanthropic attitude manifests itself. His work is the expression of a profound and at the same time critical and affectionate examination of the human being as well as communication with everything that defines our human race.
Burkhard Kinzler

 

Roland Moser am Komponieren ©Louis Moser zVg Roland Moser

*Theorie-professors ZHdK among others: Felix Baumann, Kaspar Ewald, Mathias Steinauer, Felix Profos, Bruno Karrer, Lars Heusser

The Romantic Project continues this year with a world premiere of Schubert’s last symphonic poems, performed by the KOB directed by Heinz Holliger..

24. Juli 2021, Lübeck, Schleswig-Holstein Musikfestival: World premiere of the three-movement version of the last symphonic sketches by Franz Schubert (D 936A) by Roland Moser. Basel Chamber Orchestra, directed by Heinz Holliger. Further date:
15.8. Stadtcasino Basel

21. August, Festival Les Jardins musicaux, Rondchâtel Villiers bei Biel/Bienne: World premiere of “Die Europäerin”, music theatre by Roland Moser, based on the Mikrogrammm 400 by Robert Walser; with Leila Pfister, Niklaus Kost, Jürg Kienberger, Conrad Steinmann (also a 2021 prize winner), Alessandro d’Amico/ Helena Winkelman    Trogen AR ,
Further dates:
18. September: Festival Rümlingen 2021, Musiktheater#3
29./30. Januar 2022: Basel Gare du Nord

A new CD will be released in summer 2021: cello solos and duos with piano, violin, oboe d’amore, recorder (with: Katharina Gohl Moser, Anton Kernjak, Helena Winkelman, Matthias Arter and Conrad Steinmann).

Detlev Müller-Siemens, György Kurtág, Felix Baumann, Bruno Karrer, Lars Heusser, Leila Pfister, Katharina Gohl Moser, Jürg Kienberger

Neo Profils
Roland Moser, Burkhard Kinzler, Kammerorchester Basel, Festival Les jardins musicauxHeinz Holliger, Kaspar, Neue Musik Rümlingen, Mathias Steinauer, Felix Profos, Matthias Arter, Helena Winkelman, Basel Sinfonietta, Anton Kernjak, Xasax Saxophonquartett

Language blending into music 

Music and language are in many ways intertwined. This year’s Spring Conference in Darmstadt will explore this broad spectrum with lectures, panels and of course concerts, with performances by slam poet Nora Gomringer, soprano Sarah Maria Sun and ensemble proton bern.
Online streaming between April 7 and 10, 2021 

INMM 2021 Verflechtungen II © zVg INMM

Thomas Meyer
Darmstadt, the venerable city in Hesse steeped in tradition and considered to be the “centre of Art Nouveau”, is also of crucial importance for 20th century music. It is not only home to a Jazz Institute with the best-stocked archive in Europe, every two years during the summer, the famous Darmstadt Summer Courses for New Music take place there and renowned teachers meet, lecture and discuss with the next generation. Since its foundation in 1946, Darmstadt – together with Donaueschingen – is one of the most important places of discussion where aesthetic directions are set – and the city gave its name to the avant-garde school led by Pierre Boulez and Karlheinz Stockhausen.   

Somewhat less well known a spring conference was also launched at that time, also dealing with new music, artistic production and musicology, but above all with its transmission, especially in music education.   

The conference is organised by the ‘‘Institut für Neue Musik und Musikerziehung (Institute for New Music and Music Education)‘ (INMM). The association also offers composition courses for children and young people as part of the spring conferences and launched a research project called ‘Campus Neue Musik‘, which is supporting cooperative composition projects with school classes.  

 


INMM Trailer concert with Sarah Maria Sun, 9.4.21 ©INMM 2021

The conference has always been prepared and carried out by a collective board of artists, educators and academics, embodying the very idea of cooperation in its structure. As the INMM states on its homepage, it can be described as “forum of interdisciplinary dialogue between production, reproduction and reflection on innovative artistic concepts of the present and recent past and their transmission in music education.“.    

Brand-new topics as well as border areas   

Brand-new topics and border areas have always been up for discussion, in recent years for example on physicality, film/video or the clash of cultures. “We want to see how different things come together,” says musicologist Till Knipper, of the collective board. This year, the diverse interweavings of word and language with music are up for debate – an ancient, actually almost fundamental topic, but one that still holds a lot of potential and opening new areas in contemporary music, which will be the theme of this year’s conference. 

  

Annette Schmucki works with language: Skizze © zVg Annette Schmucki

 

The pandemic does not allow for live performances, so for the first time, everything will be done via the internet, according to a clever schedule in which one is not overfed with material. On the one hand, pre-produced contributions can be watched online, offering an artistic statement, on topics that will be the subject of lectures from 4 p.m. onwards and roundtable discussions from 6 p.m. onwards. The evening is reserved for performances and concerts.  

The combination of music and language offers a wide spectrum. Of course, more traditional ways of making and composing music will also occur, they are even the focus on the second day, but it might turn out not being so conventional after all, for example when slam poet Nora Gomringer interacts with Günter Baby Sommer, a drummer who has also performed with Günter Grass.  

 

Nora Gomringer and Günter Baby Sommer © zVg INMM 2021

On the first day, the interconnections are incorporated into the theatrical, while on the third day, the voice itself speaks (and sounds), precisely that very medium of conveyance that is as individual as it is resilient. The Voice belonging to the outstanding soprano Sarah Maria Sun for the occasion.   

She’ll be performing or singing new songs by Rolf Riehm and Thierry Tidrow, who adds a sublayer of emoticons to his Morgenstern settings.  

 


Rolf Riehm, excerpt from song cycle after Heine / Hölderin, Der Asra, Orpheus Euphrat Panzer, Hyperions Schicksalslied, Sarah Maria Sun, Jan Philip Schulze, UA INMM 2021

For Saturday, a swiss focused finale with “Transformationen, a concert by ensemble proton bern, with no text, or at least not a conventional one, rather language is transformed into music, which is not a coincidence, as Switzerland has some special word-sound artists: Composers who transfer and transform language into mere sounds and achieve astonishing results.   

There are many mentors in the oldest generation, such as Heinz Holliger, Urs Peter Schneider or Roland Moser. It can even happen – as with Moser – that only a text’s punctuation is set into music  

The younger generation followed them, developed further, brought in something new. Composer Annette Schmucki, for example, likes to start from word lists, analyse and penetrate them and let her music emerge from them on many different levels. Sometimes the text is simply spoken, sometimes language appears as musical notation, sometimes it shapes the structure of the music.brotkunst… /54 pieces/farbstifte papier tabak“, for example, is based on texts by Adolf Wölfli. Wait and see what her new composition “drei möbelstücke” is about?  


Annette Schmucki, brotkunst / 54 stück / farbstifte papier tabak, world creation ensemble proton bern 2016

Daniel Ott, founder of the Rümlingen Festival, who directs Munich’s Biennale für Neues Musiktheater with his colleague Manos Tsangaris, has always been politically motivated as well. One of his first compositions, “molto semplicemente” for accordion solo was born against the background of the Basel chemical fire in 1986 and brought it up. The starting point of his6/7 Gare du Sud”, is the unacceptable situations that migrants are confronted with at Chiasso’s train station, so everyday issues flow into the music. These are unusual transpositions, bringing new aspects of the linguistic material to light  

The 2013 work “and then?”, for contrabforte (a newly developed type of contrabassoon) and ensemble, by Isabel Klaus will also be performed. It shows this composer’s love of the quirky, the somewhat outlandish, insistent and quietly playful cabaret.   

It is no longer an actual speech composition, as the conductor interferes with the music not only through gestures, but also by speaking and though some would like the music to be pure and textless, it is not always available in such puristic form…
Thomas Meyer   

Annette Schmucki Skizze © zVg Annette Schmucki

The 74th Spring Conference of the INMMVerflechtungen II Musik und Sprache in der Gegenwart– will take place online from Wednesday, April 7 to Saturday, April 10 2021: all events are open and free of charge. 

The lectures by Christa Brüstle and Christian Grüny are already online: 

 

concerts:
thursday, 8.4., 20h: Betrommeltes Sprachvergnügen, Nora Gomringer and Günter Baby Sommer
friday, 9.4., 20h: Sarah Maria Sun, Kilian Herold, Jan-Philipp Schulze
saturday, 10.4., 20h: ensemble proton bern: works by Annette Schmucki, Isabel Klaus, Daniel Ott, Lauren Redhead

Nora Gomringer, Günter Baby Sommer, Rolf Riehm, Thierry Tidrow, Adolf Wölfli, Manos Tsangaris, Münchener Biennale für Neues Musiktheater, Christa Brüstle, Christian Grüny

neo-Profiles
Heinz Holliger, Urs Peter Schneider, Roland Moser, Annette Schmucki, Daniel Ott, Neue Musik Rümlingen, Isabel Klaus, Sarah Maria Sun, ensemble proton bern

A toast to new music!

RTR launch neo.mx3 & ensemble ö!
Interview with David Sontòn-Caflisch by Thomas Meyer

RTR celebrates the launch of neo.mx3 with a special concert by local ensemble ö! on October 11, in Chur! Numerous works by Swiss musicians will be performed and RTR will record and film the performances in order to make them immediately available on the neo.mx3 plattform.

Thomas Meyer talks with violinist and composer David Sontòn-Caflisch, ensemble ö!’s artistic director.


Asia Ahmetjanova, La voix, UA ensemble ö!, Chur 2020

Ensemble ö! Was founded in 2002 and at that time it developed out of a string ensemble (Musicuria), which you founded in 1991. You were still in grammar school back then… What was your purpose?

We used to include a piece of new music in every programmewith Musicuria, sometimes even world premieres. The interest then shifted more and more in that direction, so we finally formed the new ensemble ö! with some strings from Musicuria as well as winds, piano and percussion.

David Sontòn-Caflisch & Ensemble ö!

What does this unusual name mean?

By presenting the ensemble I said that the difference between “E- und U-Musik”* was no longer to be made and the Graubünden press interpreted my statement in the following, original way: e and u together would make eu, which pronounced in French, would become ö. Originally, however, I thought of the “ö!” expression which is used to raise a toast here in Graubünden. It is simply a toast to new music.

In your programming, you like to highlight specific topics.

Each season, we focus on one specific theme, which is examined in detail through six programmes. As artistic director, my aim is not only to select good pieces, but also to create clever programmes that tell a story and are structured as a whole, to be imagined as one big piece per evening, involving various composers.


Stephanie Hänsler, Im Begriffe, ensemble ö! 2017

..the vastness of the universe stands alongside the uniqueness of art…

The current season’s theme is “suns”.

…a wide field. When you look up into the starry sky, you often forget that almost all of these bright spots are suns. Each of them has its own world, and these worlds are incredibly far away and apart. Our nearest neighbour is more than four light years away. That shows on the one hand how small, on the other hand how unique we are. We are able to reflect the world through art or in this case music! So the vastness of the universe stands alongside the uniqueness of art.

These aspects are addressed in different ways: The concerts are called “light years”, “inaccessibility”, “energy”, “opium”… How do you structure the programmes?

In September’s “Light Years” programme for example, mass is facing emptiness: It is impossible to imagine the mass of a billion stars, but there is a great emptiness between the stars. Two of the pieces of the concert (by Vladimir Tarnopolski and Gwyn Pritchard) are incredibly dense, so dense that one cannot follow every note, but only the overall idea. Whereas Luciano Berio’s and Roland Moser’s compositions work with emptiness and are very quiet. Finally, Marc-André Dalbavie’spiece combines both elements.


Jannis Xenakis, Dikhthas, Ensemble ö! 2017

What is new is that you work with a board of curators for these programmes.

Up to now, I had always read intensively on the subject matter. Now I wanted to consult experts. This year, these are a philosopher/psychologist, a journalist, a writer and an astrophysicist, bringing together a great deal of expertise in order to explore the topics I choose even further. In our first session, we went through each programme in detail, incorporating aspects from all disciplines. Short literary texts are then created and woven into the concert. I don’t want the audience to have to deal with something purely theoretical; that is why the writer translates his or her thoughts into literature. But the texts also encourage the audience to experience a piece more intensively. They create a “fil rouge” to the music, which remains in the foreground. Furthermore, I personally introduce each concert, by going into detail about the music to be presented.

So the discussions anticipate the concerts.

This year they do, it is a pilot project. Our wish for the future is to open these meetings to the musicians as well the audience, in order to create an addition to the concerts.

It is therefore a mediating and interdisciplinary project…

Perhaps rather “transdisciplinary”. There are several disciplines that are intended to delve deeper into the music. It is still somewhat fashionable to add video or lighting elements to a concert in an interdisciplinary way, which is justified, but one also has to be careful, as this might just create an external distraction. Our music needs quite a bit of concentration and should be combined intelligently. You can’t just add entertainment elements.

Three composers appear repeatedly: the Frenchman Tristan Murail, the Austrian Klaus Lang and the Swiss Klaus Huber, who died in 2017.

Murail writes very sensual music. It is important for me to emphasise this aspect, because it is often claimed that New Music is too abstract. What fascinates me about Lang is how he creates musical widths in his own unique way. As for Huber, I consider him one of the great Swiss composers who is currently not played so often. Throughout his life, he has been concerned with the role of mankind in the universe. By the way, in his “Ein Hauch von Unzeit” for solo flute he asked performers to come up with their own, new versions and we are presenting two new ensemble versions of it.


Klaus Huber, Ein Hauch von Unzeit IV (version for soprano, piano, flute, clarinet and organ), Ensemble Neue Horizonte Bern, 1976

With Duri Collenberg’s and Martin Derungs’ world premieres you also refer to your own origins (Graubünden)…

They actually represent the youngest and the oldest generation of Graubünden composers within the “Tuns contemporans” (Contemporary Tones), our Biennale, which we founded two years ago together with the KammerphilharmonieGraubünden. We felt the need for the two professional orchestras of the canton to join forces. It should take away the fear of enjoying new music. Magnus Lindberg from Finnlandwill be composer-in-residence for the next series.

 “Ladies only!”

You also launched a “Call for Scores” for the festival… Who was it aimed at?

Female composers of all ages and from all over the world. The motto is: “Ladies only!”. 126 scores were submitted, three of which we will perform at the Biennale. But I will certainly take one or the other from this huge collection into account for future seasons.
Interview: Thomas Meyer 

* in German the expression “E- und U-Musik” refers to “ernste Musik und Unterhaltungsmusik”, which can be translated with serious vs. popularmusic.

Ensemble ö!-Verbeugung

Concert spezial launch neo.mx3 &Ensemble ö!. 11. Oktober 2020:
Stephanie Hänsler: Im Begriffe, Alfred Knüsel: Mischzonen, Asia Ahmetjanova: La voix, David Sontòn Caflisch: aqua micans (danach als Video auf neo.mx3 und rtr.ch/musica).

Ensemble ö!: Saison 20/21
Tuns contemporans, Biennale für Neue Musik Chur: 9.-11. April 2021

Broadcast SRF 2 Kultur:
Musik unserer Zeit, 11.11.20.: ö! Ensemble für neue musik, Redaktion Florian Hauser

Stephanie Haensler, Asia AhmetjanovaMagnus Lindberg, Tristan MurailVladimir Tarnopolski, Gwyn Pritchard, Klaus LangMarc-André DalbavieAsia Ahmetjanova

Neo-profiles: Ensemble ö!, David Sontòn CaflischKlaus Huber, Stephanie Hänsler, Martin Derungs, Roland Moser, Alfred Knüsel

La Via Lattea (The Milky Way) – musical past and present in the south of Switzerland

La Via Latte 11 “E la nave va”

Zeno Gabaglio
“God can thank Bach, because Bach is proof that God exists.” When philosopher Emil Cioran coined this aphorism – as provocative as it is profound, and for many absolutely true – he certainly wasn’t concerned with the possibilities offered by translating the last name “Bach”… but Mario Pagliarani is.

With the 2019 edition of La Via Lattea – he decided to relate the highest and most metaphysical composition of the Leipzig genius (The Art of Fugue, BWV 1080) to the Italian translation of “Bach”, by choosing to travel along the southernmost “creek” of Switzerland.

La Via Lattea 14 “Il camino di Orfeo 2”

The idea is to follow the river Breggia from its source (on the slopes of Monte Generoso) to its delta (Lake Como), while proposing a complete performance of Bach’s masterpiece alongside works by contemporary composers. A new dialogue between landscape and music, where The Art of Fugue’s Counterpoints and Canons are performed on historic instruments but also using contemporary arrangements with peculiar sounds – ranging from saxophone quartets to accordion quartets.

“Musical pilgrimage – ecological pilgrimage”.

Hiking through an entire valley, while listening to very special music is something that might be perceived like a real challenge by an ordinary audience, but for those who follow the creation of Pagliarani it has been a very welcome habit for sixteen years. “La Via Lattea” has been defined as “musical pilgrimage” as well as “ecological pilgrimage” from the beginning, in the sense of a creativity bringing about a combination of elements that are normally considered apart.

La Via Lattea 14, E la nave va

Mario Pagliarani is best known for being a composer, but throughout the years his “ordinary musical creativity” (the one carried out on staves) has found in “La Via Lattea” a counterpart escaping the ordinary categories with which we are accustomed to identify works, ie the only worthy achievements of artistic labour.

La Via Lattea 12, Macchina per cinguettare

In his own words: “La Via Lattea is the representation of my way of thinking: the more time goes by, the more I realize that the first intuition – that of a path with stations – reflects my way of organising ideas. Something that must be part of my DNA”. So how does the act of creating not a piece of music but a sound-environmental sequence work? “It’s a game of Chinese boxes. A composition, or rather, a macro-composition in which, usually, I also include a new composition of mine. I create the ideal habitat where I can place my music as well”.


La Via Lattea 14, Trailer

As a matter of fact – in addition to the complete Art of Fugue – the five movements, to be held on September 21, 22, 27, 28 and 29, 2019, will also feature a new composition for clavichord by Pagliarani as well as several other works by contemporary composers, including – as world premiere – the Variationen über eine stillgelegte Fuge by Mischa Käser and Fantasia – zum Thema von Bachs Canon per augmentationem in Contrario Motu aus der Kunst der Fuge by Roland Moser (interpreted by Xasax Saxofonquartett).


Roland Moser, Ensemble Phoenix Basel, Eleven sizes – extendes moments II for eight instruments, 2014/14

But there will not only be music – which is usual for La Via Lattea – for poet Alberto Nessi (Schweizer Gand Prix Literatur 2016 and living in the Muggio Valley) as well as Raimund Rodewald (professor of landscape aesthetics at the ETH Zurich) will also be travelling alongside the pilgrims.
Zeno Gabaglio

Festival La Via Lattea, 16: 21.-29. settembre 2019

neo-profiles: Mario Pagliarani, Roland MoserLa Via Lattea, Marcus Weiss, Xasax Saxofonquartett, Zeno Gabaglio