(Deutsch) Contrechamps Genève feiert das Hören

Contrechamps Genève celebrates listening: partage ton Vinyle!

A busy season with numerous highlights just started for Ensemble Contrechamps Genève. The programme represents the new direction of Geneva’s most important ensemble for contemporary music under the artistic direction of percussionist Serge Vuille. He took over five years ago and has since radically reshaped the ensemble’s DNA. Conversation with Serge Vuille:


Portrait Serge Vuille © Serge Vuille


Gabrielle Weber
Contrechamps performs in Geneva’s Victoria Hall, opens the Biennale Musica Venezia as well as Sonic Matter Zurich festivals or simply invites you – without giving a concert – to a vinyl and neo.mx3.ch release listening weekend in Geneva. The different events are characteristic of the new direction of this long-established ensemble under the direction of Serge Vuille.

“Contrechamps seeks balance between different musical practices,” Vuille explains. On one hand, there are concerts with instrumental music for large ensembles, often linked to composers and Switzerland’s French-speaking young music scene; on the other hand, there are projects in connection with other disciplines and musical genres, in combination with visual and performative music, electronics, pop or jazz. Vuille is always interested in very special listening experiences.

The first part was represented at the beginning of the season by a concert to mark the 65th birthday of Geneva composer Michael Jarrell, with a “traditional”, conducted concert for large ensembles in Victoria Hall. Contrechamps commissioned seven new short pieces from its students. “We are thereby supporting and promoting the regional creative scene, which is an important objective for us,” says Vuille.

At the end of 2022, a tribute to Éric Gaudibert had taken place, Gaudibert was a composer from Lausanne who died ten years ago and had a significant influence on the scene. In addition to Gaudibert, 22 new pieces by former students had been performed, miniatures lasting only around one minute each, with very different, freely chosen instrumentation.


Éric Gaudibert, Skript, pour vibraphone et ensemble, Contrechamps, Bâtiment des Forces Motrices de Genève, Concours de Genève, 2009, in house-production SRG/SSR.


In a completely different context and setting, for the Biennale Musica Venezia opening, Contrechamps presented GLIA for instruments and electronics, a work by US electronic pioneer and sound artist Marianne Amacher, who died in 2009. Vuille is also interested in the aspect of special shared listening experiences in Amacher’s work: at the festival opening in a large, empty and darkened hall of Venice’s converted Arsenale shipyard, the large audience (including the author), surrounded by loudspeakers, followed extreme sound changes by wandering around and with the instrumentalists playing on a platform, as vibrating sound sculptures, or moving through the audience. “GLIA is almost a sound installation, part of it actually takes place in the listeners inner ear vibrations, not in the room and it is not based on a score, but on reports from those involved, which demands a high level of creativity from each individual performer,” says Vuille.


Maryanne Amacher, ‘GLIA’ opening concert Biennale Musica Venezia, Contrechamps, Arsenale 16.10.2023 © Gabrielle Weber


Back to the Gaudibert miniatures: they can now be found on one of the new vinyl records mentioned at the beginning and mark the start of the new Contrechamps/Speckled-Toshe vinyl series, together with the Lausanne label Speckled-Toshe. “The 22 composition commissions, each lasting one minute, were an immense amount of work and resulted in such diverse works that we wanted to conclude the homage with a lasting object of this new generation. The vinyl record is the most suitable format for this: there is hardly anything better in terms of recording and transfer quality”.


Daniel Zea, «Eric – Cara de Tigre» for ensemble and tape, one of the  22 miniatures on the new vinyl, Contrechamps / Speckled-Toshe 2023. The story: Gaudibert appeared to Zea in a dream shortly after his death as a laughing tiger: he cried for a long time afterwards between grief and joy.


For the vinyl launch, Contrechamps invited guests to a special listening experience: at les 6 toits, a trendy Geneva cultural centre on a former industrial wasteland, the public could listen to the new vinyl releases as well as its own favourite records in listening lounges during an entire weekend. The newly released Contrechamps audio archive on neo.mx3.ch was also celebrated with a vernissage and there were also live recordings and radio broadcasts on RTS as well as SRF2Kultur about listening and recording contemporary music.

Like vinyl, the SRG online platform stands for a way of listening and a care in production: “There is a link between the two, as they give contemporary music visibility and duration – through both meticulous new editions as well as maintenance of historical archives”.

The platform for Swiss contemporary music also features numerous rarely performed works with unusual instrumentation, such as Michael Jarrell’s Droben schmettert ein greller Stein from 2001 for double bass, ensemble and electronics.


Contrechamps recorded Jarrells piece 2005 in tthe Ansermet radio studio under the direction of George Benjamin, in-house production SRG/SSR.


Contrechamps is gradually opening up the extensive radio archive, going back to the earliest recordings of 1986. It is important that such platforms exist and are appreciated. Many of the pieces cannot be heard anywhere else: that is unique,” states Serge Vuille.

Feux by Caroline Charrière, is another piece to be discovered. Born in Fribourg in 1960, the composer Charrière died young, in 2018, and Contrechamps is committed to her work, as Vuille is also keen to give more visibility to the work of female composers and contribute to a better gender balance in contemporary music.


Feux for Flöte, Clarinette, Marimba and Strings by Caroline Charrière, under the dircetion of Kaziboni Vimbayi, performed by Contrechamps 2019 at Victoria Hall Geneva, in-house production SRG/SSR.


At the opening concert of this year’s Sonic matter festival in Zurich, Contrechamps will present new pieces by three female composers from the Middle East for small electronic ensemble. Vuille’s other passions come together here: “I’ve been very interested in the Middle Eastern scene for a long time. It is very lively in terms of creation, especially in regard of electronics”. The fact that Sonic Matter is collaborating with the guest festival Irtijal from Bejrut this year is an excellent opportunity for the first collaboration and certainly also for unique listening experiences.
Gabrielle Weber


mentioned concerts:
Festival Sonic MatterBecoming / Contrechamps 30.11.2023, 19h (introduction 18h)
Biennale Musica Venezia, Maryanna Amacher, GLIA / Contrechamps, 16.10.2023
Genève, Les 6 toits: Contrechamps: Partage ton Vinyle!, 20-22.10.2023

Speckled-Toshe; Contrechamps/Speckled-Toshe:
1.Vinyl: 22 Miniatures en hommage à Éric Gaudibert
2.Vinyl: Benoit Moreau, Les mortes

Sonic matterNilufar HabibianIrtijalles 6 toits

broadcasts SRF Kultur:
Musik unserer Zeit, 18.10/21.10.23: Partage ton Vinyle! Ensemble Contrechamps Genève feiert das Hören, Redaktion Gabrielle Weber
neoblog, 7.12.22: Communiquer au-delà de la musique, Autorin Gabrielle Weber
neoblog, 19.6.2019: Ensemble Contrechamps Genève – Expérimentation et héritage, auteur Gabrielle Weber

broadcasts RTS:
L’écho des pavanes, 21.10.23: Aux 6 toits, enregistrer la musique contemporaine,  auteur: Benoît Perrier
Musique d‘avenir, 30.10.23, Partage ton Vinyle, ta cassette ou ta bande Revox!  auteur: Anne Gillot

neo-profiles: ContrechampsDaniel ZeaFestival Sonic MatterBenoit Moreau

Poetic North, Electronic Night

Friedemann Dupelius
“You really have to be a poet to live in the north,” says Cosima Weiter and laughs out loud. She must know what she’s talking about, having travelled to the far north of Europe several times with enjoyment. No wonder, she is also a poet, a sound poet to be precise, “I don’t want to idealise it though” she points out. She still identified a special mindset when travelling to the northern regions of Finland and Norway to prepare the scenic Kaija Saariaho evening Nord with Ensemble Contrechamps. Together with video artist Alexandre Simon, Cosima Weiter captured not only images and sounds, but also impressions of the people living where Nord will be set. “If you live in a big city and meet someone you don’t like, you just move on to the next person. But finding yourself where so few people live, you have to make an effort and try understand the others. Thus, being far away from everything means being open,” she explains.


Four pieces by Kaija Saariaho are part of the production “North” by Cosima Weiter & Alexandre Simon © Andrew Campbell


Nord is about a woman who sets out to wander from Finland to the very place where one is far away from everything: the north. During this thoroughly romantic undertaking, she meets different people who react differently to her. Some are envious, others admire her and one is even heartbroken. “I actually wanted to tell the story in a feminist way,” says Cosima Weiter, “pointing out that it’s not easy for a woman to wander alone. But when I was in the north, I had to discard that as everyone is the same there. Nobody cares if you are a woman, you can do whatever you want. This is something we’re not familiar with here in Central Europe.”


Time, Space, Sound

A Finnish woman who has been doing and composing what she wants for decades is Kaija Saariaho. Her music is at the centre of the scenic narrative, embodied by three actors in front of a large screen. “It was very important for us to respect Saariaho’s music and give a large space, not cutting it short.” Four of Saariaho compositions form the musical basis for the plot, Nocturne (1994) in the version for solo viola, Aure (2011) for cello and viola, Petals (1988) for cello and electronics and Fleurs de neige (1998) in its version for string quartet. Around the slow, cautious music, a soundscape opens that Weiter and Simon, together with Lau Nau and Bertrand Siffert, have created from their own recordings and sparks of other music. “There are three things that interest me in music and poetry: Time, space and sound,” says Cosima Weiter, “and in Saariaho’s music I find them all.” In Nord, the sound poet lends her voice to the protagonist, rendered disembodied through loudspeakers.
You really have to be a poet to tell stories about the North.


Kaija Saariaho, Graal Théâtre, Contrechamps, In-house production SRG/SSR 2009


Nuit de l’électroacoustique

Contrechamps will spin a completely different tale on March 19, when the ensemble invites to its first Nuit de l’électroacoustique. It was almost cancelled due to supply issues, as the renovation of the post-industrial premises, where Contrechamps is due to move to, could not be completed in time. Les 6 Toits on the Geneva ZIC site was supposed to be inaugurated with the Nuit. Luckyly, exile was found at short notice in Pavillon ADC, a centre for contemporary dance in Geneva. The Geneva subculture club Cave 12, which presents the Nuit de l’électroacoustique together with Contrechamps, was also involved its curation and organisation from the beginning. The fact that Pavillon ADC is now also part of the event, will most probably lead to a more diverse audience.


Heinz Holliger, Cardiophonie, Contrechamps, Oboe: Béatrice Laplante, In-house production SRG/SSR 2018


“Parts of our regular audience will certainly be more familiar with Heinz Holliger,” is what Serge Vuille, artistic director of Contrechamps, supposes. Holliger is represented with Cardiophonie for oboe and electronics. “Other people from the electronic music realm, will rather come for Phill Niblock, Jessica Ekomane or Beatriz Ferreyra, for example.” These two last-mentioned names, already cover a wide range. On one hand, a young artist who has been drawing attention since a few years with astute performances, for example recently at the MaerzMusik Berlin festival – on the other hand, the 84-year-old pioneer who already worked with Pierre Schaeffer in the 1960s. “We want to make connections,” says Serge Vuille, “for example between purely electronic music and organic instruments in combination with electronics, or between new and old tools, who knows, maybe Beatriz Ferreyra will bring old tape machines?”


Jessica Ekomane plays at the Nuit de l’électroacoustique © Camille Blake


Casualness and Focus

For the curatorial collective of Contrechamps and Cave 12, the goal is not only to mix old and young, but also international headliners with local acts from the independent Geneva scene. The latter is represented with performances by Salômé Guillemin and d’incise. In addition, three new pieces have been commissioned to a smaller version of the Contrechamps Ensemble plus live electronics, a reminiscence of the IRCAM school, as Serge Vuille points out.



d’incise, Le désir certain, 2019 (Insub.records & Moving Furniture Records)


The Nuit de l’électroacoustique is intended to casually generate a focused listening experience. The audience can walk around freely, “we want to prove that – whether sitting or not – one can enjoy electronic music in a focused way.” The public can even take a break from the five-hour programme at the bar, or walk around the virtual reality installation by Raphaël Raccuia and Nicolas Carrel, which invites to discover the future, because that is what electronic music has been about since the beginning.
Friedemann Dupelius


Contrechamps in spring 2022:
Nord: 7.-20.2., Le Grütli, Geneva
Nuit de l’électroacoustique: 19.3., 19-24 Uhr, Pavillon ADC, Geneva

ContrechampsCosima Weiter & Alexandre SimonKaija SaariahoBeatriz FerreyraJessica EkomanePhill NiblockLe GrütliPavillon ADCCave 12

radio-features SRF 2 Kultur:
Musik unserer Zeit, 9.10.2019: Johannes Knapp und Serge Vuille – zwei junge Querdenker am Ruder, editors: Theresa Beyer / Moritz Weber (in German)
neoblog, 19.6.19: Ensemble Contrechamps Genève, expérimentation et héritage, Interview with Serge Vuille by Gabrielle Weber

Contrechamps, Heinz Holliger, d’incise, Serge Vuille

GRINM action group is evolving

More diverse and gender-equity oriented practices in New Music: Vision, Option or Must?

In mid-November, three days of meetings and conferences with international figures were held at the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK) in order to exchange experiences and visions regarding the future.
‘Positionen’-Editor Bastian Zimmermann was there and draws his conclusions.

GRiNM Network-Conference ZHdK © Gender Relations in New Music/ Gözde Filinta


Quite far from the first and kind of subversive meeting held in a camping tent during the Darmstadt Summer Courses 2016, the GRiNM (Gender Relations in New Music) group is rapidly growing into an important platform where gender and diversity issues in contemporary music can be addressed and debated. The loose group of committed protagonists in the field of contemporary music met at the ZHdK and for the first time without the need to bind to another New Music festival.

They came together from Berlin of course, but also different parts of Europe and even Canada, with the mutual goal to present projects and strategies aiming at the development of a more diverse musical world based on gender equity, learn from each other and – at best – initiate and decide on new projects together. Although the rather unpleasant wish of an “outcome” usually hovers over so-called “network meetings”, this weekend undeniably enjoyed some kind of general “flow”. This may well be due to the fact that the GRiNM co-founders Meredith Nicoll, Brandon Farnsworth, Lucien Danzeisen or Rosanna Lovell, as well as all those who joined them, are driven by a real concern: The horrendous imbalance in the music business with partly 100 percent white male economy to be pointed out and concretely brought into an opposite “even harder imbalance”. Through actions such as statistical analyses, their publication and a call for change, GRiNM drew attention to the imbalance so successfully that currently vacant artistic leadership positions are hardly filled ‘only’ by men.

Karlheinz Stockhausen: Mikrophonien, 1966, Filmstill ©Stellan Veloce | GRiNM

As a result of this attention, numerous leading male actors gathered in Zurich to reflect on the music business as well as their own work. Thorbjørn Tønder Hansen from the Ultima Festival in Oslo for example, who reported on the challenges of implementing changes or experiments like an all-female festival into a large complex of cooperation partners and donors. Dahlia Borsche discussed these difficulties within the DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst).

The network for women and non-binary persons Konstmusiksystrar (Art-Music-Sisters), represented by Anna Jackobsson and Rosanna Gunnarsson, presented, among other topics, a possible radical breaking through statute regarding common curatorial conventions: The idea to chose works received through calls for application randomly – which is in many ways challenging for the current mindset, an issue that has been subsequently discussed further.

Konstmusiksystrar – sisters in contemporary music ©Hampus Andersson

There have also been attempts to discuss a “Global Music Network Initiative”, but this turned out to be a somewhat utopian undertaking with regard to inclusion and exclusion of musical genres and practices.

Each one of the three days started with a keynote speech, on the first day by Christina Scharff, a brilliant rhetorical and analytical lecturer at King’s College in London, on the thought of gender categories in contemporary music. Most productive, however, were the multiple initiated, moderated, but still open discussions and round tables among some 40 participants: On the basis of individual statements, such as “how to deal with the strengthening right-wing movement in the curatorial/artistic context”, the group discussed solutions in a lively and focused manner. And all this within a GRiNM framework in which more and more people who want to change something in the hierarchically organized music business will be able to gather in the future.
Bastian Zimmermann

Some of the most recent engagements on the Swiss side were presented by Serge Vuille for Contrechamps Geneve, ZHdK and FHNW, Global Music Network Norient, Katharina Rosenberger from San Diego or SONART, Musikschaffende Schweiz.

Überläufer – Eine performative Klang-Raum-Komposition zu Wandel und Migration (Trailer), UA 2019 ©ZeitRäume Basel 2019

There is still quite some work to be done in Switzerland: Join in the discussion, share your experiences, thoughts and suggestions here on this blog. We are happy to exchange views on gender and diversity in New Music.

Whishing you a great start into the new year!
Gabrielle Weber, Editor/Curator of neo.mx3.ch

GRiNM, positionen.BerlinEnsemble Contrechamps Genève, FHNW | Sonic Space Basel, Norient-Space, SONART – Musikschaffende Schweiz, Katharina Rosenberger

Read also: Neo-Blog:
GRiNM? = [GRiNäM]!: Interview with Brandon Farnsworth by Gabrielle Weber
Ensemble Contrechamps Genève – Expérimentation et héritage: Interview Serge Vuille / Contrechamps by Gabrielle Weber

Neo-profiles: Zürcher Hochschule der Künste, Contrechamps, Festival ZeitRäume BaselKatharina Rosenberger

Ensemble Contrechamps Geneva – Experimentation and legacy

Interview with Serge Vuille, Artistic Director Ensemble Contrechamps Geneva

Serge Vuille

Gabrielle Weber
spending ten years in London, Serge Vuille, percussionist and former director of the contemporary music ensemble WeSpoke, is back in his native Romandie (French-speaking part of Switzerland), where he has taken over the artistic direction of the ensemble Contrechamps”. In this interview, he tells us about the ensemble’s positioning within the contemporary music scene and the first concert season under his direction (starting in September 2019)  

Serge Vuille, as a young musician-percussionist and programmer, your background is rather experimental. Now you’re leading the most important as well as steeped in tradition ensemble of this part of Switzerland. What is your position regarding the ensemble’s tradition and history?
Contrechamps40-years strong history is a legacy I consider to be very important.
The historical side of a contemporary ensemble consists in regularly playing and fostering important masterpieces of the repertoire, which is crucial. On the other hand, the ensemble’s take on creation, research and experimentation is a critical aspect too. I enjoy combining and linking these two angles in my programmes.

Contrechamps being an instrumental ensemble in the traditional sense, how do you position yourselves in relation to the interdisciplinary and multimedia trends?
This is a key point within the regular activity of an ensemble like Contrechamps: What place do acoustic instruments occupy within the scope of 21st century sound and music experimentation? I’ve noticed that there is still great fascination for such things as instrumental music, the concept of virtuosity and even simply acoustic sound.

“There is something that remains absolutely magical about sitting in a silent room and hearing the sound of an instrument.”

It is important to find a balance between the repertoire, which is part of the history and DNA of the ensemble and innovative solutions in order to create instrumental or hybrid music, in a musical landscape that went through major revolutions over the past ten years. For this upcoming season, we will not only invite classical composers, but also artists and dancers approaching the concept of composition.

Concert, Maryanne Amacher, Geneva, May 7, 2019, Ensemble Contrechamps

In this current season, you have scheduled two concerts that will be linked with two of the main aspects of your work during the past few years: the collaborative space between visual arts and instrumental music…
The first one is called Sculptures sonore (Sound Sculpture), for which I invited the sound sculptress Rebecca Glover. The musicians find different placements around the audience during the concert, while Rebecca interacts with her electronic instruments. The programme also included works by Rebecca Saunders, Alvin Lucier and Paula Matthusen.

Rebecca Saunders, Concert Sculptures sonores, Genève 1.11.2018 ©Contrechamps 

The second concert featured Marianne Ammacher, an American composer working with sound perception and the physiological awareness of listening, with a significant part of electronics, in a unique combination with the instruments.

“If I had to name the things I like best in a programme, those would be the kind of creations that are highly risk-taking and focused on experimentation, but still framed in  contemporary music’s  historical context and relating to its  canon.

One thing that is clearly noticeable when looking at your programmes, is your commitment towards gender balance. 

Gender balance is more of a general, societal issue, not specifically related to contemporary music. Arts must also act as role model in society. Finding balance, however, requires a target-oriented approach. Being convinced by my research’s findings, I believe that the quality of my programme is achieved through this balance.

You are particularly interested in the social aspect of the concert, the ritual that comes with it…
The social side of artistic approach is constantly neglected in the contemporary music world. We have to find formats that encourage daring contents while allowing spontaneous exchanges. My experience as curator of the Kammerklang series at the “Café Otto” in London has proved that it is possible to create a relaxed atmosphere, whilst keeping the necessary focus. But one must pay attention to it. 

Concert Sculptures sonores, Genève 1.11.2018 ©Samuel Rubio

What can we expect from the upcoming season?
The season is called résonance par sympathie (sympathetic resonance), a physical process through which instruments placed close to a sound source begin to resonate even if they are not being touched. In Geneva, I was able to meet with many partners and I could feel this kind of resonances taking place and starting to vibrate. A major part of the season is based on this concept.

There will be twelve concerts, many creations and a lot of experimentation, for example an opera by Mathieu Shlomowitz, in collaboration with the Grand Théâtre de Genève. 
As for the compositions, we invited Christine Sun Kim, a deaf-mute visual artist, the electronic musician Thomas Ankersmit, Geneva composer Jacques Demierre, Canadian Chiyoko Szlavnics, the Geneva-based Punk-Rock band Massicot and many more. For three concerts the ensemble Counterchamps has been invited to the “Gare du Nord” in Basel.  

The season will start with a pre-opening, on August 25th, at six in the morning at Les Bains des Pâquis with Olivier Messiaen’s Quatuor pour la fin du temps; at sunrise, by the lake, outdoors, in a truly magical atmosphere….

Any wishes left for the Ensemble?
My wish is to present the scene in all its diversity and richness, paying attention to the balance between past, present and future, between genres and formats, as well as between the artists and the public. 

Interview Gabrielle Weber

Ensemble Contrechamps: concert ouverture saison: Messiaen, Quatuor pour la fin du temps, 25 août 2019, 6h, Bains des Pâquis

Emission SRF:
9.10.2019, 20h: “Musik unserer Zeit”

Contrechamps, WeSpoke