Gershwin, An American in Paris & Shostakovich, Symphony No. 10//Friday & Saturday, March 14th-15th 2014//Hertz Hall, UC Berkeley Department of Music//Berkeley, CA//8p//$5 (Cal student) -$12 (student/senior)-$16 (general)
Mahler, Symphony No. 2 “Resurrection” w. University Chorus//Friday & Saturday, March 14th-15th 2014//Hertz Hall, UC Berkeley Department of Music//Berkeley, CA//8p//$12 (Cal student) -$15 (student/senior)-$20 (general)
Preliminary Workshop: Composing Beyond Music with Peter Ablinger and eight other artists
Musikprotokoll Festival, featuring a variety of artists in various sound-art mediums: acoustic pieces, analog noise, electro-acoustic pieces, multi-media pieces, improvisation, sound installation and sculpture, as well as DJ sessions and micro-lectures (my favorite one was a “Slam”-style lecture, which name-dropped Deleuze, Barthes, Baudrillard, Badiou, Attali, et al. [seriously, like, at least ten names and their various concepts in ten minutes?!?! It’s worse than me!!] in a delightfully soupy British accent).
OK…I’m gonna make this one short(ish). And I’m about to get parentheses-happy. Reader be warned.
As I’m writing this, I’m at the Graz airport en route to my final destination on this trip: the Venice Biennale, specifically, the International Contemporary Music Festival. The last few days in Graz were particularly insightful, in that I was able to truly begin stepping away from Western-style “concert music” in a real way. For the last 8-9 years, I’ve been in school for music composition, which for the unknowing, is a very specific form of music-making with its social roots in 17th-century (as the language of sacred music began to migrate outside the church and into performative situation) but whose actual music can be traced to centuries previous. That being said, it’s old and has a lot of historical baggage; *cough, I mean, collection of signs/significations; *ahem, I mean, it’s like, totally, you know, hmmm…musty? Anyways, it’s been the main project of contemporary artists to re-examine, (de)/(re)construct, critique, or otherwise position oneself anew against this “baggage.” Oftentimes, the aim is to (re)create artistic vitality through versatility of practice (engagement with several art-forms/making) or new relationships between the art-form and changing social (multicultural? Post/neo-colonial/imperial?) and economic (effective forms of global neo-liberal Capitalism) spheres .
Whoa, that was a lot of words. I just wanted to say: I’m ready to try new things. Being tied to an institution is great (read: FUNDING) but any institution, no matter how well meaning or “good,” can really start to cloud your artistic judgment.
So, alas, I pursued this new program at the Impuls Academy (one of those music festival/course things similar to Darmstadt, Accanthes, Royaumont-Voix Nouvelles, etc.)called (unpretentiously) “Composing beyond music.” This workshop of nine “artists” (I’ll get to them in a bit) will all work with composer Peter Ablinger (known for his idiosyncratic concert pieces, theoretical writings, happenings, and sound installlations) to create a site-specific (I prefer Robert Irwin’s term, “site-conditioned”) work–whether performance or “sound” installation–at the Kulturzentrum bei den Minoriten in the center of Graz, Austria in February 2013.
This past weekend, the initial meeting of all nine “artists” (plus Ablinger, organizer Ute Pinter, and documentarian/artist Christine Schörkhuber) took place in Graz where we measured our reactions to the space and exchanged ideas about possible projects. This project seemed a little forced only because 1) we just met each other and were not familiar with personalities/work (this was less of an issue though) and 2) we started sharing super-preliminary ideas only after ~12 hrs and one viewing of the space (this was what was problematic). So, for me…factor in the reality that I’ve had little to zero experience in this kind of work despite my interest, and you’ve got a 45-minute presentation “stream-of-consciousness” style. I basically ranted through every idea, concept, artist name, possible scenario, and foodstuff that came to mind AS it came into my mind (that last one is exaggerated, although I was usually hungry during these 5-6 hour discussions).
These meetings were concluded each evening with complimentary tickets to Festival Musikprotokoll (described above) where we saw acts like the Arditti String Quartet (yeah, I missed this one), Ensemble Zeitfluss, and the inimitable Klangforum Wien, in addition to less-“fancy” “music”/”sound” acts.
A quick aside on the “scare quotes” in this blog entry. Throughout this project, and indeed one of the ideas behind this project, is questioning the ideas behind given concepts such as “composer” or “music” or “sound” or “art.” I know, high-falutin’ aspirations, but still…when art approaches life, it tends towards philosophy and what is philosophy but asking the right questions? In this situation, in the disparities between art and life, new work and inspiration can be found; we, as musicians, can compose differently, using stuff that aren’t objects (whether they be notes or instruments or performers) but that are immaterial. Okay, here we go: we can compose a new situation, maybe a new reality for the artistic participant; compose a perspective or an idea; reaffirm or critique givens through confrontation…shit like that.
OOOOOOOOKKKKKKKKAAAAAAYYYYYYYY. AAAAAAAAnd we’re back from “Philosophy Talk.” The other “composer/sound artists/people” (I’ll refer to us artsy-types) ranged from 23ish to older (hard to tell how old people are, really). Many of us have had multimedia experience or at the very least, musical experience OUTSIDE a concert hall/setting. The square-table discussions among the artsy-types were fun in that none of us knew what we were doing for projects so we were flying by the seats of our pants. Needless to say, after 2.5 days of trading ideas and hanging out, we got to know each other pretty well and I’m looking forward to coming back in February to realize our projects. That’s enough for this post: off to Venice.