Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Music11: Days 1 & 2

Another installment of the MusicX festival is underway! We had a spectacular time last year at Music10 (see posts below) and are happy to be off to a great start for Music11.

If you've just tuned in, Music11 is a festival of contemporary music from June 20 to July 1, located at the Hindemith Music Centre in Blonay, Switzerland. The festival is lead by artistic director Joel Hoffman, general manager Michael Ippolito, operations manager Kyle Werner (yours truly), and ensemble in residence eighth blackbird. This year's composers in residence are Joel Hoffman, David Lang, and Matthias Pintscher. We have a total of 42 participants: 19 composers and 23 performers (two of which are also composers). Upon acceptance, the composers were each assigned to write a piece for a specific ensemble, which consists of one member of eighth blackbird and 2-4 participant performers. During the two weeks here, we are rehearsing for these 19 world premieres, which will be presented next week in a series of concerts. We will also present performances of works by the resident composers - Hoffman, Lang, and Pintscher - as well as a series of masterclasses for composers and performers. In addition, we have four sessions dedicated to the participant composers, providing each a chance to give a presentation on his or her music. (And believe it or not, we still have a fair amount of time to relax and enjoy this beautiful place!)

Roughly half of us arrived early on Sunday the 19th, allowing us to get a head start on dealing with jet lag, and to get settled here at the Hindemith Centre. The remaining participants arrived on Monday, at which time the festival officially began. What a wonderful group of people! This year we set a new record in the number of applicants, so the festival was more competitive than ever before. Over the last couple of days, we have been delighted to find that our participants are as friendly as they are talented. They come from all over Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America. It is a pleasure to get to know one another during meals and free time, in addition to our official festival activities.

Here are some pictures of where we spend our time here:

Chalet de Lacroix - the main building which contains our dining room, salon, several rehearsal/practice rooms, and housing on the upper floors.

The Pavilion - the adjacent building, which includes rehearsal space, the Bartok Hall (where performances and other large events are held), and housing on the upper floor.

Day 1 (Monday) opened with lunch and an orientation meeting, after which we launched right into rehearsals. We got a good start, despite jet lag and numerous travel glitches! Our party that night left us a little drowsy the next morning. It was worth it, though!

Tuesday we had our first composer presentation session in the morning. Presenters included Hye Jung Yoon, Elizabeth Ogonek, Ruben Naeff, Evan Meier, and Amy Kirsten. The variety of musical styles was striking. We always try to put together a festival with diverse musical personalities, and this year is no exception. I find it fascinating to see how each composer's personality is reflected in their music. Hearing this music also whets our appetites for next weeks concerts - hearing someone's previous works makes us curious to hear how their new piece will sound.

After dinner we all gathered in Bartok Hall, where composer in residence Matthias Pintscher spoke about his music. He has a knack for drawing connections between different artistic media in order to move beyond musical details and tap into deeper aesthetic questions. He opened and closed the session by reading quotations of visual artist Agnus Martin. In between, Pintscher played recordings of his Flute Concerto, written for Emmanual Pahud, his orchestral work Toward Osiris, composed for Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic, and his Study #1 for violin and cello. He used these works as a starting point for talking about his ideas about music. In particular, he addressed the idea of each detail containing the spirit of the entire work; creating perspective by leaving space between the layers of a work; continually shaping your inner ear by listening to live performances; and letting the materials themselves generate the form of a work. Although all of these topics had obvious manifestations within Pintscher's works, he also noted the ways they are present in many other disciplines such as visual art, architecture, and cooking. He observed that, in both music and cooking, it usually works best to have just 3 or 4 main ingredients - everything else must play a supporting role in order to maintain the clarity of the whole. (By the way, we have amazing food here at the Hindemith Centre, so Pintscher's point definitely hit home!) Since he is both a composer and conductor, he has excellent insights to the total process of creating new music - from the first germinating idea to the last chord of the live performance. This was a truly inspiring presentation.

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