The conference cycles of the Contemporary Music Festival of Darmstadt-2018 became a platform for the debate on the creations of today and their production.
In close connection with the purpose of this biennial since its birth, to present and develop the current musical activity, the musicological sessions of this last edition were oriented towards a matter of vital importance, the diffusion of the new sound art. Thus, under the evocative title Defragmentation, a series of talks and conversations took place with creators, artists and experts such as Corinne Diserens, Stefan Heidenreich, Florian Malzacher, Dorothee Richter, Tim Rutherford-Johnson, Ronald Kolb and Helmut Lachenmann, among others, moderated by Lars Petter Hagen and Berno Odo Polzer.
The current situation of artistic production was first analyzed from the figure of the curator, his practices in the different artistic disciplines and the possible application of these to the field of new music. Consequently, the need for a revision of the term -curator- and its suitability for this type of creation was highlighted. During four days the specificity of this exercise was addressed, as well as the driving and mediating activity carried out by the artists. The latter accounts for the existence of a field of action between the production and interpretation of the work, which is not sufficiently addressed, neither in the training stage of the musicians nor in the platforms and forums that take place around the art of the 21st century.
The experts also presented strategies and methods for the management of this production and underlined the immanent need for collaboration, as well as the importance of the development of alternative institutions and new festivals, which make other types of events and formats available to the current public. Critical issues were also addressed, such as transfer, exhibition and production policies in a broader social context such as the one we live in. All this without leaving aside the state in which the “classical concert” is found, which was examined by the sociologist Martin TrÃ¶ndle based on current social and political discourses.
The updating process for the study and presentation of contemporary art also led to a debate on the role of musicological research through the ARTISTIC RESEARCH project, under the direction of Marko Ciciliani and Barbara LÃ¼neburg. As an area inherent to the interpretative practice, the importance of research that was based not only on the traditional process of reasoning, but on the application of methodologies from other disciplines, non-artistic, and yet valid for the analysis, was raised, as for the dissemination of the results of these works.
In connection with the use of new technologies and the multidisciplinary tendency of today’s creators, the need was raised to propose new objectives for research and the use of methodologies that respond to new formats. In addition, a reflection was generated on the possibility of formulating an innovative speech formed by the interaction of electronic devices with humans. As a result of dialogues about art developed between musicologists, composers, artists and a technological system, or in the presence of this, as if someone were listening to the conversation as an outsider, new ideas emerged about the nature of conversation, creativity and improvisation, and the limitations presented by the systems for reflection and sensory capacity were exposed, in order to improve them.
Musicological research, as well as cultural management, have an arduous task ahead moving towards the contemporary creation. Just as the tools of composition are renewed, replaced, developed or modified, the research and its corresponding presentation of results, as well as the production and management of the art of the 21st century, require an updated praxis.
In conversation with Helmut Lachenmann
The production and reception of contemporary art is a matter of concern to artists as well as creators and managers. For this reason, the composer Lachenmann also shared, in an interview, some of his opinions and experiences in this regard.
In the first instance he spoke about two classic topics, “what art should be like” and “if composers want to be understood by their public”. For this he started from SchÃ¶nberg’s idea that “art can be many things, but never boring”, and raised the question of who should it not bore? What did SchÃ¶nberg mean by this? Could he be referring to not boring Merkel, Ronaldo, Boris Becker? To whom? For him, this idea is “stupid” at the moment we think about it in parallel, What is art, provocation, is it a service, is it entertainment? According to the composer, a good response to this question arises at the moment when a work “bothers us and invites us to think”, because in this case, it would not be boring but rather the opposite. In his own words, the Nazis knew exactly why they banned modern music, because it made people think […] And this is something that is still suspicious for people with a degree of brainwashing through commercialism within democracy.
He also affirmed categorically that he always wanted to be understood and although his art is located in an aesthetic compositional environment from the sixties, it does not detract from the continuous search for the transformation of art. You never leave it. But one can at least get out [from their aesthetic environment] and look at it from the outside. That’s what I mean, you have to look at the world and see what else there is. […] We use the musical culture that surrounds us. We use these instruments that were built for certain things, and whenever we defamiliarize something, it has some connotation or expressive character. And composing, for me, is often keeping those things at bay, in a context where the other elements give a different contextual quality.
His objective is to be understood and for that reason he rationalizes every element that is in his work from a contextual perspective. In this way, he invites us to think about the work through an active listening and thus, find what it wants to communicate to us. In short, understand it through the use of reason. He advises his students to write what they would like to hear and also to try everything. Based on this attitude, Lachenmann confessed that he does not know where music is going or how it will continue, nor can he tell people how to write, he can only indicate how he does it. What he does highlight as a discovery in his long and experienced career, is that there are new ways of listening, it is not just about looking for new sounds, but also that we are part of a society that changes us and maybe equally we can change it, but in the end art is about sitting together and listening, and thinking about what we are listening to.
In conclusion, composers who resort to acoustic sounds produced by traditional instruments, those who seek new ways of producing sound from these, as well as those who rely on artificial intelligence or new technologies to produce electronic sounds, all of them, along with managers and musicologists, agree on the need for an update in the production and presentation of both art and research, and also on the importance of being consistent with the new forms of production and listening.
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