KP Overseas: Darmstadt 2016
It's been a busy few months for all the members of Kupka's Piano, and we're fast approaching October when we'll be performing a program of no less than three world premieres and an Australian premiere at the Judith Wright Centre in Brisbane (tickets are now available, by the way)! But since you last saw us play in our hometown, most of us have been travelling all over, attending international workshops and festivals, taking lessons with some of the finest musicians in our field, and just soaking up the diversity of new music being made in Asia, Europe, and America.
We were fortunate enough to have received support from the Australia Council for the Arts in order to travel to Darmstadt, Germany for our second appearance at the Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik, this year in its 48th edition. This is the international festival-academy for contemporary art music, instigating a biennial pilgrimage of composers and performers from all corners of the globe. Those of us who attended last time wrote about our experiences here, here and here. It's already a month on from this year's festival (where on earth did the time go??), but we wanted to just give a brief comment from each of the members who made it over there to give an idea of what an important experience this has been for us, along with some photos of our exploits!
Stay tuned on the KP blog for our upcoming inaugural "KupkaCast" - our first attempt at a small podcast, where the composers of the new works in our next concert discuss the difficulties of choosing titles, weaving in extramusical material, and different approaches to getting notes onto paper...
Attending the Darmstadt International Summer Course for New Music was a time to meet new colleagues in new music, in addition to connecting with old friends from around the world. It was also a reminder of the importance of new music as an outlet for expression, whether it be cultural, social, or political. The performances, personalities, and ideas alive at the course spurred a whirlwind of emotions: excitement, intrigue, confusion, disgust, inspiration, frustration, exhaustion, and satisfaction. I left knowing I had experienced a special event and thankful that I could return to Australia as a stronger performer and creator.
It was great to be back in Darmstadt for my second stint at the International Summer Courses for New Music. Very inspiring to be ‘inside’ this buzzing hub of new ideas and new work which I found once again to be very artistically motivating, seeing so many people from our generation with such varied and colourful things to say about/with our artform. Particular thanks to Nicolas Hodges and the summer courses for awarding me a Kranichstein Stipendium Musikpries and also the Theme and Variations Foundation which supported my attendance at the 2016 festival.
At Darmstadt I studied with Arditti Quartet cellist Lucas Fels, and amongst other things took part in the Cello-Piano-Composer workshop which was convened by Fels, Pianist Nicolas Hodges and Composer Brian Ferneyhough. A collection of fresh scores were chosen by the convenors prior to the festival which were then assigned to the cello-piano duos, and subsequently workshopped and rehearsed for a performance on the final weekend of the festival. While there were some excellent pieces developed over the course of the two weeks, I was particularly interested in the unfolding processes of collaboration that were taking place: quality of communication; the effects of ego/insecurity; language barriers; choices of notation; rehearsal process and son on. It was clear to see how positive working dynamics between all parties in the workshop process contributed greatly to the strength of the artistic outcome. For performers of contemporary music, to work constructively with composers first-hand is vitally important - if the collaborative process is thoughtfully undertaken and documented, the composer-performer workshop can serve as both a site to reflect upon process, and a rich source of information for future interpreters.
While I had some great lessons, and saw some spectacular concerts, perhaps the most interesting aspect of Darmstadt was the number of ways that, prompted by the celebration of its 70th year, the culture and history of the course was challenged. Much was said regarding GRID [Gender Relations in Darmstadt] - and so it should've been - and, more subtly, this attitude also bled into the Philosophy and Art forums where disagreements tended to be drawn not only along gender lines, but often between age groups as well as between those who were native anglophones and (mostly) Europeans. Of course, having heated arguments at Darmstadt is in many ways no change at all, and in a self-aware move, there was also a series of feedback sessions being run aimed to test and teach new methods for musicians to provide criticism to one another which were non-competitive and non-confrontational. Interesting times ahead for the course!
What an honour to be back at Darmstadt for a second round! And this was particularly special to me as it was an opportunity to reconnect with my KP colleagues ahead of my return to Australia in September after two-and-a-half years away studying in Europe. I bookended my study here with Darmstadt festivals, and it was amazing to feel the difference those years made - in my performance capabilities, but also my comfort asserting my place in the European new music scene. This time I enrolled as a composer, though I still spent a lot of time playing flute. A few of the highlights were the GRID and feedback sessions (mentioned by Michael, above), playing Malaysian composer Zihua Tan's [this].connection with Emilie Girard-Charest (Quebec) and Miao Zhao (China), composition lessons with Simon Steen-Andersen and Hannes Seidl, and connecting and reconnecting with my new music communities and networks from many different continents!
Angus has been a bit busy of late playing in Brisbane Festival-La Boite Theatre-Opera Queensland's co-production of Snow White, so we gave him a free pass on writing a Darmstadt reflection. But here's some pictures of his festival experience, including workshopping with the incredible Georges Aperghis and a lot of percussioning. Marked shots are by IMD photographer Daniel Pufe.
If you haven't yet had your European new music fill, make sure you check out this Darmstadt photo blog from our Aussie compatriots Tamara and Kaylie of Rubiks, based in Melbourne. One of the great things about the festival is the community of Australian musicians that congregate together - we really do feel like we have something special to offer our European counterparts.
See you in 2018, Darmstadt!