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Archipel Festival: Rendez-vous with contemporary music

Archipel Festival: Rendez-vous with contemporary music
“The Archipel Festival has a twofold mission: Its aim is to seek out young artists and present contemporary music in all of its forms”, writes Marc Texier, Director of the Geneva Archipel Festival.
Photo: Festival Archipel / Isabelle Meister
Text/interview by Manu Leuenberger
Now for the 26th time, the Archipel Festival offers an opportunity for a rendez-vous with contemporary music creation between 24 March and 02 April 2017. For the first time, SUISA will be involved in the Archipel Festival this year. With SUISA's support, an info day for young music creators will be held on 01 April 2017, as well as a public talk session with composers. More in the interview with festival director Marc Texier which has been carried out in writing.

Marc Texier, the 26th occurrence of the Archipel Festival between 24 March and 02 April 2017 in Geneva will be held under the motto “ensemble”. What’s behind this slogan?
Marc Texier: Under the motto “ensemble”, Archipel 2017 celebrates the important art of joint creation, which would be nice if we could see it transferred to other communities and which is extensively practised by the young musicians’ generation. We would like to offer it a broad concert platform.

What is the greater motivation when it comes to organising a festival: The desire to provide contemporary composers and artists with a shop window or to entice a wider audience for New Music?
The festival has a twofold mission: Its aim is to seek out young artists and to make the transition from university to work life easier. Its intention is also to present contemporary music in all of its forms and to pave the way to New Music for a big audience. The festival follows a dramaturgic script and provides the platform for the sound of living material of an art form which is reinventing itself.

Works of contemporary composers are often doomed to a life in the shadows when it comes to the programmes of traditional concert halls. Why is it that people prefer to perform Bach rather than New Music?
If only it was Bach; but it’s usually rather Tchaikovsky. That’s a question you should ask the representatives of orchestras and concert halls. Where does this strong restraint vis-a-vis contemporary music creation come from? It’s not always dictated by the audience, as they are curious, how I could determine time and again. It’s the structures, orchestras, opera houses, radios which hold on to music which dominated the time of its creation in the 19th and 20th century. What people forget is that the music back then was the most important carrier of modern times. We’re facing a museum-like approach rather than the joy of discovery. Thank God, however, there are exceptions.

Under the auspices of the Académie Archipel Ose! which takes place for the first time and is run by Kaija Saariaho and Daniel Kawka, 6 young composers may take a one-week course in symphonic composition for the first time. What’s the point of an education when there are no more rules and everything is allowed in music nowadays?
Edgar Varèse, one of the ‘fathers’ of New Music, wanted to reduce the rules (grammar) and only follow the (mainly acoustic) laws. Here we are now. There are basically no more rules, just what you need to channel your own imagination. What still applies are the physical laws of sound, its source and how it spreads. There are thousands of techniques to construct a work, to dominate its form, the musical discourse. And finally, computer science also belongs to the pragmatic and necessary instruments of music composition. Once all of that has been acquired, the most substantial factor comes along: to find your own voice, to create something of your own. Colleges, where people of the most diverse backgrounds and varied careers get together, are a help to achieve this: Once the young musicians have learned about the “laws” at the conservatoire, they discover their own “self” when meeting other composers of their generation.

What kind of challenges does a budding Swiss composer master so that his works gain international recognition?
The same as a Frenchman or a Korean woman. Since the wall came down, and many countries have gained access to relative wealth, music creation has been heavily internationalised. The candidates for the Académie Archipel Ose! came from no less than 30 countries on five continents. They are expected to bring along a solid theoretical and practical basic knowledge, imagination and originality, since they travel from academy to academy around the world in order to complete their education and to be able to gain international recognition.

On Saturday, 01 April 2017, a “Journée d’orientation professionnelle” for young composers and artists will be held, co-produced with SUISA. Access to this event in ‘L’Abri’ is free of charge. What does this event have in store for a young music creator?
As newcomers, we have all had the unsettling experience that there is a gap between our career ambitions and professional reality. We cannot change that altogether, but we can help young musician, composers and artists to get to know the environment in which they will be active. This includes administrative, legal, technical and human constraints which they are subjected to when they perform their music for which they were specifically trained. Musical professions – ranging from music critic to publishers of music score and from orchestra musician to creators of sound – have been fundamentally changed as a consequence of the computerisation of music creation, the dematerialisation of carriers, the disappearance of boundaries between the art forms, and the replacement of traditional dissemination channels such as TV, radio and print media by social networks. Experts that have been invited to attend this event will be addressing these issues.

How about yourself: What kind of events from this year’s festival programme are you not going to miss under any circumstance?
I will, of course, attend them all, and can therefore not really answer this question. As a connoisseur of New Music, I would not wish to miss out on the creations of our four most important contemporary composers: Murail, Kyburz, Gervasoni and Blank, in the course of the concert of the Lemanic Modern Ensemble on 01 April. If I wanted to have an introduction to contemporary music unknown to me, and wanted to be able to ask various artists questions in a pleasant atmosphere, I wouldn’t want to miss the afternoon of 2 April to the ‘salons de musique’, which are dedicated to the contrabass clarinet and the drums., festival website

“Journée d’orientation professionnelle”
I am a young composer and at the beginning of my career. Where can I complete my education and training? At which academy? How do I introduce myself? I have founded an ensemble: How do I get it to become well-known, how do I develop and run it? Do I have to register with a collective management organisation? What’s better: paper or ‘dematerialised’ editions? Can I upload my music on the internet for free? Where can I work in an multidisciplinary manner? Where do I distribute my work? These and many more questions are what young artists are asking themselves at the beginning of their careers. We attempt to answer them in the course of meetings with lawyers, publishers, teachers and music producers. The event is under the auspices of SUISA and intended to facilitate the career entry for young musicians. It is open to everyone. (Text: Archipel Festival)
Saturday, 01 April 2017 at the ‘L’Abri – A2’, free admission
10:00-10:10 Welcome speech by Bernard Meier – President of the Archipel Association responsible for the workshops of the music conservatoire HEM
10:10-10:30 Nicolas Pont – Head of SUISA Legal Services
10:30-10:50 David Johnson – responsible for Swissperform’s branch office in the French-speaking part of Switzerland
10:50-11:10 Johannes Knapp – Director of the STV/ASM
11:20-11:40 Damien Pousset – Founder of the Aeon label
11:40-12:00 Andri Hardmeier – Head of the Music Division of Pro Helvetia
12:00-12:20 François Passard (Director) and Alain Renaud (Manager of the production studio) of the ‘L’Abri’
13:30-13:50 Marc Texier – Archipel Director
13:50-14:10 Daniel Zea – Composer and founding member of the Ensemble Vortex
14:10-14:30 Tzairi Santos Garcia – responsible for the digital development at Outhere Music
14:30-14:50 Lucas Fagin – Composer and co-director of Babelscores
15:00-15:20 Bruno Serrou – Music critic
15:20-15:40 Marie-Christine Papillon – Director of Papillon Publishing
15:40-16.00 Conclusion/Debrief
Conversations with composers
With Hanspeter Kyburz, Stefano Gervasoni, William Blank, Tristan Murail, Xavier Dayer. Presented by Marc Texier.

Saturday, 01 April 2017, 20.00 hrs
Alhambra, free admission

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