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“Mushroom music and glacier crunching: Sounds fantastic? Well, it actually is”

“Mushroom music and glacier crunching: Sounds fantastic? Well, it actually is”
Ludwig Berger (standing, on the left) presents his project idea “klang-DNA – morteratschgletscher (sound DNA morteratsch glacier)”: Sound recordings from inside the Morteratsch Glacier are to be preserved in the form of DNA in a local rock.
Photos: Manu Leuenberger
Text by Erika Weibel
On 16 April 2024, the project “Zukunftsmusik – Utopie sonore – Échos du futur (future sounds)” was presented at the Yehudi Menuhin Forum in Bern. The audience of present times got an impression of how composers living today created their musical greetings for an audience of future times, in the year 2123. Short overtures from selected works were also presented.

What is music that is intended for an audience that has not yet been born supposed to sound like? This question formed the starting point for the “Future sounds” project, which was developed to mark SUISA’s centenary. As part of this project, over 40 musicians from all over Switzerland have developed composition ideas for works that will not be premiered for another 100 years. The artistic direction of this project was in the hands of ethnomusicologist and curator Johannes Rühl.

The composers outlined their basic ideas for these forward-looking works on two A4 pages. These drafts were published in an archive box. An expert jury consisting of Jennifer Jans, Peter Kraut and Johannes Rühl selected composers from five projects on the basis of the proposals received and commissioned them to complete the planned works. These works are to be premiered in their entirety on the occasion of SUISA’s 200th anniversary in 2123.

The “Future sounds” project was developed to mark SUISA’s centenary. The presentation evening was a worthy conclusion to the anniversary year. Shown in the picture: SUISA President Xavier Dayer in conversation with Desirée Meiser.

The five selected works were presented together with a number of other exciting sketches submitted and a musical foretaste was offered in the form of acoustic appetisers. The evening was a worthy conclusion to SUISA’s anniversary year, with a look into the musical future of the coming years.

Five works to be completed

Hyper Duo (Gilles Grimaître, Julien Mégroz): “3 406 699 560”
Hyper Duo’s proposal involves a fascinating journey in which present and future interweave, background noises become music and the performers become authors. The title of the composition corresponds to the number of seconds from the submission date to the performance and therefore changes with each performance. This flexibility is an essential part of Hyper Duo’s work.
Grimaître and Mégroz provide the future performers of their work “3 406 699 560” with a printed paper containing a questionnaire and a conceptualised score. In order to be able to interpret the work, the musicians have to answer questions such as: “What will the place where Hyper Duo’s rehearsal studio is located in 2023 sound like in 2123?” Musicians of the future should visit this place and record the sounds using any sound recording method. The new audio material will then enter into a dialogue with the written part of the composition in a hundred years’ time.

The Hyper Duo explains the composition “3 406 699 560”, on the right the presenter of the evening Desirée Meiser.

Joy Frempong & Marcel Blab (OY): “Welcome To Our Future by OY”
Oy’s choice of ensemble for the work in the future was that of a choir of a hundred, augmented by telepathic elements (according to Oy, it is scientifically proven that telepathic music-making will be possible in 100 years’ time), the collective improvisation of mushrooms and singing dogs who will perform their composition in a hundred years’ time.
Their work is music that “brings peace, finds and gives calm, connected by the endless course of things, the cycles of nature and life, like the Qi and the Higgs particles that are and permeate everything from the atom to the furthest corner of the universe. An ode to the greater unknown and yet the feeling and connection that surrounds us. With love, humour and depth. Music that doesn’t exclude and doesn’t want to be smarter than we are.”

Martina Berther: “Sound treasure – escaping the zeitgeist”
Martina Berther wants to preserve the sounds of Switzerland for posterity. For several months, she kept a sound diary in which she recorded everyday sounds as well as places she selected to visit, which she considers to be formative for our time and soundscape. Berther assumes that some of these sounds will have disappeared in 100 years. This sound diary serves as an acoustic document of our time, capturing the richness of today’s sound world before it continues to change.
In a hundred years, the diary can be further developed by adding recordings of the upcoming soundscape. Musicians of the future can thus make the changes in sounds and places audible and supplement the work with new sounds, whether through new music or a sound diary from the year 2123.

Patrick Frank: “Remember the future”
Frank has set the framework for his project as the “fight for a dignified life for all living things”. The overture took place on 16 April 2024 at the Yehudi Menuhin Forum in Bern. Every ten years, the work “Remembering the Future” is to be performed in an expanded musical form as part of a public event organised by SUISA.
At each performance, the work is supplemented by a “memory” – a partial composition created by a maximum of two composers and lasting a maximum of two minutes. After 89 years, these pieces add up to a total work of 100 minutes, which will be presented at the last performance. The compositions are digitally archived each time so that they can be retrieved and added to for each new performance.

Simone Felber & Adrian Würsch: “Grüess as grosse nüt” (Say hello to the big nothing)
Folk songs, yodelling and folk music have been passed down orally for centuries. In their project, Simone Felber and Adrian Würsch explore the question of how this oral tradition can be revitalised. At the centre of the project is a musical encounter in which music and lyrics are conveyed orally. By passing on a song sketch, adaptations, changes and developments of the material are not only unavoidable, but expressly desired.
The project aims to make a song sketch available to two individuals in the year 2123. They should learn the song and reproduce it from memory. Sheet music is deposited, but may not be passed on; sound recordings, however, are permitted. The song must be passed on orally from person to person. As soon as four pairs know the song by heart, they are asked to write an arrangement independently of each other. The second verse of the song, which is only available in text form, is to be updated and a third part added, whereby the instrumentation is free. The four versions will finally be performed in a concert.

All participants in the presentation of the “Music of the Future” project gathered on the stage of the Yehudi Menuhin Forum Bern.

Media comments on the “Future sounds” project

“An extraordinary music project creates a time capsule that may not be opened for another 100 years. In it: 40 compositions by Swiss musicians. With singing dogs, Morse code or glacier music. But how do you write music for the future? For whom? And in what format?” – SRF Kulturplatz, 10 April 2024

“The idea is very simple, but its effect is almost impossible to grasp. Musicians from all over Switzerland were commissioned to compose music that will be played for the first time in 100 years. The 40 invited Swiss musicians came from pop, jazz, classical, folk music and experimental forms of music-making. ‘What a crazy idea’, was the immediate reaction from the music scene. It soon dawned on many of them what a difficult mission they were embarking on.
[…] If everything goes according to plan, in the year 2124 an identical sealed container with mysterious contents will be opened in the Swiss National Sound Archives in Lugano and in the small Nepomuk Church below Loco in Niva in the Onsernone Valley. Curious people will hold in their hands what has been waiting for them for 100 years. They follow the instructions and bring to life what was devised for them in the distant past.
Of course, we will never know how they feel about it.” – Ticino newspaper, 16 April 2024

“If we look back a century in music history, we come across George Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue’, which was first performed in 1924. Or the first solo of a young Louis Armstrong in ‘Chimes Blues’, in 1923.
That is not that far apart from our taste of today, right? These pieces have travelled with people through the decades, nestling in the collective memory. As Rühl says, things are different in the avant-garde. The music movement that tries to be ahead of its time at all times in the history of music.” – Bern newspaper, 15 April 2024

“It is clear that we cannot know for sure what will happen during the opening of the capsule which contains music from this project. One thing, however, is certain: that the music will still be there, that there will be melodies, harmonies and rhythms. There will be the voice. Of course, listening will probably be different, habits will certainly be different, but music as an experience will also be the heritage of our great-grandchildren.” – Corriere del Ticino, 16 April 2024

“Mushroom music and glacier crunching: SUISAʼs ʻFuture Soundsʼ project preserves 40 compositions in a time capsule that will not be published until 2123. Sounds fantastic? Well, it actually is.” – Podcast SRF2, 16 April 2024

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