Tag Archives: Composition

“Techno and ländler music are very closely related to each other”

Electronically processed everyday sounds are combined with elements of ländler music to create a new listening experience: this is what the double bass player and composer, Pirmin Huber, wants to develop and realise for his new project. The “Get Going!” grant is supporting him with this project. Text/interview by guest author Rudolf Amstutz

Pirmin Huber: “Techno and ländler music are very closely related to each other”

The Schwyz composer and double bass player Pirmin Huber. (Photo: Arthur Häberli)

The Schwyz composer and double bass player, Pirmin Huber, has been experimenting with new ways of combining Swiss folk music with other genres to create new sounds since he completed his jazz studies (majoring in composition) at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts. Whether as a soloist or as a member of the “Ländlerorchester” (Ländler Orchestra), “Stereo Kulisse”, “Ambäck” or of the “Gläuffig” formation: Huber redefines folk music and blends it with techno, jazz, classical or electronic music. Now Pirmin Huber wants to conduct a type of “field recording” research with the help of electronically manipulated everyday noises and the folk music sounds of his double base and other instruments he plays. The whole thing should lead to a work that challenges our listening habits, thus reflecting the world at this extraordinary time.

Pirmin Huber, how did the idea for this project come about?
Pirmin Huber: I started out playing folk music, that is to say acoustic music, and I have increasingly delved into electronic music. By tinkering with new recording techniques, I have come up with ideas that I want to develop further. I grew up on a farm, and we also had a carpenter’s workshop there. I was as fascinated by the sounds of the saw as I was by all the other sounds, and I already tried to imitate them with my musical instruments at that time. In my “Get Going!” project, I start with the sounds I can create with my instruments, double bass, Schwyzerörgeli (an accordion first made in the canton of Schwyz), guitar, piano or Glarus zither, and combine them with typical everyday sounds that I make seem unfamiliar with the help of electronic music. Since my youth, I have been asking myself the following question: how can you make music from these sounds. Now I can afford quite a few tools, thus giving me the opportunity to get deeply involved with the project.

What comes first? The sound collection and then the composition or is it the other way around?
It’s a mixture of the two. New opportunities keep opening up while I work. It’s all part of the process. It’s important to me that I create a very specific mood with my music. The finished work will consist of several pieces that flow together or at least relate to each other. It could be described as a type of suite.

You shift from one style to the next with ease. As a double bass player, you always set the tone. Can connections or interfaces between folk music, classical music, jazz, pop, rock or techno be identified from this position?
Perhaps. In any case, techno and ländler music are very closely related genres. This may be difficult to understand from the outside (laughs), but the energy that comes from playing is the same for techno as it is for ländler music, which is after all also dance music. I think you first have to have played both to experience this common feature. In my project, I am trying to create a kind of modern ländler music with electronics and grooves.

Nature and urban life: do you get the inspiration you need from these conflicting elements?
I need both. As soon as one of them is no longer there, it feels like something is missing. That’s probably why it’s logical that I want to bring these two opposing poles together. I’ve had three strings to my bow for a long time: folk music, contemporary music and techno. However, I feel that they are one.

The “Get Going!” grant is intended to provide start-up financing without any result-related expectations. What do you think of this funding model?
I think it’s great! The freedom it gives us serves as motivation to really achieve something great. After all, I had conceived the idea for my project a long time ago, but then things kept getting in the way. And much ultimately depends on whether you can afford to execute such a project and also implement it without any stress. “Get Going!” allows me to do just that.

FONDATION SUISA started awarding new grants in 2018. Under the heading of “Get Going!”, creative and artistic processes that do not fall within established categories are given a financial jump-start. Each year, our Portrait Series profiles recipients of Get Going! funding.
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Electronically processed everyday sounds are combined with elements of ländler music to create a new listening experience: this is what the double bass player and composer, Pirmin Huber, wants to develop and realise for his new project. The “Get Going!” grant is supporting him with this project. Text/interview by guest author Rudolf Amstutz

Pirmin Huber: “Techno and ländler music are very closely related to each other”

The Schwyz composer and double bass player Pirmin Huber. (Photo: Arthur Häberli)

The Schwyz composer and double bass player, Pirmin Huber, has been experimenting with new ways of combining Swiss folk music with other genres to create new sounds since he completed his jazz studies (majoring in composition) at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts. Whether as a soloist or as a member of the “Ländlerorchester” (Ländler Orchestra), “Stereo Kulisse”, “Ambäck” or of the “Gläuffig” formation: Huber redefines...read more

SUISA Talks at the Zeiträume Festival Basel 2021

Enjoy ten days of contemporary music and experience how the works, often composed especially for the festival, play with their surroundings, ensnare them or engage with them in a kind of dispute. That is the quintessence of the biennial Zeiträume Festival Basel. Text by Erika Weibel

SUISA Talks at the Zeiträume Festival Basel 2021

Zeiträume Basel Festival pavilion in 2019. (Photo: Anna Katharina Scheidegger)

The fourth instalment of the biennial event for new music and architecture carries the festival title “Die Verwandlung” (‘the transformation’) and offers an extraordinary programme between 9 and 19 September 2021 with more than 20 productions and 20+ premières at more than 30 venues in Basel. Current focal points of urban development are made accessible and exciting new productions by many artists are played there.

Apart from numerous concerts and sound installations, you can also dive into the working environment of the composers during the festival. As such, many SUISA talks take place in the festival pavilion.

SUISA Talks, in the festival pavilion and at the Mittlere Brücke (‘Middle Bridge’)
Greifengasse 1, 4058 Basel
Admission free.

Saturday 4 September 2021
at 11:15, Eleni Ralli & Alexander Grebtschenko – Dialogues & Chimeras
at 13:15, Wanja Aloé – Vor Ort
at 15:15, Marianne Schuppe – Die Summe
at 17:15, Linus Riegger, Clemens Fiechter – Phase 4

Sunday 5 September 2021
at 11:15, Sibylle Hauert (tbc) – H.E.I. Kaserne
at 13:15, Dakota Wayne – Sonic Spaces im Klybeck
15:15 – 16:00, Ah Young Hong (soprano) & Vera Hiltbrunner (soprano) – Poppaea
at 17:15, Jannik Giger – Blind Audition

Tuesday 7 September 2021
at 17:15, Phoebe Bognar & Maria Muñoz – Sonic Spaces im Klybeck

Friday 10 September 2021
at 13:15, Dimitri de Perrot (tbc) – Niemandsland
at 17:15, Paul Brauner – Sonic Spaces im Klybeck

Saturday 11 September 2021
at 11:15, Hansjürgen Wäldele – Son et Lumière: Snurglond
at 13:15, Michael Hersch (composition) & Stephanie Fleischmann (libretto) – Poppaea
at 15:15, Klaus Lang – pflaumenblüten.
at 17:15, Helena Winkelmann – pflaumenblüten.

Sunday 12 September 2021
at 11:15, Eleni Ralli & Alexander Grebtschenko – Dialogues & Chimeras
at 13:15, tbc
at 15:15, Sebastian Mathias, Mila Pavicevic, Meret Kündig – Urban Creatures
at 17:15, Focus topic: IGNM Basel, with Marianne Schuppe & Xenia Fünfschilling

Friday 17 September 2021
at 11:15, Alfred Zimmerlin & Robert Torche – Grenzbahnhof
at 13:15, Michel Roth – Spiel Hölle
at 18:15, Yaron Deutsch (Ensemble Nikel) – Oratorium

Saturday 18 Septemer 2021
at 11:15, Focus topic: Zeitgenössische Musik Szene in Basel
at 13:15, Katharina Rosenberger – Urban Morphologies
at 15:15, Focus topic: Nachhaltiges Bauen

Throw a glance behind the scenes in an open conversation with composers, architects, artists and contributors of the festival.

The pavilion at the Mittlere Brücke is the centrepiece of the festival. This is where you can immerse yourself in the sounds, spaces and themes of the festival in talks, performances, installations as well as at the cocktail bar and meet the artists behind the festival productions in person.

The pavilion (Buol & Zünd), sustainably created with the support of SUISA and planned for multi-year use, will be staged again in a new, transformed form. In the middle of the city, the festival presents itself in an open, accessible and playful way – with numerous musical actions, a sounding cable car, kinetic sound objects and changing cocktails from 3 to 19 September.

Join us and be enchanted by a Basel reinterpreted for you.

www.zeitraeumebasel.com

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Enjoy ten days of contemporary music and experience how the works, often composed especially for the festival, play with their surroundings, ensnare them or engage with them in a kind of dispute. That is the quintessence of the biennial Zeiträume Festival Basel. Text by Erika Weibel

SUISA Talks at the Zeiträume Festival Basel 2021

Zeiträume Basel Festival pavilion in 2019. (Photo: Anna Katharina Scheidegger)

The fourth instalment of the biennial event for new music and architecture carries the festival title “Die Verwandlung” (‘the transformation’) and offers an extraordinary programme between 9 and 19 September 2021 with more than 20 productions and 20+ premières at more than 30 venues in Basel. Current focal points of urban development are made accessible and exciting new productions by many artists are played there.

Apart from numerous concerts and sound installations, you can also dive into the...read more

SUISA Songwriting Camp 2021: now open for applications by SUISA members

The fourth SUISA Songwriting Camp will take place from 5 to 7 July 2021 in the Powerplay Studios in Maur near Zurich. It is possible that due to the corona pandemic not all participants will be able to be present at the studios and will instead join online. SUISA members may apply for participation. Text by Erika Weibel and Manu Leuenberger

SUISA Songwriting Camp 2021: now open for applications by SUISA members

Teamwork at the SUISA Songwriting Camp 2019: start with a blank sheet of paper in the morning and finish with a completed demo track by the evening. (Photo: Tabea Hüberli)

The SUISA Songwriting Camp offers some of its members the opportunity to team up and compose pop songs under professional conditions with renowned producers and songwriters from Switzerland and abroad. Between 30 and 40 musicians usually take part in the three-day event.

Those who wish to participate in the Songwriting Camp must have well-founded musical knowledge, be able to produce high-level creative output under time pressure, and be open to criticism and exchange with their co-writers.

The challenging task: write a pop song in a team of three to five people within a day, according to certain specifications – start with a blank sheet of paper in the morning and finish with a completed demo track by the evening.

Pop songs with hit potential

The musical style of the songs can comprise all facets of contemporary pop music that could also be successful in the charts, on streaming platforms or on radio/TV. The songs are intended to be offered to publishers and artists or even suitable for the Eurovision Song Contest.

The event, jointly organised between SUISA and Pele Loriano Productions, has already produced several internationally successful pop songs that have made it on to the stage at the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC). The song “She Got Me”, co-written and sung by Luca Hänni, reached fourth place at the ESC in 2019. The songs “Répondez-moiˮ (Gjon’s Tears, for the event in 2020 that was eventually cancelled), “Stonesˮ (Zibbz, 2018) and “Sisterˮ (Sisters, the German entry in 2019) also qualified. In 2021, “Amenˮ – sung by Vincent Bueno for Austria – became the fifth song from the SUISA Songwriting Camp to reach the semi-finals or finals of the ESC.

Hybrid version of the camp possible

The coronavirus pandemic is still dictating world events. It may therefore be the case that despite safeguarding measures, physical participation of all parties at the Powerplay Studios will not be possible. For this reason, all applicants must have their own technical infrastructure available that would allow online participation. Specifically, you may need to be able to communicate with songwriters remotely using a computer via Wi-Fi, and be able to make professional digital sound recordings and edit music yourself. A Wi-Fi network is available in the studio. Participants must be able to bring their own computers and the necessary (recording) software.

All participants will be informed in good time about the safeguarding protocols and the possible hybrid implementation of the Songwriting Camp.

Applications for the SUISA Songwriting Camp 2021

This year’s SUISA Songwriting Camp takes place from 5 to 7 July 2021 in the Powerplay Studios in Maur near Zurich. The event is again organised by SUISA in collaboration with Pele Loriano Productions. Pele Loriano Productions is responsible for the artistic direction of the Songwriting Camp on behalf of SUISA.

SUISA members can apply to participate in the SUISA Songwriting Camp 2021:
Are you a producer, songwriter (topliner) or a lyricist, and do you think you meet the requirements in terms of musical skill and ability? Do you also have a solid technical infrastructure (computer that can be connected via Wi-Fi and is equipped for professional digital sound recording and music editing) that you can operate and bring with you? In that case, please send us your application, which should contain the following information:

  • short biography
  • meaningful reference songs (mp3 files or internet links)
  • contact details

Please email applications to: songwritingcamp (at) suisa (dot) ch
Closing date for applications: Monday, 7 June 2021.

Important: Participant places are allocated only to SUISA members through this application process. Those who apply should be able to guarantee that they are available to participate on one or all the event days (5-7 July 2021).

Dates and selection of the participants

All artists invited to the camp are selected by the artistic director. A suitable mix of participants is paramount in the creative success of the songwriting sessions.

The artistic programme director will communicate all confirmation messages and invitations, and further details on participation at the SUISA Songwriting Camp 2021 by 27 June 2021. Rejection letters will not be sent. If you have not received a confirmation message by 27 June 2021, you have not been taken into consideration for the Songwriting Camp 2021.

Experience has shown that the number of applications will far exceed the number of available places. Please note that an application does not constitute a claim to participate in the event. Furthermore, no correspondence will be entered into in relation to the allocation of places. No information can yet be given about the implementation of other songwriting camps supported by SUISA.

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The fourth SUISA Songwriting Camp will take place from 5 to 7 July 2021 in the Powerplay Studios in Maur near Zurich. It is possible that due to the corona pandemic not all participants will be able to be present at the studios and will instead join online. SUISA members may apply for participation. Text by Erika Weibel and Manu Leuenberger

SUISA Songwriting Camp 2021: now open for applications by SUISA members

Teamwork at the SUISA Songwriting Camp 2019: start with a blank sheet of paper in the morning and finish with a completed demo track by the evening. (Photo: Tabea Hüberli)

The SUISA Songwriting Camp offers some of its members the opportunity to team up and compose pop songs under professional conditions with renowned producers and songwriters from Switzerland and abroad. Between 30 and 40 musicians usually take part in the three-day event.

Those...read more

“As a composer, you’re always a beginner” | plus video

In his composition for the project “Swiss Beethoven reflections”, Christian Henking uses the melody of the Swiss song used by Beethoven as a basis. In his six variations, he utilises different principles. Text by guest author Markus Ganz; Video by Manu Leuenberger

Christian Henking respects Ludwig van Beethoven, “this monument, this granite rock in music history”. “He is a master teacher to me again and again, independent of the aesthetics; fantastic what he has formally achieved.” As a consequence, Beethoven’s “Variationen über ein Schweizerlied” (Variations on a Swiss song) irritated him even more, as he explains in a conversation at the end of January 2020. “I really don’t understand them, thought, it wasn’t possible that they were by Beethoven.”

Since the composer from Biel and Berne could not relate to these variations, he dealt with the original song, “Es hätt e Bur es Töchterli” (A farmer had a daughter once) in more detail. But that was also rather awkward, he thought the melody was strange for a folk song, and he was also missing the elegance of the “Guggisberglied” (Guggisberg song). “At the same time, though, it holds the incredible tension of the huge tonal range. Its straightforward, pulse-like nature is also rather interesting; there isn’t really a rhythm, just those quarter notes that ‘hang about’. The song therefore has a certain emptiness and thus also offers openness.” Christian Henking thus decided to base his composition on the melody of the folk song. Then he also wrote six variations, “just like Beethoven, but rather accidentally”.

Christian Henking explains that he first analysed the melody and then cut it into individual segments. “In my first four variations I regard individual segments of the song, so to speak. The last two relate to the entire song.” He therefore stayed altogether or not altogether with the material: “In the second variation, I avoid, especially when searching for this variation, all notes that occur in the original piece.”

The basic approach was to apply different work modes, respectively different principles for each variation. The concept crystallised while composing and developed further. “I knew that I wanted to compose miniatures, short variation movements. I first wrote the 5th variation. Then I realised that I did not want to begin in such a machine-like manner, and therefore did something rather unrestricted as a contrast. One consequently affected the other. And from such relativities, many interrelations arose.”

Christian Henking very often works at the desk, and composes in his head. In order to stimulate his imagination, he often plays piano or cello. “While improvising, I often get ideas, very simple. That is my old-fashioned vein; I am really rather far away from the computer when I compose, I actually write the notes by hand onto the score sheet.” This also includes that he plays all instruments of his scores himself one time. “I like to have the instrument in my fingers. Not in order to hear its sound – I am a pianist, not a string player – but to play the fingerings, sounds and bow positions myself. Strangely, it helps me compose when I apply the haptics in this context even if it was not necessary; it provides me with a kind of grounding.”

Christian Henking selected the combination of strings trio with flute on the one hand because he wanted a small instrumentation so that no conductor was needed. He does, on the other hand, mainly find this instrumentation fascinating. “I have a close relationship with string trios per se. And then the flute joins in, as a kind of outsider, and melts with the sound of the trio.”

You must not expect a “typical Henking composition”. He rather sees “the task of a composer to look at each piece as if it was new, since as a composer, you are always a beginner”. Christian Henking has even started from scratch for each of his variations within the piece and consciously worked with different approaches and techniques: “This is what makes up the art of composing”. To start from scratch also signified to have a heap of possibilities ahead of oneself. Facing so many freedoms, one would have to reflect. He then also sees the risk to select and use a means or a method too quickly because it has worked in one place and has already been tried and tested before. “Routine is a risk and I fight against this with each note.”

During the conversation at the end of January 2020, the composition process had already been mostly concluded. “Everything is here now”, explains Christian Henking and points to numerous score sheets. “I will rethink everything again so that it is possible I apply corrections and other alterations.” Then, however, the composition will be finished into the last detail. Compared to other works, Christian Henking does not grant the performers any freedoms here.

Christian Henking was born in Basel in 1961. He studied music theory at the Conservatory Berne under Theo Hirsbrunner; Ewald Körner trained him to be a chapel master. After that, he studied composition with Cristobal Halffter and Edison Denisov, in master courses with Wolfgang Rihm and Heinz Holliger. He received various awards, among them the Culture Award of the Bürgi-Willert-Stiftung (2000), Acknowledgment Award of the Canton Berne (2002) and the Music Award of the Canton Berne (2016). He is a lecturer at the University of the Arts, Bern, for composition, theoretical subjects and chamber music. www.christianhenking.ch
Swiss Beethoven reflections: A project by Murten Classics and SUISA on the occasion of the 250th anniversary of Ludwig van Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven had not much to do with Switzerland. He did, however, write “Six variations on a Swiss song” (Sechs Variationen über ein Schweizerlied), namely the folk song “Es hätt e Bur es Töchterli” (A farmer had a daughter once). This is the starting point for the composition assignments which the summer festival Murten Classics and SUISA allocated to eight Swiss composers of different generations, aesthetics and origin.

Oscar Bianchi, Xavier Dayer, Fortunat Frölich, Aglaja Graf, Christian Henking, Alfred Schweizer, Marina Sobyanina and Katharina Weber had a choice of basing their work on the variations, the folk song used by Beethoven or Beethoven in general. The compositions were written for the ensemble Paul Klee which allows for the following maximum instrumentation: Flute (also piccolo, G- or bass flute), clarinet (in B or A), violin, viola, cello, double bass and piano.

The initiator of this project, launched in 2019, is Kaspar Zehnder who has been Artistic Director of Murten Classics for 22 years. Due to the corona crisis and the measures ordered by the authorities, it was not possible to hold the 32nd instalment of the festival in August 2020 or the scheduled replacement festival in the winter months that followed. The “SUISA day” with eight compositions of this project was performed and recorded nevertheless, without an audience, on 28 January 2021 in the KiB Murten. The recordings are available for listening at radio SRF 2 Kultur in the programme “Neue Musik im Konzert” (5 May 2021, 9pm) and will be released on the platform Neo.mx3. The project will also be documented online via the SUISAblog and the social media channels of SUISA.

www.murtenclassics.ch

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In his composition for the project “Swiss Beethoven reflections”, Christian Henking uses the melody of the Swiss song used by Beethoven as a basis. In his six variations, he utilises different principles. Text by guest author Markus Ganz; Video by Manu Leuenberger

Christian Henking respects Ludwig van Beethoven, “this monument, this granite rock in music history”. “He is a master teacher to me again and again, independent of the aesthetics; fantastic what he has formally achieved.” As a consequence, Beethoven’s “Variationen über ein Schweizerlied” (Variations on a Swiss song) irritated him even more, as he explains in a conversation at the end of January 2020. “I really don’t understand them, thought, it wasn’t possible that they were by Beethoven.”

Since the composer from Biel and Berne could not relate to these variations, he...read more

Archipel Festival – a well-established works smithy | plus video

The Archipel Festival is going to give a large audience access to a plethora of new works between 16 and 25 April 2021 from its location in Geneva. The audience will be able to delve into the festival from the comfort of their homes and to log on in order to follow about 70 events which take place each afternoon. Text by Erika Weibel; Video by Nina Müller

The entire festival programme is going to be broadcast via streaming and will be made available via the Archipel website, free of charge. It is also possible to meet artists online, to participate in discussions, answer questions in quizzes, get an impression of the weather and throw a glance into the premises of the event venue.

Archipel provides a festival “under supervision” with a Web TV team which is going to broadcast live for ten days, from noon to midnight. A unique, experimental and artistic project which allows the audience to take part actively on air.

Baptism of fire for new composers

This year, the Archipel Festival has provided composers again with the opportunity to create new works and thus give the audience the pleasure of enjoying these new compositions. Salômé Guillemin-Poeuf, a young composer from Geneva, has, for example, created the work “50 Hertz”, whose première will take place on 21 April 2021 at 7.00pm.

Salômé Guillemin-Poeuf is a designer and musician who lives and works in Geneva. She creates interactive sound installations, performances and musical instruments. Her works have already been performed to be audio- & audiovisually on numerous international stages. The creative and versatile artist recently registered as an associate member of SUISA.

Collaboration with Archipel

SUISA is a sponsor of the festival again. It is great news that the Archipel organisers have found a creative means to adapt to the circumstances and to carry out the festival under strict stipulations in a new format – and thus enable many new works to be performed.

As a sponsor, we would like to point out two of the 70 events in particular:

Première of the work “50 Hertz” by Salômé Guillemin-Poeuf
on 21 April 2021 at 7.00pm

SUISA round table talk on being a composer in Switzerland
on 24 April 2021 at 2.00pm

Broadcast from the Maison communale de Plainpalais via: www.archipel.org
between 16 and 25 April, from noon to midnight each day

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The Archipel Festival is going to give a large audience access to a plethora of new works between 16 and 25 April 2021 from its location in Geneva. The audience will be able to delve into the festival from the comfort of their homes and to log on in order to follow about 70 events which take place each afternoon. Text by Erika Weibel; Video by Nina Müller

The entire festival programme is going to be broadcast via streaming and will be made available via the Archipel website, free of charge. It is also possible to meet artists online, to participate in discussions, answer questions in quizzes, get an impression of the weather and throw a glance into the premises of the event venue.

Archipel provides a festival “under supervision” with a Web...read more

Label Suisse and SUISA make Swiss music possible | plus video

The ninth edition of the Label Suisse Festival will take place in Lausanne from 18 to 20 September 2020. Programming of this biennial festival is dedicated to the Swiss music scene with all its diversity. Special highlight: Artists from all genres have composed works especially for the Label Suisse. These works will be performed live at the festival for the first time. SUISA is once again involved as one of the main partners of the festival. Text by Erika Weibel

Label Suisse is unique to Switzerland: Every two years, the festival in Lausanne offers the public an insight into Swiss music creation – across geographical and genre boundaries – and thus highlights the current horizons of Swiss musicians of contemporary music from pop, rock, jazz, classical and new folk music in its most diverse forms of expression. More than 60 established as well as emerging artists will be performing as part of the varied programme in various locations in Lausanne over three days.

Exciting composition projects complete the diverse concert programme. Composers from various musical genres have created works for the festival that will be premiered there.

The festival is not only aimed at a music-loving audience but is also a get-together for the Swiss and foreign music and event scene. SUISA, as a cooperative society of composers, lyricists and publishers of music, is once again one of the main partners of the festival, making music in Switzerland possible together with the Label Suisse.

Composition projects

The following compositions were created especially for the 2020 Label Suisse:

Jazz
Nik Bärtsch, composition and piano.
Project in partnership with the Zurich University of the Arts and the Jazzcampus Basel with the participation of young musicians.
Performance: Saturday, 19 September 2020, Salle Paderewski
Further concerts in the twin cities at the Klangbasel Festival (Basel) and at Moods (Zurich)

Classical music
Antoine Chessex, commissioned composition for great organ, chest organ and Hammond
Artists: Simone Keller and Dominik Blum
Project of 35 minutes duration, entitled “Technosphère & Fragmentation”.
Performance: Sunday, 20 September 2020, Eglise St Francois

Isabel Mundry, composition
Collegium Novum Zurich (CNZ) ; Brian Archinal, percussion solo
Title of the work: Noli me tangere (2020)
Performance: Saturday, 19 September 2020, Salle Paderewski

Cod.act – André et Michel Décosterd
“Von Roll Twist 4” – Installation for 6 speakers and one performer (Francesco Biamonte)
André et Michel Décosterd combine their skills, the first being a musician, composer and sound artist and the second an architect and visual artist. Together they develop an artistic work in the form of performances and interactive installations. Their approach starts with a reflection on sound and movement and their possible interaction.
Performance: Saturday,19 September 2020, D! Club

New traditional music
Michel Godard
Works composed especially for the occasion by Michel Godard, conducted by Pascal Emonet. Played by fanfare players of the Valais Brass Band and Jazz Conservatory in a little-known sound approach: the Italian Banda. This orchestra is accompanied by Michel Godard, Pierre Favre, Isa Wiss and Matthieu Michel.

Come along and experience how the sounds of completely new works are brought to an audience for the very first time.

www.labelsuisse.ch

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“Ab is Wälschland – off to the Valais” to the Swiss Folk Music Festival“Ab is Wälschland – off to the Valais” to the Swiss Folk Music Festival In May, five young folk music performers under the direction of Dani Häusler in Crans-Montana in order to compose a hymn for the Swiss Folk Music Festival 2019 (EVMF). The composition weekend, initiated by SUISA and run in collaboration with the organising committee (OC) of the EVMF was a complete success. Read more
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The ninth edition of the Label Suisse Festival will take place in Lausanne from 18 to 20 September 2020. Programming of this biennial festival is dedicated to the Swiss music scene with all its diversity. Special highlight: Artists from all genres have composed works especially for the Label Suisse. These works will be performed live at the festival for the first time. SUISA is once again involved as one of the main partners of the festival. Text by Erika Weibel

Label Suisse is unique to Switzerland: Every two years, the festival in Lausanne offers the public an insight into Swiss music creation – across geographical and genre boundaries – and thus highlights the current horizons of Swiss musicians of contemporary music from pop, rock, jazz, classical and new folk music in its...read more

The Zwahlen/Bergeron duo want to make the previously unheard audible – and visible

On the one hand, the centuries-old tradition of choral music and, on the other, the almost endless possibilities offered by electronic music. Jérémie Zwahlen and Félix Bergeron experiment in the area of tension between these two polar extremes with the aim of creating something completely new. The Get Going! grant is supporting them with this project. Text by guest author Rudolf Amstutz

The Zwahlen/Bergeron duo want to make the previously unheard audible - and visible

Félix Bergeron and Jérémie Zwahlen (Photos: Stephane Winter & Laura Morier-Genoud; Alain Kissling)

As is generally known, opposites attract. Jérémie Zwahlen and Félix Bergeron, both 33 years old, sit in a café in Lausanne, discussing their project to redefine the long tradition of choral music with the aid of electronic experimentation. Bergeron also uses the conversation about this project for a brainstorming session. Exactly as it should be for a drummer, when the rhythms become more complex, he accurately describes more and more options of how it would be possible to combine old and new, traditional and avant-garde. Zwahlen listens with stoic calm, from time to time making his own contribution with incisive sentences. He does not seem to be a stranger to this kind of dialogue. “Félix is like an extremely strong cigarette and I am the super-filter that is used to smoke it,” reckons Zwahlen and both of them laugh.

Actually, when they were young the two of them went to the same school near Lausanne, after which they went their separate ways. As early as when he was just six years old, Bergeron played the drums, but never found real fulfilment until he heard Lucas Niggli play a drum solo at the Willisau Jazz Festival. “As well as drums, he used electronic equipment. I was completely gobsmacked and knew that was what I wanted to do,” recalls Bergeron. Zwahlen, on the other hand, grew up in the brass tradition and was a trumpeter in a band, just like his father and grandfather before him. For her part, his mother sang in a choir. “At grammar school,” according to Zwahlen, “they told me I would make a good music teacher and that’s how I started my training.”

Choral and electronic music

They both attended the Haute École de Musique Lausanne (HEMU), “but I studied jazz and Jérémie classical music”, comments Bergeron, adding “which were in two different buildings.” The thing both of them didn’t know: their life partners were friends and they eventually met again at a party after many years. When Zwahlen then asked Bergeron to provide electronic support for “Chœur Auguste”, the choir he led, they arrived at the idea of a collaboration which was intended to go above and beyond the familiar and what people had heard before. “Needless to say, people have amalgamated choral music with electronics before,” says Bergeron, “but in those cases, the organ or piano was simply replaced by a synthesizer. That kind of thing doesn’t interest us.”

Both of them are predestined to tread new ground, and in their individual projects they were already scratching the stylistic limits and attempting to remap the musical landscape. With his incisive and conceptually unusual arrangements of the music of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Camille and Queen, Zwahlen not only redefined the laws of choral music, but also regarded the choir in its entirety as one body: “The choir is like a sculpture that breathes and which you can work on. And Félix also works with vibrations you can feel physically. In the end, you must be able to literally feel the music.”

Music as sculpture

In fact, Bergeron is heavily influenced by the sculptural. Apart from his many projects ranging between abstract improvisation, folk, punk and jazz, he also works for the theatre and dance companies. In his “Brush Paintings”, chance results in visual art, in that he dips his drumming brushes in paint and equips his cymbals with canvasses. “In spontaneous work with electronics, it is also possible to work with arbitrariness. That interests me. I see countless possibilities there for breaking down the traditional forms of choral music.”

Music as sculpture, which should also reveal to the audience the secrets behind its creation. “We want the audience to see what is happening. How composition, chance, arrangements and improvisation all influence one another. The audience should be able to experience our project with all their senses,” is the way Zwahlen describes the starting point and stresses: “It is my obsessive desire to reprocess all music genres in such a way that they offer pleasure to everyone. Irrespective of whether we are dealing with classical music, folk, jazz or experimental music.”

They both think that there are so many musical, content-related and visual possibilities, with which you can experiment in such a project, and they emphasise just how important the factors of time and money are for such an undertaking. “Thanks to the grant from Get Going!, for the first time it became possible for us to tread new ground to such a great extent,” beams Bergeron.

Jérémie Zwahlen and Félix Bergeron: two people obsessed with music, who also pass on their enthusiasm to coming generations as teachers at HEMU and the Ecole de jazz et musique actuelle (EJMA) in Lausanne and – in the case of Bergeron – also at the Ecole Jeunesse & Musique in Blonay. Together they form the only cigarette in the world that is not damaging to health. Quite the opposite.

www.felixbergeronmusic.ch
www.choeurauguste.ch

FONDATION SUISA started awarding new grants in 2018. Under the heading of “Get Going!”, creative and artistic processes that do not fall within established categories are given a financial jump-start. Each year, our Portrait Series profiles recipients of Get Going! funding. The invitation to apply for 2020 expires at the end of August.

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«Get Going!» goes into the third round«Get Going!» goes into the third round «Get Going!» enables new perspectives: The idea of «Get Going!» is based on the philosophy of «making it possible». «Get Going!» consist of a start-up financing. Four such contributions of CHF 25 000.- each per year are advertised. Read more
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All comments will be moderated. This may take some time and we reserve the right not to publish comments that contradict the conditions of use.

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On the one hand, the centuries-old tradition of choral music and, on the other, the almost endless possibilities offered by electronic music. Jérémie Zwahlen and Félix Bergeron experiment in the area of tension between these two polar extremes with the aim of creating something completely new. The Get Going! grant is supporting them with this project. Text by guest author Rudolf Amstutz

The Zwahlen/Bergeron duo want to make the previously unheard audible - and visible

Félix Bergeron and Jérémie Zwahlen (Photos: Stephane Winter & Laura Morier-Genoud; Alain Kissling)

As is generally known, opposites attract. Jérémie Zwahlen and Félix Bergeron, both 33 years old, sit in a café in Lausanne, discussing their project to redefine the long tradition of choral music with the aid of electronic experimentation. Bergeron also uses the conversation about this project for a brainstorming session. Exactly as it should be for a drummer,...read more

Michel Barengo: sound collector and tinkerer outside the comfort zone

Soak up as much as possible and then process it. That is Michel Barengo’s creed. The 37-year-old Zurich resident will have nothing to do with any comfort zones and now, thanks to the Get Going! grant, can pursue his creative urges on the Japanese underground scene. Text by guest author Rudolf Amstutz

Michel Barengo: sound collector and tinkerer outside the comfort zone

Michel Barengo (Photo: Michel Barengo)

Cowbells, the bleating of goats, squeaky doors, cackling hens, the gentle rustling of the wind in the trees, police sirens or lapping water: there is nothing in the world of sound that would not be of interest to Michel Barengo. He is a tireless collector of sounds who has created a substantial audio library of all kinds of sounds in his home studio. “Just sit for ten minutes in a bus station with your eyes closed. It’s incredible what is going on there,” he beams and the passion of this sound architect is unmistakeable from the way his eyes light up.

Now, the 37-year-old Zurich resident is not only a tinkerer with a tendency to make his own music, but is also one of the most in-demand protagonists when it comes to soundtracks for video games or sound backdrops for the theatre. In 2016, he won the FONDATION SUISA prize for the best video game music. But such commissions are just one part of the work of this jack-of-all-trades, who promotes his distinct musical identity with clear ideas.

The skills he has developed enabling him to implement his creative ideas professionally are very impressive. At the age of five, he started playing the violin and drums and afterwards he played in various garage bands with his brothers. They played punk, metal and alternative rock. Influenced by Mr. Bungle and Fantômas, the projects of Californian singer Mike Patton, Barengo followed his path and inevitably discovered the music of New York experimental saxophonist, John Zorn. “Grand Guignol”, the album by Zorn’s band Naked City, was, without a shadow of a doubt, the most influential experience in the still young Michel Barengo’s life. In a primitive yet subtle manner, Zorn deconstructs and reconstructs the music at breathtaking speed and creates an explosive sound cloud that has never been heard before from countless tiny fragments.

“Zorn’s affinity with the Japanese underground led me to begin to take more and more of an interest in the grindcore and experimental scenes there. Bands like Ground Zero, Korekyojinn and Ruins with Tatsuya Yoshida on drums, as well as Otomo Yoshihide on turntables and guitar. That was decisive when it came to my own experimental pieces, ” explains Barengo. The influences in both of his band projects, the jazzcore trio Platypus and grind noise band Five Pound Pocket Universe(5PPU) must not be overlooked.

Professional training

The facts that Barengo can move with ease through his sound cosmos and can build bridge after bridge between his own artistic path and his commissions, over which he dances nimbly, are to do with his professional training. He trained as a jazz drummer at the Winterthur Academy for Modern Music (WIAM) and at the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK) he obtained his Master’s in composition for film, theatre and media.

Whether opulent sounds reminiscent of Hollywood for a video game, roughly honed small pieces with his band 5PPU or finely crafted sound sample collages with Platypus: Barengo’s eclecticism is invariably fed by his urge to create a completely distinctive aesthetic. One that denies predictions and will not allow the listener to get any peace, because behind every individual sound another one might be lurking which surprises, questions or totally remaps the path laid down beforehand at lightning speed.

A restless person

The nature of the work is also motivated by the character of its creator. “I’m a restless person,” comments Barengo about himself. “There is so much that interests me. I also get bored quickly. I simply have to try things. Ultimately, that’s what drives you: soak up as much as possible and then process it. I like extremes and lots of variety,” he says and then adds, laughing: “It’s probably all down to the fact that I heard ‘Grand Guignol’ when I was just 13. That’s what it did to me.”

Barengo only feels good when he goes out of his comfort zone. And his Get Going! project is also based on an area of tension with two extremes. It has to lead him to a place where tremendous creative tension in the discrepancy between tradition and modern has prevailed for centuries. Barengo’s love of the Japanese underground led him to visit this country around a dozen times and now he wants to get a three-part project going there. “I actually have in mind a project in three phases consisting of two periods of residency in Japan followed by one in Switzerland for reviewing the work and processing it further,” he explains. “Firstly, using improvisation sessions with the Tokyo underground scene, I would like to get to grips with Japanese traditional music and its integration into contemporary music. After this I will meet up with 12 Japanese musicians in 12 hotels, with whom I can record a track in one room consisting of noises I recorded in that particular hotel. And last but not least, back in Switzerland I will review all the material I recorded, archive it for future composition projects and process it for my personal sound library.” The thrill of anticipation about this is great and all thanks to being able to bring it to fruition with financial support from the Get Going! award. “My project doesn’t fit into any existing categories. It’s neither an album production nor a tour. And it’s not working in a studio either. As I follow my creative path, Get Going! frees me from all constraints and compromises. Quite simply ingenious!” he beams. And even though his journey now had to be delayed until next year due to the coronavirus: back at home, the sound collector and tinkerer is unlikely to lose his ideas quickly.

www.michelbarengo.com

FONDATION SUISA started awarding new grants in 2018. Under the heading of “Get Going!”, creative and artistic processes that do not fall within established categories are given a financial jump-start. Each year, our Portrait Series profiles recipients of Get Going! funding. The invitation to apply for 2020 expires at the end of August.

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«Get Going!» goes into the third round«Get Going!» goes into the third round «Get Going!» enables new perspectives: The idea of «Get Going!» is based on the philosophy of «making it possible». «Get Going!» consist of a start-up financing. Four such contributions of CHF 25 000.- each per year are advertised. Read more
Sampling and RemixesSampling and Remixes The articles about arrangements in the “Good to know” series have so far focused on “conventional” arrangements of musical works. Sampling and remixes are two additional and specific forms of arrangement. What rights need to be secured when existing recordings are used to produce a new work? What agreements have to be contracted? Read more
Cyril Bondi: “This crisis is indicative of a sick society”“This crisis is indicative of a sick society” Today, in the context of our “Music for Tomorrow” project, we are introducing Swiss jazz and improvisation musician Cyril Bondi, and his piece “We Need to Change”. In a written interview, Cyril tells us why he believes that politics and not the virus are responsible for the current crisis. Read more
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Leave a Reply

All comments will be moderated. This may take some time and we reserve the right not to publish comments that contradict the conditions of use.

Your email address will not be published.

Soak up as much as possible and then process it. That is Michel Barengo’s creed. The 37-year-old Zurich resident will have nothing to do with any comfort zones and now, thanks to the Get Going! grant, can pursue his creative urges on the Japanese underground scene. Text by guest author Rudolf Amstutz

Michel Barengo: sound collector and tinkerer outside the comfort zone

Michel Barengo (Photo: Michel Barengo)

Cowbells, the bleating of goats, squeaky doors, cackling hens, the gentle rustling of the wind in the trees, police sirens or lapping water: there is nothing in the world of sound that would not be of interest to Michel Barengo. He is a tireless collector of sounds who has created a substantial audio library of all kinds of sounds in his home studio. “Just sit for ten minutes in a bus station with your eyes closed....read more

Setting to music

Whether they write choir music or a pop-song, composers are often inspired by an existing text which they want to use or excerpt in their new composition or song. What should you be mindful of in the use of third-party texts? How do you obtain permission to set a text to music, and what points should the permission cover? Text by Claudia Kempf and Michael Wohlgemuth

Setting to music

Composers who wish to set another author’s text to their music must first clarify the relevant copyright issues. (Photo: Tabea Hüberli)

As previously underscored in the article “Arranging works protected by copyright”, authors – whether they compose music or write texts – have the right to decide if their work can be arranged; in other words, whether a “derived work” or an “arrangement” can be created from their original work. Texts which are not protected by copyright can be freely used as a basis for a musical work and can also be arranged at will. However, the use or arrangement of texts protected by copyright – i.e. whose authors are still alive or have been dead for less than 70 years – is subject to the rightholders’ consent. The end of the term of protection runs from 31 December of the year the last author alive dies.

Setting poems or parts of texts to music

To set a poem to music, you must first contact the author, their heirs or their publisher and obtain their direct consent to do so. As a rule, the arrangement rights in the case of literary works are held by the publisher; if not, the publisher can at least act as an intermediary. ProLitteris, the Swiss Copyright Society for Literature and the Visual Arts, cannot license these rights.

In the case of elements from a third-party text, the situation is a little trickier. In principle, copyright law does not only protect complete works, it also protects individual parts of a work, provided the term of protection has not expired and the individual parts satisfy the qualifying criteria of a work or impact the individuality of the complete work. Elements of a text (known as “external value”) as well as the plot or characters of a novel (known as “inner value”) can therefore be protected and may not be used at will if in themselves they constitute a work with an individual character or if they impact the individuality of the work as a whole. Copyright law does not only protect entire passages from “The Lord of the Rings”, for example, it also protects Gandalf, the pipe-smoking wizard.

Unfortunately, there is no clear boundary delimiting what parts of a work have individual character or impact an entire work, and what parts do not. The following questions may help you decide: is the excerpt or the inner value in itself so unique that it hardly occurs elsewhere? The length of the excerpt and characteristic elements like names or special word creations can be decisive here. Further: does the excerpt occupy a formative place in the new work?

New settings to music or recording new lyrics

The same applies if you take the lyrics of an existing song and set them to a new melody. This is a new setting to music. In this case, however, you cannot obtain the rights just from the lyricist; you must obtain the rights to the whole musical work from all the original rightholders (i.e. the lyricists and the composers) or from the music publisher. In other words, in the case of jointly created works, consent must be obtained from all the rightholders and not just from the lyricist since you are changing a work that was created to be exploited jointly. Settings to music, on the other hand, are not as a rule regarded as jointly created works. Therefore, each rightholder is free to dispose of their own contribution.

When new lyrics are added to the melody of a song, the legal situation is the same – it is still an arrangement of a musical work. This also applies to the translation of lyrics into another language; even if the contents are identical, a translation is an arrangement requiring consent because it impacts the individuality of the original work.

NB: If you use a translation of a work whose term of protection has expired, you must establish whether the translation is still protected (translations are derived works and as such are also protected by copyright).

Obtaining permission for setting to music or for an arrangement can be an extremely tedious procedure which is not always crowned with success. In any event, you must be sure to allow enough time to clarify the legal status.

Warning: no silent consent!
If a number of requests have been submitted to the rightholder or the (music) publisher and no response has been received, it is wrong to presume that “silence means consent” and that the work can be arranged simply because “efforts were made” to obtain permission. As a rule, arranging a work without the rightholder’s consent constitutes a copyright infringement and may result in civil and criminal prosecution.

Once you have obtained permission to set to music or undertake an arrangement, you still cannot dispose of the work at will. The permission to set to music, for example, often contains a proviso that the original text must be used faithfully, i.e. that no changes can be made to the original. The permission to arrange may be restricted to a single type of arrangement (e.g. only the translation of the lyrics into another language, or only the use of specific excerpts). Moreover, even after granting permission, authors are entitled by law to defend their work against “distortion”. Such cases (which are hard to judge) constitute an infringement of the author’s “moral rights”.

A special case: the “sub-lyricist”
In sub-publishing agreements, the original publisher sometimes grants the sub-publisher the right to have new language versions of an existing song made. The sub-publisher is thus empowered to commission or authorise translations of the lyrics or new lyrics in another language. In such cases, the lyricist is registered as “sub-lyricist”. SUISA’s Distribution Rules provide that the sub-lyricists’ share may not be higher than provided in the regulatory distribution key.

Freedom to quote

Is it possible in certain circumstances to “quote” texts without any permission to set to music when creating a musical work? In Switzerland, literary works may be quoted without permission if the quotation serves as an explanation, reference or illustration and provided the source, i.e. the original author, is indicated (see Article 25 FCA). However, case law stipulates that the quotation may not be “purely an end to itself”, in other words the quotation must serve explanatory or information purposes and cannot principally serve to obtain an advantage from the recognition value of the quotation. Whether these conditions can be met in the case of setting to music and publishing is a matter of interpretation, as is often the case, and can only be answered affirmatively with great restraint. In doubt, it is always better to ask the rightholder.

Key points of a permission to set to music

If an author or a publisher grants permission to set a text to music, this permission or consent to set to music should be set forth in a short agreement. The agreement should cover the following points:

  • Name and address of the contracting parties (and aliases, if applicable)
  • Permission to set to music: the work to be set to music must be named. The agreement must also specify to what extent the text may be edited or arranged. It must define the scope of usage, indicate if printing rights are included and, in case the setting to music is published, whether the author of the text must be designated, and how. The agreement must also indicate whether and how the new work is to be registered with SUISA. Setting-to-music agreements are generally non-exclusive. The composers do not derive any rights to the text from such agreements. These rights remain entirely with the author of the text.
  • Share of the author of the text: SUISA’s Distribution Rules grant equal shares to the composer of the music and the lyricist or author of the text. In the case of unpublished works, the share is 50% each; for published works, the share is 33.33%. As a rule, however, the shares may be set at the parties’ discretion. Book publishers do not often participate in the exploitation rights of the sound recording unless they are members of a copyright collecting society for music and the permission for setting to music provides for such participation.
    The original rightholders often demand a flat-rate fee for the setting to music, and in certain cases the publisher also demands a percentage share on the sale of sheet music if the graphic rights are transferred.
  • Publishing of the setting to music: the text share of the setting to music is not automatically transferred to the music publisher. The publisher must conclude a separate publishing agreement with the author of the text in respect of this share. The publishing rights of major authors are often already held by a book publisher and cannot be transferred to the music publisher.
  • Warranties: the rightholders must warrant that they dispose of the rights to grant the arrangement rights.
  • Place, date and signature of the rightholders
  • Governing law and jurisdiction

How to register a setting to music with SUISA

To register the setting to music of a protected text, you must provide the permission to set to music. If no specific percentage shares were agreed, SUISA’s Distribution Rules will apply. If the author of the text is not member of a music collecting society and does not wish to join one, SUISA will accept transfers to the composers. In this case, the composer and the author of the text will both appear in the database as authors, but both shares will be paid to the composer. The corresponding consent from the author of the text is mandatory.

Summary

As a rule, to set a poem to music you always need permission from the rightholder(s) – depending on the circumstances, this permission can be obtained from the authors, their heirs or the relevant publisher. The permission for setting to music is a prerequisite for registering a protected text with SUISA and is the legal basis for participation in the revenues from the work.

As a rule, for a setting to music, you need to contact the book publisher. For texts which have not been published, ProLitteris can help you identify the relevant rightholders. SUISA can only help if the author is one of its members. In such cases, SUISA will pass on requests for setting to music to the authors or their heirs. Requests should be sent to: authors (at) suisa (dot) ch

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Arrangement of works in the public domainArrangement of works in the public domain Before you start arranging musical works that are not protected by copyright, it is worth being aware of the legal pitfalls in order to avoid costly stumbles. Seeking inspiration from others, arranging existing works for different instrumentation, incorporating all or part of existing compositions into new works … these are age-old practices. Read more
Arranging works protected by copyrightArranging works protected by copyright Musical works in the public domain can be arranged at will. But works which are still protected by copyright, i.e. whose author has been dead for less than 70 years, cannot be arranged without permission from the rightholders. How does one go about obtaining such permission, and what points must be regulated in the permission in order to be able to register an arrangement with SUISA? Read more
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  1. E.Rick Sommer says:

    Guten Tag Frau Leuenberger
    ich habe vor einiger Zeit eine CD aufgenommen mit dem Name (Drei rote Rosen Nr. 577) worauf sich die Songs Immer nur du und Mondscheinnacht befinden. Jetzt habe ich festgestellt dass andere Musiker diese Stücke auf einer CD veröffentlicht haben. Wäre da nicht eine Gutschrift fällig.
    Danke für eine Antwort.
    mfg E. Rick Sommer

    • Manu Leuenberger says:

      Sehr geehrter Herr Sommer
      Vielen Dank für Ihren Kommentar. Zur Beantwortung Ihrer konkreten Anfrage besteht weiterer Abklärungsbedarf. Bei spezifischen Einzelfällen wie diesem empfehlen wir deshalb, direkt den Rechtsdienst der SUISA zu kontaktieren: legalservices (at) suisa (dot) ch
      Freundliche Grüsse
      Manu Leuenberger / SUISA Kommunikation

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Whether they write choir music or a pop-song, composers are often inspired by an existing text which they want to use or excerpt in their new composition or song. What should you be mindful of in the use of third-party texts? How do you obtain permission to set a text to music, and what points should the permission cover? Text by Claudia Kempf and Michael Wohlgemuth

Setting to music

Composers who wish to set another author’s text to their music must first clarify the relevant copyright issues. (Photo: Tabea Hüberli)

As previously underscored in the article “Arranging works protected by copyright”, authors – whether they compose music or write texts – have the right to decide if their work can be arranged; in other words, whether a “derived work” or an “arrangement” can be created from...read more

Finding her own universe

Cécile Marti is one of the most outstanding protagonists of contemporary music in Switzerland. In her work, the composer and sculptor tries to combine different forms of expression to make an impressive separate entity. In the near future, hopefully ballet will also be added to the dialogue between sound and sculpture. FONDATION SUISA is supporting the artistic vision of this Zurich resident with a Carte Blanche grant of 80,000 Swiss francs. Text by guest author Rudolf Amstutz

Cécile Marti: Finding her own universe

Carte Blanche for Cécile Marti. (Photo: Suzie Maeder)

Under normal circumstances, it is true to say that people should separate the work of art from its creator. In Cécile Marti’s case, this is hardly possible, because one single day in her life not only compelled her to bury her great dream, but ultimately, after a long period of heartache, took her down the path leading to artistic success today.

The uncompromisingness with which the now 45-year old from Zurich follows her artistic vision, was also quite distinct as a young girl: “From a very early age, I knew I wanted to be a violinist. A violinist and nothing else.” She started playing the violin at eight years of age, closely followed by the piano. One thing became clear when she heard violinist Bettina Boller at a concert: “I wanted to have lessons from her.” Faith can move mountains, so the young Cécile became the only one receiving private tuition.“This period was like some kind of musical earthquake for me”, raves Marti. “Bettina Boller brought me closer to new music. When I was 12, I heard Alfred Schnittke, after which it definitely became clear to me: I had to go to the conservatory and the violin would become my sole focus in life.”

It’s all over

Marti lowers her eyes for a few seconds, before carrying on with her story: “At 17, I started teaching myself and at 18, the conservatory and orchestral projects from Mahler to Bruckner followed. It was splendid. Then I hit 20 and disaster struck!” Marti suffered a stroke and became paralysed down one side of her body. Overnight: it was all over. “I refused to accept it and tried every conceivable therapy over a period of three years. I fought it until I had run out of strength.”

Marti banished the violin to the loft and would not listen to music for five years. “The wound was far too great.” During this period, as she puts it herself, she felt like she was “lost in the desert”. Until one particular moment when her subconscious started talking to her. “I suddenly heard music inside me. And I then began to write it out. That was the start of my career as a composer.”

She began her studies in composition with Dieter Ammann and for the first time encountered the concept of responses to the passage of time. Meeting the Austrian composer Georg Friedrich Haas during her studies suddenly opened up a new dimension to her when it came to developing her own work. In contrast to Amman, Haas practised a method for dealing with the passage of time that was previously unknown to Marti. “It allows an undetermined amount of time for an idea, until the point at which it is fully exhausted. And then this idea slowly attaches itself to another one. This slow way of handling things fascinated me. And from it come a completely different way of hearing things and sense of time.”

Sculptural hearing

With hindsight, it is certainly no accident that Marti felt herself captivated by the possibilities offered by the most varied of responses to the passage of time. And it is most likely not by chance that she started her work as a sculptor at the same time that she started composing music. The period of her life precipitously interrupted by the stroke, which ultimately led to something new, and the natural stone, which was transformed into a perfect sculpture thanks to lots of strength, perseverance and willpower, undeniably link the dialectics between biography and artistic debate.

It also explains the path taken by Marti, which is quite different to the notion of a traditional career. “Under normal circumstances, you are commissioned by someone to compose a piece. I predominantly followed by own ideas”, she declares affirmatively. Right from the beginning, her doctorate supervisor in London expressed concern about her composition plans (Marti obtained her PhD with a thesis on musical responses to the passage of time). “He said: ‘What you have written is like a shot in the dark’”, she explains smiling.“‘You’ll probably not find an orchestra willing to play it.’” He was referring to the orchestral cycle “Seven Towers” in 7 parts, for 120 musicians and lasting 80 minutes which SOBS (the Symphony Orchestra of Biel & Solothurn) premièred in 2016 in Biel/Bienne and since its genesis has also been played by the Bern Symphony Orchestra, Geneva Camerata and the Basel Sinfonietta.

In this breathtaking (in its truest sense) work, the orchestra as a whole reminds you of a sculpture which can be experienced in many different ways. “People say to me that when they listen to my music, they feel sculptural and in fact I think it is very gestural and formative. I am fond of the idea that people can view things from the most varied perspectives and that there actually exists an interaction between my sculpture work and my compositions.”

“The greatest gift”

Cécile Marti wants to expand this interaction with a new project, namely a ballet. The idea came to her three years ago when she saw the choreography of the Canadian, Crystal Pite, in a London theatre. “It was like a lightning strike for me”, enthuses Marti. “Up to that point in time, I had never seen a dance performance where I immediately had the feeling that I wanted to cooperate with this choreographer.” According to Marti, Pite does with dance exactly what she does with music. “She also works in a sculptural manner and with the aid of large groups. She then forms this mass in all conceivable directions.”

The fact that Pite was keen on the project, but as the shooting star of the dance scene is fully booked up until 2026, has not put Marti off following up the idea. During her music-free period, she filled dozens of diaries, which are not only the legacy of a gloomy time, but which also describe the start of a new life. This writing should form the basis for a dramatic autobiographical ballet, the likes of which the world has never seen before.

Whether or not, in the case of the ballet, the first part of which had been premièred in concert in Warsaw in September 2019, or the second string quartet, which premièred in the same month and the title of which was “Sculpted in stone”, already point to the presence of 26 stone sculptures, the manifestation of the passage of time stands centre stage of Marti’s work, which is both creative and exploratory. Consequently, she is continuing working on the “Seven Towers” concept to make this also physically experienceable in sculptural form in future.

The Carte Blanche award from FONDATION SUISA will now make it possible for her to further develop this objective without any pressure. “Quite simply, Carte Blanche funding is the best gift you can ever imagine”, she enthuses. “I pursue ideas with my heart, even though they might actually look unpopular on paper. However, my work has to be precise in terms of content and as authentic as possible. And as a result, time pressure is of no consequence where I am concerned.”

The great misfortune, which struck Marti at just 20 years of age, must have felt like a black hole into which all matter disappeared. Far more impressive is the “big bang” which took place after years of darkness, and out of which she created a completely new, unique universe which had not by a long shot been researched in every nook and cranny.

www.cecilemarti.ch

FONDATION SUISA started awarding new grants in 2018. “Carte Blanche” funding of 80,000 Swiss francs, which is not announced, but awarded once every two years directly by a panel of experts, is aimed at enabling music makers to concentrate on their further artistic development without any financial pressure.

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Cécile Marti is one of the most outstanding protagonists of contemporary music in Switzerland. In her work, the composer and sculptor tries to combine different forms of expression to make an impressive separate entity. In the near future, hopefully ballet will also be added to the dialogue between sound and sculpture. FONDATION SUISA is supporting the artistic vision of this Zurich resident with a Carte Blanche grant of 80,000 Swiss francs. Text by guest author Rudolf Amstutz

Cécile Marti: Finding her own universe

Carte Blanche for Cécile Marti. (Photo: Suzie Maeder)

Under normal circumstances, it is true to say that people should separate the work of art from its creator. In Cécile Marti’s case, this is hardly possible, because one single day in her life not only compelled her to bury her great dream, but ultimately, after a long...read more