I have just arrived at the Fondazione Orfeo in Positano, Italy, for a four-week residency where I will be working on music for ensemble mosaik to be premiered in September. If I can stop staring at the sea, I might actually get round to doing some work.
It was a lovely surprise last year to receive a phone call from ensemble mosaik’s Lisa Nolte, asking if I would take part in their fellowship programme Progetto Positano in 2021. In a year marked by cancellations and professional uncertainty, having this project to look forward to was more important than ever and I’m excited to continue our collaboration that last produced I began the day inside the world trying to look at it, but it was lying on my face, making it hard to see.
Since 2017, in partnership with the Ernst von Siemens Musikstiftung, ensemble mosaik has been offering composers the opportunity to spend a month working on their music at the Wilhelm Kempff Kulturstiftung’s Casa Orfeo in Positano, Italy, and to collaborate with the ensemble’s musicians, with the results presented in an autumn concert in Berlin.
mosaik have worked flat out throughout these difficult months to keep performing safely wherever possible, so against the odds they were able to give their 2020 Progetto Positano concert in October, featuring music by Wojtek Blecharz and Sara Glojnarić. It was a magical concert — a magic only partly attributable to it being the first concert I had attended in six months — beautifully balancing the two composers’ very different musical worlds, making full use of the spatial opportunities offered by the St. Elisabeth-Kirche, and framing each piece with electronics and video to draw my attention fluidly through the whole experience.
To give a flavour, here is Sara Glojnarić’s phenomenal #popfem 2, which cuts footage from the confirmation hearings of Brett Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas with the same rapid-fire energy that her music displays, simultaneously deploying the archive material as a means to bear witness and subverting it to make her own forceful point.
It will be a challenge contributing to a concert as well put together as October’s, but I look forward to attempting to do so and sharing this platform with fellow composer Liisa Hirsch and all of ensemble mosaik’s musicians.
Last week’s edition of Zeit-Ton on Ö1 (Austrian radio) broadcast live recordings of the impuls International Composition Competition concert from February with Klangforum Wien and Ilan Volkov in Graz. This includes the premiere of this line comes from the past alongside new works by Jung-Eun Park, Hakan Ulus, Timothy McCormack, and Nuno Costa, plus a claim that I’m from the United States.
Over the last few years I have been working with Irving Goh on a special issue of CR: The New Centennial Review and it is finally online. It brings together statements by composers Joanna Bailie, Tatiana Catanzaro, Carolyn Chen, Ashley Fure, and Fabien Lévy alongside essays on music by Claire Colebrook, Jeffrey Di Leo, Jeremy Braddock and Timothy Morton, Jean-Luc Nancy, Naomi Waltham-Smith, and Holly Watkins. It also includes my own text, ‘Who Vibrates?,’ which tries to think about Carolyn Chen’s music and how New Materialist theories of vibration, vibrancy, and animation intersect with colonial histories of race and subjecthood.
I am very grateful to all our contributors who took the time to make this collection possible and to Irving for including me in the project.
You can find the issue on Project Muse, JSTOR, or directly from Michigan State University Press. Some of the papers (or their drafts) are also available from open access sources and I’ll try to keep this list updated as others come online:
- Irving Goh, “Editor’s Note: The Cry of Music”
- Claire Colebrook, “Escaping Meaning, Escaping Music”
- Carolyn Chen, “Parts to Sing Empty”
- Holly Watkins, “On Not Letting Sounds Be Themselves”
- Chris Swithinbank, “Who vibrates?”
- Tatiana Catanzaro, “The Breath of Sound”
- Naomi Waltham-Smith, “A Music Worthy of the Name: Or, Agamben’s Museicology”
- Jean-Luc Nancy, trans. Goh, “Variations on the Reprise”
Here is a video from the first performance of always extra folds of birds of paper and you could move your finger along the length of them and have witnesses by Yarn/Wire.
This would not have been possible without the hard work of Yarn/Wire’s Ian Antonio, Laura Barger and Russell Greenberg, guest performer Eric Wubbels, and amplification performer James Bean. Thank you also to Jerry MacDonald (audio recording engineer), Manuela Meier (cameras), and Clara Iannotta (lighting). I am always grateful to Renee Gladman for her Calamities from which I borrow the title for this piece.
If you would prefer to just listen to the piece, there’s an alternate take without the video on SoundCloud: