The festival 2013

The 12th edition of MaerzMusik − Festival of Contemporary Music pursues three dynamic, partially interwoven themes, presented under the headings Percussion, Minidrama – Monodrama – Melodrama and Break & Change: Turkey – Levant – Maghreb.

Percussion has become an increasingly more significant component of 20th and 21st century new music. The concept of sound has experienced a broad expansion and diversification, accepting as musical material any acoustic occurrence, natural or engineered, any noise beyond the world of “notes”. This development fostered the emancipation of percussion from a more functional role to a fundamental element of compositional creation and also saw an astonishing increase in the arsenal of percussive instruments. MaerzMusik 2013 presents new and older works, which highlight the eminent role of percussion in new music from various perspectives.

The festival opens with an hour-long vibrating column of sound: Timber by Michael Gordon for six percussionists, playing wooden beams. Renowned percussion duo, Robyn Schulkowsky and Joey Baron, can be heard performing world premieres by Christian Wolff, as well as improvising. We welcome Speak Percussion from Melbourne onto a German stage for the first time, showcasing new works by young Australian composers. Ensemble Resonanz from Hamburg will present works by Beat Furrer, Isabel Mundry, Enno Poppe and Wolfgang Mitterer. String instruments confront percussion or are played percussively themselves. Christian Dierstein will perform percussive “minidramas”, including Lucia Ronchetti’s adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s short novel The Gambler, a theatrical work for one percussionist. Robyn Schulkowsky can be heard on a diverse array of percussion as the soloist in Helmut Lachenmann’s composition Air, with the Konzerthausorchester under the direction of Arturo Tamayo. The same concert programme also features two challenging, still fresh-sounding works from the late 1960s: Formes by Jean-Pierre Guézec and “Firecycle Beta” by Brian Ferneyhough.

A new work of music theatre by the Berlin-based Brazilian composer/musician, Chico Mello, will be premiered, a work he ironically calls Pills or Serenades – a study in moods and modes. Anna Clementi is the charismatic recitation-singer in the monodrama Kassandra by Michael Jarrell, based on Christa Wolf’s celebrated novel of the same name, published exactly 30 years ago. The monumental video-oratorio The Cave, by Steve Reich and Beryl Korot with Ensemble Modern, illustrates the conflict between the Jewish and Arabic peoples in Palestine, which dates back to the mythological depths of the time of Abraham.

The second half of MaerzMusik 2013 begins with Hasretim, a musical road movie by Marc Sinan with the Dresdner Sinfoniker, Ensemble Hezarfen and Anatolian folk musicians. This part of the festival is concerned with new music from Mediterranean countries that have a strong Islamic presence – a region currently going through a dramatic and tumultuous transformation, whose culture, art and music are still all too unfamiliar and unappreciated in Europe. Composers and musicians from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Palestine, Sudan and Morocco reveal a refreshing diversity in their individual artistic paths. Hezarfen, Istanbul’s leading new music ensemble, will perform chamber music works by young Turkish composers. Berliner ensembles Adapter and unitedberlin present works by composers from different countries in the region alongside musicians playing traditional instruments. The late-night concert series, Sonic Arts Lounge, offers us musicians and artists Mahmoud Refat, Tarek Atoui, Hassan Khan and “A” Trio with Mazen Kerbaj, Sharif Sehnaoui and Raed Yassin, who all occupy remarkable positions in an interdisciplinary cross culture between local references and an international modernity.

Our theatre, the Haus der Berliner Festspiele, provides the festival’s central venue, our “home base”. Enter and walk straight through “Polis”, a sound installation by Oliver Schneller, featuring soundscapes from the large metropolises Istanbul – Cairo – Jerusalem– Beirut. Continue to the upper foyer to experience “Mercurial Touch”, an installation with drawings (“Son-Icons”) by Charlotte Hug, in which the Swiss viola player and vocalist shows her performance “Slipway to Galaxies”.

On three evenings, the Sonic Arts Lounge series will be held in the notorious Berghain, as in the previous two years. A new festival venue waiting to be discovered is the former silent film cinema “Delphi” in Weißensee, just awakening from a long hibernation. In cooperation with the American Academy, we will present here a portrait of the Chicago-based composer, bass clarinettist and film maker, Gene Coleman, featuring music set to a new film of his own and to an old Japanese film.

We invite you to join us on diverse and enthralling adventures for the ears and eyes!

Matthias Osterwold