I didn't know that we would stop in Lagos. When I saw the long line of lights, houses, streets and occasional cars on the way down to the airport, I became excited. One of the biggest cities in the world! I knew now that I had definitely arrived south of the Sahara. Only an hour's jump along the coastline and I would be there.
Outside it felt like the warm air they blow in your face at the entrance of stores, only that it didn’t stop. Ralf and Senyo and Fortune had come to collect me, and we went out to the chalets, where Senyo put the air condition to the maximum. My first night in Ghana, I woke up because I was cold. It took me some nights to know the ideal position.
The University of Ghana, Legon, is located north somewhere outside of Accra, a large area within which alone it took me some time to get oriented. Probably that was because everything was different: the call of the birds, the trees, the temperature (from minus 8 to 30), food, money (imagine the biggest banknote about 1 €), the need to bargain for the price of the taxi, not because you don’t have it, but because you spoil the prices, behave like a fool, make clear from the very first instance that you’re a rich idiot foreigner.
People are friendly. Of course you don't always know their habits. Sometimes they prefer to give an elusive answer instead of saying no, in order not to disappoint you. I thought we might go out together, one evening, but that only happened when we, Todd and Grada and Tom and me, were among us and went together. That is not to say that we didn't feel welcome. Somebody was always there to show us around, and gradually, the names I already knew became persons. Six days is not much if you reckon that you meet at least 20 new people, in an unknown surrounding, with many things happening.
The conference. On the first day, we got to know the Institute of African Studies, where we introduced ourselves to each other. There was Professor, as they simply call him, in an oil painting above the board, and in flesh and blood, always acute in his remarks, pointing out the way to go on with his 84 years of experience at his back. Nketia delivered the first speech, accordingly, in the evening at the Goethe-Institut. After that it was music: His piano-pieces, Seperewa (a kind of harp-instrument, the player, Osei Korankye, was on his way to perform in London, when I returned) and Lobi (Balaphone)-virtuoso Kakrabalobi. It was an impressive picture when, as the program had already begun, the Achimota School Choir rushed in, all dressed in blue garments, except the director, Kenn Kafui, who’s pieces they sung to conclude the evening, in red.
The conference itself was four parts: Starting with first-hand detailed analysis of traditional drum-music by Willie Anku, head of the School of Performing Arts, and Zabana Kongo, followed by Senyo talking about a piano piece by professor called Sankudwum. Second, Todd about polyrhythms in the work of Elliott Carter and others and, the next morning, Tom on the African encounters of György Ligeti and Steve Reich. Third, Grada Kilombo, a psychiatrist from São Tomé – Principé living in Berlin, about the psychic effects of colonialism and the need for former colonized people to speak for themselves, and myself about recent trends in contemporary African visual arts. And, last not least, Wael giving practical demonstrations on the oud followed by Kun doing the same with the help of audio and video recordings of the Guzheng. And again, more music: piano, and the Madina Presbyterian Choir.
Intense days. Not only would it be difficult for me to imagine any better introduction to African drumming, the Maqam-system, and the Guzheng-playing of different Chinese provinces. The exchange went on, all the time, only time set the limit. On sunday, we drove with the bus to the 60 m high Wli-waterfall at the border to Togo, thousands of bats hanging on the barren rocks that provided a contrast to the green nature reserve below. It was a long journey there. On the way I looked out at the altering of inconspicuous traditional clay houses, wood, and concrete, wondering about the people who lived there and the history that lay behind. Time wasn't long, anyway, because, after Senyo's brother had entered the bus with two friends, there was drumming and singing, providing a good example of "why we need music" and that we do not always need many resources – for me one of the strengths of African music.
Like always, after conferences, you've had so many impressions, it seems difficult to return to everyday life. In the remaining two days, I came to the Madina market twice. I was with Ralf, in the same quarter. I had an interview with Prof. Kwabana Nketia. I didn't even see the centre of Accra (if there is one). Tuesday night I was back on the plane; spent three hours in the morning at the airport of Milan; then back home, cold as before. Only small things make me know I wasn't dreaming: Things I’ve brought with me. Talking to people who've been there. Writing down what I have experienced.
Thank you Ralf, Senyo, Fortune, thank you Grada, Tom, Kun, Todd, Yao, Wael, thank you Agi, Benedict, Kofi, Timo, Frank, Amakye, thank you Professor, thank you Dr. Anku, thank you Dr. Kongo, thank you Dr. Fiagbedzi, thank you organizers here and there, thank you everybody I have not named in person.
The Second International Student Conference "Identity and Creation" took place February 13-17, 2006 as part of the Cairo Opera Festival in Egypt. After an informal get-acquainted meeting on the opening day, which gave all participants the opportunity to introduce themselves and to speak about their respective musical backgrounds. Kofi Ansah, a member of the Accra group, held a lecture on the musical tradition of Ghana, the beginnings of which he dated back to colonial times, in order to give a concise overview of the most important stations in its development. Starting with Dr. Ephraim Amu, one can distinguish between four generations of composers in Ghana, with the GLOBAL INTERPLAY teams from Ghana representing the current generation.
On the next day, Christine Fischer, the Director of "Musik der Jahrhunderte" ("Music of the Centuries"), explained the underlying ideas of the project and its relationship to the World New Music Festival. At first Ms. Fischer briefly described the history of New Music in Germany, acknowledging that New Music in the past has increasingly distanced itself from society since its beginnings in the last century. But more recently, particularly among younger composers, there has been the declared desire once again to seek a counterpart in society. This tendency can also be seen in the various educational projects initiated by "Musik der Jahrhunderte", which amply demonstrate that interest in New Music is again increasing. Within these projects, GLOBAL INTERPLAY plays a special role, since intercultural dialogue not only leads artists to an expansion of their technique, but also encourages them to reflect on their standing in society.
Oliver Schneller’s lecture was a tour de force through the most important concepts and categories associated with the overall Conference theme "Identity and Creation". Using reflections on locality and community as a starting point, Schneller defined 'identity' as a concept that implies self-reflection, self-definition and a conscious representation of oneself. Just as fascinating was his distinguishing between a vertical and a horizontal dimension in his concept of culture, a notion that allowed for a flexible description of the phenomenon of modern societies. It was this flexibility of thinking that led Schneller to the optimistic conclusion that as a result of globalization, one may one day find New Music in one's local record store in the World Music section, instead of in a dusty corner among the classical music selections.
Through examples of historical quotes from Arab culture, Azza Madian demonstrated that concerns about the loss of cultural identity are a world phenomenon, not only in the age of globalization, but could already be evidenced in the Eighth Century. Contributing factors for such a loss of tradition are an asymmetric balance of power and the dichotomy between dominating and dominated cultures, i.e., the colonial rulers and the colonized. This is a danger in that consciousness of one's own culture must be seen as the main source for creativity and inspiration. The tendency to neglect one's own culture, as is occurring right now in Egypt, can therefore have catastrophic results, a thesis that Madian made clear through the example of the changing function of traditional music in Egypt. As a consequence of the cultural policies implemented by the government following the revolution of 1952, Egyptian folk dance, as popularized by various newly founded dance troupes, represents only a surviving fraction of the authentic, traditional music that had formerly been passed down through oral tradition. The reconstitution of this fragmented Egyptian legacy is now the most important task of composers and musicians there, in order to free again the blocked channels of creativity and innovation which, as constituting factors, are indispensable to the further development of Egypt's own cultural identity.
In opposition to this thesis, Basma El Husseiny, another guest speaker from Egypt, presented the view that cultural institution, particularly for young artists, can have a positive function. In addition, Western influences could offer great possibilities for the development of creativity, so that the phenomenon wouldn't necessarily result in a loss of traditional cultural identity. In the discussion that followed, both speakers refined their arguments but were unable to convince each other of the merits of their respective viewpoints. The irreconcilability of the two positions was in my opinion the result of differing premises. A break with one's own tradition can as much be understood to be a moment of liberation, setting unimagined creative forces free, as a traumatic experience, to which artistic production succumbs. The decisive factor appears to me however, to be whether the individual artist reflects this tension and tries to respond to it in his or her concrete work
Rolf Elberfeld's lecture "Multiple Modernities and Contemporary Music" could unfortunately not be presented personally due to cancellation by the speaker, but was read by me instead. Elberfeld defines modernity structurally in the sense of differentiation of societal subsystems. In the course of the expansion of European culture in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries, the European system of art, among other elements of modern society, was implemented in various non-Western cultures. The in-each-case-individual acceptance of this system, together with an ever stronger developing self-reflection, led to the conception of various traditions. This process of transformation and reflection thus resulted in the European modernity being a modernity among many. The controversial discussion which followed this lecture made clear at least to me that in Egypt, the transformation process described by Elberfeld is by no means concluded.
The contributions from Nahla Mattar and Victor Adan distinguished themselves from those of the previous speakers in that they were the first at the Cairo Congress to speak explicitly about their own aesthetic and compositional starting points. Nahla Mattar presented on Wednesday afternoon her multimedia work "Scars", based on a self-written text about an Egyptian woman born in the 1970s who, through the experience of migrating to the West, was able to break through the stereotypical clichés and begin on the path of self-discovery. The connection between the individual, the political and the cultural planes was convincing not only as a theoretical concept but also as a sensual experience. In her closing remarks, the composer underscored the intercultural aspect of her work by pointing out that "Scars", because it employs a "three-dimensional theatrical ritual", illustrates a design concept that, while completely familiar in present-day Arab culture, is quite unfamiliar in Western civilization.
Victor Adan's "From Music to Geometry to Meta-Music" gave the listener a look into the Composer’s Workshop of the New York GLOBAL INTERPLAY team. With Adan, creative processes are unleashed through consideration of the visual arts, such as architecture and sculpture. In this process, the composer considers works of sculpture to be two-dimensional objects that gain their third dimension only through their existence in time. The translation of this thinking into music as well as the tight connection with mathematical principles leads to multidimensional musical objects, that is, to musical material, which Adan then uses to compositional advantage. Using the example of a simple melody, Adan made clear the rich amount of material to be gained through this process. Unfortunately, because of a lack of rehearsal time, Adan's composition "Principia for Cello and Piano" was withdrawn from the previous day's concert program, so that it wasn't possible to form an impression of the aesthetic substance of the tonal product resulting from this compositional method. Shaymma Salah, an ethnomusicologist from Cairo, followed this with a performance of folk music from the various regions of Egypt. It was surely surprising to all participants that in the discussion which followed, the students from Ghana pointed out commonalities between their own and the Egyptian folk music. To conclude the lectures, Benedict Sackey of the Accra team spoke about the differing function of the ostinato in European and African art music.
The event was closed by a performance by an Arab folk ensemble, which impressively proved what unbelievable riches beyond a watered-down world music are to be found in this culture. This performance counted for me as one of the high points of the Cairo Conference.
It was the particular appeal of this second student conference that the seminars were embedded in the "Arab Perspectives" Music Festival at the Cairo Opera House. Through a generous gesture of the festival organizers, GLOBAL INTERPLAY was represented by two concerts in the festival program, so that this time all participants had the opportunity to form an impression of the abilities of their colleagues. The without exception extremely successful compositions were performed by an ensemble from the Stuttgart Music College, which offered an outstanding level of expertise, particularly for premiere performances. Despite the short time available for rehearsal, the quality of the performance was more than impressive. In a closing discussion, the extremely exhausted participants—the densely packed timetable allowed for virtually no free-time activities outside the official program—expressed the view that the personal encounters had greatly contributed to an understanding of the other cultures. There is a difference, it was noted, whether one only hears music from a different culture, or has the chance to speak directly with the composers about their music. For the students from Egypt and Ghana, the project quite obviously opened up new, previously nonexistent perspectives. Ms. Hussainy had pointed out on the previous day that in the Egyptian society there are countless creative young people who, because of lack of perspectives, are forced to give up their interest in the arts once they reach the age of twenty. That this situation isn’t an unavoidable fate was shown however by the excellent work of the Egyptian mentor Amr Okba and his GLOBAL INTERPLAY team.
INTONATION - TRANSFORMATION
14. - 18. March 2006
download the schedule as pdf.
The conference will begin on Tuesday, 14 March (7 p.m.) with a concert in the Konzertsaal Bundesallee of the Universität der Künste Berlin.
Each morning and afternoon of the
15th and 16th we plan to have presentations followed by discussions in
the kleiner Vortragssaal, UdK.
On the 17th and 18th Walter Zimmermann will offer open composition workshops.
On the 17th there will be a second
concert at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt, presented as part of the
Berlin new music festival MaerzMusik.
On the 18th Oliver Schneller will moderate a public panel discussion.
Global Interplay workshop-concert including works by Bassam Nour-Eddien, Wael Sami, Huck Hodge, Sun Chang, Lu Mang and Nils Günther in the Konzertsaal Bundesallee.
15 March 2006
APPROACHES TO INTONATION (Stimmung)
1.) MARC SABAT (Berlin) :
Introduction to the harmonic theories of Aristoxenus and Claudius Ptolemy. An alternative to tempered “microintervals”: using the Helmholtz-Ellis JI Pitch Notation to notate intervals precisely. 'Tolerance' and 'tuneability' on acoustic instruments (theoretical and practical demonstration).
2.) HUCK HODGE (New York City)
Current psychoacoustical research and its potential application in composition. An overview of research by Deutsch (1982); Bregman (1990); Fletcher (1929); Risset and Matthews (1969); McAdams (1984); Lerdahl and Jackendoff (1983). An overview of Gestalt Grouping Theory. Addressing problems of coherence in post-tonal music; possible applications for new composition.
3.) WAEL SAMI (Cairo)
Intonation systems in the Arabic Maqames.
4.) TANER AKYOL (Berlin) :
Demonstration of Turkish instruments (Baglama, Saz) used in traditional and composed music. Performance of musical examples and discussion of various tone-systems and notations used.
5.) SARAH NEMTSOV and YOAV PASOVSKY (Berlin) :
Aspects of intonation and melodic form in Sephardic and Eastern European Jewish music. Modes used by the Ashkenazi Jews; a discussion of the resultant harmonic structures. Microtonality as expressive material in Synagogue singing. Biblical cantilation, the so-called “tropes”, and how melodic constructions emerge from the combination of modular fragments.
16 March 2006
STATES OF TRANSFORMATION (Wandlungsphasen)
6.) OLIVER SCHNELLER (Berlin):
Acoustic Models and Composed Structure: taking a look at concepts of mimesis, extrapolation, and computer-based sound analysis in 20th century composition.
7.) NILS GÜNTHER (Berlin) :
The Chinese theory of five elements (wu xing). Applications in music, traditional medicine, astrology, feng-shui. How I have drawn on the theory in my compositions to date.
8.) LU MANG (Beijing) and SUN CHANG (Shanghai)
TBA: (i.e.) fusion of traditional and modern elements in Chinese music.
9.) TOM ROJO POLLER (Berlin):
The reception of African Music in the works of Steve Reich and György Ligeti. A phenomenological approach to musical time perception from an intercultural perspective.
10.) SENYO ADZEI and AGNES EBUREY (Accra)
'The Spring of Ghanaian Art Music with much Emphasis on the Pathfinder': discussion and analysis of contemporary Ghanaian composition.
17. March 2006
10 - 3
Open composition workshop (I) with Walter Zimmermann, UdK Bundesallee.
Participanmts have the chance to present and discuss their latest work.
Global Interplay Concert in the Haus der Kulturen der Welt with pieces by Wenchen Qin, Liu Kun, Shi-Rui Zhu, Tom Rojo Poller, Nils Günther, Marc Sabat, Amr Okba, Nahla Mattar, Taner Akyol, David Brynjar Franzson, Marcelo Toledo.
18. March 2006
11 - 1
panel discussion of the Global Interplay project at Kassenhalle Berliner Festspiele moderated by Oliver Schneller.
3 - 6
Open composition workshop (II) with Walter Zimmermann, UdK Bundesallee.