Top Five Incubators of New Music

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Composers Jay Needham and Eric Leonardson at the Internationales Musikinstitut Darmstadt Composers Jay Needham and Eric Leonardson at the Internationales Musikinstitut Darmstadt (Katharina Szmidt)

This week, the New York Philharmonic launches its first biennial, in what promises to be an important showcase for new music every two years. For the inaugural edition, there will be 21 events staged over the course of 11 days, presenting more than 20 premieres. As the Philharmonic enters the fray, here are five established festivals it joins as incubators of new music.

1. Darmstadt

Founded in 1946, the International Summer Course for New Music at Darmstadt isn’t so much a music festival as a meeting place where approximately 300 composers, musicians and thinkers gather for two weeks every other summer to create new work. This year, composer Helmut Lachenmann will return to the festival as Visiting Composer, alongside younger figures, including the 32-year-old Polish composer Jagoda Szmytka.

The performance program kicks off on August 2 with an ambitious presentation of the monumental Carré by the once festival regular Karlheinz Stockhausen. The piece requires the combined forces of four orchestras, four choirs and four composers, and it will be played twice, sandwiching, Harrison Birtwistle’s Cortege: A Ceremony for 14 musicians.

 

2. ManiFeste at IRCAM

Now in its third year, ManiFeste is an interdisciplinary festival staged in the Parisian hive of musical innovation, IRCAM (Institute for Research and Coordination in Acoustics/Music). Despite its short history, the event has attracted some of contemporary music’s biggest names, many of whom are alumni of the institute: George Benjamin, Chaya Czernowin, Peter Eötvös and Georg-Friedrich Haas, to name a few. From June 10 to July 10, the festival will present new music that’s also pushing boundaries in technology, theater, visual art, film, movement, and philosophy. Highlights include Georges Aperghis’s meditation on surveillance in Luna Park, and a symposium that explores the connections between composition and gestures.

Right: The Espace de projection at IRCAM (Olivier Panier)

3. Cabrillo Music Festival

Marin Alsop runs the Cabrillo Music Festival, an annual summer gathering that has been a consistent generator of new music in the United States. Throughout the past 52 seasons it has debuted more than 130 works and given about 200 others their first performances on the West Coast. The organization boasts that many of the works are “still wet on the page” when they receive their first performance at the Santa Cruz venue. This year is no different with three world premieres—two are by a pair of composers born in 1991, Dylan Mattingly and Gabriella Smith, and the third is a family-friendly offering by Jonathan Sheffer—plus two U.S. premieres and four West Coast premieres.

 

4. Venice Biennale

While biennials have become ubiquitous in the visual art world, there was really only one in the realm of music before the New York Philharmonic’s new endeavor: the Venice Biennale. Started in 1930, it is the second oldest exhibition by the Venice Biennale after its trademark art show. Throughout its history, conductors have brought their major works to the festival for a first glimpse, such as Igor Stravinsky, who conducted the premiere of The Rake’s Progress there in 1951. The most recent edition, the 58th, runs from September 20 to October 12 and will honor Steve Reich with a Golden Lion. Meanwhile, 19 new world premieres are on the schedule, as well as a tribute to Peter Maxwell Davies, who turns 80 this year.

Right: The Arditti Quartet kicked off the 2013 Music Biennial of Venice with Stockhausen's Helicopter String Quartet.

5. Bang on a Can Summer Festival

Compared to other new music gatherings, the Bang on a Can Summer Festival, which is nestled in the Berkshires at the Massachusetts Museum of Modern Art, sounds a bit like summer camp. Along with seminars and daily performances of new music in the museum galleries, there are African drumming circles, barbeques, softball games and festive outings. Perhaps the relaxed atmosphere helps foster creativity, as it has become a rite of passage for many young American composers. (It’s no surprise that Bang on a Can was tapped to be one of the New York Philharmonic’s 2014 Biennial partners). Just the inaugural class in 2002 included the emerging talents Yoav Gal, Judd Greenstein, Missy Mazzoli and Tristan Perich.

Below: The online magazine NewMusicBox created this video of the BOAC Summer Festival (Youtube):

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