Live music in the age of technological reproduction
It’s striking how more and more performers and composers are embracing electronic and multimedia elements as natural ingredients of their music or performance practice. Exploratory talks about potential Transit concerts easily turn into discussions of more pragmatic questions, such as how much time they need to set up all the technical aspects and what kind of projector they want.
The ubiquity of technology has rarely been more tangible than in the last year, when virtually no cultural experiences were possible without hi-tech means. All the good intentions of live streaming notwithstanding, there was still something missing – the intensity of the live experience.
Remarkably enough, this is still seen best in those contemporary works – and there are a lot of them in this year’s Transit – that feature a dialogue between live performers and electronic or multimedia elements that become their opponent or their extension. The virtual turns out not to be ideal for a computer screen, but to get its real power from a confrontation with living musicians and with the physical experience of being able to share that with an audience.
The poetic electronic sounds of Osvaldo Coluccino need the pianistic finesse of Jan Michiels to really dazzle; the breath of Apsara’s recorder players is what breathes life into the electronics of Hanna Eimermacher; the sighing, creaking bellows of Andreas Borregaard’s accordion is a necessary counterpoint to the video images used by Simon Steen-Andersen, and Zwerm reminds us that the physical experience of sound should happen in the lively listening experience of an equally live audience.
Scale also plays a part: musicians of Nemø, who literally become a part of the projections; the massive energy in Chaya Czernowin’s music with the Riot Ensemble: it doesn’t work on a computer screen, but all the more so on (Transit‘s) stage.
Transit 2021 will not only be a festival edition full of discoveries (with Riot, Nemø, and Explore making their Transit debuts in addition to the numerous new composers) but hopefully, also one of the passionate rediscovery of the live concert experience.