Playful spectacle in sound by two adventurous composers

Together Games

Ashley Fure, Simon Steen-Andersen, Ensemble Modern

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With great regret, the Holland Festival 2020 has been cancelled. more info

They don’t like conventions. Ashley Fure and Simon Steen- Andersen – from the US and Denmark, respectively – are both composers as well as sound and installation artists. They both have a fresh, playful approach to music which turns the traditional concert experience on its head. In Together Games, Fure has vocalists move through the audience holding ingenious 3D-printed megaphones. This results in a unique listening experience, with the acoustics creating amazing sonic complexity. Steen-Andersen, meanwhile, works with everyday sounds. In his Run Time Error @ Opel feat. Ensemble Modern Live!, the Ensemble Modern appears twice: live on the stage and in a video of a comical sound parade that the composer recorded with the orchestra in 2015 in an old car factory. The interplay between the video and live music creates a true spectacle of sound and imagery.

Programme

Together Games for moving voices and ensemble (2019/2020)
Ashley Fure (1982), Lilleth Glimcher (she/ they)

interval

Run Time Error @ Opel feat. Ensemble Modern Live! (2015/16)
Simon Steen-Andersen (1976)

background information

Together Games

Together Games centres upon questions of exclusion and community. Who has admission to this concert? Which obstacles presort the audience of a new music festival? Who has access to the stage and which power structures does this reflect?

Ashley Fure pairs Ensemble Modern with unusual company here: twelve instrumentalists of the Ensemble appear together with twelve megaphone performers. The black cones of different shapes have the ability not only to considerably amplify, but also to emit sound in a highly directional manner. Therefore, sounds like hissing or clicking, voices and singing can be dispersed within a space very deliberately. In addition, these directional sound waves can help to make architecture perceivable acoustically, since (similarly to the principle of echolocation) they are reflected back into the space just as precisely.

 

Without technology or electronics, but with an almost archaic appearance, the megaphones resemble organic creatures or instruments of ritual practices, but at the same time futuristic extensions of the human body. The faces of the performers disappear entirely behind the black hole of the cone. The amplification robs human sounds of their usual timbre and transports even extremely fragile sounds so far that a far-away hiss can still caress the back of our necks.

 

The world premiere of Together Games in February 2020 has been conceived for a gymnasium. The audience was seated around the playing field, while the instrumentalists and the megaphone performers were moving across the room.

 

The questions Ashley Fure asks of the space are linked to questions of diversification of ensemble and audience. As in several of her other works, the space is a central category in Together Games. Fure is not only interested in the architectural location with its specific sonic regions and reverberation times, which are included as parameters in her piece, but also in a reflection of social and political space. In her performance locations, Fure creates holistic spaces for experience.

 

Through experimental exploration of the interrelation between sound and movement, the space is literally paced, fathomed and set in motion. This creates an immersive listening situation through which Fure questions and transcends the concert ritual of western art music. Instead of a frontal and rigid arrangement of ensemble and audience, she creates multi-dimensional access.

 

After all, despite the determination with which Ashley Fure chooses to ignore traditional concert rituals and their implicit patriarchal patterns, she is convinced of the transformative potential of the concert as a form of performance. The concert gives us a space in which to congregate and partake in a concentrated, communal communication. It offers the immediate presence of a temporary community within the field of tension of intimacy and anonymity.

 

Together Games is a resonant cavity for the copresence and interplay of different protagonists. Without narrative or language, it impressively recounts the power inherent in a shared (listening) experience. It is an invitation to enter an unknown space, which may be perceived as a challenge or an embrace.

 

Run Time Error

The adventurous composer, performer, and installation artist Simon Steen-Andersen (1976) likes to incorporate everyday sounds in his work. In his Run Time Error – a performance from 2009 that was further developed afterwards – Ensemble Modern appears twice: live on stage as well as in a video of a sound parade the composer recorded with the company in an old car factory in 2015. In the interplay between video and live performance, a true audio-visual spectacle emerges.

 

Run Time Error is a location-specific composition that follows strict rules: only objects and instruments found at the spot may be used, and any object or instrument may be deployed only once.  Each sound and each act must be in direct relation to the preceding or subsequent sound or act.

 

Like the musicians, the available objects are scattered along a route that runs from the stage, past the backstage areas, to the hallways and reception areas.  In this way, space is connected with time. Playing through the composition will make concrete the oft-used musical metaphor of ‘moving through time’. 

 

The performer’s first activity (often of the composer himself) is the acoustic exploration of the performance space and the detection of the audio equipment there. This exploration is recorded on video and is shown later, during the live performance with an ensemble. 

 

Baden-Baden music journalist Michael Rebhahn described how the performer ‘touches, taps, and sets into motion objects, equipment, and architectural elements, and records the resulting sounds with a hand microphone. A camera operator closely follows the performer and documents everything that happens’.

 

During the live performance with the ensemble, the performer - now equipped with two joysticks - has two recordings of the video and audio track available to him. This allows him to independently control the pre-recorded information via two projection surfaces and two loudspeakers, as well as to manipulate it in its corresponding order. This results in considerable optical and auditory illusions for the audience.

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biographies

Ashley Fure (1982) is an American composer and sound artist. The New York Times calls her work ‘raw, elemental’ and ‘richly satisfying’. She explores kinetic sound sources with a special focus on the

physical activity of performing music and the chaos of raw acoustic material. Fure took her Ph.D. in composition at Harvard University and works as Assistant Professor at the music department of Dartmouth College. Ashley Fure has been recognised countless times for her work. A small selection: in 2011 Fure held residency at the Akademie Schloß Solitude. A year later she received a stipend in Darmstadt and a Staubach Honorarium from the same city’s International Music Institute. In 2014, she won the Kranichsteiner Composition Prize and Impuls International Composition Prize. After Fure was nominated for the Pulitzer Music Prize in 2016, she was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2017. She was awarded the DAAD 2018 by the organisation Artists-in-Berlin.

Ashley Fure was commissioned to write compositions for major companies in Europe and the United States, which include the New York Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Klangforum Wien, Ensemble Modern, the Diotima Quartet, the International Contemporary Ensemble, Talea, the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, and Dal Niente. Recent projects include The Force of Things: An Opera for Objects, an intermedia opera that the New Yorker’s Alex Ross called ‘staggeringly original’ and ‘the most purely visceral music-theatre outing of the year’. Bound to the Bow is another project for orchestra and electronic instruments: ‘boldly individual’ according to The New York Times, and the ‘most arresting of the world premieres’ according to the New Yorker.

The Danish Simon Steen-Andersen (1976) is a composer, performer, and installation artist. He studied composition with various teachers in Aarhus, Freiburg, Buenos Aires, and Copenhagen. Steen-Andersen resides in Berlin, and in his work he navigates between instrumental and electronic music, video and performance in different settings, and symphonic orchestras and chamber music, with or without multimedia. He gives solo performances, makes installations, and works as a director. These last decades, Steen-Andersen has focussed on integrating concrete musical elements in his work and on emphasising physical and choreographic aspects of instrumental performance practices.

His work involves amplified acoustic instruments combined with samplers, video, simple everyday objects, or self-made constructions. Simon Steen-Andersen has received many prizes, which include the Mauricio Kagel Music Prize and the Siemens Composer’s Prize in 2017. He was also awarded the Nordic Council Music Prize, the SWR Orchestra Prize, and the Carl Nielsen Prize. Steen-Andersen has made works commissioned by ensembles, orchestras, and festivals such as ensemble recherche, Neue Vokalsolisten Stuttgart, the SWR Orchestra, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Ensemble Ascolta, the JACK Quartet, Ensemble Modern, Oslo Sinfonietta, 2e2m, the Donaueschinger Musiktage, Ultraschall, the Wittener Tage für neue Kammermusik, and ECLAT. He furthermore collaborated with ensembles such as Klangforum Wien, Collegium Novum Zurich, ICTUS, the Arditti Quartet, London Sinfonietta, Ensemble Intercontemporain, asamisimasa, and the Nadar Ensemble. Simon Steen-Andersen has served as a teacher of composition at the Royal Academy of Music in Aarhus since 2008.

Since its founding in 1980, Ensemble Modern is considered one of the leading contemporary music ensembles. The group resides in Frankfurt and consists of twenty soloists of different nationalities. Its work and organisational method are unique: all projects, co-productions, and financial matters are collectively decided on. The company does musical theatre, chamber music, and orchestral concerts and makes dance and video performances. Its musicians regularly perform at renowned festivals such as the Salzburger Festspiele, the Wiener Festwochen, Klangspuren Schwaz, Musikfest Berlin, the MusikTriennale Köln, the Lincoln Center Festival in New York, the Festival d’Automne in Paris, the Lucerne Festival, and the Holland Festival. Each year, the ensemble adds around seventy new pieces to its repertoire, some of which are world premieres.

The ensemble fostered longstanding collaborations with composers such as John Adams, George Benjamin, Peter Eötvös, Heiner Goebbels, Hans Werner Henze, Simon Steen-Andersen, Mauricio Kagel, György Kurtág, Helmut Lachenmann, György Ligeti, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Benedict Mason, Steve Reich, and Frank Zappa. Ensemble Modern recorded numerous CDs, many of which have won prizes. A considerable part of its CD production is done through its own label: Ensemble Modern Media. In 2003, the German Kulturstiftung des Bundes praised Ensemble Modern as a beacon of contemporary culture in Germany. That same year, the International Ensemble Modern Akademie (IEMA) was founded, at which a new generation of musicians are trained through a master program, master classes, composition work groups, and educational projects. Ensemble Modern is celebrating its forty year anniversary this year.

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Credits

music
Ashley Fure,
Simon Steen-Andersen
direction Together Games
Lilleth Glimcher (she/they)
live video mixing
Simon Steen-Andersen
performed by
Ensemble Modern, megafonisten
in the framework of
1 2 3 4 ty Years Ensemble Modern – Anniversary Cycle 2020
with support by
German Cultural Foundation