“It is necessary to insist”

In late March, Klang ist Grammatik had the good fortune to be able to attend a bunch of stuff at Berlin’s Märzmusik festival.

One of the most inspiring events, however, was the pair of remarkable artist talks. The second was with Salvatore Sciarrino (whose German is pretty basic, which was great for me because it meant that I could understand him…) and Beat Furrer (who’s German is understandably a lot better, and he’s a bit of a mumbler, really. He said something about Tristan, and narrative, and  a boat). The first, and by far the most interesting, though, was with Lucia Ronchetti, whose Musiktheater work Der Sonne entgegen was premiered at the festival, and Nicola Sani, an Italian composer and (until very recently) the artistic director of the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma.

Sani described a paradoxical situation in Italy whereby, despite there being a network of 42 major opera houses, one must travel to Berlin, or to Salzburg, Vienna or Paris, in order to hear new opera by important Italian composers such as Ronchetti or Sciarrino. Which means, he suggests, that the system doesn’t work.

Now, in reality, of course things are much more complicated than this. There are a wide range of different considerations and factors at play. But the more one focuses on the myriad complications, and on tweaks to existing systems aimed at mitigating liabilities, the more one is distracted from the fundamental fact that the system doesn’t work. The system of live operatic (and, by extention, musical) dissemination is manifestly unsuited to bringing new work to it’s target audiences.

I found the black-and-whiteness of this view refreshing, and utterly beguiling.

The statement that I was most taken by, however, was Sani’s declaration that “it is necessary to insist”, effectively calling for a restoration of faith by practitioners in the value and validity, indeed the necessity of contemporary art. An end to the almost apologetic stance contemporary art so frequently takes in relation to broader cultural activity. This is an inspirationally positivist call-to-arms that is impossible to resist.

Ideally, these two strands will meet in the middle somewhere. A fully reconsidered system of artistic dissemination that intrinsically values the media it is charged with disseminating and speaks to relevant audiences. It’s possible, even necessary that such changes occur. I insist.

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  1. Daryl Buckley

     /  May 20, 2010

    I love that phrase. It is so telling, so incisive, and utterly depictive of what is required in life, required in art. The other side of that coin is a failure to insist.
    I have seen many people and organisations in the arts slump to a complacency or more tellingly take the complacency as a norm. A friend of mine, now in a senior position within Australian arts once said, “you’re dead a long time”. Until then….

    • SoundisGrammar

       /  May 20, 2010

      I hear ya. I attended this with a friend, and we were both taking notes. After Sani said it, I looked over and we had both written down “IT IS NECESSARY TO INSIST!” in giant letters…
      The apparent focus by many arts organisations on just getting through another season with a minimum of pain seems diametrically opposed to what is, as you say, absolutely at the core of what arts organisations should be doing.

  2. Heather Roche

     /  May 20, 2010

    I really feel that I can relate very well to the second paragraph (and you).

    And the rest. But I just got home from German class, so…

  3. Are you really saying it’s necessary to insist on Sciarrino? Cripes.

    (Or to put it a bit more seriously: how, then, do we agree what to insist on? Personally I wouldn’t spend my precious and limited reserves of insistence on Sciarrino. Or Furrer, for that matter.)

    BTW I thought musikFabrik premiered Der Sonne entgegen in 2007. Have we reached the point where the ‘Uraufführung der Neufassung’ erases all memory of previous premieres?

    • SoundisGrammar

       /  May 20, 2010

      Um. I don’t think that that’s what I’m saying. I don’t think that’s what Sani is saying, either (although I suspect that perhaps he and I both hold Sciarrino in slightly higher esteem than you do…).
      But you’re right that perhaps we don’t all agree on what it’s actually necessary to insist on. Maybe that’s not important. Perhaps it’s simply vital that whatever we believe to be important, we believe in it utterly uncompromisingly.
      That’s interesting about MusikFabrik and Ronchetti. All of the discussion treated this as if it were a full-on ‘première’, and I simply didn’t think to interrogate it further (she was talking about still changing things during the epic 14-hour General Rehearsal the day before the ‘first performance’).


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