“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.