By Charles Ferro
Copenhagen will play host to a dynamic symposium attended by visual, sound and performing artists in an attempt to illustrate the huge latent potential of the interplay between sound, space and movement. d!sturbances, the June 1-6 event, aims to stimulate the synergy generated by creative minds. Some 80 Nordic artists from the full range of artistic disciplines will gather at five workshops conducted by leading international names to develop ideas across the borders of the arts. The public will also be invited to witness some of the ideas created or developed during the symposium.
The concept for the d!sturbances symposium was developed by the Danish scenographer Louise Beck in collaboration with editor Anders Beyer, and co-ordinated under the auspices of the Nordic Council of Ministers in a close co-operation between two specialised committees within the council, NOMUS (music) and NordScen (theatre, dance).
“Thanks to the newly established co-operation between the Nordic arts committees NordScen and NOMUS a broadly spanning project focusing on the interfacing areas between the arts has taken form,” says Bo Rydberg, NOMUS secretary general. “This is not only about creating space for the meeting of different art forms; it is also an important meeting point for Nordic artists from the areas of music, visual arts and theatre – a vital initiative that can create the prerequisites for future co-operation in unexplored areas.”
The two committees are mutually responsible for co-ordinating the d!sturbances programme.
“The term d!sturbances, as a brand or trademark for creative co-operation between artists, has an exclamation mark in it,” says NordScen Secretary General Sverre Røhdahl. Compared with our normal, traditional thought patterns, it evokes associations with something deeply disturbing: to upset, to agitate, to unsettle a balance. At bottom, disturbances are surely part of an artist’s inner character; the process of creating something new by abandoning one’s own territory and delving into a new landscape, the realm of another –colliding, questioning the obvious, the true and the certain.”
“d!sturbances may sound odd in connection with the arts, but a central theme is to disturb the convention of traditional creative processes as individuals from one discipline cross over and enter into a creative process with people from another discipline,” says Beck.
“As a supplement to the workshops, a number of panel discussions, master classes, lectures, concerts and other events will be arranged. All of them will represent some of the most visionary thinking within the realms of contemporary art, theatre and music. And what I really find exciting is that a number of the international guests who will lead various workshops will not only be performing or exhibiting works done in conjunction with workshops, but will also be giving the public their own works”, says Anders Beyer.
Workshops – light, space, movement
Each of the five workshops takes a specific artistic sensum as a point of reference.
Participants will then contribute to a common idea from their own area of expertise; in theory, they will be on common ground in terms of a central project, but working in a territory somewhat foreign to them.
Workshop 1 takes movement as its starting point, but uses music as a physical expression of movement in space. Participants will examine the function of movement in the creation of a musical work and the way the action of the body can become an integral part of a musical composition. The works generated will be presented at a series of concerts. British director Lucy Bailey, who has staged numerous works of controversial musical drama around the world, will lead the workshop. She will act as artistic director of The Gogmagogs, a physical string ensemble that has enhanced the compositions of many leading composers and dramatists. The ensemble will also perform its latest work, Gogmagogs Gumbo Jumbo.
To Workshop 2, Austrian composer Bernhard Lang and French choreographer Xavier le Roy will contribute the knowledge they have gained from their respective contributions to stages around the world. The workshop will also examine music and movement, but from the point of view that music is a series of systematic currents.
Lang’s Dw6a will take structure as the central building block and explore how sound/music can create the structural base for visual or physical expression. The purpose is to explore visual and physical movement as an added dimension of the structure of sound. An audio-visual performance created at the workshop will follow.
In Workshop 3, Swedish sound artist Carl Michael von Hausswolff will guide the participants in examining how sound/music is experienced in relation to the surrounding architectural space. The theme aims at demonstrating that space can simplify reduce or even dictate the sound experience. The programme of the platform will be enhanced by the presentation of works by many of the workshop participants.
Various philosophical texts will be used as starting points for Workshop 4, which involves experiments in the nature of verbal sound. With sound as a tool, the participating artists will find media for visualising the dream-pictures, associations and metaphors of words as a form of sound. The primary focus will be on the relationship between audio and visual perceptions, and on symbiosis as accentuated through creativity. The workshop will be led by Italian architect Luca Ruzza and American composer/sound artist Arnold Dreyblatt, who have previously worked together on several digital installation exhibitions. The workshop will result in an interactive digital installation at Charlottenborg Exhibition Hall.
Workshop 5 will take drama as its starting point and tap into the dramatic potential contained in situations where visual and scenic arts collide. Production teams, consisting of composers, writers and directors, will have five days to create a music drama exhibition which will be shown at the end of the workshop. Two internationally renowned talents, Loré Lixenberg, the Austrian mezzo-soprano and English choreographer-director Kenneth Tharp will lead the workshop, together with Danish composer Bent Sørensen.
From the drawing board to the stage
If all goes as planned, artists participating in the workshops will later have the chance to apply for working grants to further develop ideas that take form during the d!sturbances symposium. “It’s our hope that the symposium will create a foundation
for future collaborations crossing national and artistic boundaries, and that the results of these intercultural efforts will bear fruit in the form of innovative, controversial works,” says Beyer.
Significant emphasis will be placed on the actual realisation of the ideas developing from workshop sessions. To make this feasible, workshop participants can call upon an ensemble of musicians/vocalists and dancers who will be on hand along with a small group of technicians to help bring an idea to life. The participants will also have access to building materials, video equipment, IT installations, lighting and sound equipment.
Danish composer Bent Sørensen, who will co-lead one of the workshops, recalls his own participation in a similar gathering held a few years ago in England: “I considered the opera workshop to be a holiday for the introverted part of myself as composer, although it was really a powerful recharging of my inspirational batteries, resulting in a creative explosion within. Ideas appeared so fast it was physically impossible to write them down. The workshop was the greatest concentrated inspiration I have ever experienced. Without it, I doubt if I would have been able to write the grand opera I am working on.”
Responsibility in action
Activities connected to d!sturbances will be held at the Royal Danish Theatre, Charlottenborg Exhibition Hall and the Black Diamond building of the Royal Library. The five workshops will provide creative opportunities for professional sound and visual artists, architects, scenographers, sound designers, directors and choreographers from the Nordic region.
“This symposium offers a unique chance for working processually, something that’s often difficult for a large institution,” says Charlotte Brandt, curator of Charlottenborg Exhibition Hall. “It’s important to provide a kind of creative playground where artists can experiment without having specific goals imposed on them. The project also offers a rare opportunity to see what comes out of encounters with the various art forms.”
The workshops will run in parallel and will culminate in a presentation with common input from all participants.
The institutions involved in the project are aware not only of the vast potential for the creation of new works of art, but also of how vital it is to provide a setting that stimulates creative minds. “It’s important for the Royal Danish Opera to take on active responsibility, so that composers and authors learn to write musical drama,” says Kasper Holten, opera director at the Royal Danish Theatre. “To help set the agenda for the future of musical drama, we need to stimulate composers and authors through the practical experience they will gain at this symposium, learning about the possibilities and pitfalls of musical drama.”
Holten notes how it can be “a risky business” to assign the writing of a major opera to a composer/author who has never seen the inner workings of the opera.
“We can’t expect creative artists to make great art for us if we don’t give then an opportunity to acquaint themselves with the necessary tools. That’s why it is incredibly important for the opera house to make all its knowledge and resources available to these creative minds,” he emphasizes, adding that a symposium like this meshes with his own goals in running a major opera house: “to create new, great operatic works that will stand the test of time as our contribution to the development of musical drama, and to create new classics to supplement the many we already have. In a manner of speaking, to ensure we pay our debt to the opera tradition.”
Something for the public
To be sure, art would be a futile exercise if it were not exposed to the public gaze. For that very reason the institutions involved will open their doors to show how the marriage of art forms results in novel ideas.
To mention just some of the events: Athelas Sinfonietta Copenhagen opens the symposium with a multi-media concert; the German composer-director Heiner Goebbels will offer an audiovisual lecture; the athletic string ensemble The Gogmagogs will perform Gumbo Jumbo; the Charlottenborg Exhibition Hall will allow itself to be invaded by sound and live images; and the Royal Opera will create ‘instant music drama’ as well as many other performances and events.
The unique attraction of d!sturbances will be that it draws public attention to art-inthe-making through a rare cross-disciplinary event that illustrates the development of hybrid art forms.
For details and a full schedule of performances and venues, please visit: www.disturbances.org
Participants to the workshop include among others Norwegian Composer Maja Ratkje, Finnish Composer Jovanka Trbojevic, Swedish Composer Fredrik Österling, Swedish Sound Artist Carl Michael Von Hausswolff and Danish Composer Niels Rønsholt.
Nordic Sounds is the Nordic Music Committee’s music magazine that is edited by Anders Beyer and is published four times a year. MIC would like to express gratitude for being allowed to exclusively publish extracts from the upcoming issue of Nordic Sounds. More information on Nordic Sounds can be obtained here.
Charles Ferro is an American freelance journalist who has been living in Denmark for the past 25 years. He is the Denmark correspondent for Billboard, Music & Media, Newsweek and Scanorama.
Maja Solveig Kjelstrup Ratkje, Composer, Singer