++blog#0 - berlin, october 11th 2020
hello dear friends of stargaze, dear music lovers, fellow humans...,
we are starting a blog, we are ready-ing our new website, we are re-activating our regular newsletter.
at a point where we realise this doesn't work: to wait till 2020 is over – like many people, especially in our scene say '2020 is cancelled' or 'let's just forget about 2020 and start afresh next year'. Both ideas are (and have been all along) super unhelpful, untrue, naive and unrealistic.
we are 'swimming' (this may be a german idiomatic expression only? you may understand..) just like everyone else in the arts and performing community right now, and would like to contribute to a discussion we are all having now, about what this means, about how to move into a future full of creativity and sustainability of musicians' and artists' projects and lives.
we would like to write about and imagine ideas that will inspire us and others even if they cannot all be realised, physically, at once, or even in the next one or wo years or so.
rather than 'scrap' a year that has been so momentous, a potential watershed we assume for many if not all of us, there's this element of incredible focus, by introspection, as well as looking back at the road that led us here.
There are projects that we have started, that have been cancelled but developed further, and new ones that have been born out of neccessity or boredom, that are incredibly important with regards to how we go on from here.
we would love to tell you about the two major projects that stargaze has undertaken at the beginning of 2020, which will with not an inch of a doubt continue to move and occupy us, in a magnified and intensified way, in different forms and stages, hopefully ON stages.
So here's to an old saying, with an energised urgency: watch – this – space
with all our hearts
++blog#1 - berlin, october 20th 2020
Dear friends, fans and followers
Having grappled with another couple of fairly short-term cancellations in the last two weeks (our Beethoven concert at Cologne Philharmonie and a version of Kaltern Pop Festival in the North of Italy, that would have consisted of workshops and a little conference fostering an exchange of similar festivals Europe-wide) we are taking to the internet and blog-waves again. To take stock of what is NOT lost about ‚our’ 2020, and about new developments, chances and opportunities amidst all the adjustments.
First up, some very welcome news and announcement: we have been one of a handful of ensembles given a ‚ReLoad’ grant by the Bundeskulturstiftung (the German governments’ arts foundation – they already supported our Spitting Chamber Music project in 2017) for a project which could be developed, pursued and delivered under the current circumstances, as a way of continuing to work as a group remotely. Our proposal had the totally serious working-titel ‚starTracks’ – and involves commissions to 4 composers that are also known as producers. The brief is to write pieces for which each musician can record their parts at home, or even develop them in online conversations and workshops with the composer/producer. The tracks are then put together and finalized, possibly treated, remixed and layered back at the creators’ home/studio.
It’s a recording project foremost, one that we can present as a little album by hopefully end of January, but also a co-creative effort which puts each musician in direct exchange with the composer.
We chose artists that we already know a little or even very well, and vice versa, to get the most out of the short-term initiative, and while not being able to meet and work it out in person: And the names we can reveal are:
Nik Void (of Factory Floor), Tyondai Braxton, Greg Saunier and Arone Dyer.
We will publish interviews with and portraits of all 4 of them individually in due course and on our blog right here!!
The two projects that had made the start of 2020 very exciting to us, and continue to keep us busy regarding future planning – have also both been intense, long-term artistic developments. They are ongoing, lasting artistic experiences that are new to us and that will surely accompany us beyond 2020.
To us there is a clear difference now between the existence of say an orchestra or ensemble that may play a different concert program each week or so, and move on. Currently, it may get cancelled, and programmatically you also move on and see what’s left when things start up again, but things get either postponed or fall off by the wayside, it does not always matter artistically speaking, in a global sense (although it may matter very much to individual artists of course).
These two projects started in 2019 and have developed over a period of time, and both will indeed survive and have not ceased to exist and are gaining more urgency and intrigue to us every day.
MÁM is a dance project we were invited on by choreographer Michael Keegan-Dolan and his company Teac Damsa. It started with tentative workshops between our musicians and Irish Concertina player Cormac Begley, to explore if we could find a common language and vibe in playing together, quite possibly towards making new music together. We met twice, in Berlin and Amsterdam (stargaze’ two headquarters, you may count Rotterdam in now as a third one) before three of our musicians were invited to travel to New Zealand (as New Zealand Festival was one of the main co-producers of the work) in February 2019 to take part in further workshops that this time involved the dancers as well! I’d say that by the time the actual project started for good, we had developed a pretty good understanding of each others’ personalities, artistry and aims. The week in Wellington also produced some musical material that, alongside Cormac’s original tunes, would form the backbone of the music for MÀM.
Then, in the summer of 2019, stargaze spent no less than 5 weeks with the whole company in West-Kerry, in the beautiful little fishing town of Dingle, home of Keegan-Dolan, rehearsing and creating the final work in a community centre.
As a conductor, I am used to an orchestra, as in the musicians joining a music theatre or dance production fairly last minute, 1 – 2 weeks (often less) before the premiere, with not much room for maneuver structurally or musically. The music has been set all along. This was an entirely different process, that not only made us co-creators of the score, but the whole work took its shape under the influence of every individual dancer and musician in the room. I think it’s no hyperbole to say that this experience changed everyone’s outlook on what we do, our creative roles and processes completely and irreversibly.
And that’s before I even talk about the content of MÀM, which casts a group of people, maybe family, old and new friends, couples, a society in a place where togetherness, apartness, love and loss, support, meetings farewells are undergoing multiple manifestations and transformations like life has to, to be complete. A longing, a real struggle for but succeeding in the coming together of human kinds (sic) lays at the heart of the very emotional piece – and therefore touched on everything we are going through this year and need to consider for our future.
After premiering at the Dublin Theatre Festival in September 2019, MÀM made it to Sadlers Wells, London, in February 2020, as well as the New Zealand and Perth Festivals at the beginning of March, before the company just made it home for lockdown.
ABC – (not) Another Beethoven Cycle has essentially come out of the question how it would be possible to present a cycle of all of Beethoven’s symphonies (the perceived pinnacle of the classical orchestral repertoire, and benchmark for every such ensemble) as a world-premiere. So the idea was to ask 9 different artists, not all composers or even musicians necessarily, to take one symphony each and make their own version or arrangement of it, or a new work based on it. We were specifically interested in involving individuals who would not normally perform this music, or have been educated on or in these works, whose relevance (which we believe in) may be questioned today, and should, not least in what was billed as the 250th anniversary year of the composer.
We started with no less than the monumental NINTH, including the famous Ode to Joy, which has recently come to renewed prominence as a kind of European anthem, sung by a massed choir and 4 soloists in the final movement of the work.
Our version developed in collaboration with electronic conceptional auteur Matthew Herbert, premiered on February 1 and 2 at the Barbican Centre London, coincidentally also the weekend ‚Brexit’ came into effect in the UK.
At one point, Matthew approached his approach to the last movement in particular, as a ‚Requiem’ to the composer and maybe other things, too.
This project is a very multifaceted affair, as the four movements became different projects each, bound by the central idea of the relationship between individual and society, the questions of ‚Equality’ and sisterhood and brotherhood of all human kind negotiated in Schiller’s Ode. The last movement is a community project which enables choirs of all ages and abilities to sing the notoriously difficult piece, usually the domain more ambitious choral societies and professional choirs, in a much more humble and less noisy manner than is practice.
Although many of our Beethoven concerts got cancelled through 2020 (co-commissioners included the BBC Proms, the Helsinki Festival, Lucerne Theatre and Festival, the Barbican Centre and Cologne Philharmonie) we still managed to perform our versions of Beethoven ONE and NINE again, in very different settings and circumstances, away from the classical concert hall usually home for these works. This was another objective of our project, to ‚disseminate’ this quite radical music and concepts amongst audiences that wouldn't usually even listen to Beethoven, through the lens of 21st century artists, in less formal settings (that were adaptable and would become successively more Covid-proof also, without much ado).
And not least to our musicians, creative, individual multi-instrumentalists from different backgrounds who mostly decided against an orchestra career early on, and may have last played a Beethoven Symphony in youth orchestra, or never at all: The sense of discovery they experienced so far on this journey through Beethoven’s cosmos has been, in the words of some, quite ‚mind-blowing’ and therefore it’s become clear to us that we should continue this journey and project, regardless of Beethoven year or not. Beethoven was a child of the ‚Enlightenment’, an artist and personality engaged in public political discourse, intriguingly placed and immersed in the midst of Immanuel Kant’s and Schiller’s discussions of what Freedom, Education meant and what constitutes a self-responsible, morally ethical citizen.
Some eminent contemporary philosophers (most recently the German Markus Gabriel, who holds the chair of Modern Philosophy at.. coincidence?... Bonn University) have found evidence in 2020 for their claim that we need ‚a new enlightenment’, for our time. This extends of course beyond any solution for the pandemic and how we may or may not continue to live after, this includes of course the far more crucial impact of climate change and all it’s connected geopolitical ramifications.
An effort towards a new view and understanding of Beethoven’s music, firstly, cannot end at the close of 2020 and secondly, can communicate through art the necessity of this New Enlightenment.
And if we get even only a distant glimpse of such a possibility, we’ve also been handed another argument for why culture, art and music are crucial factors in maintaining our societies and an ethically, morally progressive world. They need to be given a much more prominent status in the current discussions about state support and emergency bailouts.
So that’s our 50 cent for the Beethoven year not to end in 2020 and we have an action plan to that extend, which we will reveal when we have the hard facts ready.
We will also reveal more about another project that is still supposed to happen this year, in our next blogpost, in another week! It’s called ‚High Dive’ and it will be a lot of fun and yeah read here about it soon!
Take care, stay safe and don’t be a stranger