Tag: Classical:NEXT

Hear It New!

orchestra in a concert hall

With just under a month to go until National Sawdust opens Classical:NEXT in Rotterdam, now feels like a great time to reflect on the program we’ve curated for our first international outing. The opening concert, Hear It New!, highlights the breadth of National Sawdust’s work with composers, performers, filmmakers and designers, demonstrating the potential for true collaboration to create boundary-pushing new music which is relevant to our society. The program highlights artists from our close community of Artists-in-Residence; composers participating in our mentorship initiatives; and artists who we are commissioning to create large-scale works that I am producing as part of our National Sawdust Projects program.

Amanda Gookin from the Forward Music Project (photo courtesy National Sawdust).

Amanda Gookin from the Forward Music Project (photo courtesy National Sawdust).

Now feels like a great time to reflect on the program we’ve curated for National Sawdust’s first international outing.

Forward Music Project, by cellist Amanda Gookin, is a work I am personally really excited about. Over the past two years as an Artist-in-Residence at National Sawdust, Amanda has commissioned twelve composers to write pieces about their experience of being a woman. Representative, inclusive and diverse, the voices and stories in each composition are ones which need to be heard. Amplified by Amanda’s energy and dexterity on stage, and enhanced by the artworks of her collaborator, projection artist S Katy Tucker, this ongoing body of work is touring as a National Sawdust Project.

Amanda, Katy, and I recently returned from a performance at Kennedy Center’s DIRECT CURRENT festival in Washington DC, and have an upcoming trip to The Wallis Annenberg Center in Beverly Hills,California. We’ve also just begun a program inspired by the project for middle school music and art students in our neighborhood to collaborate and create their own pieces which will be performed at National Sawdust in June. The potential for Forward Music Project to grow and really make an impact is huge, so we’re excited to present one piece at Classical:NEXT for international audiences. On May 15 in Rotterdam, audiences will hear To Tell A Story, written by composer, Artistic Director and Co-Founder of National Sawdust, Paola Prestini. Paola began writing this work during the Kavanaugh hearings. It is underscored by Susan Sontag’s words on storytelling and features sound design by Sxip Shirey.

National Sawdust is amplifying the music of women, non-binary, and trans composers.

National Sawdust is also amplifying the music of women, non-binary, and trans composers in our annual Hildegard Competition, and we are excited to present 2018 winner Emma O’Halloran’s piece Constellations in an international collaboration with musicians from Rotterdam’s DoelenEnsemble. When writing this piece, Emma was inspired by a National Geographic article focusing on the discovery that handprints in ancient cave art most often belonged to women.

Storytelling is something that we are passionate about at National Sawdust, and the newly commissioned short film Kipatsi, Nija, Añaantsi (Land, Water, Life) does this with cinematic beauty. Featuring members of the indigenous Ashaninka community who inhabit the Amazon basin, the short film highlights the threat of government-led dam projects in Peru, and how these projects are damaging the environment and way-of-life for the people who live there. The film’s Director, Murat Eyuboglu, plans for this short to be featured in the film festival circuit next year, and we’re also sharing this resource with the community so they can raise awareness and amplify their voices on this important and urgent issue which is threatening their lives. Composer and violinist Pauchi Sasaki is scoring the film as we speak, and I cannot wait to hear what she has created when she performs it live in May. We have big plans to fully commission a 90-minute documentary, The Amazon, so this short film is a small step towards us realizing that vision.

Ione (Photo courtesy PhonoFemme.)

Ione (Photo courtesy PhonoFemme.)

The concert will open with a suggestion from our collaborators at Classical:NEXT – The World Wide Tuning Meditation – a Deep Listening exercise developed by the late Pauline Oliveros. We are so lucky that artist Ione, spouse of Oliveros, has agreed to lead this for us all to participate. Our hope is that this exercise prepares the audience, with ears and mind wide open, to fully experience and engage in the rest of the evening, and the conference itself. I hope everyone who attends Hear It New! at Classical:NEXT leaves curious, ready to make new musical discoveries, and feels inspired by our ideals of how art can be used to amplify all voices and act as a catalyst for social change.

We have a range of interdisciplinary and multimedia music works which can travel anywhere around the globe.

We’ve been lucky to tour various works and initiatives this season throughout the USA, but being in Europe is a first for us. With National Sawdust Projects, we have a range of interdisciplinary and multimedia music works which can travel anywhere around the globe, as well as projects in development which we want to find homes for in the future. For example, this week I am in workshops developing Through You, a new chamber opera work that we are producing with 2019 Pulitzer Prize winning composer Ellen Reid, Nico Muhly, Missy Mazzoli, and Paola Prestini, which will be ready to premiere in summer 2021 before touring. Classical:NEXT represents the opportunity for us to convene with the international music community as well as increasing the reach and impact of our work with artists and audiences. I’m really looking forward to seeing what future collaborations and opportunities arise from the upcoming conference so we can learn from others and also spread the word of National Sawdust.

Opening Concepts—The Themes That Shape Each Year’s Edition of Classical:NEXT

A woman in a red and black plain strapless dress singing, She is holding the microphone in her right hand and turning her head toward it

With only four weeks to go until Classical:NEXT, I am taking this opportunity to breathe and reflect, a rare thing to do as general manager during the crunch phase of production. I currently feel like I’ve run a full marathon already and am getting my last energy together for the final sprint.

I wonder where this last year has gone and if we are really opening the doors for the eighth time? As it approaches, you always have to ask: Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was packing my bag for another week of sleepless nights during Classical:NEXT? But then I think back on the last year and I realize how many places I’ve been to and how many people from numerous countries I have had the chance to speak with, and it feels like even more than 12 months have passed. In my head, I am time-traveling back while also thinking a month ahead, to the moment we began and I see all the people filling the home of Classical:NEXT, which has been at Rotterdam’s de Doelen for the past five years. I find myself feeling overexcited, not only to see everyone again, but in realizing that “wow, they actually kept their word to come to Rotterdam!” This of course fills me with pride and gratitude, and I realize: This whole year of effort and hard work was worth it, just for this particular moment of reunification.

After raising my glass to the visitors at the welcome reception, I’ll already be looking forward to the first sounds of our opening concert. The Opening is, after all, THE thing people speak about during the days of Classical:NEXT. You can sense the hunger of the hundreds of art music people, and it’s a clear reminder that there remains no substitute for people meeting each other in person. It’s a very uplifting moment to see people reuniting, and this family-like atmosphere gets stronger and warmer each year. It reassures me and makes me feel that we are doing something right in creating an international community with deep bonds between people who share the same passion.

The opening night reception for Classical:NEXT in 2016 (Photo by Eric Van Nieuwland)

The opening night reception for Classical:NEXT in 2016 (Photo by Eric Van Nieuwland)

Each year we adapt to an ever-changing art music landscape, reflected by the Opening. While the hosts vary—from different institutions, export offices, or collectives—the focus changes with each edition and we can see how selected curators now go above and beyond with their Opening concepts. We are aware that the Opening is a powerful moment and tool, so we use it cautiously. It does not simply signal the beginning of our global music meeting, but sets the tone for the entire event, bringing to the stage the spirit of this gathering, underlining the intercontinental and innovative perspective. They are also a draw for the international media, garnering the most of their attention.

Each year we adapt to an ever-changing art music landscape.

The Canadian-hosted Opening in 2015, at our debut in Rotterdam, set the bar high for the following years. I can still remember the very beginning like it was yesterday, with the fearsome, deep-throat singing and improvisation of Inuit punk Tanya Tagaq kicking off the event. It was as if her voice came from the earth’s core – a unique and unforgettable moment. As a display of Canada’s connectivity and cultural diversity, the variety-packed Opening showcased the excellence of its multifaceted scene with a double keynote speech between Martin Hoffman of the Berlin Philharmonic and Yannick Nézet-Séguin of the Rotterdam Philharmonic and Philadelphia Orchestra, and a video speech by soprano and conductor Barbara Hannigan.

In 2016, the Classical:NEXT Opening helped celebrate the 50th anniversary of de Doelen with “Dutch Mountains,” an interdisciplinary event that highlighted innovative and vibrant music from The Netherlands. Founder and music director of New World Symphony Michael Tilson Thomas served as the video keynote speaker, with double bassist and creator of London’s Chineke! Orchestra Chi-chi Nwanoku adding to the list of prominent names in attendance.

For the sixth edition in 2017, instead of showcasing a country, we felt the urge to set the topic ourselves and featured a small selection of the many projects and people from around the world that focus on inclusion. The performances offered examples of what society can achieve through music, with the Chineke! Orchestra and Afa Dworkin from the Sphinx Organization leading the way and Marin Alsop contributing via video keynote.

In 2018, Classical:NEXT featured a French focus, working closely with Le Bureau Export. It was in this year where I realized that our “missionary tours” are so important. Classical:NEXT, in a way, took the international community on a trip to France and successfully introduced delegates to the supposedly “inaccessible” French market. And we set a new record in French attendance that year.

For this year, our opening “Hear it New!” curated by National Sawdust will be a very special moment I’m sure, particularly in light of the fact that we announced it jointly to colleagues and friends at their home base in NYC at our annual Classical:NEXT Meet’n’Greet in January. While there, I attended outstanding concerts at National Sawdust in Brooklyn and witnessed a way of “tuning in” the audience with a meditation practice. Inspired by this experience, we decided to incorporate a meditation practice of Pauline Oliveros’s “Deep Listening” program in our own Opening and I am very excited to see if it resonates with and inspires the audience the way it did with me.

I’m very proud of the collaboration between women-led National Sawdust and Classical:NEXT.

Additionally I’m very proud to see that our headline for this year’s edition “21st Century Polyphony: More Voices, Greater Symphonies,” will be perfectly reflected in our collaboration between women-led National Sawdust and Classical:NEXT and will mirror our ongoing commitment to giving a voice to groups that are often underrepresented in leadership, on the podium, or in audiences.

With this year’s Opening, we kill two birds with one stone. While matching the focus of giving a voice to underrepresented groups, we also highlight the importance of the United States and the need to be connected in order to bring the perspectives and the artistic content across the pond. “Hear it New!” was therefore a natural choice. America is known as the land of endless opportunity and a field for experimentation in general, whereas other countries sometimes tend to choose stability over taking risks. America is upfront in creating new ideas and this is something that the wider art music community can undoubtedly learn from to free new ideas and unleash an endless stream of new possibilities.

The “Call for Opening Hosts” for Classical:NEXT 2020 is open once again and the team is excited to get new proposals within the next months. More information is available here – https://www.classicalnext.com/programme/opening/hosting.