ArtMusic experience: between new forms of fruition and dialogue of the senses

Music experience: between new forms of fruition and dialogue of the senses

After the host of interesting but not necessarily emotionally enjoyable musical experiments conducted in past decades, awareness has been brought to the fact that what is more important than the development of new artistic forms is the invention of new ways to exploit the existing endless artistic heritage of humanity.

In particular, awareness has emerged that art can no longer be divided into impermeable sensory areas, such as painting-viewing vs. music-hearing, but must be received with the participation and dialogue of multiple senses.


In a way, this awareness is also a return to the past, when the music of Bach or Telemann was used as a musical background to add enjoyment to banquets, that of Händel emphasized the pyrotechnic shows of eighteenth-century London, and sacred music was unthinkable outside the liturgical contexts. Some examples of the panorama of the neo-musical world in particular communicate the meaning of this new sensory wave.

The idea of bicycle concerts, relaxed cycling tours that take place in historical parks, with heterogenous and relatively short musical stops, is striking in its originality, effectiveness and simplicity: in an afternoon you go from jazz to baroque music to Irish songs. Groups of people, often whole families, move from exhibitions on sunny lawns where they get to enjoy lying in the grass, to shady concert halls of important buildings, to return to outdoor performances, just as in the series of bicycle concerts in the Sanssouci Park in Potsdam.

The genius of this simple formula lies also in being able to give a new way to access to the so-called cultured music removing the fatigue that too often accompanies a long traditional concert. The attention is kept alive through a multitude of different programs in ample environments that at the same time allows for chatting, as well for an easy escape from exhibitions felt as boring: without being noticed a person can go away from a performance to enjoy some ice cream at one of the many food kiosks scattered along the route, and then simply pedal to the next stage.

An experience perhaps not for everyone is instead that of #FREEBRAHMS, a project by the Stegreif Orchestra of Berlin focused on the symphonic music of the late Romantic composer Johannes Brahms, intertwined with music from completely different musical worlds. The public is invited, almost forced, to chase the musicians who wander in the room playing with exceptional technique.

The performance is a mix of exciting yet sometimes annoying interruptions: Brahms is suddenly abandoned and a sweet popular song of some exotic country takes over with a sudden friction that immediately leaves the space to the magic of the new melody, just as suddenly abandoned to make room for a rousing orchestral rumba based upon the Brahms’ music.

Although it may seem like one of the many cultural provocations of the 1960’s, it’s actually a very intelligent, complex and well-built sensory engine, an alternation of tensions, relaxations and elevations of the soul. In the end the audience gets the thrilling experience of feeling as if they had played personally throughout the concert.

In recent years, the German choreographer Sasha Waltz has proposed a strong interactive dialogue among dance, architecture, music and audience. It is an effective experimentation but much more traditional and still tied to the idea of proper intellectual commitment typical of the second half of the XXth century.

In 2009, Waltz had the unique opportunity to set up a show in the still-empty spaces of the Berlin Neues Museum, then just renovated by David Chipperfield, and of the contemporary art museum MAXXI in Rome, designed by Zaha Hadid. In Dialogue 09 — Neues Museum, the acrobatic contact of the dancers with the brick walls generates sounds that intersect with the music spreading in the halls.

The audience gets to be a part of the action, physically mixing with the performers while not directly interacting with them, collectively recalling the role of a football referee: present and fundamental but external to the action. This physical participation of the public is not a new invention, but perhaps till the Sasha Waltz inventions the public had never been so incumbent yet inessential for the action — an uncanny experience for the audience and, perhaps, for the performers.

Sounds of the Dolomites — concerts at high altitude — refers instead to a playful concept of naturally triggered multisensorial experience. Although related to the bicycle concerts, it differs in that this proposal engages the public in mountaineering expeditions, needed to reach the concert venues. It takes till even five hours walking uphill to reach them — listeners (and performers) have to be strongly motivated.

Of course, the gratification is at the highest level too: at 3,000 meters, the musical sounds seem to get lost in amongst the trees and reflected by the sky like the sound of the wind, and like the wind the music transfigures itself through fluctuations and returns, becoming part of the surrounding nature. This is not just a landscape suggestion, but a unique experience of fusion of humanity, music, and nature. It is a rare moment: the original creation meets the human art in perfect peace and without mediation.

Andrea Antonini

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