Lucerne Festival Forward

New dimensions of listening and unusual approaches to contemporary music.

Lucerne Festival Forward, the new festival for contemporary music that launches this fall, from 19 to 21 November, invites concertgoers to enter into new dimensions of listening and explore unusual approaches to contemporary music.

What does it sound like when 64 performers drop grains of rice, letting them fall from different positions throughout the KKL Luzern Concert Hall? Do we experience mu­sic differently in the dark? What happens when a musician plays for only one audience member, taking the listener's facial expressions and reactions into account as part of her performance? Lucerne Festival Forward redefines the rules for concerts. Under the direction of “Contemporary” director Felix Heri and dramaturg Mark Sattler, 18 artists from the Academy network have put together a creative program for musicians and ensembles of the Lucerne Festival Contemporary Orchestra (LFCO) lasting from 19 to 21 November. These events bridge the gap between artists and audience by rethinking the roles of each, experimenting, improvising, and playing with spaces, sounds, and auditory boundaries.

In one of this Festival’s eight concerts, which will take place in and around the KKL Luzern, the audience can look forward to ricefall by Michael Pisaro. This piece offers a kind of meditative listening experience in which the performers, who are located at various positions in the Concert Hall, let grains of rice fall onto a wide variety of materials. The sounds combine to form a multi­colored noise that swells or subsides and is reminiscent of rain. Lucerne Festival is presenting the 18-minute performance as an audience-collaborative project. There is still space for those who would like to participate to sign up; registration is via the Lucerne Festival website.

On Saturday and Sunday, the violinist and movement performer Winnie Huang will present Charlie Sdraulig's tend for performer and listener more than 40 times — but for only one audience member at a time. In these one-to-one encounters, she becomes completely attuned to her counterpart, adapting her looks, facial expressions, and body language to the listener and at the same time picking up on what both perceive: sounds in the environment as well as the space of the performance.

Musicians of the LFCO will improvise to works by the artist Vivian Suter in the Kunstmuseum Luzern, making her paintings become scores, as it were. And in a program for 12 musicians, Annea Lockwood's work Water and Memorywill be among those to be performed in the Concert Hall. The piece starts out as a polyphonic humming, allowing the participants who are distributed around the space to have their say with personal memories — and at the end involves the audience as well.

In another event in the large hall, concertgoers can find out how they perceive music differently when experiencing it in the dark. There is less distraction from visual stimuli, and the sounds being played cannot be visually assigned to musicians and their gestures. In the case of the composer Pauline Olivero and in many other works, the Forward Festival also explores the principle of “deep listening”: intensive, active listening. Musicians of the Lucerne Festival Contemporary Orchestra (LFCO) present Olivero's Out of the Dark, one of her text-based “sonic meditations” conceived as spatial music. Among the six world premieres specially commissioned for a spatial performance in the Concert Hall is a new work by the Swiss composer and percussionist Jessie Cox, who was born in Biel and now lives in New York. Here, the musicians move in the space, thus encouraging the audience to experience the KKL Concert Hall in a completely new way.

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