Catalyst returns to the Haus des Rundfunks for Mensch, Musik! #7

RSB - Haus des Rundfunks / Jurowski

RSB x Catalyst is back. The third instalment of our ongoing collaboration, Mensch Musik #7 on Saturday 22 April, will take a critical look at human destructiveness and its consequences, from the tragedy of Hiroshima to the extinction of animal species. But the performance doesn't stop at lamentations and accusations, it also searches for possibilities for healing within the means of art.

Conducted by Roderick Cox and conceived and realised by the artist duo tauchgold, this interdisciplinary performance of electronic and symphonic music with spoken word is part of the RSB’s dedication to making classical music accessible and welcoming to newcomers.

Closing the performance will be Eliad Wagner, Programme Lead for our Electronic Music Production & Performance courses, and Natalie Szende, a student on the same course. Eliad will perform two pieces for solo synthesiser, incorporating the live sound of the orchestra . Meanwhile, Natalie has composed ‘Oceanic Oscillations’ - a homage to the power of the sea. We caught up with Eliad and Natalie to find out more about their inspirations and artistic approaches ahead of the performance.

What story would you like to tell in the performance?

Natalie: The piece I have composed is a contemporary homage to the sea. Less from a perspective of the spectacle of the waves, but rather as a dive underneath the surface. What we encounter can be unknown, unusual, and even uncanny. The ocean is an eternal mystery for humankind – purifying, soothing, destructive, beautiful and dangerous at the same time. A true force of nature.

Eliad: I don't really tell stories with my music but there is always a strong nuanced connection with the context and the event. While I create the music, the theme of the event is prominent for me - the human connection with nature, how we need it, abuse it, pollute it and learn to achieve harmony with it. There is constant negotiation and entanglement in this relationship.  As a person who’s very close to and interested in technology, I see a clear connection between our relationship with technology and our relationship with nature. There are also many parallels to draw between that and the relationship between classical music and electronic music. They are both different ways of indoctrinating the natural phenomena of sound. To some, one could feel more natural than the other. 

“I see a clear connection between our relationship with technology and our relationship with nature.”
Eliad Wagner

How will your performance unfold?

Eliad: I’m working on two pieces for a solo synthesiser. So I will play pieces alongside the orchestra and other artists. However, I plan to work with the sound of the orchestra and the sound of the concert hall. In this way, I plan to feel quite connected to the whole orchestral experience rather than sounding like a separate thing.   

I’m excited by being in the proximity of the orchestra which is one of the most amazing musical structures/instruments. It is impossible to ignore how heavy this setting is with tradition and ritual. It's a unique challenge to create something for that stage. 

Natalie: Sounds of the ocean, the wave-like melodic movements of the acoustic instruments and the oscillating energies of electronics will fuse into one listening experience in my piece ‘Oceanic Oscillations – for synthesised seascape, symphonic orchestra & human voice’. 

In the language of electronic music, when we are talking about synthesis, mostly we mean this to describe physical phenomena. But it has a strong philosophical connotation as well. Posing questions like: What is music? What can music be? To me, musical composition is not only sonic. It can include spatial, visual, but also interpersonal elements. 

“Musical composition is not only sonic. It can include spatial, visual, but also interpersonal elements.”
Natalie Katharina Ilona Szende

Which technical or conceptual ideas are you exploring through your contribution to the performance?

Natalie: I’ve been exploring the concept of Deep Listening –  earlier this year I invited an audience at CTM Vorspiel to participate in a Deep Listening experience. Deep Listening was founded by the composer and pioneer Pauline Oliveros. In her own words, “All cultures develop through ways of listening… Deep Listening is the foundation for a radically transformed social matrix in which compassion and love are the core motivating principles guiding our actions.”

Oliveros is saying Deep Listening is one important step towards empathy. I also believe that the way to the outside, like a general awareness of each other and our environment, inevitably leads through the inside. In this way, I hope my underwater piece will resonate ‘under the surface’ in the perception of the listener. 

Eliad: I work with a modular synthesiser, which is quite a chaotic and malleable instrument. In this performance, my intention is to find different ways to project sound in the space. I also plan to use recorded sound, which is something I do very rarely but I feel it connects well with the concept of the event.   

Presenting electronic music inside a "temple" of classical repertoire, like the RSB’s Haus des Rundfunks, is not a simple thing. There is a charged relationship between the two practices and struggles of political, ideological and aesthetic nature. It's hard for me to ignore that value is sometimes being appreciated differently between the two practices – things that are very hard to achieve in one are very simple and quite basic in the other, and vice versa. This idea finds its way into the piece as well, but ultimately people will connect to it on their own terms.

“Presenting electronic music inside the temple of classical repertoire is not a simple thing. There is a charged relationship between the two practices.”
Eliad Wagner

The theme of Mensch, Musik! #7 points to how we are not isolated, but part of a something bigger. How does this concert sit within the rest of your practice?

Natalie: Aside from my investigations into Deep Listening, my practice brings me to explore something I call “cinematic dreamscapes”, in which I create atmospheres that go further than aiming to mobilise a certain feeling. This relates to how, as a listener, I am fascinated by ambiguous situations. When my emotional buttons are not pushed in a certain way, but rather I am given space to take a musical journey myself, which is much more engaging.

I’ve also been participating in the HyperSynth workshops between Catalyst and the RSB, in which we’ve had the amazing opportunity of discussing and playing with some orchestra members. These conversations and touch points between any genres, disciplines and cultures are very important, so I’m grateful for this initiative.

Eliad: Acknowledging and considering the part we have in the larger world around us – be that society, our professional practice or the natural environment – is very connected to both my musical practice as well as my work in leading the Electronic Music Production & Performance courses. It is possible that these ideas are more evident through my academic work, since this topic is often discussed with students at every stage of their journey at Catalyst.

Tickets for the Mensch, Musik! #7 performance at Haus des Rundfunks on Saturday 22 April are available here.

Want to hear more from Natalie? Watch her "Paternoster Pitch" interview with RSB below, in which she gives an 'elevator pitch' of her artistic ideas while riding the RSB's historic elevator system.

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