06 March 2019

Ultraschall Berlin: Hirsch, Odeh-Tamimi, and Czernowin

Back in January, we attended for a second time in a row a concert that was part of the Ultraschall Berlin festival for contemporary music. This festival is recorded and broadcast on radio, and as such, was held in the concert hall of Rundfunk Berlin Brandenburg Studios. So we went to Westend one Sunday evening, and since this concert again featured works from composers that I haven't heard of before, I was looking forward to it.

The first piece was ...irgendwie eine Art Erzählung... by Michael Hirsch. This piece was written back in 2011, but hasn't been performed until now. The composer unexpectedly passed away two years ago, and the manuscript of this piece was found among his notes. It was a piece that involved a lot of soundscapes which changed multiple times during the 15-minute duration of its entirety.

The next piece was Rituale by Samir Odeh-Tamimi, composed in 2008. This one was intense. The composer was there to talk a little about the piece, and he said that it was inspired by Sufi motifs. He comes from a family of Sufi practitioners, and sure enough, the music was there, tantric, ecstatic, rhythmic, and chaotic. He warned us that we shouldn't expect a very calm and trance-like music, perhaps due to Sufi stereotypes, but told us that tantra and trance can also be energetic and chaotic. It was definitely intense, and I must say I enjoyed it a lot.

After the pause, the orchestra played Guardian by Chaya Czernowin, which is a concerto for cello and orchestra. However, atypically for concertos, the composer chose to attach a microphone to the cello, which made the sound of the instrument rather large, taking over the entire sound space. The effect was amazing, and it felt like the orchestra was this sound source that is trying to escape from a cello that was larger than life. The use of glissandi and other musical tricks were absolutely mind-blowing.

So overall we enjoyed this concert. This is what I like about contemporary classical music: it's like going to the movies and you don't know how it's going to turn out. Though typically it turns out in a very positive way.

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