Antworten auf Fragen von „Circuit -Musiques Contemperaines“

Das kanadische Neue-Musikmagazin „Circuit“ (Montréal) hat Komponisten aus aller Welt zu ihren Gedanken über die Zukunft der Neuen Musik befragt, darunter auch mich.

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Für alle die es interessiert hier meine Antworten, leider auf Englisch, aber vor dem Neuen Jahr fehlte mir die Energie, das alles noch zu übersetzen:

First of all I have to say that for every trend there is a countertrend. I do not belong to the people who think that the future follows a one-dimensional, one-way path. So even though some of my answers will have an „absolute“ ring them, I am aware that there will be people who will oppose certain trends with a counter culture that does exactly the opposite. They also don’t necessary express what I personally hope will happen, but what I THINK might happen, a big difference of course.
To give an example: We right now live in an increasingly virtual culture, where most of life’s experience is „second hand“ – via media like the internet. This will increase in the future, but so will the number of people who are completely opposed to this lifestyle and who will return to a more „real“ way of life, completely relinquishing any use of „artificial“ media.
Which trend will be the more succesful in the end will depend on many factors, but in the end practicability will always win out. Even today one will find people who refuse to take a train, use a phone or enter a car, but they will be so few that they don’t even register on a larger cultural scale.
This could mean: yes, there will be contemporary music like we know it today in 50 years or so, but the numbers of people playing it or listening to it could be so small that they will not have a cultural influence, like a weak seed that can’t break through the surface anymore.

* What future do you envisage for the field of music?

Well, music will always be there, no doubt about it. I don’t see that the trend of merging music with visual components will falter, though, so it might be that people will find it increasingly difficult to listen to a piece of music without

a) seeing the musicians performing it
b) seeing a video or other visual content (lighting, scene, performance) coming with the music or
c) taking in some non-musical content like a film or an ebook and listening to the music „by accident“ because it accompanies it

This means that music increasingly will change to accomodate this secondary or „supporting“ role – very demanding music that takes all your attention to follow it will have an increasingly hard time because people less and less will find the concentration to close their eyes and listen to it. It will only continue to thrive in live performance for specialists, but will not make an appearance otherwise. Apart of that music will continue to live as an universal language adressing things that can’t be said with words or as a mutual emotional or physical experience that many people can experience at the same time.

* What good news do you have to offer new music?

That depends on if you write it with a capital „N“ or a small „n“. There will always be new music, of course, and if you talk about new music in general I think there will always be a demand for it, and fantastic talent to provide it. Also music has become an increasingly global affair, which on one hand creates great new opportunities but also new challenges to individuality or cultural identity. For New Music with a capital „N“ and with the attitude that comes with it I don’t see a lot of good news coming up, though, mainly because it is an endangered species in my opinion. Of course this can also be seen as a challenge to reinvent itself – if that happens there is hope for it.

* What will « contemporary » music look like in five years? In ten years? In twenty?

In five years:
The „classical“ and „popular“ CD market will mostly have broken down and only cater to a very small market of steadfast traditionalists – music content will mainly be downloaded and stored on mobile storage devices like ipods. This means that most small labels will vanish as even the relatively low costs of producing a CD will be too much if the sold units can be counted in two digit numbers or lower (as is already the case if one looks closely at sales of „specialty“ CD’s). The vanity CD (self-produced, self-published) will slowly vanish as the same content can easily be provided on a website for everybody to stream. Some labels will survive by creating well-managed downloadable online content like itunes, and in the most popular of these websites one will find an amazing number of rare recordings from past years.
The copyrights will be under increasing attack and most royalty societies will partly give in and resort to taking generalized small percentages of internet provider costs. The anonymous WWW will increasingly be able to illegally or legally provide any kind of content people wish for, at the same time internet advertising will grow at an alarming manner. A lot of pop music even by popular artists will become free, but with an advertisement before the music or even in the music itself. Contemporary music or any other specialized content will not play a role in this, as it will not create enough „hits“ to make it interesting for ads.
Companies and corporates will try to promote a „non-anonymous“ second WWW that can ensure controlled transport of data to paying users while at the same time being ad and virus free. In the following years this internet will continue to grow and many news films etc. will only be „published“ in this new internet which forbids anonymous users, and will be encrypted in a way that makes it difficult for users to „leak“ it into the „old“ internet. Still this will happen.
The contemporary music scene at the same time will continue on pretty much like it is now, but the repercussions of the financial crisis will mean that an increasing number of orchestras, theatres, ensembles etc. will lose funding or close down, especially in Europe where most culture is state funded. Contemporary music festivals will have a hard time, and their number will dwindle. Less oportunities for composers will appear, and it will be even more difficult for young composers to „make a name“ or get commissions. This will be less felt in North America, because culture there has always been more privately subsidized. Programming of classical music will increasingly become conservative and there will be less chances for experiments.

In 10 Years:
Only diehard traditionalists or obsessive collectors will buy CD’s, DVD’s or any other „hard“ media anymore. Most people will have a unified entertainment system in their home which provides them with films, music and other content via the internet, and which is able to store massive amounts of data. In addition people will feel safe having copies of this data stored in the internet so it can be replaced in case of loss. People will increasingly be interested in the physical appearance of their homes instead of filling them with books, records, etc.
Terrestrial Radio will have all but vanished, and be replaced by internet radio with content that can be selectively listened to and doesn’t follow a strict time schedule anymore. Except news and sports most former radio will be „stream on demand“ and not be live broadcast. Cars will have integrated computers that provide computer navigation as well as entertainment and info through wireless internet.
This will mean that national or private radio stations will go through a massive reformation process that will mostly result in smaller, leaner operations, with countless people losing their jobs. Each country will transform it’s „national“ radio into a full internet station as people who still isten to terrestrial radio will either have died out or be too small in number to justify huge terrestrial broadcast costs. Only a handful of the best of radio orchestras will survive and be turned into independent orchestras that thrive on the reputation of past radio years. They will most probably not be financed by the state anymore.
This will make it increasingly difficult to finance high-class old-fashioned recordings of larger works for orchestra, which still demand a lot of professional effort, and the few that will happen will be sponsored in some way (without any commercial ambition). On the other hand recording equipment will have evolved in a way that even non-professionals will be able to create amazing high-quality recordings with advanced hard-disk recorders. Most of contemporary music will now be recorded in living rooms or live in the concert halls where it is played. This will be immediately uploaded on the internet, and the internet will be completely swamped with myriads of recordings.
People will find it increasingly difficult to navigate the vast amounts of media in the internet, and will increasingly resort to specialized sites pre-selecting content for them. These will become the new „publishing houses“ of the internet era – it will be important to appear on influential websites that guarantee a large number of hits instead of small, private ones. Large companies like google or Sony Entertainment will increasingly try to control this kind of promotion, but there will be also succesful small upstarts who manage to hold ground against them.
Classical music will increasingly become an „event“ culture – conventional operas and orchestra concerts will be broadcast worldwide and with a quality yet unimagined. But the „real“ concert will also thrive, people will pay more and more to see people performing live, also other live events like sports will still continue to grow.

In 20 years:
While the trends described above will continue, the contemporary music scene as we know it will have gone through several crisises. All in all it will have shrunk to tiny proportions. Some kinds of experimental music will be completely isolated in universities, but even there they will be under threat. The IRCAM will have closed down, as all it’s multi-million-dollar subsidized work will has been surpassed by technological advances done by hobby-programmers exchanging data in their free time (and for free). If one is really honest this is already the case.
In Germany the festivals of Darmstadt and Donaueschingen – already long a shadow of their former selves – will have either closed doors or changed into something completely different. Some brave and clever festivals will have survived and present very eclectic programs that try to mix unexpected things. They will less and less describe themselves as „New Music Festivals“, but as festivals of „interesting“, „different“, or „fascinating“ music. More and more young composers will feel too isolated to follow a hardcore „avantgarde“ approach, which is now seen as a quaint thing from the past. Instead they will engage in the new media – the composer who doesn’t write music for films, computer games or other media will be relatively rare. At the same time the educated public will be increasingly sick of „mainstream popular culture“ controlled by the big companies, and there will be chances for counterculture to thrive. It will be increasingly difficult to promote world wide stars, as there will be hundreds of musical subscenes, each with their own heroes. The numbers of people who are interested in „different“ things will increase, and some forms of this „different“ entertainment will perhaps become commercially viable in ways not imagineable today. Creative energy will increasingly subversively subterfuge the mainstream, and many people will completely refuse to follow the mainstream, as they now aren’t forced to encounter it anymore through the old-fashioned media.
The internet will have become more and more controlled, though, and less chaotic as it seems today. There will be issues with data protection and civil rights, but there will also be more rebel operations who try to fight against just that.
In the best of circumstances New Music can be part of this development and will still be able to find an interested audience, but this audience will be so different from the more academic audience it has today that the music itself will not be forced to it’s conventions anymore. It will be wilder, freer, but also less pseudo-intellectual and preposterous.


* How will the concert rituel evolve? Should it evolve?

Because of all this concert rituals will most certainly change. People will want to perceive concerts more and more as a „special“ social event that is different from just listening to it on the computer. We will see more concerts where people can eat, sleep, or even smoke at the same time. Lighting, stage magic, etc. will play a bigger and bigger role. Some of the more bourgeois concert rituals will survive, though, but in a form that people will increasingly see as stiff or atrophied. It remains to be seen how „hyper-reality“ will change concerts. Perhaps in 20 years people will have glasses that display additional info about everything they see, this would mean that while watching a concert one would at the same time „see“ the biography of the composer, follow an automatically subtitled video interview with him about the work, and also access additional data in wikipedia about the theme of the work, including it’s connections with other pieces of music.

* How will new listening practices affect the music we compose, perform, program or listen to?

See my answer „What future do you see for the field of music“

* With respect to the future that you imagine, are there issues which you are willing to fight for, or to raise consciousness about around you?

I think one of the main issues of the future will be education and the transportation of information, moral and ethic values to new generations. New Music will have to find ways to reach very different audiences, young and old, and composers will find it an increasingly important task to write music that can be enjoyed or better: played by young children or people playing music as a hobby. There have been massive neglects in this area in the past, all over the world – Contemporary music has become much too specialized and it will have to lose it’s elitist approach.
As a European I have to say that Europe’s biggest challenge lies in the years ahead. It will have to recognize it’s cultural heritage as something important and worthwhile to preserve, but also that this preservation has to happen in new ways. It has to be less less arrogant in a way, and it has to incorporate influences from all over the world while keeping it’s identity. In the best of worlds Europe will become the new „land of opportunity“ with immigrants being given relatively equal chances in a way that North America offered to immigrants in the past. I think this will be Europe’s only chance, also in culture.

All in all my biggest wish for the future is that contemporary music will evolve into just „music“ without a prefix again, that it will be part of a bigger picture, less involved in it’s own laughably tiny politics but daring to comment on and influence a much bigger amount of music than it does today. Popular music has been suffering of corporate control too long – why leave it to greed or amateurs who want to be huge stars while having no talent at all? There was a time when music could be daring, inspiring, accomplished or even downright weird while also reaching out to a great number of people – this was because people where involved in it that saw it as art and also created this music with the responsibility of an artist, which is making it accessible to everyone interested in it. We can, we should dare to be popular without resorting to old tricks, reactionary tendencies or lame copies of existing music. This is not a question of atonal or tonal music, complicated or simple music anymore, it is a question of how much we as composers and musicians dare to be part of that strangely confusing but endlessly fascinating state of being that we call „life“. We should sting and challenge and we should be sweet and alluring – we should strive to do both in equal measures. It is more important what we want to say than how we exactly say it. Questions of style and „scene“ should become less and less important.
Pure exploration of sound amounts to nothing but sound in the end, but ideas, emotions and content live on.
Looks can be deceiving – even when listening to music.

All the best and Good Wishes for the New Year,
Moritz Eggert

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1 Antwort

  1. 30. Dezember 2009

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