"a festival striving for a better world, striving for the just-out-of-reach, and looking to the future with optimism"

Musical Utopias #5 | 12-14 Jan 2023

Ensemble Klang’s festival of Musical Utopias returns to the Korzo, live for the first time in two years! The festival foregrounds artists striving for a better world, striving for the just-out-of-reach, and looking to the future with optimism.

The 2023 edition focuses on Voices & Machines: human-like computer voices, computer-like human voices, text-to-speech-to-song, self-optimisation, modesty and monumentality, the destruction of the self, development and transience, the superiority of nature, performer-less performances and also performer-packed performances overflowing with pure sheer abundance.

Programme

12 Jan 2023 – Voices & Machines
20.30   Essential Relaxing Classical Hits – Laurence Osborn, Agata Zubel & Ensemble Klang
21.45   RELAY – Touki Delphine

13 Jan 2023 – CyberSongs
20:00   CyberSongs – Barbara Ellison, Nathalie Smoor, Pavla Beranova & Ensemble Klang

14 Jan 2023 – Blight & Beauty
20.00   Displacement – Merijn Bisschops, Saskia Lankhoorn
21.00   Blight & Beauty – Jan-Bas Bollen, Elaine Mitchener & Ensemble Klang
22.15   Jameszoo’s Blind Group

 

12 Jan – Agata Zubel, Laurence Osborn, Ensemble Klang & Touki Delphine

20.30   Essential Relaxing Classical Hits (2021) – Laurence Osborn (for solo voice & ensemble)

Agata Zubel

Laurence Osborn’s Essential Relaxing Classical Hits is a piece about the destruction of the self in the twenty-first-century. We live in a world in which our selves are constantly manipulated, commodified and sold. Corporations mine our personalities and preferences, turning our selves into profit; we are kept in a state of constant anxiety and envy, coerced into dogmatic cycles of self-assessment and self-optimization. Jia Tolentino has described the self as ‘capitalism’s last natural resource’, and like all natural resources, the self is a precious, finite thing. The music for Essential Relaxing Classical Hits is built from fragments of existing pieces, including Pachelbel’s Canon, Air on a G String, and Au Clair de Lune. Sometimes these pieces are recognisable, and sometimes they aren’t. Like our selves, these ‘essential relaxing classical hits’ have been stripped of meaning and identity and re-sold to us: in playlists, advertisements, and guided meditation discs.

21.45   RELAY – Touki Delphine

We’re thrilled to (finally!) bring theater collective Touki Delphine to Musical Utopias. RELAY: a life electric is the third work in their series exploring the relationship between people and nature.

Nature can be violent and technique vulnerable. Man made himself master of nature and turned from prey to plague. 

Touki Delphine extracted 1848 relays from about three hundred scrap cars, which served as electronic switches for flashing indicator lights. They can click and buzz separately from each other and were mounted on fourteen old corrugated steel sheets.

Inspired by the disturbed balance between man and nature, Touki Delphine uses technology to create a performance about the power and beauty of nature. About how violent it can be and how vulnerable technology is. A search for our changing attitude, from subordinate and vulnerable to superior and untouchable. From prey to plague.

Collective Touki Delphine makes visual, musical, monumental work. RELAY is an auditory and visual total work of art. A composition about developments and transience. A performance that calls for modesty.

Touki Delphine's RELAY

13 Jan – Barbara Ellison, Nathalie Smoor, Pavla Beranova & Ensemble Klang

20.00   CyberSongs (2023) – Barbara Ellison (for solo voice & ensemble) – World Premiere

CyberSongs - Barbara Ellison Nathalie Smoor in Barbara Ellison's CyberSongs

A brand new two hour multimedia work from Barbara Ellison’s world of CyberSongs. Ellison describes the new work as ‘a transhuman song cycle for human-like computer voices and computer-like human voice, silent movies and live band’. Performed by Nathalie Smoor and Ensemble Klang, the work features lighting and staging by Pavla Beranova, and a series of silent movie projections.

This live show extends and adds to the series of CyberSongs released to great acclaim on Unsounds in 2021. About the album: “[Ellison] delves in this work into the sonic intricacies of voice avatars and the ‘musicalisation’ of TTS (Text-to-speech), a type of speech synthesis application that is used to create a spoken sound version of raw text in a computer document. […] she creates hypnotic textures of vocal utterances through the intensive and extensive use of repetition, as tools and materials to give rise to surprising audible phenomena of a fascinating and odd musicality. Words, morphemes, phonemes, phrases and speech particles acquire constantly-shifting new aural meanings, turning into the rhythmic, melodic and harmonic patterns of the obsessively phantasmatic trans-human song cycle of the ‘CyberSongs’. [The sound environment] references real-world instruments, that can be described as having an off-kilter jazz or pop aesthetic.”

 

14 Jan – Saskia Lankhoorn, Merijn Bisschops, Jan-Bas Bollen, Elaine Mitchener, Ensemble Klang & JamesZoo Blind Group

20.00   Displacement (2022) – Merijn Bisschops (for piano, electronics & video), Saskia Lankhoorn

Saskia Lankhoorn in Merijn Bisschop's Displacement

Two realities cross paths in Displacement 1 and 2 by Merijn Bisschops. A soundtrack of processed piano sounds resonate simultaneously with the unfiltered live playing of Saskia Lankhoorn. 

Bisschops recorded the soundtrack for Displacement 1 in the ‘Ei’ of the Hilvaria Studios: a white empty space with a reverb so long and rich that you become enveloped in musical and harmonic lines that endlessly weave through each other. In the accompanying video work the images are similarly transformed. Bisschops: “Part 1 is open and spacious, full of repeating patterns. While Part 2 is more melancholic, and inhabits a single arc-like structure. The two parts are an associative sonification of displacement, a defense mechanism triggered by difficult-to-process experiences. People project feelings on to another person, or on to a subject. With the piano capturing the surface layer, the soundtrack dives into deeper layers.” 

21.00 Blight & Beauty – Jan-Bas Bollen (for Elaine Mitchener & Ensemble Klang)

From the climate crisis to the perils of corona. However we look at it, man, in all his supposed superiority, is inextricably connected to nature. In his latest song cycle Blight & Beauty, the Dutch composer Jan-Bas Bollen brings nature, and all its unpredictability, into focus, with inspiration drawn from the work of philosopher Timothy Morton and romantic poets such as Percy Shelley, Dorothy Wordsworth, William Wordsworth and Lord Byron.

Blight & Beauty pairs Ensemble Klang with the unique British composer, movement artist and voice acrobat Elaine Mitchener. Her performances, packed with energy and passion, pull the listener into her world. “Attempts to pigeonhole her are doomed to fail,” The Wire praised her versatility.

In his kaleidoscopic, colourful music, Bollen combines the stirring sound world of R&B and rock with the refinement of layered and structured music ideas. Like Klang’s energetic performances, Bollen’s work is equally at home on concert and theater stages, as well as in dance clubs, jazz halls and festivals. In Blight & Beauty, complex rhythms, wild punk guitars and physical bursts of energy tumble over each other, combining with intimate musings and video work to create a complete experience.

Elaine Mitchener & Ensemble Klang in Jan-Bas Bollen's Blight & Beauty

''Van Dinther calls it 'naive computer jazz', but its combination of live flair and cunning post-production is masterful"

22.15 Jameszoo’s Blind Group

Mitchel van Dinther, better known as ‘Jameszoo’, is a composer and musician from ‘s-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands. His music, at the intersection of precision and madness, has been widely acclaimed by international media such as The Wire, Pitchfork and Stereogum.

Jameszoo has released three albums on Los Angeles-based record label Brainfeeder, founded by producer, musician and filmmaker Flying Lotus. Following debut album ‘Fool’, ‘Melkweg’ was recorded together with the Metropole Orchestra conducted by Jules Buckley, and his latest album ‘Blind’ was released at the beginning of 2022.

In order to translate ‘Blind’ to a live experience, Jameszoo created his ‘blind group’, which will close out Musical Utopias’ Saturday night.

”Van Dinther calls it ‘naive computer jazz’, but its combination of live flair and cunning post-production is masterful. If rooted whimsicality is a thing, Jameszoo has it” The Wire