Conferencing from the Comfort of Home: Meeting in an Online Environment

10 July 2020, 10:00
Conferencing from the Comfort of Home: Meeting in an Online Environment

Cultural life has endeavoured to move into a sterile and "life-safe" social networking environment in an unequal struggle against the viral phantasm and government lockdown regulations. In the darkest months, music institutions competed with one another in staging recordings of memorable concerts, and major opera houses broadcast to the world those of their performances that gained the most success from spectators.

However, music is not just a performing art – various workshops, seminars, training camps, summer schools and conferences are also taking place. And also in this space, some bold people were found who decided to move the programme to a virtual environment. One of these events was the third annual Conference on Music Communication and Performance, to be held, under normal circumstances, in the Italian city of Montecassiano under the patronage of the Associazione Europea di Musica e Comunicazione (European Association for Music and Communication – hereinafter referred to as  AEMC), the president of which is also the conference organiser Alberto Nones. A slightly threadbare journalistic question became the main topic of the programme, which took place on the weekend of 27 and 28 June: Is Classical Music Dead? It was provoked by the e-book Challenging Performance by the musicologist Daniel Leech-Wilkinson, who commented critically several times on the current state of the performing arts.

The pianist, music teacher and member of the Ivory Duo Piano Ensemble Natalie Tsaldarakis  was the first to have her say about Daniel Leech-Wilkinson's criticism in her contribution The Work, the Mirror, Relevance and Meaning: Is Classical Music Dead? A Critical Response in Beethoven's 250th Anniversary. Tsaldarakis understands Leech-Wilkinson's opinion as a continuation of his critical view of so-called historically informed performance, but she herself tried to look at the problem in a peaceable manner, and moreover in terms of structure, autonomy, strength of emotions, conformity, and general or personal meanings and interpretations of a musical work. In her contribution, she also followed on from the theoretical work of the composer and musicologist Lawrence Kramer, whose lecture on the topic was the centrepiece of the programme of the second day of the conference and which, unlike the other fifteen-minute contributions, had reserved for it an entire hour. However, most of the lecturers stuck to the key topic only in a symbolic fashion and, in some cases, essentially not at all. However, this lack of thematic boundaries did not seem to bother anyone excessively.

After all, already the second lecture in a row was the theme of Waxing and Waning: Musical Depictions of Cyclicity and Fluidity in Moonlight by the musicologist Hamish Robb. The subject of his analysis was the motif work in the film Moonlight (2016) by Barry Jenkins. The thematic diversity was also demonstrated by a contribution delivered by the composer and oboist Francisco Castillo entitled Our Local Music and the Classical Music of Others: Misconceptions and Possibilities in Colombian Music Education, dealing with the polemic between European artificial music and Colombian folk culture. The most remarkable research presented was, in my opinion, the work of the musicologist Cecilia Taher Performances Expression and Empathy in Children, examining the degree of empathy and identification with an artistic experience in children aged eight to nine and ten to twelve. These two groups were presented not only with the music itself, but also the music with a video of the performer, with the reactions of the two age groups to these incentives being different to a significant extent. While the children aged eight to nine didn't really care if they just listened to the music or could also watch the performer during the performance, the older children strongly preferred the version with video. Equally interesting was the contribution by the composer, lawyer and educator Jeffrey Izzo, who in his presentation entitled Space, Time and Memory: Examining the Disconnect Between Looking at Contemporary Art and Listening to Contemporary Music searched for identical and different features in the visual and musical arts. He asked himself the question of why people accepted modern fine art much more easily than contemporary music, to which they often struggle in vain to find their way.

A significant part of the conference also consisted of streamed concerts featuring Animo DuoIvory Duo Piano EnsembleDuo Francés-BernalEurasia String Quartet, the Czech Trio Aperto (thanks to which I had gotten to know about the conference) and Deborah Stokol. For example, the Animo Duo performed a programme entitled Animo Declassified consisting of works by Daniel Dorff, Maurice Ravel, Adam Caird, Anna Boyd and the premiere of a commissioned work The Journey of Alan Kurdi by Lukas Piel. The Eurasia String Quartet could also boast of a premiere – they performed the String Quartet No. 8 “Reflections and Memories” by Lawrence Kramer. The Aperto trio presented four compositions for a wind trio and an electroacoustic component – Wooden Music by Emil Viklický, Ritorni  by Pavel Kopecký, and a composition entitled Krapp Trio by Vojtěch Dlask and Unknown Terrains by Lucie Vítková; as part of their presentation, the trio introduced listeners to the specifics of the interpretation of music with an electroacoustic component using these examples.

Last year, the Trio Aperto took part in the AEMC Montecassiano chamber music competition, where it won third place and, in February this year the trio also appeared in Porto Recanati in Italy, at the invitation of Alberto Nones. Barbora Šteflová, the oboist of the trio, commented on the selection of pieces as follows: “The choice of presenting electroacoustic compositions for a wind trio was obvious to us. We consider the compositions with the EA component to be a very interesting phenomenon, which allows us to expand the timbre possibilities of the instruments and the sound possibilities of a chamber ensemble.

A brochure with the conference papers should be published later this year. The conference was concluded by an English language teacher and singer-songwriter with her songs based on the poetry of Homer's Odyssey.

Although at first glance it might seem that similar events are at home in the online environment, the effort to preserve the classical conference format as faithfully as possible brings with it a number of pitfalls. First of all you need to choose a suitable platform – AEMC chose the Microsoft Teams service, which offers not only the conference calls themselves, but also work with files or desktop sharing. (Another option would be the Zoom service, which I coincidentally had the opportunity to get to learn about at another conference taking place at the same time.)

Presentations are relatively friendly in Microsoft Teams, allowing participating spectators to scroll through the individual slides at their own pace, and return, if necessary, to some pieces of information already discussed before. However, it should be noted that not everyone can handle similar software equally efficiently and it is difficult to expect people who have dedicated their lives to historical research, performing arts or analysis of musical works to be equally agile in a relatively complex application in a short time as those who move around such an environment every day. As a mere observer, I could just heave a sigh of relief that I don't have to deal with sharing presentation controls or sharing audio tracks in the files played back. In fact, it frequently happened that we heard the sound, which was supposed to be a shared track, indirectly through often poor-quality microphones of laptops. And such music – even if it was the most beautiful – will unfortunately never satisfy itself or the performers. Fortunately, the musical performances were mainly sorted by providing a link to a YouTube video, so everyone could listen to the recordings without the above-mentioned problems, which occurred mainly during demonstrations played in the lectures themselves. Hence, those who wanted to enjoy the sound recordings in the highest possible quality did not have to be disappointed.

The biggest (and probably also the most unfortunate) concession that the online form of the conference required was the discussion. In the environment of lecture halls, one can simply react much more flexibly and naturally, and it does not happen rarely that several different parties participate in the conversation. Here, such a situation would result in an incomprehensible overlaying of voices and "feedback sound" of microphones.

Despite some of these shortcomings, the conference can be described as more than successful, mainly thanks to the organiser Alberto Nones, who took care not only of managing the conference as such, but often also dedicated himself to the technical side. This resulted in a thematically varied and musically rich event, the third year of which, even in this unusual and last-minute-chosen online environment, proved one thing in particular: If both performers and musicologists join hands, the results can be truly remarkable!

Alberto Nones/ photo from archive of the artist

Comments

Reply

No comment added yet..

Those who were captivated by the introductory distinctive song with surrealistic lyrics  Z ježatých hor [From the Spiky Mountains] on the previous album of the Brno group Budoár Staré dámy [Boudoir of an Old Lady] (Sůl [Salt], 2017), can rejoice. The collaboration with the contemporary poet Lubor Kasal that began only three years ago has now resulted in an entire album of his texts set to music. However, the songs on the new album Kostřičky [Little Skeletons] have one more characteristic in common: the production and arrangement contribution by the multi-instrumentalist Tomáš Vtípil.  more

The Janáček Brno 2020 International Festival promptly replaced yesterday's Hungarian performance of the opera Salome by Richard Strauss. Instead of the guest appearance, the National Theatre Brno offered a concert programme under the simple name Orchestra of the Janáček Opera. After a long time, the audience could see the musicians who normally remain hidden inside the orchestra pit. In addition to the orchestra, which was conducted by Robert Kružík, the violinist Josef Špaček and the pianist Miroslav Sekera also appeared. The programme clearly consisted only of the works by Leoš Janáček, and since the originally planned performances can no longer be staged in the ever-tightening quarantine environment, the evening at the Janáček Theatre meant a farewell to the festival as such. The last live concert of the Janáček Brno 2020 festival is today's performance of the Brno Philharmonic in the Basilica of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary in Old Brno.  more

Sunday afternoon was marked by another concert of the Janáček Brno 2020 festival. Chamber music performed by the Josef Suk Piano Quartet was given space in the Mozart Hall of Reduta. This ensemble (young both in the year of its founding and its age composition) prepared a truly beautiful and diverse programme for its visit to Brno, and presented it to the audience with adequate commitment.  more

Despite the unpredictability of the coronavirus situation, the Janáček Brno 2020 festival opened yesterday at the Janáček Theatre in Brno. The gala opening of the festival featured a premiere of the opera Destiny by Leoš Janáček directed by Robert Carsen, one of today's praised opera directors.  In fact, Brno audiences had the opportunity to get acquainted with his directing visions of Janáček's operas already in the past; Carsen's concepts for The Makropulos Affair and Katya Kabanova rank among the best that have appeared on the stage of the National Theatre in Brno in recent years. However, the production of Destiny at this year's Janáček's festival is even more exceptional, as this time the director created it directly for the Brno opera house. The costumes were designed by Annemarie Woods, while the stage design was created by Radu Boruzescu. Philip Sheffield (old Živný) and Enrico Casari (young Živný) played the roles of the composer Živný; his fateful love Míla Válková was portrayed by Alžběta Poláčková and her mother by Natascha Petrinsky. Peter Račko performed the role of Dr. Suda, Jan Šťáva was the painter Lhotský and Lukáš Bařák gave his voice to the character of Konečný. The music production is the work of Marko Ivanović, who also conducted the premiere yesterday.Destiny is often described as a problematic opera with a confused story and an imperfect libretto.  more

Let us hope that Sunday's concert to mark the fifteenth anniversary of the great music band of the Brno-based Valášek Children's Ethnographic Ensemble (Dětský národopisný soubor Valášek) will not be the last event that ever-changing government regulations will allow. And even if that, God forbid, was the case, it would be a dignified farewell.  more

The newly built church in Brno Lesná suburb provided inspiration for the flautist Martina Komínková for her album Resonance. The CD cover art features photos of the church ceiling, which glitters with all the colours of the rainbow. The album itself is colourful in a similar way; the musician uses several different types of flute on it.  more

For the end of this summer, the National Theatre Brno prepared a children's opera, written by the composer Evžen Zámečník under the title Ferdy the Ant  (original Czech title: Ferda Mravenec), based on the story by Ondřej Sekora. The stories of an optimistic ant who "can do anything and knows everything" and doesn’t turn his nose up at “work of all kinds", however, are actually not appearing at the Janáček Theatre for first time. Zámečník's work in eight scenes won the hearts of the Brno audiences between the years 1977 and 1986 with astounding success; it helped bring a number of children to opera – the most refined form of musical theatre. Today, these already adult musicians, actors, directors, lighting technicians and many others have decided to pay tribute to the composer, who also carried out a lot of "work of all kinds" for Brno's musical life.  more

The municipal council of Velká nad Veličkou decided already in mid-April that this year's Horňácké Festivities (original name: Horňácké slavnosti) would not take place on the traditional dates around the feast of St. Mary Magdalene, and their scope, previously meant to be of three to five days, would also be modified. Obviously, it was impossible to foresee the development of lockdown measures towards the third week of July, but musicians from the Horňácko district tried to come up with at least a partial alternative solution in order to maintain continuity. Eventually, two concerts were officially held on two consecutive Saturdays:  On 18 July,  live broadcast of a public radio recording of Czech Radio Brno under the title Hrajte že ně, hrajte aneb Horňácké trochu jinak (Play for Me, or Horňácké Festivities in a Slightly Different Fashion) took place at the Culture House in Velká nad Veličkou. A week later, at a sports complex in Javorník, a traditional competition for "the biggest expert on Horňácko peasant songs" was held under the auspices of the Horňácko Dulcimer Band of Libor Sup. Needless to say, both events have found their spectators and listeners.  more

The Brno-based rock band Kulturní úderka (which translates loosely as "Culture Brigade"), led by singer and guitarist Štěpán Dokoupil, did not keep its fans waiting for too long this time. While there was a fifteen-year break between their first and second albums, the new album Black Metall was released less than two years after the previous album Sarajevská Katarzija (Sarajevo Catharsis). The name of the new album must be handled with care. Úderka has never had anything to do with black metal as a music genre. And once again, we are treated not to metal, but to relatively raw rock, which in some moments is pleasantly softened by the keyboard of Omer Blentič, or the trumpet of their guest artist Jan Kozelek.  more

Cultural life has endeavoured to move into a sterile and "life-safe" social networking environment in an unequal struggle against the viral phantasm and government lockdown regulations. In the darkest months, music institutions competed with one another in staging recordings of memorable concerts, and major opera houses broadcast to the world those of their performances that gained the most success from spectators.  more

Shortly before the outbreak of the coronavirus crisis, the Brno-based group Plum Dumplings released a new album. As opposed to their official debut L'épitaphe des papillons (The Epitome of Butterflies, 2014), sung in French, the band went for Czech lyrics this time. We are talking to the band's vocalist, who presents herself as Adéla Polka.  more

Oldřich Veselý, a Brno-based singer, composer and keyboard player, died in January 2018. In February 2019, the 10th Brno Beatfest, dedicated to his memory, took place in the Semilasso music hall. And a year later, a CD recording of this concert was released under the title Malý princ [The Little Prince], complemented by several bonus items.  more

On the twenty-fourth of May of this year, five days before her ninety-second birthday, Mrs. Anna Kománková passed away – and with her departed her particularly extensive songbook of ballads (not only) from the Javornicko and Horňácko districts, which she had always carried in her head. She was able to perform all the songs conserved in her memory in a distinctive and inimitable style. All her life she safeguarded the rare legacy of her ancestral heritage – all the more interestingly because she did not write down the hundreds of often complicated tunes and many dozens of verses and variants of ballads, but she knew them all by heart. Even after she reached the age of ninety, when she no longer enjoyed good health and did not perform in public, she remained in contact with the Javornický ženský sbor [Javorník Women's Choir], which she had revived and eventually led for many years. She never pushed herself forward anywhere, while at the same time she learned a lot from the skills of her ancestors: apart from singing (dozens of songs from the hymn-book  and hundreds of folklore songs) she was an excellent embroiderer: She sewed and embroidered with her own hands every part of the folk costume she wore.  more

The Brno Contemporary Orchestra, conducted by Pavel Šnajdr, concluded its ninth season with a concert called Con certo: With Certainty or with the Devil?, held in the hall of the Convent of the Merciful Brethren. The programme featured works by authors already established in the world of contemporary classical music: Alexej Fried, Olga Neuwirth and György Ligeti, whose violin concerto was performed by the violin virtuoso Milan Paľa.  more

When pronouncing the name Jiří ‘moravský’ Brabec (1955-2018) (the name is partly a pun referring to a typical Moravian dish called "moravský vrabec", which is pork roast with braised cabbage and  dumplings – translator's note), anyone, who until recently had any business concerning the Czech-Moravian folk and country scene, is reminded of the unmistakeable figure of a mighty man wearing a beard, with a strong voice and an inexhaustible source of information, and an enviable general knowledge of not only the above-mentioned music genre. We are speaking here about a complicated but deservedly respected personality who was able to surprise us with his knowledge in a number of disciplines, but also with his self-deprecating humour and unexpected physical dexterity. Unfortunately, for the last time he surprised people around him with his sudden departure, only a few days before his sixty-third birthday in June 2018, almost unnoticed by the public media, for which he had worked for so many years.  more

Editorial

The Faculty of Music of the Janáček Academy of Performing Arts will be led for the next four years by Professor Barbara Maria Willi, Ph.D. At its meeting yesterday, the academic senate of the faculty decided on it in a secret vote. Professor Willi applied for this management position at the JAMU Faculty of Music with Associate Professor MgA. Vít Spilka.  more

The Janáček Theatre, which is part of the National Theatre Brno and hosts the Brno opera and ballet ensembles, is celebrating 55 years of its existence. The operation of this theatre began on 2 October 1965 with a performance of The Cunning Little Vixen by Leoš Janáček.  more

The church concert of the Ensemble Opera Diversa was originally supposed to present Ondřej Kyas' oratorio Stabat Mater; due to the current situation, however, the production of this work will be replaced by a purely instrumental performance of other compositions. The new programme will feature MacMillan's Seraph, a concerto for trumpet and strings with Vít Otáhal as the soloist, and Arvo Pärt's Festina lente with Dominika Kvardová playing the harp. The concert will be complemented by instrumental works by Ondřej Kyas and Ľuboš Bernáth with the Czech premiere of a rarely performed piece - Summa by Arvo Pärt. The concert will be conducted by Gabriela Tardonová.  more

The situation in the Czech club scene has been alarming for a long time now. Music clubs, which were the first to close in the first wave of the coronavirus crisis, are now facing serious existential problems. Without state aid to the cultural sector, there is a threat of absolute bankruptcy in the coming weeks.  more

The Moravian Philharmonic Olomouc is now entering its 75th concert season, which will begin with music by the Czech composers Antonín Dvořák, Bohuslav Martinů, Iša Krejčí and Marek Keprt. The last of them wrote a composition directly for the Moravian Philharmonic. The orchestra will play it tonight under the baton of the chief conductor Jakub Klecker, with the pianist Ivo Kahánek appearing as a soloist. The concert will be broadcast live by Czech Radio on its Vltava station.  more

The Brno Philharmonic is preparing one global and one Czech premiere for this week. However, there will be one change to the programme: as opposed to the original one, Mozart's Symphony No. 32 in G major will be played instead of the previously announced composition Angels of Sorrow by Giya Kancheli. Furthermore, works of Josef Haydn and Kurt Schwertsik will be featured; the latter will attend this premiere in person.  more

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the New York Metropolitan Opera will not start the season until January of the following year. Traditional cinematographic broadcasts will now make use of the Met's archive. In the autumn, three classic works of Italian opera and one bonus screening are planned.  more

The musical evenings entitled Zdenek Merta u klavíru v Městském divadle Brno ('Zdenek Merta Playing the Piano at the Brno City Theatre') are continuing. The concert to be held in October promises Ondřej Pivec as a guest – a pianist, composer and winner of a American Grammy Award for 2017.  more

With the upcoming Janáček Brno 2020 festival, dummies of Leoš Janáček with his dog Čipera started to appear in the streets of Brno. A QR code is placed on each of the dummies, which, after scanning, will play a sample of his works.  more

Metronome Blues are sending their album Garden Of Eden out into the world. They will release it in their domestic Kabinet Múz (Cabinet of Muses), where they will also present their new line-up. Garden Of Eden is the fourth serial album of the band Metronome Blues. It was released digitally in the spring of 2020 during "lockdown" in New Zealand. Its vinyl version will be released in October by the Brno label Kabinet Records.  more