The guest of this issue is a musicologist, professor, the Head of Research at the Berne University of the Arts and of the Doctoral Program Studies in the Arts Thomas Gartmann. The interviewer is a music journalist, editor of Stravinsky.online and Stravinsky's Dialogues: Switzerland project Alina Moiseeva.
Stravinsky's Dialogues: Thomas Gartmann & Alina Moiseeva
— Hello, Thomas!
— Hello everyone!
— Thank you very much for agreeing taking part in our interview! I think it could be quite logical to start this interview talking about you and your education — I know that you are not only a musical theory scholar and also violin and composition student. Did you have any idea of combining theory and practice while you were studying them?
— Yes! In Switzerland you have to choose between two tracks: on the one hand you have full university and on the other hand you have universities of the arts, music conservatories. I’ve had chosen the full university track and I’ve studied at the University of Zurich — Musicology, German Studies and History. And between two institutions there was always a gap and I wanted to fill out this gap. So I have also visited some courses in the Music Conservatory. For example: performing practice with Nikolaus Harnoncourt, and teacher who we had in university we had music analysis of contemporary music by Hans Ulrich Lehmann (he was the director of the music conservatory and a student of Pierre Boulez and of Karlheinz Stockhausen, so we asked him that we could also attend some composition lessons with him). Aside of this I had also private lessons on the violin with Elemer Glanz and Daniel Zisman and I was also the concertmaster of the student orchestra, but not a professional, but only as a semi-professional.
— Did your compositional and performing activities by any chance influence your theoretical findings that came later?
— Of course! On the one side, I was very interested in the historically informed practice of playing and I use this for my own violin playing; and I had also my master thesis about this subject, about the articulation of the violin playing in the 18th century. And now in my position at the University of the Arts in Bern, I had also several performing projects running. On the other hand, about contemporary music, of course, these lessons in composition opens my ear, my mind to the most important contemporary music tendencies run in the 80th. Yes!
— And I also know that you have rich experience in teaching various universities and high schools in Switzerland. So can you say about aspects, very specific aspects of the teaching process in Switzerland?
— It’s not so much — my teaching experience. I had lessons in acoustics and organology in Music conservatories in Luzern and Bern; At the University of Bern I had a seminar about Italian contemporary music (Luciano Berio, Luigi Nono, Luigi Dallapiccola). And in HKB Hochschule der Künste in Bern I regularly give lessons in an introduction into research methods and also some management (“how to get money”), that was also a course I have given in Basel and Zurich as well. And of course, teaching is also a part of supervising my PhD candidates and also some master candidates.
— Could you tell us in general about music theory education in your country. So, what disciplines are studied and what are the focuses, primary focuses, of music theory studies in Switzerland? While the process goes?
— I think both in the music conservatories as in the universities who have an introduction in organology, in acoustics, in instrumentation, in music history, of course, in music theory of the Baroque counterpoint, music theory of the romantic harmonics, post-romantic, and also the contemporary notation of music, also [notation] of ancient music, but as well as [notation] of contemporary music. In Bern we have also a specialty theater music, which was a branch established by Georges Aperghis, we had also Daniel Ott, also with the music of Mauricio Kagel and, of course, we have also studied this music. And some of these music theory lessons lead also to research projects about several aspects of music. For example, there was a research project of music theater in the post-[Wagnerian] time or about music theory in the 19th century and about Gehörbildung — hear building, so we deal with several aspects. In Switzerland, you have several branches of music theory. On the one hand in the german-speaking world it’s mostly as in Germany, also … theory on the western part of Switzerland, the french part, we have very much as like in Paris Conservatory. So it also interesting to study the differences between these theoretical approaches.
— Thank you very much! And now, I know that your life is connected to the University of the Arts in Bern in which also there is a doctoral program of studies. Could you please tell us about the idea of this program?
— Yes! In Switzerland there is a law that PhD programs are only allowed for full universities with the exception, that in cooperation with full university [Ph.D. program] is allowed also for the music conservatories, for universities of applied sciences. And so ten years ago we have established together with Bern University philosophy-historical faculty a program and it joined a project about artistic scientist PHDs. And in this joined program there are two partners: on the one hand it is the University and on the other hand is HKB Hochschule der Künste in Bern and so you have always two supervisors (the first one from the University, other one from our side), you have two directors of this doctoral school, at the moment I’m the director and my joined director is professor Cristina Urchueguía from the musicology department of the University. And we have a steering committee with four members of the University and four members of our side.
There is a curriculum that PhD candidates have to follow, so they have several workshops about interdisciplinary subjects. It’s to say that it’s not only for musicology, but it’s also for other topics, because HKB is not only for music but also for the visual arts, theater, writing, conservation, so we have in this doctoral project also the history of art, we have german studies, we have french studies, we have ethnology, we have history, we have theater, we have even archaeology. And so every PhD candidate have to follow several workshops, for example about experimental archaeology or about sound studies or about post-colonial studies. Then you have to visit some soft skill courses “how to present in English”, “how to get money by foundations”, “how to deal with big data”, “how to learn with statistics”, about English writing and so on. You have also a colloquium on both sides at the HKB and at the full university in your institute, and we have also a day every semester when PhD candidates present their cases for half an hour, then there will be a discussion for an hour, half an hour moderated by candidates themselves, and after they have also the occasion to work out articles for a book (every two years we issue a book, a volume with about 10-12 articles, contributions of the students but also of their teachers). And there is also a module “Introduction in the studies in the Art”, four days course.
The full program is about 3-4 years. At the moment we have 40 PhD candidates of mentioned disciplines. I think about 25 came from the music, there are some composers, there are some pop-musicians, there are … musicians, there are performers, there are music pedagogs, so we have any kind of candidates. This is also for the age — some of them come directly from their master studies, other ones were assistants at our school or at other art schools or even professors, because before it wasn't possible to do a PhD in Switzerland as a musician or as a visual artist. So now we have candidates that are already 40-ty or 50-ty years old.
Bern University of the Arts HKB
— What are the prospects for the students of your program, the PhD students once they finish this program, music theory, what are the prospects, what can they do next, what are their ways of continuing?
— There are many perspectives because it’s a joined program by the university and by the University of the Art. Some went post doc[ctoral] project at the university; some went professors at HKB at our school; one student is now at Paul Sacher Archive in Basel, researching in contemporary music project; another one is now conservator at the Swiss national museum, another one is in Swiss Design museum, another one is now responsible for the continuous building ("Weiterbildung"). Most of them find a job, so it is very positive about market perspectives of them. And of course, some have very mixed perspectives: on the one hand there are composers, on the other hand, they are giving concerts in further perspectives, they are writing for a newspaper and so on.
— The volume from studies in the art. The last volume has several perspectives: on the one hand, I think here is especially interested, the music part, for example, Manuel Bärtsch is dealing with the Welte-Mignon Piano rolls, that research project running at HKB since 12 years now, it’s about how did pianists play in the past (the Welte-Mignon have invented 120 years ago, the mechanical piano controlled by paper tape and many, many pianists were recording on this Welte-Mignon piano, for example, Carl Reinecke is the oldest one, students of Ferenc Liszt, Clara Schumann, but also Ferruccio Busoni, Eugène Francis Charles d'Albert, young Vladimir Horowitz, and also some famous composers like Gustav Mahler, Richard Strauss, Alexander Skryabin). In his contributions to this volume, he writes about recordings of “Tristan [und Isolde]” by Felix Josef von Mottl and by other famous conductors, that have even worked together with Richard Wagner.
The advantage of this Welte-Mignon paper rolls is that it’s more clear, more authentic than the old shellack recordings concerning dynamics, concerning articulation, even concerning the sound of the piano, and you can put it in the modern concert piano and you can hear, how old pianists were playing.
Another project in this volume is about notation of music, the author of this contribution is a designer. Several aspects of the music, several kind of music needs, of course, several kinds of notation, technique of notation, technique of printing also, and he was dealing with [these].
I think there are the most interesting ones. On the other hand we have contributions by the teachers. For example, professor Martha Brech from Berlin had contribution about acoustics in the room and about space and music from the Baroque up to the contemporary music contributions by Luigi Nono with “Prometeo”, for example. And connected to this we have also contributions by PhD candidates Peter Faerber a technician and composer as well in the Zurich Hochschule der Künste and he was writing about music for moving loudspeakers, so he has made an anthology of all music by moving loudspeakers from the very beginning at 1950-s up to the very important things like the Edgard Varèse contribution in Philips Pavilion at the Universal Exhibition… and also about Hermann Scherchen and his loudspeakers that are not stable but they are moving, and moving also in around. I think that’s very special issue and very interesting one.
Joseph Joachim, Romance C major, Reenactment of the composer’s recording 1903
Joseph Joachim, Romance C major.
Reenactment of the composer’s recording 1903 by Kai Köpp, Sebastian Bausch, Johannes Gebauer
— Also one of your latest publications called “Arts in context”, so what was the initial base for the publication and what do you talk about there?
— “Arts in context” is the volume where we deal with several aspects about how you can need and use art also in an applied manner. Here at the HKB at the University of the Arts we had running for a five-year institute called “Art in context”, so art, together with another kind of science, for example together with social work, together with health, together with technic, together with economy. Because our University of the Arts is part of the University of Applied Sciences of Bern and we have several departments, as I’ve mentioned economy, technic, health, social work, also sport, and also agriculture and we are working very narrow with them and we have also some projects together. For example “how to install waiting hall in the hospital” so that the patients are not so nervous, not so aggressive, how can you do with some interventions to calm them and to do a better orientation for them.
Or we had also a music project presented in this volume also with the video, you can find it on YouTube, about an embodiment of the old phonograph recording series, it’s a contribution by Kai Köpp and his students, Sebastian Bausch, Johannes Gebauer, and they have made reenactment of recording of the late Joseph Joachim from 1903, I think, with the phonograph and they have made a collage and montage of the old recording and the reenactment to get know how it was to deal with this phonograph installations. And you can see this on YouTube.
It also about new instrument we have developed. You know that double-bass clarinet is a very big instrument, about 4 meters long, and it’s not very flexible and not so good at intonation, and here in Bern we have a very famous and good player for this instrument — Ernesto Molinari. He wasn’t satisfied by this usual instrument and so we have together with the instrumental maker in Germany established a new instrument with electro-magnetic keys, so it’s better for intonation on the one side, it also is more flexible — you can play it as fast as normal base-clarinet. And there is also a link to visual arts, so you can also control video projection or you can do also live electronic projects with this new instrument. And we have presented it also together with Sinfonietta Basel, symphony orchestra, with some new works byMichael Pelzel, Olga Neuwirth as well also interested to write for this. We have presented also in the Concert House in Vienna and in Darmstadt at summer courses and, of course, many composers are very keen to write for this quite new instrument.
— Thank you! I think this is a very interesting topic and I would like to continue talking about the projects at the university. One of those projects was connected with the Tonkünstlerverein project, could you maybe talk about this project also a little bit more and why was it important for you?
— Yes! There was an association of swiss composers and musicians, it was running from 1900 up to 2017. This association was the most important one have our Swiss composers and musicians. They had their yearly festival, they’ve given fellowships, they were producing CD’s, they have given prices and they have also issued a journal. And in 2017 Swiss government, the office of culture have stopped the surveillance and so the association couldn’t live anymore and then I was asked by the Siemens Foundation Munich to deal with the archive because the archive is a very rich one, they have the protocols and issues and wrappers and correspondence, everything was there from 1900 up to now, to 2017. And in a pre-project we have researched about this archive, we have did triage what is to held, what is to throw away and then also to find institutions to deal with this. Firstly we have asked the national archive of Switzerland, but they weren’t enough professional to deal with and finally we have found the bibliotheque, the university library of Lausanne and they were ready to deal with them and we had to find enough money also. And then we were preparing SNF project about the history of the last 50 years of these institutions, so from 1975 up to now.
And this project has 4 sub-projects: there is a postdoc dealing with the aesthetics so about the schools, the tendencies, the composers supported by the association, and composers that are not supported. It was always a struggle between progressive and more conservative composers, also struggle between the German part and the French part, because the aesthetics are very different. Then my own sub-project is about political issues, about subjects networks, opinion leaders, discrimination versus promotion of women, also [discrimination] of foreigners, because since World War foreigners in Switzerland wasn’t very much supported (for example) Veress Sándor, or Wladimir Vogel (Moscow-born composer immigrated to Switzerland), or Hermann Scherchen — they weren’t very welcome in Switzerland). And in the 80th and 90th there was a changing process and they were fully accepted.
And I also researched the question “how to deal with this past”. Also with the past during World War, where some of the composers and also some of the members of the association were dealing with the neighbors, you know in World war Switzerland was in the sandwich between the fascist on German Austria and also Italian and the question was how can I work together without offending the other. It was a very difficult question. On the other hand we had some emigrates, as I’ve mentioned the Moscow-born Wladimir Vogel — he was established in Ticino like an isle. He was teaching some of the most important Swiss composers as Robert Suter and Jaques Wildberger, later professors in composition in Basel or Rolf Liebermann later the impresario of Paris and Hamburg Opera and radio broadcast Hamburg. So that’s the political issue.
So the third project is a PhD, it’s about improvisation, because improvisation in the 80th and 90th were very important in Switzerland, especially the free improvisation, for emancipation project, also for the integration process and as a catalyst of some democratic processes in the association of the Swiss composers.
And the last one is also a Ph.D. project, it’s about contemporary music and television — how has association influenced on the different broadcast, television broadcast institutions. We have, for example, some productions about Vogel, about Honegger, about Daniel Schnyder, and about more contemporary music too. And we had also some interesting directors as Marthaler, not Christoph but his brother Adrian. And this project is a 4 years running project funded by the Swiss National Funds of Research and, of course, there will be also some symposia, the first one we have now in December in Bern especially about networks in this time. And at the end of this project we want also to present works that were priced by this association, but also works that were refused by this association. And there will be also an exhibition about contemporary music from 1975 up to now.
— In your previous answer you touched the topic of Swiss music of the 20th century and how it was influenced by the political situation. And talking about the swiss music of the previous century you cannot really avoid the figure of Paul Sacher. So in your opinion what is his influence on and impact on the swiss culture?
— I think Paul Sacher is a very-very important man for all the swiss culture and especially for the contemporary music, and not only for Switzerland, but very internationally. He has married the widow of the owner of the big chemistry industry — Roche — so he has enough money to do good things for contemporary music. For example, he did commissions for famous composers, like Richard Strauss, like Bela Bartok or the late Stravinsky. In later years also for Rihm, for Luciano Berio, for Pierre Boulez. For contemporary Swiss music he’s very important for his commissions they, of course, many Swiss composers as Kelterborn, as Huber, Conrad Beck, they have a profit from him.
He was also a conductor, he had his own chamber orchestras, he has established a tradition of chamber orchestras — they are not only playing Baroque music, but also contemporary ones with him, especially the neoclassic style ones. One orchestra he had in Basel, the Basel Chamber Orchestra, one in Zurich — the Collegium Musicum Zürich. And as well he worked as a conductor, a guest conductor, in orchestras from Berlin to London.
Also he was inviting composers like Berio and Boulez who worked with this orchestra. I remember one of my first good attending of contemporary music was his orchestra conducted by Pierre Boulez and they are working with short orchestral pieces by Anton Webern and up to then for me Webern was only pointillistic: one note here, one-note there, one-note here, and now with Boulez I have seen the relations from this note to this and then to this and then to this. So that was the first time that I really understand a little bit a contemporary music, and I think also for others it was a good way to this. And he was also director of Music Conservatory of Basel, and Paul Sacher has invited for the composition classes Stockhausen and Boulez as composers and teachers and professors already in the 60th and I think for the development of swiss music this was very important one. He has also helped Veress Sándor to come to Switzerland. He was immigrating from communist Hungary to Switzerland he had posts then as well as at the University of Bern as well as in the Musical Conservatory and he was important teacher, among his students there were as composers as Heinz Holliger and others. But Paul Sacher was also very important for the music political life of Switzerland.
He was a board member at the Pro Helvetia Culture Council for 16 years. He was the only one.. he did four periods of councilship there,he was also at the board of the Swiss Composers Association and president and honor president of this association, and I think one of the most important things is an establishment at the founding of the Paul Sacher Foundation in Basel with a collection of many-many important composers from Anton Webern to Pierre Louis Joseph Boulez. And here you can find also the collections of many Russians composers, for example, only from Russia there are Cherepnin, Gubaidulina, Arthur-Vincent Lourié, Silvestrov, Stravinsky, of course, Ustvolskaya, Vyshnegradsky. So I think he was a real patron (Maecenas) of all the cultural life. And of course he did also many things for his own power, for his own sake, but he was very fruitful for the Swiss and for the international music life.
Introducing CLEX - Basel Sinfonietta ft. Ernesto Molinari
CLEX. Basel Sinfonietta ft. Ernesto Molinari
— I also know, that you have several works devoted to swiss composers of the 20th century. So who would you suggest or recommend for finding out about them and hearing their music for our listeners?
— From the Paul Sacher Collection? Here the most important Swiss composers are Klaus Huber, Rudolf Kelterborn, Heinz Holliger, Robert Suter... There are several composers, Swiss composers, there is the collection, yeah.
— But the question also was concerning your own findings, your own works, that touched the music of swiss composers also. So maybe out of your researches are there any other composers that maybe you could suggest? Not from the foundation, not from the collection.
— I think the most important swiss composers are Beat Furrer, Michael Jarrell, Hanspeter Kyburz, Andrea Lorenzo Scartazzini, Dieter Ammann… there are many, yeah!
— Thank you! And what in your opinion attracts young composers today?
— Today? It is very difficult to get an overview. The music scenes are very disparate. On the one hand we have still post-structuralistic composers like Nadir Vassena or Michael Jarrell. We have also more traditionalistic ones as Iris Szeghy, we have the post dramatic like Leo Dick or Stefan Wirth, who is also a famous pianist. Microtonality has an important role also in Switzerland, and we have also eclectic composers combining several achievements, like Dieter Ammann or Andrea Scartazzini. And we have crossover and minimalistic routes as in the projects by Nik Bärtsch.
— So in your opinion is there a Swiss compositional school, school as in, well, I think you understand, but like as in a set of just like very traditional swiss ways of maybe teaching or writing?
—I don't think so. In the past we had several traditions. On the one hand the French part of Switzerland was more open to Paris, the neoclassics and in Zurich and in Basel as well as in Germany it's more towards Germany. Today, I think, it's very individualistic and the best teachers have classes with open-minded students and strong personalities. This was the case already with Sándor Veress in Bern, who had so different students as Roland Moser, Urs Peter Schneider, Jürg Wittenbach or Heinz Holliger. Or, let's say, Klaus Huber in Basel also with very different students, also very politically active students, but today the classes were very international. For example, in Bern with Steen-Andersen and Xavier Dayer, we have people coming from China, from Russia, from South America etc. And there is also a greater convergence with new media, with instrumental theatre, with jazz and with improvisation.
— What is the case with free improvisation in Switzerland, what aims are the performers trying to achieve?
— 40 years ago there was a very strong scene in Switzerland of totally free music, of international well-connected musicians, very political also. 15 years ago there was an article in the important journal “Dissonance”. This article was titled with the question “Is Swiss improvisation at the end?” and this has provoked a very strong echo confirming, that this was not so bad, but, I think, [at] the ideological side this was finished. Improvisation as absolute freedom and so on, that was finished. Today there are many-many active micro scenes in different styles, many use electronics, others work with foreign cultures, there is also a convergence with contemporary classical music. And now improvisation is so established, that you can also study it at the musical universities, for example in Basel, you can also make a Master in improvisation, and in Bern as well you can study improvisation of course.
— What now are the ways of supporting and promoting swiss composers?
— I think, one of the most important institutions is the Pro Helvetia. I was also there for 17 years as responsible of the music department. They are supporting creative processes as well as dissemination within Switzerland, exchange between the French, Italian and German parts of Switzerland, but also the exchange with abroad for concert tours, also for documentation, with CD productions, this is now stopped, but replaced with internet platforms like yours at the Stravinsky.online platform. There are also corporations exchange cooperative projects, for example with Russia there was a long project with the Telemann Ensemble, that was more in Baroque music, but also for contemporary music. We had cooperations with Tarnopolski or with Kasparov in Moscow. And besides Pro Helvetia, of course, there are the cities, the cantons, this is we say provinces, they are supporting young musicians, also establish their musicians, private foundations, there are many-many foundations here, and a very important role have also the radio broadcast, and naturally also the schools and the musical universities with their infrastructure, with specialized ensembles, where young composers can train, can work with these ensembles or also with full orchestras and see, how that work and infrastructure is important. Also the computer music studios in almost all of the music universities in Geneva, in Basel, in Bern, in Zurich as well.
— Thomas, thank you very much, that you found an opportunity to talk to us again! So I wish you good realization of your future projects and I will be waiting also for your new articles and thank you very much for being with us!
— Spasibo! Looking forward to seeing what we can see on the platform!