Darmstadt 2008 Retrospective

(Nick outside the Orangerie. Photos in this post are by Nick or Aubrey. Thanks Aubrey.)

Sure, Usain Bolt crushed the perceived limits of human capability AGAIN yesterday....but I'd rather wax poetic on month-old news that is only interesting to a small and obscure group of cultural outsiders.


Actually, I'm not entirely sure what to say about it. The famed organization of the Germans (so organized, in fact, they number the trees in the parks...)

does not carry over to the festival. And despite all of the hype, the level of disorganization is even more shocking than I could have imagined...and yet...somehow...some pretty amazing stuff goes down. I don't understand how. It took nearly the entire first week before ANYBODY (faculty, performers, administrators...ANYBODY) could project a rehearsal schedule for more than a few hours in advance. Not only that, but this is the hostel we were staying in:

Next time I'm staying in the hotel, perhaps with scholarship-winning composer, Clinton McCallum. Why, here's scholarship-winning composer Clinton McCallum and me now, having a beer on the first night. We look so peaceful, so naive...neither of us had any idea of what was about to happen.

Did you know that the whole shebang...a world famous new music festival wherein 300 composers and 70 performers coagulate every other run out of elementary schools? Yup. Here's the percussion studio:

I'm not kidding. The guy in the background with the hoodie resembling a patriotic quilt is Dennis Sullivan. He also won a scholarship for 2010. Congratulations, Dennis.

The best part about the percussion group at Darmstadt was the truck they used to move the equipment.

Are YOU going to steal a roto-tom out of THAT truck? Doubtful. It took two of these to move everything necessary for the performance of Liza Lim's "City of Fallen Angels" 12-tet (aka, percussion-porn.)

And speaking of percussionists, here's the sextet and me after our Sunday afternoon performance of Rihm's 45-minute long percussion sextet, "Tutuguri VI."

(Thorsten Gellings, Dennis Sullivan, Hakon Stene, Nicholas DeMaison, Louisa Marxen, Russel Greenberg, Alex Lipowski)

Yup, it's another gymnasium, which, for the primal thumping of Tutuguri, sounded pretty freakin' awesome. For the SWR Orchestra, however, it was not exactly what I would call an ideal acoustic, but apparently IMD performances have been going on in the Sporthalle for time immemorial. Imagine the elementary school you went to. Imagine the gym you go to for your spinning class. Imagine the gym locker rooms being used as orchestral dressing rooms. Imagine an international music festival being held in these locations. This would NEVER happen in the U. S. But maybe that's EXACTLY our problem. Anyway, I was sitting close to the stage on the violin side for the SWR show, and could barely hear the far side of the orchestra. As it turns out, I'm a pretty big fan of Rihm's music, despite him getting a lot of shit from a lot of the composers at Darmstadt (too many notes, too long, not enough substance, not enough po-mo angst, etc. etc.) . The orchestra played his single mvt. / 55 minute IN-SCHRIFT on the final concert. I LOVED it. Although, admittedly, I did leave during intermission directly after the piece.

This guy did not love it.

As you can imagine, getting a lesson with Ferneyhough was not unlike breaking the world record in the 100m dash AND the 200m dash in the same Olympics...unless you're Usain Bolt....which none of us was.

(Sign-up sheet for lessons with Ferneyhough)

Fortunately, I wasn't in a position to be interested in face time with Ferneyhough, because Nick Deyoe and I were busy getting our asses handed to us by the Dutch zen-master of conducting himself, Lucas Vis.

Ech. That's a terrible picture. Here's a better one of the Nicks (yes...Nick Deyoe and Nick DeMaison, the two conductor/composers from San Diego...uncanny...we know) celebrating after our final performances on the 2-day marathon studio concert fiascos. Without getting too graphic, things had gotten a bit hairy for both of us in the preparation for these famed studio concerts. We earned our 2pm celebration.

In summation, Darmstadt is, in many ways, like a bunch of children building a shantytown. I won't go into details, I think you know what I mean.

I didn't so much mind the shantytowniness aspect of things.

So until 2010...


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