Monika Zyla - Agata Zubel’s Not I at the festival Warsaw Autumn (2014): Tracing collaborative dimensions of the creative process within the festival context 30:09
- Saison 2015-2016 - None - None > TCPM 2015 : Analyser les processus de création musicale / Tracking the Creative Process in Music
- Oct. 10, 2015
- Program note: TCPM 2015
- Monika Zyla (conférencier)
This paper theorizes and investigates the role of new music festivals, currently among the leading institutional impulses for the creation of contemporary art music. During the last few decades those festivals have gained increasing prominence as an actor in facilitating the creation and performance of contemporary art music. They have provided specific modes of its presentation within a framework of special events, which imposed on composers and performers particular conditions of collaboration (Vera John-Steiner, 2000). Through the practice of commissioning new pieces and growing collaboration within the new music festivals network itself, festivals have come to occupy a new importance in the creation of art music. They became not only mediators between composers, performers and audiences but also are prominent agents for the negotiation and framing of creative processes within the context of live music performance. They provide a contextual framework in which contemporary art music is mediated, distributed, delivered, performed and experienced. These issues shall be discussed in the first part of my paper. Being one of four researchers in the International project “New Festivals as Agorai...” at the University of Salzburg, I provide in this paper some sample perspectives on such processes in more recent years at the festivals Warsaw Autumn, Wien Modern, and Festival d’Automne à Paris.
The main focus of this paper is a specific case study, showing how interactions between several agents like the composer, performers, a visual artist, a sound engineer and the audience are structuring elements that change the possibilities of the creative process itself. In order to do so, I turn to the performance of the piece Not I by Agata Zubel during Warsaw Autumn 2014, tracing collaborative dimensions of the creative process in her piece within the festival context. The piece was composed in 2010 by Agata Zubel, a Polish female composer and a representative of the young generation of composers born after 1970. Not I was written for a soprano, chamber ensemble and electronics to the words of Samuel Beckett’s dramatic monologue with the same title from 1972. The piece was commissioned by the Sactrum Profanum festival in Cracow and premiered there in 2012 by Klangforum Wien and the composer herself as a soloist (soprano). It was performed again by different musicians and technicians at Warsaw Autumn on September 22nd 2014 in the space of the former vodka factory in Praga – the infamous district of Warsaw.
A performance of Not I is multilayered, consisting of intertwined textual, musical and visual elements, directly appropriating Beckett’s stage concepts for the play in which the mouth of the protagonist would be spotlighted while the rest of her body would remain darkened out (as in the memorable creation of Billie Whitelaw with whom Beckett collaborated on the piece’s premiere in 1972). The collaborative performance of Not I at Warsaw Autumn is the result of a collaboration between Zubel, in the double role of composer-performer, with the chamber ensemble New Music Orchestra conducted by Szymon Bywalec, a sound engineer (Ewa Guziołek-Tubielewicz) and a video artist (Marcin Bania). As a visual layer for the piece Zubel’s movements of her mouth were filmed and shown in a video projection on a screen situated above the ensemble.
My research on the creation of Not I draws on my participatory observations during the Warsaw Autumn festival, where I attended the dress rehearsal and the performance of Zubel’s piece. Also a detailed audience survey on this performance was conducted by me as part of a larger study. Besides I pursue ethnographic investigations of modes of communication between the composer and the artists and technicians involved in the piece as observed during the dress rehearsal on the same day. Additionally, I supplement this with my personal interviews with the composer and a thorough study of documents like sketches on her compositional process. I will also draw on performance theory and specifically the approach of “Music-As-Performance” (Auslander, 2006) in order to situate Zubel’s Not I and its specific collective and collaborative dimensions in a dialogue between composer- performer and an ensemble.