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Introduction by

Lucia Ronchetti

Director of the Music department

Musica assoluta / Absolute Music
The Biennale Musica 2024 is dedicated to the concept of absolute music, highlighting its contemporary relevance with new works commissioned by the Biennale Musica from the most original living composers. In sixteen days of concerts and theoretical events the Festival will bring out the meaning of music as an autonomous language and the ontological status of sound, showcasing the state of the art of this fascinating, alchemical discipline, entering the workshops of the most rigorous and inventive composers and performers who create scores, programmes, codes and performances without any extra-musical or visual references. In collaboration with the Historical Archive of La Biennale, the Festival also features a dedicated theoretical section including conferences, meetings, round tables and music lessons exploring the speculative aspects of musical language, the relationship between musical time and the phenomenology of listening, the cognitive and hermeneutic issues of the production and reception of new music and the fundamental philosophical question of the meaning of music and its linguistic and communicative essence.
The repertoire generated by the various forms of musical creativity in absolute music today embraces a wide range of very diverse compositional and performative realms. In addition to the European tradition of written contemporary music, fundamental to the development of music as an autonomous discipline, there is also the vast repertoire of the world of electronic music as well as the repertoire generated by improvisational practices witnessed by means of sophisticated recording techniques. The Absolute Music festival will present some of the major protagonists of the current global electronic and digital scene, as well as performers and improvisers active in the field of experimental jazz, highlighting the digital processes and treatments that permeate every aspect of present-day musical creation, production, performance, distribution and reception.


The Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement in Music awarded to Rebecca Saunders
The London-born composer Rebecca Saunders is awarded the 2024 Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement for her investigation of instrumental sound and for the intimate and hermetic poetry of the sound constructs created in her scores. The first female composer to be awarded the Ernst-von-Siemens Music Prize in 2019 and composer in residence at the Lucerne Festival in 2021 and the Berlin Musikfest in 2023-2024, Rebecca Saunders is celebrated for the subtly of her research and of her compositional goals, for the attention she dedicates to the sonic microcosm, for her ability to create in the listener a private listening space, an intimate and inner acoustic realm that develops and expands the sonic imaginary. Saunders conceives a specific timeframe for each work which becomes an investigation and exploration of the listening experience. Her elaboration of sound material is at one and the same time both profoundly speculative and strongly empirical and materic, linked to performance and to research into innovative performance strategies.


The Silver Lion to the Ensemble Modern of Frankfurt
The Frankfurt-based Ensemble Modern is awarded the Silver Lion 2024 for its indomitable and courageous creation of musical projects in collaboration with the most interesting and renowned composers and performers spanning different media and musical languages.
In its forty-four years of activity the Ensemble Modern has distinguished itself for the curiosity, energy, innovation, virtuosity and passion with which it has dedicated itself to each new project. As distinct from other long-established ensembles dedicated to new music, Ensemble Modern has a democratic organisational structure that allows all its members to discuss and choose new productions and performance engagements together, making their interpretations compelling, shared, passionate and precise. The members of the ensemble are all soloists with their own different and contrasting personalities and each of them responds to the demands of new music in a different way to create a multifaceted and complex dialogue that enriches the compositional experience and stimulates research and creativity.


The sections of Absolute Music
The Festival will be divided into ten different sections.

POLYPHONIES presents complex compositions for orchestra, with soloists and electronic processing. The sophisticated techniques developed by the outstanding composers featured in this section generate monumental acoustic architectures through the construction of refined sound stratigraphies. At Teatro La Fenice the Orchestra del Teatro La Fenice and Ensemble Modern conducted by Tito Ceccherini will perform the Italian premieres of Wound (2022) for ensemble and orchestra by the Golden Lion 2024 Rebecca Saunders, and Violin Concerto n. 2 Scherben der Stille (2021) by the renowned Korean composer Unsuk Chin, soloist Leonidas Kavakos. A second orchestral concert at the Teatro alle Tese with the WDR Sinfonieorchester of Cologne conducted by Ilan Volkov will present Kinderszenen (2024) for piano, electronics and orchestra by Marco Momi, commissioned by the Biennale Musica in collaboration with Milano Musica and Ircam, the Italian premiere of Beat Furrer’s Konzert (2020) for violin and orchestra with violinist Noa Wildschut, and Sinfonie in einem satz (1951, REV. 1953), Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s orchestral masterpiece. The third orchestral concert at Teatro alle Tese features two world premieres commissioned by the Biennale Musica: Sospeso for amplified orchestra by Luca Francesconi, and Nocturnes for orchestra by Salvatore Sciarrino, Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement in 2016. Both premieres are entrusted to the Frankfurter Opern-und Museumsorchester conducted by the German conductor Thomas Guggeis.

ASSOLO is a section devoted to sophisticated virtuoso instrumental compositions, according to the conceptual idea that writing for solo instrument can offer a complete expression of a composer's aesthetic. The French pianist Bertrand Chamayou will give a recital including Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement 2019 George Benjamin’s Shadowlines - six canonic preludes (2001), which renew the tradition of contrapuntal piano writing, and the Italian premiere of the complete Piano Etudes (1995-2003) by the Korean composer Unsuk Chin, as well as the world premiere of Fantasy For Piano Solo by Miles Walter (1994), the young American composer and pianist selected for the Biennale College Musica Composers. The up-and-coming Japanese pianist Chisato Taniguchi will perform a selection from the celebrated solo piano collection by the Spanish composer Alberto Posadas, Erinnerungsspuren (2014-18) celebrating great composers of the past through different piano techniques, with analytical reflections on the two great 20th-century German masters Karlheinz Stockhausen and Bernd Alois Zimmermann, as well as the world premiere of Rifrazione by the Frankfurt-based Japanese composer Miharu Ogura, commissioned by the Biennale Musica. This section will also feature the American violist Hannah Levinson, who will present Microcosmic Viola-Unveiling Hidden Soundscapes, a world premiere for solo viola by Jaeduk Kim (1995), a young South Korean composer selected for the Biennale College Musica Composers 2024, together with the Italian premieres of Tombstone (2017) by Iranian composer Bahar Royaee, and Mind Is Moving No. 5 (2015) by American composer Michael Pisaro-Liu, a member of the Wandelweiser Composers Ensemble dedicated to the research of liminal music and the integration of silence into the sphere of instrumental research.

LISTENING/HEARING is an installation space for individual listening that will be available throughout the Festival in the Sale d'Armi at the Arsenale, with sound diffusion curated by French composer and sound engineer Thierry Coduys. This sound-chamber will present works of digital and acousmatic electronic music, both composed in the studio and generated in concert with innovative technologies, to showcase current trends in electronics in the field of research into absolute music. The listening space will be created by the German light designer Theresa Baumgartner featuring, in the centre of the space, a Disklavier for the world premiere of the installation version of Piano Space (2021) by the refined Russian composer Dmitri Kourliandski. This will be followed by the world premiere of the multichannel spatialisation version of Travelling Voices (2024) by German electronic research pioneer Christina Kubisch, a work based on recordings made in St. Mark's Basilica of compositions from the Venetian School performed by the Cappella Marciana conducted by Marco Germani, the Italian premiere of Flügelnwund (2023) by the acclaimed Moldavian composer and violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja, the French composer Bernard Parmegiani’s masterpiece De Natura Sonorum (1975), which will be produced by Radio France's INA GRM, the Italian premiere of the electronic work Volvelle (2015) by the English composer Natasha Barrett, and the world premiere of  Zeal, a work for multi-channel diffusion by the young Italian composer Mattia Parisse (1998), selected for the Biennale College Musica - Composers 2024.
Another major INA GRM production receiving its Italian premiere is the acousmatic work Meith by French composer François J. Bonnet, which will be flanked by one of Swedish composer Hanna Hartman’s famous electronic compositions Fracture (2016), produced by Deutschlandfunk Kultur. The programme also includes Iannis Xenakis’s electronic masterpiece Bohor (1962), the world premiere of John Zorn’s version for multichannel diffusion of Hermetic organ, commissioned by the Biennale Musica, and the world premiere, commissioned by the Biennale Musica, of Absolute Hallucination (2024) for Disklavier generated by an Artificial Intelligence programme and conceived by the Iranian composer and programmer Ali Nikrang, in co-production with the Linz Ars Electronica festival.

SOUND STRUCTURES is a section dedicated to large-scale compositions that explore the physical nature of sound, taking the audience on an immersive journey into the reality of acoustic emanations. The featured works present aspects of rituality and extreme acoustic violence, modulated through continuous rhythmic metamorphoses. At the Teatro alle Tese, two impressive twentieth-century masterpieces for percussion ensemble will be performed: Le noir de l'étoile (1989-90) by Gérard Grisey with the Ensemble This-Ensemble That in collaboration with the Italian percussionist Federico Tramontana and the Polish percussionist Aleksandra Nawrocka, selected for the Biennale College Musica - Performers; and Tutuguri VI (Kreuze) (1981) for six percussionists by Wolfgang Rihm, Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement in 2010, performed by the young German collective Christian Benning Percussion Group; also on the programme is the world premiere of Roaïkron, a work for percussion commissioned by the Biennale Musica from the Israeli-Palestinian composer Samir Odeh-Tamimi. In these performances, which highlight the power of percussion instruments and the extraordinary timbres and colours they can create, the audience will be free to move around the percussionists so as to appreciate the different acoustic perspectives generated by the volcanic nature of the performance act. Elsewhere, at the Teatro Piccolo Arsenale the dynamic American ensemble consisting of two percussionists and two pianists Yarn/Wire will present the world premiere of Swedish composer Lisa Streich’s Orchestra, commissioned by the Biennale Musica in collaboration with the Miller Theater at Columbia University, and the Italian premiere of Laminar Flow (2020/2021) by the young Italian composer Zeno Baldi. This section also includes a performance of Antonio Vivaldi’s L’estro armonico in the Chiesa della Pietà with the Venice Baroque Orchestra conducted by Andrea Marcon to highlight the Venetian composer’s extraordinary ante litteram work in pure, autonomous instrumental research. The section concludes with a concert by the Ensemble Modern conducted by Bas Wiegers featuring the Italian premiere of Skull (2023) by the Golden Lion 2024 Rebecca Saunders, commissioned by the Biennale Musica in collaboration with Ensemble Modern, Oslo Sinfonietta, Ensemble Contrechamps, Acht Brücken Musik für Köln, which is preceded by Sonic Ritual, a vast fresco for percussion by the very young Hong Kong composer Alice Hoi-Ching Yeung (1999) selected for the Biennale College Musica - Composers, performed by percussionists Brian Archinal, Federico Tramontana and Aleksandra Nawrocka.

ABSOLUTE JAZZ features soloists from different cultural backgrounds who draw on the language of jazz in their improvisational research, understood as a compositional practice based on recognised codes. The Viennese performer Georg Vogel presents his Claviton, an instrument in which the octave is divided into 31 tones, based on the natural system first coined by Gioseffo Zarlino in Venice in 1558, and makes use of contrapuntal techniques in the dizzying intensity of his sound speculations. The Lebanese violinist and composer Layale Chaker presents the performance Qarar/Jawab (Internal Dialogues) where she plays a six-string violin with an additional three resonance strings specially built for her by Per Hardestam allowing her to explore the complexity of classical Arab music revisited through a performative language that lies between free jazz and elaborative techniques based on the Maqam modal systems. The American trumpeter Peter Evans has created an original and synthetic style of different experimental realities capable of generating spectacular labyrinths of sound. Tyshawn Sorey, American composer and multi-instrumentalist, is an artist recognised in the spheres of both jazz and contemporary classical music for his innovative work and iconoclastic approach and represents the vanguard of a new generation of performers/composers determined to transcend the boundaries and divisions between different genres. In his performance ideated for the Biennale Musica, titled Alone he will play the piano.
German light designer Theresa Baumgartner, artist-in-residence at the Biennale Musica 2024, will create the spatial concept of this section with performance-specific designs for each artist.

COUNTERPOINTS presents the large-scale contrapuntal mechanisms present in the field of contemporary composition, complex structures that come alive and dissolve over the listening time, musical devices that transport listeners into Escheresque soundscapes to the point of losing contact with factual and prosaic chronological reality.
The section will feature two founding works for violin and piano by the Russian composer Galina Ustvolskaya, the Sonata (1952) and Duet (1964), which will be performed by the exceptional duo consisting of violinist and composer Patricia Kopatchinskaya and pianist Markus Hinterhäuser, a virtuoso and artistic director of the Salzburg Festival. The sophisticated and innovative French quartet Quatuor Béla will present the world premiere of a work by the renowned French composer Tristan Murail, commissioned by the Biennale Musica, together with another world premiere titled Nano II, a work by Hristina Susak (1996), a young Serbian composer selected for the Biennale College Musica - Composers 2024. The energetic New York Attacca Quartet, winner of two Grammy Awards, will present the world premiere of the celebrated American composer David Lang’s daisy, commissioned by the Biennale Musica in collaboration with Parabola Foundation, Amsterdam String Quartet Biennale, as well as George Crumb's masterpiece Black Angels (1970) for amplified string quartet. The section will close with a concert by the Kandinsky Quartet, a Viennese string quartet selected through the Biennale College Musica Performers, who will perform classic works from the contemporary quartet repertoire including Salvatore Sciarrino’s Sei quartetti brevi (1967-1992), Georg Friedrich Haas’s Second Quartet (1998), together with the short and visionary Scratch (2012) by the young Slovenian composer Vito Žuraj.

SOLO ELECTRONICS comprises three concerts with renowned protagonists of experimental electronics and sophisticated technologies. The concerts will take place in Padiglione 30 of the Forte Marghera and the audience will be able to walk freely around the performance space. The first concert features a live performance by Sam Barker, an Irish composer who has expanded the boundaries of rhythmic research with a techno influence, and a performance by Tim Hecker, an influential Canadian sound artist of pure electronic research, and concludes with the articulate and virtuoso djset by the young German of Mozambican origin Cecilia Tosh. The second concert with Richard Devine, Pan Daijing and Søs Gunver Ryberg marks a new important collaboration between the Biennale Musica and the legendary Berlin festival CTM, where the three artists take turn with live performances to create a complex and enthralling listening of sounds derived from analogue and digital sets. Atlanta-based composer and sound designer Richard Devine, recognised for his creation of scratchy and textural sound stratifications, presents a live for multichannel diffusion, young Chinese artist and composer Pan Daijing creates site-specific immersive noise environments for the space of Pavilion 30 in Forte Marghera, while Danish composer Søs Gunver Ryberg's performance analyses liminal areas of electronic sound creation. This section will also see the world premiere of a new commission from the Music Section of the Berliner Künstler*programme of the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD) in Berlin directed by musicologist Dahlia Borsche: the work Mut Naq Fo Mus (Ic) for pentaphonic viola and electronics by Hungarian composer Zsolt Sörés/Ahad, a piece that highlights the linguistic characteristics of a great musical tradition, reworked with extraordinary technical expertise. The concert ends with the performance by Ash Fure, Animal for sounds and lights, and with a DJ-set by the well-known South African producer and artist Robert Machiri. The setting for the three concerts inside Forte Marghera’s Padiglione 30 will be created by the German light designer Theresa Baumgartner.

PURE VOICES is a section designed to suggest the possibility that vocal music, when linked to a distilled and deconstructed text drained of its semantic and communicative significance, can give rise to pure music projects, leading the listener to an ecstatic and meditative experience. In the Basilica di San Marco the Cappella Marciana conducted by Marco Gemmani will perform Swedish composer Lisa Streich’s Stabat (2018) for four choirs in 32 voices together with Pierluigi da Palestrina’s Stabat Mater (c. 1590) and another setting of the Stabat Mater (1597) by Giovanni Croce, an important representative of the sixteenth-century Venetian School. At the Teatro alle Tese the Corsican conductor Catherine Simonpietri and the Parisian vocal ensemble Sequenza 9.3 will perform Saline (2011) by Latvian composer Santa Ratniece as well as the Missa Syllabica (1977-1996) by the renowned master of vocal experimentation in the sacred sphere Arvo Pärt, along with Radiance (2015) for choir and live electronics by Lithuanian composer Justė Janulytė, a work focused on the expansion of sound radiation in which the voices become bearers of linguistic detritus.

MUSICA RESERVATA, either a style or a performance practice appeared in the mid-sixteenh century meaning that experimental music should initially be addressed to a select audience or even conceived only for the composer himself and his performers, lends its name to this section featuring ambitious research works for one instrument or for a small ensemble of virtuoso instrumentalists. In the extraordinary space of the Salone Sansoviniano of the Biblioteca Marciana, the Austrian composer and viola da gamba player Eva Reiter, performing together with the viola da gamba player Romina Lischka, will present the world premiere of her L'étoffe de la mémoire (2024) for two viola da gamba commissioned by the Biennale Musica, alongside the Concerts à deux violes égales (1600) by M. de Sainte-Colombe. In a second concert in the space of the Salone Sansoviniano, the cellist Massimo Raccanelli and viola da gamba player Cristiano Contadin, with the young Italian viola da gamba player Giulio Tanasini, selected for the Biennale College Musica, will perform Benedetto Marcello’s Sei Sonate Op. 2 (1712) for two viola da gamba and cello, alongside the world premiere of a work by the German composer Isabel Mundry, commissioned by the Biennale Musica. This section is completed by Sâz, a performance by the Iranian composer and poly-instrumentalist Golfam Khayam based on traditional Persian music and on ornamental techniques in the context of improvised performance.

RICERCARE is a theoretical section in which the protagonists of the festival will reflect on various aspects of their compositional and performance work in relation to the concept of Absolute Music. The meetings will be held every morning in the Biblioteca ASAC and will include lectures with David Lang, Tristan Murail, Golfam Khayam, Georg Vogel as well as two conversations between composers Marco Momi and Luca Francesconi with music historian and radio speaker Oreste Bossini, and a conversation between Salvatore Sciarrino and theorist and journalist Daniela Bruni. The section will also include four important round tables with international specialists in their respective fields: the first on the orchestration-related research of the ACTOR Project (Analysis, Creation, and Teaching of Orchestration) with the participation of international researchers Robert Hasegawa, Makis Solomos, Moe Touizrar and Daniele Ghisi, moderated by the musicologist Ingrid Pustijanac; the second, moderated by musicologist Stefano Lombardi Vallauri and with the participation of music philosopher Carlo Serra and composers Marco Momi, Salvatore Sciarrino and Isabel Mundry, will consider liminal music and silence as a compositional element; the third, organised in collaboration with EBU MUSIC (Euroradio Music Exchange), will be presented by the institution’s director Pascale Labrie and moderated by Patrick Hahn, artistic director of the Wittener Tage für neue Kammermusik and Musik der Zeit, and with the participation of a number of European radio programmers including Hervé Déjardin, Pierre Charvet, Giovanna Natalini and Sofi Jeannin; the fourth concerns present-day electronic compositional research, as discussed in the context of the DAAD Artists-In-Berlin Program, with the participation of the composer Zsolt Sörés/Ahad together with the performer Robert Machiri, and will be moderated by DAAD's Director of Music, Dahlia Borsche. As part of this section, musicologist and pianist Giovanni Bietti will present a new cycle of Lezioni di Musica curated by Paola Damiani, live on Rai Radio3, focusing on speculative music of the past, with works by Olivier Messiaen, Igor Stravinsky, Guillaume De Machaut and Johann Sebastian Bach. In the Sale Apollinee of the Teatro La Fenice, the Venetian composer and pianist Luca Mosca will offer his analytical reflections and piano elaborations of the two masterpieces of Venetian Baroque instrumental music on the programme, Vivaldi’s L'estro Armonico and Benedetto Marcello’s Sonatas Op. 2, to highlight the importance and influence of these great masterpieces of the past on the current production of absolute music.
The meetings and round tables will be introduced by the young musicologists selected for the programme of the Biennale College Asac - Scrivere in residenza with the coordination of the music historian Vincenzina Caterina Ottomano.

The complex documentation project of the four festivals of the Biennale Musica 2021-2024, directed by Lucia Ronchetti, for the Historical Archive of La Biennale di Venezia will be the subject of a round table discussion with the director of the Archive Debora Rossi in conversation with Vincenzina C. Ottomano, Tutor of the College Scrivere In Residenza-Musica and coordinator of the Documentation Project and the young musicologists selected in the Asac-Scrivere In Residenza Programme 2021-2022 and part of the documentation team Chiara Casarin, Anna Martini, Marco Surace, Giulia Vitale, Michele Leggieri, Oscar Corpo, and Giovanni Meriani.


Biennale College Musica 2024
The Biennale College Musica 2024 project is closely integrated into the wider festival project and is dedicated to absolute instrumental and electronic music in the fields of both performance and composition. The eleven young musicians under 30, selected from 408 applications from 58 countries, have been and will be in residence in Venice during three two-week periods, working together with tutors to prepare various different compositional and performing projects within the framework of the festival. The programme will feature five major world premieres by Mattia Parisse, Alice Hoi-Ching Yeung, Miles Walter, Hristina Susak and Jaeduk Kim, as well as new performances of contemporary works by viola da gamba player Giulio Tanasini, percussionist Aleksandra Nawrocka and the Kandinsky Quartet, comprising Hannah Kandinsky, Israel Gutièrrez, Ignazio Alayza and Antonio Gervilla.
The tutors of the Biennale College Musica 2024 are renowned composers and performers in their own right, committed to the composition and performance of complex music and with a long and well-established pedagogical experience as lecturers at major institutions and as invited tutors at some of the most important international seminars and workshops: Luca Francesconi, former artistic director of the Biennale Musica, Italian composer of operas produced at some of the most important venues and of major orchestral projects that have been performed all over the world; David Lang, eminent American composer of the post-minimalist generation, founder of the New York Bang On A Can festival, author of symphonic and operatic works and well-known film soundtracks; Eva Böcker and Megumi Kasakawa, cello and viola soloists of the Frankfurt Ensemble Modern, Silver Lion 2024; Brian Archinal, American percussionist, member of the percussion ensemble Ensemble This-Ensemble That, lecturer at the Hochschule der Künste Bern; Federico Tramontana, a young and emerging Italian percussionist, selected for the Biennale Musica College 2022, in which he demonstrated exceptional talent and great creative skills; Bertrand Chamayou, the renowned French pianist, who has always dedicated himself to both classical and contemporary repertoire, a performer of great physical and emotional power who has also studied composition and who possesses both didactic and organisational experience; Thierry Coduys, French composer and sound engineer, who has been in charge of all the festival's electronic productions for four years now and who has demonstrated technical ability, innovative creativity, and empathy towards the young people selected; Hervé Boutry, an outstanding organiser, former director of the Ensemble Intercontemporain and French dramturge, with a thorough knowledge of the contemporary electronic and instrumental repertoire, ideal for supporting young artists in the development of their compositional and performing ideas.
A new cycle of audio documentaries for Rai Radio3’s program Tre soldi will be made again this year by Giovanna Natalini, documenting the compositional workshops of the young artists selected for the Biennale College Musica.


The Italian Conservatoire Student Jury Prize
The Biennale Musica 2024 will see the fourth edition of the Italian Conservatoire Student Jury Prize, which will involve students aged under 25 selected by the directors of Italian conservatoires. The students will attend the entire Festival under the guidance of Oscar Pizzo, pianist, organiser and scholar in the field of current music writing. The jury will award a prize for the Best Composition and a prize for the Best Performance. The involvement of these young Italian musicians responds to the need to connect with audiences of the new generations, actively involving them in discussions about the current music scene presented by the Biennale Musica through meetings, debates and other face-to-face encounters that will make the Festival a more fertile and forward-looking platform.


The Absolute Music Catalogue
The Absolute Music 2024 catalogue will be edited by Oreste Bossini. The catalogue features original contributions commissioned by the Biennale Musica from renowned international critics and musicologists including Michael Struck-Schloen, Paul Griffiths, Michael Rebhahn, Ilija Trojanow, Ingrid Pustijanac, Ali Nikrang, Stefano Lombardi Vallauri, Sarah Collins, Marcello Ruta, Kees Vlaardingerbroek, Tobias Schick and Lukas Daum.
Chiara Casarin and Giovanni Meriani, two young musicologists selected for the Biennale College ASAC-Scrivere in residenza programme, will translate the texts into English, and Richard Carr will continue his precious collaboration in translating the texts into Italian.
The Dutch photographer Marco Borggreve will produce the images for the catalogue with graphic layout by the Headline studio coordinated by Flavia Fossa Margutti.

Biennale Musica
Biennale Musica