Biennale Musica 2023: highlighting the beauty and complexity of digital sound
The 67th International Festival of Contemporary Music will run from 16-29 October 2023, dedicated to digital sound and to its production and diffusion in the acoustic space.
The 67th International Festival of Contemporary Music, Micro-Music, is dedicated to digital sound and to its production and diffusion in acoustic space using state-of-the-art technologies and experimental research. The Festival presents a wide spectrum of the innovative stylistic trends and creative research of today’s international music scene, embracing installative, performative and online forms, with several world premieres commissioned by the Biennale Musica and co-productions with other major international festivals. The intention behind Micro-Music is to evoke music generated through microphone and to explore the microscopic nature of sound. It is a festival that aims to highlight the beauty and complexity of digital sound and of the new compositional possibilities it offers. The particular acoustic imprint of each location and the act of listening, understood as reading the surrounding space through the complex, ever-changing reverberations that the ambient creates, emerges in the electronic creations of the various different sections of the festival, which are designed to seek out the sounds of the architectural context of Venice’s buildings. The artists invited from all over the world, sculptors of forms in sound, creators of acoustic spells, archaeologists in search of long-lost sounds, and seekers after the ineffable, ephemeral, transitory and magical nature of sound, will surprise, captivate and involve with their vast new musical frescoes. The Festival consists of 6 different sections: Sound Microscopies; Sound Installations/Sound Exhibitions; Stylus Phantasticus-The Sound Diffused by Venetian Organs; Club Micro-Music; Sound Studies; Digital Sound Horizons.
Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement to Brian Eno
Brian Eno receives the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement in Music 2023 for his research into the quality, beauty and diffusion of digital sound and for his conception of the acoustic space as a compositional instrument. The renowned composer, producer, visual artist and activist, tireless innovator in the fields of compositional creativity and applied digital sound technology, will present the world premiere of his project Ships at the Teatro La Fenice, in a performance featuring the Baltic Sea Philharmonic conducted by Kristjan Järvi, together with actor Peter Serafinowicz, guitarist and long-term collaborator Leo Abrahams, and software designer Peter Chilvers. Brian Eno himself will also be present on stage, interacting with the orchestral atmospheres diffused and processed for the theatre’s particular acoustic space. Gary Hustwit, the American director and photographer, in collaboration with Brendan Dawes, will present Nothing Can Ever Be The Same, a video installation based on generative technology, which will offer an artistic retrospective of Brian Eno through interviews, video-art projects, conferences, performances and backstage documentation from concerts and artistic events.
Silver Lion to Miller Puckette
The Silver Lion 2023 is awarded to the American mathematician, programmer and performer Miller Puckette, renowned in the field of music for designing and developing the software Max/Msp and Pure Data, two of the most important programmes in the realm of real-time sound processing and digital sound synthesis. In recognising the work of Miller Puckette, the Biennale Musica pursues its path of awarding the Silver Lion to figures on the contemporary music scene who, through their programming, performance and collaboration with composers, have enabled the creation of numerous masterworks during recent decades in the history of music.
Sound Microscopies will include world premieres of works investigating the complexity and diffusion of sound in acoustic space specially commissioned by the Biennale Musica from Brian Eno, Miller Puckette, Francesca Verunelli, Joanna Bailie and Marcus Schmickler, as well as several Italian premieres: As I Live And Breathe by Morton Subotnick, who celebrates the 60th anniversary of his first appearance at the Biennale Musica in 1963; the reconstruction of GLIA by the legendary pioneer of electronic music Maryanne Amacher, in collaboration with the CTM Festival of Berlin; Robert Henke’s celebrated work of computer sound archaeology CBM 8032 AV, and a new production of the cycle Professor Bad Trip by Fausto Romitelli, who would have turned 60 this year.
The inaugural concert opens with Morton Subotnick's As I Live And Breathe, where the celebrated composer processes live his breath and vocal gestures using advanced electronic performance techniques, creating a unique, personal and poetic technological environment. Maryanne Amacher, the celebrated creator of a highly original aesthetics of electronic sound who died in 2009, studied the auditory system and the processing of otoacoustic emissions, the sounds produced inside the cochlea, an essential component of the inner ear and of the hearing apparatus. Thanks to the work of Bill Dietz and original members of the Ensemble Zwischentöne and the Ensemble Contrechamps it has been possible to reconstruct the 2006 performance of GLIA, a work for instruments and electronics, which will be presented as an installative concert during which the audience will be able to walk freely around the musicians. Francesca Verunelli, renowned Italian composer and recipient of the Silver Lion in 2010, will present the world premiere of her vast sound fresco Songs&Voices, a work co-commissioned by the Biennale Musica jointly with Ircam, Gmem of Marseilles and the Festival Eclat of Stuttgart, in which she explores in compositional terms the absence of song and the vibrant, colourful silence of the echo of an imaginary singer. Joanna Bailie’s new work 1979, commissioned by the Biennale Musica in collaboration with the Donaueschinger Musiktage festival, the Rainy Days festival and Wien Modern, is based on the theory according to which no sound is lost in space as the sound waves continue to exist for eternity after the source has emitted the signal, bouncing back and forth between the walls of the performance space. Marcus Schmickler, the German composer of electronic music, presents Glockenbuch IV (Spectre Santa Maria dei Carmini), an installative performance for multichannel diffusion based on the sounds of the bells of the Venetian church of Santa Maria dei Carmini. Schmickler explores the complexity of the sound of the bells, its counterpoint and aerial articulation, developing the potential Plenum electronically. Robert Henke, engineer and composer, one of the principal creators of the popular software Ableton Live, will present his celebrated project CBM 8032 AV in the acoustic space of the Teatro Malibran; the audiovisual performance is based entirely on the use of four Commodore cbm 8032 computers and highlights new compositional research inspired by computer archaeology. Miller Puckette presents the world premiere of Knock for electronics and percussion with the collective Øther formed with Irwin. The presence of Fausto Romitelli’s Professor Bad Trip in the context of the Sound Microscopies series acknowledges the importance and increasing recognition of his pioneering work in the compositional integration of sound objets trouvés originating from different musical cultures and highlights the distinctive electronic sound created by Romitelli, his admiration for seventies psychedelic rock, and his compositional use of the parameters of the experimental research of the period for the distortion or saturation of sound as the premiss for current research into cross-fertilisation , dialogue and coexistence between the various creative areas of electronics.
Sound Installations /
The Sound Installations section presents installative sound works in a variety of different performative forms and modalities specially designed for specific spaces in the city of Venice, commissioned by the Biennale Musica from artists of different generations and differing compositional tendencies. Andrea Liberovici and Paolo Zavagna present Sound Of Venice Number Two, a new Soundwalk project that explores the soundscape of Venice, inspired by archival iconography and documents, imagining for Piazzale Divisione Acqui in Mestre an acoustic soundscape in contemporary Venice and in the Venice of the past, evoking both the boat songs, historic regattas, fireworks, dog, bull, ox and horse races typical of the sixteenth century and the sounds of contemporary Venice, inundated with its noisy tourists, the ghost-like apparitions of the huge cruise ships, and the unexpected blanket silence of the recent lockdowns. Anthea Caddy and Marcin Pietruszewski will present at the Biennale Musica a new sound installation for parabolic loudspeakers, Love numbers, co-produced with Sonic Acts of Amsterdam, for the Padiglione 30 of Forte Marghera, exploring and expanding the information contained within every sound, the evolution of the sound waves with respect to their trajectory. Tania Cortés, the Ecuadorian composer and performer, selected by the Biennale College Musica 2022, has conceived for the space of the Teatro del Parco in Mestre 1195, an audiovisual installation inspired by the architecture of the Basilica di San Marco and by the diffusion of sound in its architectonic space. The Teatro del Parco will represent the scene of a new sound world that emerges from the history of Venice to seek out and celebrate its acoustic beauty and the ideal journey of sound inside its architecture. Alberto Anhaus, a young artist selected for the Biennale College Musica 2023, presents in Sale d’Armi A, Colonization – Sea invasion, a sound installation for field recordings, organic materials and smells based on the sonification of fermentation and decomposition of algae in the Venice lagoon. Louis Braddock Clarke (1996), British musician and sound engineer, also selected by the Biennale College Musica 2023, conceived an installative web archive, Weather Gardens exploring the intersection of the landscape’s shape and sound. According to the concept of Semantic Drift, the composer investigates the sonic environmental mutations, analysing the various aspects of the climate crisis from a compositional and musical point of view. Lydia Krifka-Dobes, a young German musician and programmer, selected for the Biennale College Musica 2023, presents Wandering The Piano, an interactive installation based on generative algorithms that develop sounds processed by a prepared and augmented grand piano, imagined as a sound portal and virtual space of the acoustic scene.
The Club Micro-Music section presents various aspects and stylistic trends in the performance of live electronics, with concerts conceived for the spaces of the Teatro alle Tese, where the audience, standing or sitting, can access the events at different times. Performances of experimental electronic music will be entrusted to artists, sound designers, DJs and producers active on the world stage and recognised by the wider public, including Lamin Fofana, Jjjjjerome Ellis, Jace Clayton AKA Dj Rupture, Steve Goodman AKA Kode9, Loraine James, Aya, Emme, S280F, Soft Break, Yen Tech, Snufkin, the acclaimed composers of soundtracks Nicolas Becker and Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe, and the mythical English collective Autechre. Together, these artists represent a very varied panorama that is designed to explore the forms and expressions of research into the production and diffusion of live electronic sound. The presence of the diverse artists invited to participate in the evening events at the Club Micro-Music will highlight the profound links between the techniques of digital sound generation and the processing of recorded sound devised in the early electronic music laboratories of the fifties and the experimental research of today’s global DJ culture, in which sound samples taken from pre-existing music are codified and removed from their original compositional reality to be used according to new formal codes. The invited artists will perform at different live events and in virtuoso sound adventures involving techniques of live-coding, moments of exciting on-the-fly programming, and the visionary fragmenting and recomposition of pre-recorded materials re-elaborated as extemporary sound mosaics. The project La notte di Battiti, created in collaboration with Pino Saulo and Rai Radio3, will present the Italian premiere of Jace Clayton’s celebrated project The Julius Eastman Memorial Dinner, based on new arrangements of Eastman’s Evil Nigger (1979) and Gay Guerilla (1980). Steve Goodman aka Kode9, the influential Scottish DJ and producer and founder of the Hyperdub label, will give a performance in the form of a DJ set in La Notte di Nero, in collaboration with the producer and performer Loraine James, an acknowledged voice in experimental electronics. The collaboration between the Biennale Musica and the Sonic Acts festival of Amsterdam, the European cenacle of research and production in the sphere of electronics and of the various compositional fields linked to digital sound, is sealed by La Notte di Sonic Acts with different DJs, performers and composers appearing in Venice for the first time: Emme, S280F, Soft Break, Aya, Yen Tech and Snufkin. The final concert of the Festival will feature the new live collective formed of the two famous and sought-after sound designers and composers, Nicolas Becker and Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe. Nicolas Becker, well-known for the research he developed in The Sound of Metal, will present his compositional and performative meeting with Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe, artist, curator and composer of music for the cinema, who works primarily with analogue tools to create innovative, complex, nostalgic sound blends that impart to electronic sound a new complexity of timbre, a new beauty and a new expressiveness.
Stylus Phantasticus - The Sound Diffused by Venetian Organs
Wolfgang Mitterer, Kali Malone, John Zorn, Andrea Marcon and Luca Scandali are the five organists that will perform in the Basilica di San Pietro in Castello, in the Churches of San Salvador and San Trovaso and in the Sala dei concerti of the Conservatorio Benedetto Marcello, revealing how the organs built in Venice by Gaetano Callido, Pietro Nacchini, Franz Zanin, and Jürgen and Hendrik Ahrend were designed as instruments for the diffusion and amplification of sound in the specific architectonic space of each church and hall. The programmes of the five concerts are inspired by the sixteenth-century repertoire of the Scuola di San Marco and by the definition of stylus phantasticus, a term coined by Johann Mattheson to describe the complexity of the polyphonic writing for organ. The organ as a generator of sound flows, complex harmonies and polyphonic continua will be the point of contact between the compositional experimentation in the organ works of Claudio Merulo, Andrea Gabrieli, Giovanni Gabrieli and Girolamo Frescobaldi, published in Venice at the turn of the seventeenth century, and the contemporary experiments of Wolfgang Mitterer, Kali Malone and John Zorn, composers and performers who play the organ as a means of compositional speculation, making full use of the infinite polyphonic and colouristic possibilities of the instrument. The American composer and organist Kali Malone will perform on the organ built by Pietro Nacchini in 1754 in the Basilica di San Pietro di Castello in Trinity Form, a project conceived for the architecture of the church, which will be filled with rich static and harmonic textures characteristic of her research linked to the Ambient and to post-minimalism. Wolfgang Mitterer will perform a new work for organ and electronics, Requiem for a Beautiful Dream, commissioned by the Biennale Musica, on the Franz Zanin organ in the Sala dei concerti of the Conservatorio Benedetto Marcello. John Zom’s The Hermetic Organ is a sound spectacle of great creative power. The celebrated American composer and poly-instrumentalist uses the most extreme registers of the organ to create aggregates of timbres that alternate according to forms of musical happening borrowed from abstract American expressionism.
Digital Sound Horizons
This section of the Festival presents projects in installative form, online compositional projects and events in the form of concerts involving the use of new technologies linked to digital sound, highlighting the compositional horizons of the new generations of composers and researchers active all over the world. Through commissions for works from the very young composers and researchers Jaehoon Choi, Lydia Krifka Dobes, Fabio Machiavelli, Estelle Schorpp, Severin Dornier, Leonie Strecker, David Shongo and Alexis Weaver, as well as commissions for a new project by Brigitta Muntendorf, explorer of new digital sound forms, and for a project by the collective formed by Guy Ben-Ary and Nathan Thompson based on an innovative production of the Ars Electronica Festival, the Biennale Musica seeks to map the common ground linking music and technology in an effort to outline the new compositional horizons of our times. Through the use of mediated technologies, live coding techniques, algorithmic generation, the creation of autonomous sound devices and of sound habitats mediated by biological processes, the use of the web as a generative sound archive and compositional space, the study and development of living and engineered neural networks, the spatialisation of sound controlled by vocal performance and by mapped movements, the compositional sonification of scientific materials, today’s young composers present a new era in the synthesis of sound, the capacity to forge digital sound waves that connect the worlds of biology and music, where artificial, digital and synthesised frequencies stimulate new hybrid forms of acoustic beauty and compositional experimentation. In the context of this section, Guy Ben-Ary and Nathan Thompson will present Music for Surrogate Performer, an installative concert based on a generative system to analyse and activate neuronal cells developed by the noted researcher and composer Alvin Lucier, who died in 2021. Composition as a courageous exploration of fields of action and expression hitherto uncharted are the principal characteristics of the poetics of Brigitta Muntendorf, who will present ORBIT – A WAR SERIES, a project based on disembodies voices and deep learning technologies applied to voice generation, in collaboration with the dramaturgist Moritz Lobeck and the Ukrainian research group Respeecher.
The various round tables, theoretical sessions and lectures that will be held involving the protagonists of the Festival together with international guests will create a continuous laboratory for reflection on digital sound and will provide the opportunity for an audience consisting of specialists and the general public alike, as well as the youth of Venice, to access the technological research scene in the field of new modes of listening and sound diffusion and production. With the participation of the protagonists of the Festival, Brian Eno, Miller Puckette, Brigitta Muntendorf, Robert Henke, Guy Ben-Ary, Nathan Thompson, Morton Subotnick, Steve Goodman, Nicolas Becker and Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe, we will discuss the present and the future of digitalisation and the new creativity linked to technological research. In the context of the collaboration between the Biennale Musica and the Fondazione Levi directed by Roberto Calabretto, a round table will be organised, which will be dedicated to the development of technologies for the diffusion and capture of sound in the field of film production with Nicolas Becker, Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe e Luca Cossettini. Vincenzina Caterina Ottomano. Gerfried Stocker, artistic director of Ars Electronica in Linz, together with Guy Ben-Ary, Nathan Thompson, Ali Nikrang and Yoko Shimizu, will explain to enthusiasts the new frontiers of applied biotechnology in the field of music, starting from their research experiences at the Ars Electronica Lab. Remco Schuurbiers, artistic director of the famous CTM Festival of Berlin, will discuss with Morton Subotnick, Lillevan and Bill Dietz the pioneering, futuristic vision of two of the composers showcased at the Festival, Morton Subotnick and Maryanne Amacher.
Valerio Mattioli and Valerio Mannucci, in collaboration with Nero, will coordinate a round table with the participation of the international critics and producers McKenzie Wark and Steve Goodman which will analyse the recent production of electronic music in genres linked to the hardcore continuum, including experimental language able to generate new listening experiences. Gianmario Borio, Director of the Music Institute at the Fondazione Giorgio Cini, will moderate a round table on Fausto Romitelli’s Professor Bad Trips with the participation of Pascal Decroupet, Oliver Korte, Luigi Manfrin and Nicholas Moroz.
Four Lezioni di musica on Rai Radio3, curated by Paola Damiani and presented by Giovanni Bietti, will investigate the organ repertoire of the sixteenth-century Scuola veneziana, considering in detail the construction and and specific features of several organs in the context of the architectural spaces for which they were designed, and the immense variety of continua and layers of sound that they can generate. Tom Service, the well-known BBC Radio 3 presenter, will discuss various key aspects of the new era of digital listening, analysing the cryptic environments in which digital music is produced and generated for the “consumer” market, where it is destined to urban environments and to individual listening, and, in collaboration with Neil Luck, will create live examples of the various aspects of production described. The meetings will take place in the Biblioteca dell’Archivio Storico delle Arti Contemporanee – ASAC and will be introduced and illustrated by the young musicologists selected for the Scrivere in residenza programma of the Biennale College ASAC coordinated by Vincenzina Caterina Ottomano.
Biennale College Musica 2023
This year, too, the Biennale College Musica 2023 will operate as a project integrated organically in the conception and planning of the Festival. Ten new productions of the College complete the programme, part of the section entitled Digital Sound Horizons, which explores the present and future boundaries of the interaction between science, technology and musical creativity. The call for participants for the Biennale College Musica 2023, which is dedicated to creativity and research in the field of digital sound, attracted the interest of almost 300 artists under the age of 30 from all over the world, with projects from 61 countries. For the first time in the history of the Biennale College Musica, projects were received from Albania, Azerbaijan, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, El Salvador, Georgia, Kenya, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldavia, Namibia, Nigeria, Uganda and Zimbabwe, in confirmation of the global reach of the College project among the new generation of creative artists. The ten young artists selected for the College will be immersed in an exciting experience in Venice, where they will be able to develop their projects with the support and guidance of a group of international tutors and with the help of a competent, enthusiastic technical team always ready for new technological and compositional adventures. Biennale College Musica 2023 has selected ten musicians, composers, sound artists and programmers from all over the world: Alberto Anhaus, Jaehoon Choi, Louis Braddock Clarke, Lydia Krifka Dobes, Fabio Machiavelli, Estelle Schorpp, Severin Dornier, Leonie Strecke, Alexis Weaver and David Shongo. The artists selected are in residence in Venice at the studios of CIMM, the Centro di Informatica Musicale e Multimediale of the Biennale di Venezia, for three separate sessions of two weeks each, preparing new projects in different formal and stylistic spheres linked to the new sound technologies, including Web Archive, Algorithmic Composition, Experimental Performance, Generative Music, Sound Installation, Applied Biotechnology in the field of music, and sound projects based on Artificial Intelligence and Augmented Reality, defining with their research an area of the Festival that will showcase the very latest trends in various different creative and stylistic fields. The group of international tutors that will support the young artists includes leading figures in the world of digital sound: Miller Puckette, Silver Lion, one of the most important innovators in the field of real-time sound processing, creator of Max and Pure Data (“Pd”); Gerfried Stocker, Austrian engineer specialising in Artificial Intelligence and Applied Biotechnology in the field of music, artistic director of Ars Electronica, Linz; Kyoka, Japanese producer of electronic music, DJ and sound artist, whose works are issued by the independent record label Raster-Noton; Thierry Coduys, French composer and sound engineer, programmer of IanniX; Brigitta Muntendorf, Austrian-German composer and creator of transdigital music; Oscar Pizzo, pianist, dramaturgist and Italian artistic director specialising in sound dramaturge; Yoko Shimizu, member of the Ars Electronica Futurelab team, a programmer specialising in projects bringing together competences in biology and new technologies applied to sound; Ali Nikrang, pianist, composer and researcher, professor of Artificial Intelligence and Artistic Creation at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Munich and member of the Ars Electronica Futurelab team. Together, these productions and collaborations confirm the plan to transform the Biennale College Musica into an international centre for creative research and innovation that is able to bring about a profound and effective dialogue between specialists from different fields and with different stylistic tendencies and to nurture and develop young, international talents.
The Biennale Musica 2023 Jury Prize
2023 brings the third edition of the Prize of the Jury of Italian Conservatoire Students, with the participation of students under the age of 25 selected by the Directors of Italian Conservatoires. The students selected will attend the entire Festival under the guidance of Jacopo Caneva, the young composer and scholar in the field of contemporary acoustic and electronic music writing. The jury will award a prize for the best production and a prize for the best performance. The involvement of young Italian musicians meets the need to come into contact with the audiences of new generations and to involve them actively in discussing the contemporary music scene through the meetings, debates and face-to-face encounters organised by the Biennale Musica which will ensure the Festival is a fertile, forward-looking platform.
The Micro-Music Catalogue 2023
The catalogue of the Biennale Musica 2023 is designed by the creative studio and publishing house NERO of Rome and edited by Oreste Bossini. The images in the catalogue will be original generative graphic works by the Mexican artist Melissa Santamaria, made using digital processing based on algorithms similar to those used in the digital processing of sound. The catalogue will also include important analytical and historical contributions commissioned from the Festival protagonists Brian Eno and Miller Puckette as well as from renowned international scholars in the field of digital sound, listening in the technological era, and electronic compositional practice, including Nina Sun Eidsheim, Juliana Snapper, Tom Service, Philip Sherburne and Matteo Pasquinelli. Paul Hauptmeier, the young German programmer and composer, selected at the Biennale College Musica 2022, will offer his experience of the production process at the CIMM, the Centro Informatico Musicale e Multimediale of the Biennale di Venezia, in the sphere of new digital music realities, while Paolo da Col will analyse the sound impact of the various eighteenth-century organs that were built to amplify and diffuse sound in the different architectural spaces of Venice’s principal churches.