|Arcana Festival of Contemporary Music
St. Gallen, Gesäuse, Austria
28 July to 8 August 2010
With regard to Arcana, one can speak of transformation (of change, of embarking on something new). But this is less a matter of alchemy than it is of powerful volcanic eruptions in the night. Here, Mount Etna is just as symbolic as Prometheus. It is, in fact, his double. It is certainly about the Promethean temptation to own the cosmos in sound and through sound.
Fernand Quellette, biographer of Edgar Varèse
In one of the most magical regions of Europe, 2010 will bear witness to a 12-day circulation of energy between composers, performers, scientists and audiences. Why the Gesäuse region? The artistically and otherwise inspiring reflections of the gusting wind (to which sound the German name Gesäuse refers) were already noticed by 19th-century misfits who came here seeking refuge. One of these was Schwarzer Peter (“Black Peter”, the legendary Johann Peter Petri). This illegally operating but legitimate-seeming poacher had found a way to pass through this valley’s seemingly insurmountable northern cliffs. Upon having done so, he conspiratorially allied himself with the peasants of Johnsbach, who had been exploited by the Emperor’s villains.
The festival’s name is likewise of a programmatic nature. Arcana is one of the two orchestral works by Edgar Varèse, who spent the 1920s and 1930s countering the pragmatic and neo-classicist (and later fascist) demon with a powerful artistic position which produced innovations which seem staggering even today. The Arcana Festival takes a clear position against clichéd prejudices according to which it is difficult to reach audiences with contemporary music. An essential part of the Arcana Festival’s communicative activities is making contemporary music comprehensible to audiences. It will engage in communication with all social groups, and its actions will give rise to that sort of open-mindedness that need not even bother to ignore comparably populist clichés.
Arcana is indebted to its namesake in a second way, as well: 90 years ago, Edgar Varèse—visionary like no other composer—demanded the merging of artistic and scientific content. In keeping with this imperative, Arcana Festival defines the neuronal pleasure-centre for contemporary music as a “temporal, psychic code which makes it possible for humans to transform back into creatures.” In Peter Weibel’s fulminant self-interview, neuronal time and musical time have to “temporally correlate” in order to achieve psychic immanence (which something distinct from metaphysical transcendence). This exemplary philosophical definition of contemporaneity coincides with Wolf Singer’s reflections on emergence in creative processes: it is no longer dualism, but rather about combining processes of a cognitive (scientific) nature and an artistic-creative nature. In doing so, the Arcana Festival follows up on the neuro-scientific insight of leading cognitive scientists according to which cognitive and bodily processes are inseparably connected to one another (see Eric Kandel, Wolf Singer and António Damásio).
The Arcana Festival is not a festival of world premières, but it does set great store in curiosity, in Otherness. At the same time, Arcana brings together a whole panorama of uncompromising—and thus free—personalities.
Preface to Arcana by Edgar Varèse
||One star is higher than all others. It is the star of the apocalypse; the second star is that of the ascendant, the third is that of the elements, and there are four of those, making six stars. Alongside these, there is yet another star, the imagination, and this creates yet another star.
Edgar Varèse in the score of Arcana
Arcana, photos from the Gesäuse region