2020 __ MusiMatrix (eersteklasconcerten)







MusiMatrix 2020 (eersteklasconcerten)
by Musica Impulse Centre for Music Belgium
Brugge, Concertgebouw, 3/20
Antwerp, deSingel, 5/20

Featured ensembles:
DuoBaan (B) https://duobaan/
Jasper & Jasper (B) http://jasperandjasper.be/
UMS 'n JIP (CH) http://umsnjip.ch

Works performed by UMS ´n JIP:
UMS 'n JIP - from: Sancho (electropop opera), 2019, Scene V
Motoharu Kawashima - Das Lachenmann IV, 2017

MusiMatrix (Eersteklasconcerten) is an interactive journey of experience confronting >4000 children in their first year of school with classical or contemporary composed music and its interpreters. These ‘first class concerts’ break down the borders between listening, active experience and performing together. The format was awarded a European YEAH! Award in 2015. From the jury report: “MusiMatrix is a unique, immersive experience for first grade students to become familiar with the sounds and process of contemporary music. The project epitomises the very essence of creating and playing music. All communication takes place via music, sound and movement. This is an ideal example of contemporary music mediation that relies on the motivation and activity of a young audience as well as the musicians – without reducing the artistic quality. Excellently done!”​ MusiMatrix/Eersteklasconcerten 2020 introduces you to three quirky contemporary music duos: Jasper & Jasper (B), Duobaan (B) and UMS 'n JIP (CH, performing works by Motoharu Kawashima/Das Lachenmann IV and excerpts from UMS 'n JIP´s acclaimed electropop opera Sancho). MusiMatrix 2020 is created within the project 'Sounds Now' co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union. The project ‘Sounds Now’ has been selected as a large-scale European collaboration project for Creative Europe. Musica Impulse Centre for Music Belgium will lead Sounds Now, as project leader, together with: Wilde Westen (BE), Festival van Vlaanderen (BE), SNYK National Centre for Contemporary Music and Sound Art in Denmark (DK), SPOR Festival (DK), Viitasaaren Kesäakatemia ry (FI), Stichting November Music (NL), Stiftelsen Ultima Oslo Contemporary Music Festival (NO), Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (UK) and Ariona Hellas AE (GR).


by Hans van Regenmortel
Musica Impulse Centre for Music Belgium.

Bringing New Music to New Audiences
Eersteklasconcerten: a new perspective on contemporary music
participation of young children in concert halls

Contemporary composed music is often considered as too abstract or too complex for young children. Nevertheless, it is questionable whether ‘abstractness’ is a feature of the music in itself. Then what would it mean? That the music isn’t ‘about’ the real world? That it doesn’t ‘describe’ reality? Most music does not, even if one can imagine that it reflects aspects of reality. And as complexity is concerned, children are faced with all kinds of complexity from birth. Why then avoid complexity when dealing with music? Music that is being perceived or thought of as abstract, rather refers to the lack of experience with an idiom or its performance practice. In fact, the only abstract music that exists, is the music we can’t imagine or remember (Strobbe & Van Regenmortel, 2012), or the one that lacks contextual anchor points with one’s own experience. Then, how can a concert hall confront young audiences with high level contemporary music and its performers? Each year, Musica, Impulse Centre for Music (Neerpelt, BE) and Concertgebouw Brugge (Bruges, BE) take up this challenge with Eersteklasconcerten.

Organising a context for young ears
Eersteklasconcerten is an immersive journey of artistic, interactive experience for children in their first grade of primary school (in Flanders, this means 6 years olds). This production puts a different renowned ensemble in the spotlight each time, confronting young ears with contemporary music and its interpreters, without compromising on the artistic content. Eersteklasconcerten addresses groups of 150 children, that become divided into 3 subgroups. The whole journey features an introduction, followed by 3 parallel ‘stations’ - each consisting of a mini-workshop and a mini-concert in whatever combination -, and ends up with a performance that actively involves everyone: children, musicians, Musica-teachers and school teachers. Eersteklasconcerten lasts no less than 90’. Nevertheless, the children manage to keep a substantial level of attention without problem, absorbing music that for many adults (e.g. their classroom teachers) isn’t always obvious at first sight. Up to three journeys can be organised in one day. The format can easily be adapted to a family public as well. The introduction moment results in an immediate focus and sharpened expectations. A general theme is implicitly being introduced: e.g. ‘direction and timing of sound’ (2017 ChampdAction), or ‘overlap of musical layers’ (2018 Het Collectief). Then, the children go to their respective first station divided in 3 groups of 50 children, each group following its own order of consecutive stations. A station (approximately 20’) consists of any combination of a mini-workshop and a mini-concert. The theme pops up on each spot as an additional anchor point for an emotionally connected understanding of the music. Preparations start with a discussion about a program that reflects the artistic DNA of the ensemble. The program should make sense in its own right, regardless of its complexity or artistic niche, nor the specificity of the target group. At this stage, there is no concern whatsoever about the design of the workshops. Only elements that could serve as a program thread are possibly taken into account. The only criterion in respect to the children’s age, is the timing of the different compositions in favour of a careful balance between listening and active engagement. How is it possible not to compromise on the artistic level when dealing with contemporary composed music? How do we tackle the lack of experience and familiarity with a musical idiom that - at first sight - is far away from children’s experiences? How can we make these unknown musical idioms meaningful on the spot and with only limited time?

Breaking down borders
Young children can make sense of the world in all its complexity on their own terms, without any need for explanation, provided that the context makes sense and that the adult’s expectations are fluid. When children feel emotionally connected with what is happening, this reflects a ‘first level’ proof of understanding. A salient feature of Eersteklasconcerten is the absolute lack of verbal instructions and explanations. At each station the Musica-teachers (sometimes assisted by trainees) only communicate by means of body language and facial expression. The spot itself communicates as well, as it is organised in a clear and inviting way, containing minimalistic theatrical elements. Borders between listening, active experiencing and performing are broken down, all of them being historically evolved adult distinctions of possible engagement with music. This doesn’t mean that there is no listening in the traditional sense. On the contrary! Young children can listen in an astonishingly focused way, because the listening is contextualised by what happens before, after or along with the music. The children’s level of attention and involvement is a main concern as it reveals their ‘sympathy’ with what’s going on. The distinction between a performer on stage and listeners apart isn’t taken for granted anymore, nor is it avoided.

Possible relationships between performer and listeners are, for example:
● the listeners sitting or lying on the ground around the performer
● the performer walking through the audience while playing
● all performers making a circle around the public
● the children moving or dancing while the musicians play
● the children making music together with the musician

As the specific focus on the music itself is concerned, there may be a shift from its structural properties to timbral, spatial and contextual aspects according to the opportunities for sympathic engagement they provide. Or, all of this can be left to ‘the ear of the beholder.’

Making music tangible in the literal sense
Young children have no need for ‘replicating the same.’ It’s already enough in having them perform something alike. Precisely the result of this ‘relative approach’ is proof of their musical intelligence: they recognise similarity. As the music itself is technically too demanding for them to replicate even part of it, we focus on more general elements, which they are immediately able to grasp in the literal sense. These aspects often feel familiar from non-musical contexts, such as direction of sound, time, chance, expectation, surprise or any combination of these. Listening to a concert after a workshop, gives children the feeling - even the conviction – of having invented the music by themselves. Whispers like “That’s what we just did!”, “I get tears in my eyes”, “I want to stay here”, are proof of their basic understanding as well as the expression of unique experiences on the personal level.

An embodied and shared experience
Although most children grow up with music coming from loudspeakers without the presence of live musicians, this situation masks the fundamental origin of music as a live interactively shared phenomenon. Seen from the classical performance practice, making music an embodied shared experience could sound uncomfortable or unrespectful. In fact, it isn’t. Let’s not forget that the ‘traditional’ concert practice mainly originated as late as in 1897 when Mahler, as director of the Wiener Hofoper, “codified the etiquette of the modern concert experience, with its worshipful, pseudo-religious character.” (Ross, 2007). So, we can ask ourselves to what extent approaches in which the social and embodied aspects of music become more central and visible again, are really new? Although the principle might be not so new, the forms it can take surely is: Eersteklasconcerten transforms and adapts old traditions to new contexts and audiences.

Children as actors in a contextual whole
In Eersteklasconcerten not just each station but the whole journey is seen as an artistic creation in its own right. Yes, a spectacle, but one that avoids the spectacular. It chooses for a sensitive approach, with sober theatrical elements that enhance the musical experience. The participants are no concert visitors, but actors that in realtime appropriate themselves with essential aspects of the music and its performance practice. In the other direction, the performer’s interpretation has lost its relevance in the traditional sense (Hamel, 2016). Important is how the music is construed in the participant’s momentary experience, and in the way the performer feels connected with his audience. Not so much the music as an object stays central, rather its impact and invitation towards reciprocal
active involvement. The musical composition becomes alive as part of a wider whole. As part of the journey the displacements from one station to the other are mapped out as little moments of transition and relief. Within limits, on these moments children verbally interact about their experiences and express their feelings towards each other.

Eersteklasconcerten convincingly shows that, as long as the context is well thought of, young children can get really enthusiastic about contemporary music irrespective of its artistic complexity. The format challenges the interpreters’, concert organisers’ and school teachers’ view on children’s aptness to ‘understanding’ contemporary music. Furthermore, it challenges the idea that children need a methodological approach from simpleness to
complexity. Eersteklasconcerten illustrates children’s sensitive openness and aptness for being part of a contextual whole. The format makes us aware of children’s need for symbolic play in a context of shared experience and companionship as a basis for being educated.

Strobbe, L. & Van Regenmortel, H. (2010). Klanksporen: Breinvriendelijk musiceren.
Antwerpen/Apeldoorn: Garant Uitgevers.
Strobbe, L. & Van Regenmortel, H. (2012). Music Theory and Musical Practice: Dichotomy or
Entwining. In Dutch Journal of Music Theory, 2012, Volume 17, Number 1, 17-28. Amsterdam:
Amsterdam University Press.
Hamel, M. (ed.) & van Maas, S., van Weelden, D., Luijten, A. (2016). Speelruimte voor
klassieke muziek in de 21ste eeuw. Rotterdam: Codarts.
Ross, A. (2007). The Rest is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century. New York: Picador.
Van Regenmortel, H. (2017). Eersteklasconcerten: a different look at music participation of
children in concert halls. In Pitt, J; & Street, A. (ed.). Proceedings of the 8th Conference of the
European Network of Music Educators and Researchers of Young Children. Cambridge:
EuNet Meryc.


UMS ´n JIP @ eersteklasconcerten / MusiMatrix

UMS ´n JIP, MusiMatrix 2020, audio setup

Die für MusiMatrix 2020 (eersteklasconcerten) entwickelte Performance integriert zwei Werke: die Szene V (Merlin) aus UMS ´n JIP´s electropop Oper Sancho (2019) und das dem Duo gewidmete Werk Das Lachenmann IV von Motoharu Kawashima aus dem Jahre 2017. Sie dauert etwa 20 Minuten und ist szenisch einem Tagesablauf nachempfunden: Die Zuhörer betreten den Raum bei Nacht, legen sich zum Schlafen hin und erwachen bei Sonnenaufgang. Sie stehen auf, sobald die Sonne im Zenit steht und ruhen bei Sonnenuntergang wieder. Der Sonnenverlauf wird mittels Lichtregie inszeniert. Es spielen UMS und JIP, unterstützt von zwei Musica-Lehrern als Animatoren. Die Zuhörer befinden sich in einem Doppelakusmonium. Vier Genelec 8020 sind in den vier Ecken des Raumes aufgestellt, in der Mitte des Raumes befindet sich ein weiteres Lautsprecherquadrat mit vier omnidirektionalen UE Booms, damit ist eine gleichmässige Klangverteilung im Raum gewährleistet. Alle acht Lautsprecher befinden sich auf 1m Höhe (der approx. Ohrenhöhe der Kinder). Die Kinder betreten den verdunkelten Raum und bleiben in der Mitte desselben stehen, äusserst leise sind Atemgeräusche und Labium-Frullati aus den UE Booms zu hören: diese Klänge und Geräusche mischen sich unmerklich mit live gespielten Geräuschen zu einer zarten und zerbrechlichen Klanglandschaft, welche aufmerksames Zuhören verlangt. Die Kinder legen sich hin, alsobald startet die Szene V aus Sancho, das äussere Akusmonium schaltet sich zu, der Raum wird nun in seiner vollen Grösse bespielt. Die Parts von UMS und JIP integrieren sich in das Zuspielband derart, dass ihre Ortung nicht mehr eindeutig ist, ein Spiel mit Realität und Fiktion beginnt. UMS spielt in der Mitte des Raumes, JIP schreitet singend an den äusseren Rändern des Raumes entlang. Die Szene V aus Sancho etabliert zunächst Einzeltöne und Geräuschimpulse, welche mit Stimme und Blockflöte erzeugt werden. Die Klanglandschaft erinnert von Ferne an Geräusche im Gehölz. Die Knack- und Zischlaute verdämmern allmählich, die Töne verdichten sich zu Akkorden, zunächst zu Terzen, danach zu instabil intonierten Dur- und Molldreiklängen, welche sukzessive nach oben gleiten. Allmählich werden die Kinder aufgefordert, diese Klänge zu imitieren und sich individuell wie in Gruppen in die Klanglandschaft zu integrieren (die Klänge der Szene V lassen sich mit der Stimme und den Händen (Schnalzen, Schnippen, Summen, Pfeifen) leicht kopieren). Am dramaturgischen Höhepunkt dieser Szene bricht bei Minute 12 ein Lachen ein, die Szene V aus Sancho wird ausgeblendet. Verschiedene Lacher, welche motivisch mit dem Stück Das Lachenmann IV verknüpft sind, werden etabliert und von den Kindern spielerisch nachgeahmt. Danach wird Das Lachenmann IV gespielt. Lachen ist in unserem sozialen Umfeld mit Spontaneität assoziiert. Lachen kompositorisch bzw. als musikalisches Strukturelement zu verwenden führt den Zuhörer in eine reizvolle Grauzone, weil es den Grenzbereich von Klang und Bedeutung auslotet und mit grundlegenden Erwartungen innerhalb unserer Kommunikations-Codices spielt, indem emotionale Ausbrüche (in diesem Werk in Form eines Lachens) formal und klanglich in eine Komposition eingebunden werden. Das Kompositions- und Performancematerial wird über die Aufführungen hinaus unterrichtsgerecht aufbereitet. Die Schullehrer erhalten Übungsblätter, um das Erlebte spielerisch nachzubereiten, weiterzuentwickeln und nachklingen zu lassen.

score excerpts from Sancho, Scene V

Motoharu Kawashima
score excerpts from Das Lachenmann IV