Blogging ISCM WNMD Day 6, Part 2 and Beyond: Reconstructing the Final Hours

My final report from the 2011 ISCM World New Music Days at the Zagreb Biennale is long overdue. Having lost my battle with Croatian Miss Universe contestants to use the computer in the Westin Hotel business center, the rest of my Friday was completely saturated with non-stop events and I didn’t get to sleep until about 3:30 a.m. On Saturday, after waking up at 6:30 a.m., I spent most of the day in the air and finally arrived back on my New York City doorstep at around 10 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (which is 4 a.m. Central European Time). Yesterday, after the first full night’s sleep I had in a week, I decided to keep my life corporeal for the most part and didn’t spend much time online. Instead I listened all day long to recordings I brought back with me which all made it back safe and sound and without any interrogations from customs officials in Croatia, Germany, or the United States. I barely scratched the surface, but it’s been a great listening experience so far. And then earlier today I was distracted by the Pulitzer announcement. But now I’ll try to reconstruct the rest of my stay in Zagreb, but the chronology might be slightly less linear than before (memory is funny that way).

Before I do that, a few words from Australian pianist Gabriella Smart, whom I spent a good deal of time with during the week. She was among the crew who followed me to the oldest, continuously operated restaurant in Zagreb which is closed on Monday but who also therefore got to drink that amazing 2007 Zlatan Vrhunsko Grand Cru Plavac Mali which we had in the restaurant that was open. Among the most exciting discs I’ve listened to thus far is her CD Chinese Whispers; I was particularly smitten with her performances of the Latin American Dances for prepared piano by Erik Griswold, an American-born composer who now makes Australia his home.

You may also remember Daniel Matej, the composer from Slovakia whose life was changed by reading Michael Nyman’s account of American experimental music. If I only I can get access to a time machine to attend one of the new music extravaganzas he put together in Bratislava over the past 20 years; he says he has moved on.

Perhaps the most important thing that happened after I last posted something about the ISCM World New Music Days via Blackberry on Friday evening was the announcement of the ISCM-IAMIC Young Composer Award. I was actually corralled to participate in the jury for this award, a kind of activity I am always reluctant to participate in since I have extremely ambivalent feelings about evaluation processes for aesthetic achievements and I really actually do love almost everything and even aspire to love the stuff that is beyond almost. But the potential international promotional importance of this award for a young composer required thinking past this position. But, of course, that meant I had even less free time since I also participated in all the jury deliberations in addition to attending 16 concerts and all of the general assembly sessions.

There were many amazing pieces performed during the course of the week, some of which I attempted to briefly describe in my earlier posts. You might remember how I was shocked by Sergey Khismatov’s Cymbals Quartet, mesmerized by Hugi Gudmindsson’s Handelusive, and haunted by Chiu-Yu Chou’s String Quartet No. 1. I thought it would be impossible for me to decide between the three of them, and there were others that captivated me as well. But it seems that almost everyone else was also awed by Chiu-Yu Chou which made her the clear favorite; here are a few words from her:

Plus some words from last year’s winner, Katia Beaugeais, whose powerful Manifesto for Peace, the commissioned work that resulted from winning the 2010 ISCM-IAMIC Young Composer Award, was featured on the closing concert of this year’s festival.

My head is still spinning as I consider how we can make this important event happen again in the United States. The last time it happened here was in 1976 in Boston thanks to Gunther Schuller. Americans David McMullin and Stephen Lias, who have been active in the ISCM World New Music Days for years and deserve a great deal of credit for so much American representation on this year’s festival, share my desire. Let’s get together and make this happen!

P.S.: I still need to upload another 30 or so video snippets of comments from ISCM delegates from all over the world. Keep checking in to our NewMusicBox Vimeo Channel to check them out.

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