Jan Rohlf and Rabih Beaini take on “New Geographies” in this year’s CTM festival, happening across Berlin through February 7. Check out our highlights here.
With 100-plus artists, panels, workshops and installations, festival founder Rohlf (photo, right) and musician/co-curator Beaini (photo, left) present the Transmediale sister event’s typically adventurous experimental electronic programme in the context of current global shifts in art and music. They sat down with us to explain this year’s theme.
So, why “New Geographies”?
JAN ROHLF: We’re all part of transcultural processes, no matter where we come from or where we live. These processes are strongly visible in today’s music culture. While all these political conflicts over the past years became more and more radical, the feeling of responding to that became more and more of an issue.
How did you manage to lay an artistic focus over that?
RABIH BEANI: I think it was more of a natural process. You start realising that there are people taking more of a political stand by making or wanting to promote their local music but with new aspects, a new language. It was quite clear that something had to be dedicated to this.
JR: We are interested in experimentation, in pushing forward the structures of music; that can also include people reconnecting with traditions, but updating them.
Some of this year’s artists raise the issue of appropriation – like Peder Mannerfelt, whose The Swedish Congo Record re-interprets 1930s field recordings of Congolese musicians live on stage.
JR: There’s of course a long history of imbalanced appropriation of local music. Mannerfelt’s project is conscious of it – which doesn’t mean that it is without problems. He is informed about the history of the original recordings, which were made during the really disruptive and violent colonial regime of Belgium in the Congo. He wants to recreate and add his own perspective to a dialogue.
In general, people give and take from everywhere. It’s just important these days that these processes become balanced, that not only Western communities have access. Also you have to access the contextual information. What is this music, where does it come from? There is a responsibility.
“New Geographies” can also refer to exploring new technology…
JR: Yes, the advancement of technology is opening new grounds still. Hatsune Miku is an example. So is Pauline Oliveros, with her EIS (Expanded Instrument System) or a rather unknown artist, Marcin Petruszewski, who will present a new work at the festival. He’s working with the latest technology in voice synthesis, which he developed together with some university research departments. He’s working with stochastic algorithms to create new forms of sound. It comes with a libretto, almost like an opera piece.
Have classic genre terms become obsolete these days?
RB: Almost every genre has fallen as a definition. This is another ‘new geographies’ issue: the incestuous process that is happening in music. Hip hop is no longer hip hop, house is no longer house…
JR: There’s the new wave of very young producers in the Berlin club scene, for example: the Janus crew, Lotiq, Kablam, M.E.S.H. or, now at the festival, the people from NAAFI, a label from Mexico. You have these new forms of club music that really mash together a lot of different styles and influences that go beyond every categorisation, reflecting the exchange of information online. And yes, somehow we’re losing the words. Usually, journalists and music promoters are quite fast at pinning it down, but they haven’t been able to do so with this kind of music, which is really great.