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Spring sounds: Three digital music festivals to catch this month

Three forward-thinking online events help make March the best month for live music since the pandemic began.

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ID Festival features the performance Six Feet Palace, whose project The Code (pictured) explores the possibilities of expanding consciousness. Photo: © Burak Isseven

Spring has finally arrived, along with the biggest month for live music since early 2020. It feels like there’s reason to be genuinely excited for the first time in a while. We have three different festivals of contemporary sounds to enjoy and, remarkably, each feels more thought- provoking than the next. But given how long we’ve had to stew on heady concepts while taxiing the musical runway, that’s unsurprising.

The contemporary music series Kontraklang is first with a livestream of the film The Cosmic Music of Teiji Ito (March 15). The Japanese composer’s story is fascinating. He fled home as a teenager before landing in Haiti, where he would spend the rest of his life composing scores for avant-garde cinema. The project was reimagined as a film after being first planned as a concert presenting Ito’s work in Berlin for the first time. A mix of homage and pure reverence, it’s a celebration of analogue sound, at one point explaining how Ito would record one instrument at a time on a tape deck before physically sticking the tapes together to create his scores. More than a year into the pandemic, Ito’s work resonates a little stronger than before, a mind-blowing exercise in patience and scope.

The sixth edition of MaerzMusik – Festival for Time Issues (Mar 20-29) picks up where Kontraklang leaves off. Last year’s cancelled festival went under the motto “The Beginning of Time”. While this year was originally planned as “The End of Time”, the two have merged to form “No End of Time”. The irony isn’t lost on the organisers. If anything, the already baffling construct of time has only gained another level of nuance during the pandemic. While some elements of last year’s programme remain (Éliane Radigue’s seminal Trilogie de la Mort live from the Zeiss-Großplanetarium is too brilliant an idea to shelve indefinitely), most have been adapted to contend with a period in which we’ve been up to our eyeballs in source material for time issues.

Opening sees the Bolivian Orquesta Experimental de Instrumentos Nativos team up with Berlin-based experimental choir PHØNIX16 for Environment. Last year’s performance was billed as an exploration of the complex legacy of colonialism. This year, the search for common ground outside of cultural differences is magnified by a spring spent working together in lockdown. Then there’s Maerz Musik’s landmark event, The Long Now. An exercise in detachment, The Long Now, would usually unweave guests from their day-to-day lives with its non-stop marathon event at Kraftwerk Berlin, so it’s unclear how well the 30-hour performance can be replicated online.

Finally, ID Festival (Mar 19-20) seeks to build new spaces of interaction between Israeli and local artists, venues and other minority ethnic groups in Germany (the name is short for Israel-Deutschland). It will be livestreamed from radialsystem, breaking down spatio-temporal boundaries in the process. If you’re noticing a theme across these three festivals, just wait until Netflix gets hold of the idea. ID Festival’s standout performance is Six Feet Palace, whose project The Code explores the possibilities of expanding consciousness. The duo’s immersive audiovisual live event is a journey to find the creator within oneself. Regardless of your thoughts on meditation, this is an open invitation for everyone stuck at home to join them in a different reality.