What is the concept behind the Field Notes initiative?
Field Notes is a platform for contemporary music (and jazz) run by the Initiative Neue Musik Berlin (Initiative of New Music Berlin), an interest group for musicians. It’s a platform in the sense that we don’t create because we don’t need to bring anything into this contemporary music scene ourselves.
Rather, we gather everything and try to give it a bit more visibility because I think that Berlin has the biggest scene and the most exciting music community in Europe. Both our online platform, and the Field Notes magazine exist to create as much communication around that scene as possible.
Do you think that the contemporary scene is underrepresented in Berlin?
I think that the scene is so vibrant, and it’s made up of this huge independent community of Berliner and international artists. Despite that, the scene is not really supported by the bigger institutions. It’s mainly coming from the smaller independent venues and ensembles and artists who organise the concerts themselves.
I think that Berlin has the biggest scene and the most exciting music community in Europe.
When you have a situation where there are these outstanding concerts happening for just one evening, we need to be able to communicate that. So this is why there was a huge need for support structures that actually work with the entire scene. Everything and everybody is welcome to work with us and present something on the Field Notes. And I think that’s why it was so important to do something that was actually coming from within the independent scene itself.
What do you understand by the term ‘contemporary music’?
That’s a nice question that I can only answer incorrectly. It took us some time to find a working definition for ourselves. Contemporary music is something we can’t actually grasp because the scene is always changing. Under this term, we understand new or composed music, sound art, music theatre, improvised music and Echtzeitmusik – which has a great importance in Berlin – as well as electronic and electroacoustic music.
The thing that brings contemporary music together is the idea of searching for something new within the means of sound, to look for more and not be content with what there already is. For me, the beauty is that contemporary music is always crossing borders with other genres, art forms and media and dissolving the boundaries between them.
How do you contend with the notion that such conceptual breadth could imply a higher barrier of entry?
Of course, the more you understand something, the more you know, the more you enjoy it. But, I think that because the scene is so broad, you have the opportunity to approach it from any angle you like. There is no single recipe for what brings you to a concert or how you experience it. It’s very funny, actually, when you go to a festival, and all the professionals are together, they come out of a performance and all the opinions are completely different.
For me, the beauty is that contemporary music is always crossing borders with other genres, art forms and media and dissolving the boundaries between them.
It’s because there’s no single way to hear the music. No matter how informed or less informed anybody might be, it’s possible to have a very good experience. Or, you know, it’s possible to hate it too, which is also fine because you start to learn what you like for your own reasons. You just need to be open to it.
Which trends can you see in contemporary music now that excite you?
The growing urge of music to take a stand on social and political issues is clearly noticeable: many projects examine the relationship between art and activism, sound and ecology, and aspects of coming together from different perspectives. One thing that’s also very interesting at the moment is trans-traditional music. It’s not just about who’s represented on stage and behind the scenes, but also what is following on from that and whose kinds of music are being performed and in what ways.
It’s about questioning the term ‘new music’ itself. It’s definitely going to change traditional concepts of music making, composition, and the discourse surrounding the contemporary music scene will begin to change too because of that.
How do you think Field Notes has impacted the contemporary music scene in Berlin?
One of our main tasks – this is why we’re called Field Notes – is that we have the fields, and we write the notes. So, we try to guide you and explain what is out there without changing the scene. Field Notes is more of a mediator trying to show you an event you might like and give you some background knowledge and a platform to start making connections yourself. That platform helps it to spread more and more outside Berlin too. For example, we are currently in cooperation with a Danish association that makes exchanges between Danish and German artists.
If we can help facilitate new exchanges, I think that is beautiful.
We facilitated a conference in August about artists and thinkers from the so-called Global South and their presence in Western discourse and the music scene. In November, the Kyiv Contemporary Music Days are actually organising a festival here in Berlin. The goal is to be able to cooperate in a way that creates a space of exchange in Berlin, spotlighting Ukrainian music and offering a platform to make that music community visible in Berlin. If we can help facilitate new exchanges, I think that is beautiful.
Find out more about Field Notes here.