Focal points of the Month of Contemporary Music 2022

Month of Contemporary Music #6

A Trio
©Tony Elieh

Ein Gradmesser für aktuelle Tendenzen

To call the Month of Contemporary Music a festival would be pure understatement. With its approximately 150 events in 65 venues in just four weeks, the Month of Contemporary Music is not only more than comprehensive, but also a reliable barometer of current trends in the field of contemporary music. On the one hand, this is because its programme is not curated by a central institution, instead stemming directly from the independent scene. And on the other hand, due to this, it comprises a multiplicity of festivals-within-festivals under its umbrella, allowing to make visible the overlaps and connecting lines in terms of content, structure, and form – the aesthetics – of composing and musicking running through a heterogeneous community.

The following is an attempt to identify the aesthetic lines of composing and music-making that run through the comprehensive programme for better orientation:


A large number of projects during this Month of Contemporary Music undertake musical and intermedial border crossings, seeking proximity to other genres and fields. These similar approaches, however, result in sometimes fundamentally different events.

An example of this is »eclecticism ∞ LUX:NM« (1st Sep, Kesselhaus der Kulturbrauerei). The ensemble LUX:NM, which specialises in new music, invites jazz musician Gebhard Ullmann and composer and video artist Nicole Lizée to extend their artistic practise. At the opening of the Month of Contemporary Music (2nd Sep, FAHRBEREITSCHAFT), the ensemble KNM Berlin will collaborate with the turntable duo Vinyl -terror and -horror. This is also the path the Zafraan Ensemble is taking when it brings in collaborators from other genres for its new series »Acud Session«, based on a log book developed by François Sarhan to reflect on these encounters. The first edition’s guest is classical soprano Dénise Beck (3rd Sep, acud macht neu). The series Kiezsalon (Alison Cotton, Dylan Henner and Ichiko Aoba, 7th Sep, HKW), Audiovisionen (Gebrüder Teichmann / Robyn Schulkowsky, 17th Sep, Zwinglikirche and Contagious, 22th Sep, Zwinglikirche) as well as Klappkart Rumpeln (18th Sep, Studio 764) have long made the coexistence of different musical styles the core of the programme. The DARA String Festival (10th+11th Sep, KM28), which ranges from early contemporary to experimental and freely improvised music, proves how genre boundaries can dissolve just by concentrating on string instruments. The radio play »Traumtext 2022« (17th Sep, Café hausZwei), based on a text by Heiner Müller, and the Solistenensemble Kaleidoskop with »Tanz den Tanz« (18th+25th Sep), which enters into a dialogue with the artworks of the Hoffman Collection in the rooms of a former sewing machine factory before they are donated to the Staatlichen Kunstsammlungen Dresden.


The new music of our time is increasingly breaking away from Eurocentric traditions and concepts of music-making and composing. This September, the independent scene will provide a variety of answers to the question of what a new transtraditional music might sound like. 
In the two editions of »Sonic Borderlines« at Acud, the Ghaith Al Shaar Trio and Marcinowska, Mayr and Pschichholz recombine and interpret historical styles from Arab and Central European music through a contemporary perspective (6th Sep). In the same series, Ensemble KNM Berlin and Yogeswaran Manickam, Shashwathi Jagadish and Jeremy Woodruff contrast 20th century classics with Carnatic music (25th Sep). Meanwhile, the Jeong Ga Ak Hoe festival (23rd+25rd Sep, ufaFabrik) brings early and new Korean music into harmony. The Kairos Quartett (25th Sep, Nicolaisaal + 30th Sep, Villa Elisabeth) and the modern art ensemble (30th Sep, Konzerthaus) are also inspired by (South) East Asian music. Kontraklang (10th Sep, St. Elisabethkirche) presents Will Guthrie's ensemble Nist-Nah and Pak Yan Lau's project Bakunawa, two contemporary European formations that expressly refer to gamelan in their music.


Recently, there has been a clearly noticeable tendency of music to get involved and take a stand concerning current social and political issues. Accordingly, these play a central role during this year's Month of Contemporary Music.

With the Journal Rappé, Keyti, who will give a workshop at KlangKunstBühne (3rd Sep), has developed a kind of citizen-art journalism with profound commentaries on political, social, and economic issues that connect art, activism, journalism. The Marc Sinan Company makes the history of forced labour in Berlin during the Nazi dictatorship audible in »Human Commodity« (17th Sep, Spreehalle Berlin), complemented by Sonic Bike tours by Kaffe Matthews (17th Sep, Nazi Forced Labour Documentation Centre).

With the second edition of the Y-E-S Fest (10th+11th Sep, Heizhaus), the Y-E-S collective questions the rationalised time regimes of the art business, focussing on the social aspect of Togetherness, without losing sight of musical discoveries: The festival will include workshops on the botany of Hildegard von Bingen and on choreographic activism in holiday areas as well as a headphone sound installation that deals with the architecture of public space. Marcela Lucatelli, Viola Yip, Jessie Marino, Ehsan Shayanfard, Lucien Danzeisen and many others will be taking part.

In general, there are numerous opportunities for PARTICIPATION within the framework of the Month of Contemporary Music. The Festival für selbstgebaute Musik (4th Sep, Holzmarkt), for example, would not work at all without the active involvement of the audience. The same is true for »Urban Miniatures«, for which DieOrdnungDerDinge invites passers-by to perceive everyday life in a new way (see Sound Walk Berlin). 


During the Month of Contemporary Music, Berlin’s independent scene will not only reflect on our relationship to each other, but also to our environment. 
For example, the Reanimation Orchestra (17th Sep, Floating University) enters into a dialogue with the screeching and flapping sound generators of the immediate surroundings of the storm water storage basin, while the concert installation »flowers & frequencies« by AnA Maria Rodriguez (24th Sep, FAHRBEREITSCHAFT) examines the acoustic relationships between bees and flowers, and »obitop:biotope« by and with Ulrike Brand (9th Sep, Spandau Citadel) is dedicated to the tense relationship between the place of death and the place of life in the Renaissance military structure, which is a nature reserve and home to a bat colony. Meanwhile, in »Totes Holz« (29th Sep, ausland), Lena Mahler and Christina Ertl-Shirley trace the hidden and revealed qualities of dead wood along with the ecological and artistic questions inscribed in it, turning their investigations into scores, audiovisual sculptures, and sound portraits.


These intergenerational formats are supplemented by offers that are aimed specifically at children. With »Sechse kommen durch die ganze Welt«, Gordon Kampe and LUX:NM tell a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm (23rd and 24th Sep, Atze Musiktheater) and maulwerker stage their project »The Extended Voice« (25th Sep, Ballhaus Ost) as a participatory piece for the whole family in a special edition of Schrumpf!.


Dependably offering new chamber music in a wide variety of forms are the concerts in the weekly Unerhörte Musik series every Tuesday, which for the month of September will feature Ensemble du Bout du Monde, Mangold, the duo Couck-Moore and Roberto Maqueda. In »Ringrauschen« (22nd Sep, Staatsoper), the composers of the Berlin-based association Atonale e. V. explore Wagner's music in several world premieres, performed by the Echo Ensemble. The Ensemble Berlin PianoPercussion poses the ontological questions of being, reality, and existence with works by Elena Mendoza, Kee-Yong Chong, Lin Yang and Karen Tanaka. Zinc and Copper move in a musically completely different direction with the continuation of the series Well Tuned Brass (29th+30th September, KM28). At the centre of the artistic work of the extraordinary brass ensemble is the multi-layered exploration of microtonality and different tuning systems.

The concert »Invocation« by Kymia Kermani and Alba Gentili-Tedeschi with works by Clémence de Grandval to Susanne Stelzenbach (2nd Sep, Konzerthaus), the »Rencontres« between Zafraan Ensemble and Ensemble l'Itinéraire (8th Sep, Theater im Delphi) as well as the concert for solo piano by Fidan Aghayeva-Edler (16th Sep, Ölberg-Kirche) all pay tribute to CONTEMPORARY female composers, addressing existing gender imbalances in this field.


Stefan Roigk combines text, sound, and graphics in »TRACES-OF (chapter 2)« (through 17th Sep, Spor Klübü). A similar approach is taken in the exhibition »Gegensprechanlage« (7th-9th Oct, Verein der Berliner Künstlerinnen 1867), curated by Daniela Fromberg, which deals with sound through installation, performance and graphics. Meanwhile, »Ipso Primero (Lostery 3)« by Clara Maïda (9th-11th Sep, errant sound) takes money and gambling as a thematic starting point.


During the Month of Contemporary Music, Berlin's speciality echtzeitmusik can’t be missed! The Monday concerts in the Improvised & Experimental series at Hošek Contemporary are one opportunity to experience this form of improvised music. The "A" Trio, the oldest Lebanese improvisation group, starts its European tour at Improvisation International (1st Sep, exploratorium), the ongoing series where ZIMT will also play later in the month (20th Sep, exploratorium), overlapping with another concert by SAWT OUT (20th Sep, Galilee Church). For the 57th edition of the Experimentik series, Andrea Parkins will meet Ignaz Schick (7th Sep, Tik). At biegungen im ausland (17th Sep), Alexandra Spence presents a new work that explores the relationships between bodies and water, real and imagined landscapes, sound and ecology, while Leider play fragile music that reflects the darker side of urban life.


Two festivals represent the stylistic range of electro-acoustic music. The REFLUX festival (14th+16th+18th Sep, various venues) juxtaposes contemporary positions such as those by Sachiko M and Tomoko Sauvage with classics by Charlemagne Palestine and Delia Derbyshire. Kontake '22: The Biennale for Electroacoustic Music and Sound Art (16th+22nd-25th Sep, AdK), complements and expands this discussion with ensemble mosaik, Lange/Berweck/Lorenz, Pony Says/Jessie Marino, Netta Weiser, Female Laptop Orchestra and many more.


Since 2016, the Long Night of Contemporary Organ Music (2nd Sep, Lutherkirche Spandau) has provided an insight into the diverse scene of current compositions for the ancient instrument. The young player Angela Metzger is dedicated to organ music in its entire spectrum: at her concert (10th Sep, Sophienkirche) she juxtaposes music from different epochs. In the concert »Vom unendlichen Atem« (24th Sep, Matthäus-Kirche) with works by Makiko Nishikaze and Stefan Lienenkämper for two organs and a feed, Lothar Knappe (organ) and Liana Narubina (positive organ) are interested in the specific double-choir situation and the accompanying spatial unfolding of tones, their complex movements and expansions.

And now? You now may be feeling dizzy with so much on offer, all the food for thought, and so many concerts to miss because choices must be made. We certainly are! We're overwhelmed too, not only by the many great opportunities in September, not all of which can be mentioned here – but also because we are a little proud. After all, the artistic and thematic diversity illustrates the innovative power and reflectiveness of an independent scene unlike any other in the world.