Tuesday, December 7, 2021

echtzeit@30: Q&A with Madga Mayas

Magda Mayas. (c) Cristina Marx/Photomusix

Explore Magda Mayas’ site here . Recent releases include Objects of Interest with Tina Douglas, Spoken / Unspoken with Miako Klein and Biliana Voutchkova, and Dinner Music with Chritoph Erb and Gerry Hemingway as well as a print-only volume of non-standard notations, Graphème , in collaboration with Tony Buck, Racha Gharbieh, Mazen Kerbaj, and Ute Wassermann and featuring additional work from Tomomi Adachi, Lotte Anker, Marina Cyrino, Tina Douglas, Phill Niblock, Jon Rose, and Nate Wooley.

What is echtzeitmusik to you? Is what might be considered echtzeitmusik connected through any approach, process, or sound result?

I think in the beginning Echtzeitmusik was very much associated with a reductionist approach, or a starting from scratch and opposing other present movements such as the (Berlin) Free Jazz scene. Many people still associate this with Echtzeit. I think the musicians who started using the label see it more as a phase in the beginning and that Echtzeit can encompass all experimental/improvised music approaches currently happening in Berlin - however, I think that defies the point of using a label in the first place. So personally I guess I would see it as an important and defining movement that happened in the past, which since then branched out into many different directions (along with or parallel to other movements and styles).

Is there something material - like demographics, affordability, or cultural practices - about Berlin that you think makes such a scene possible?

Affordability certainly played a big role for many decades, which drew artists into moving to Berlin. This is of course changing, like everywhere else. As a particular feature of the scene, I also experience the need to discuss and reflect on music/art among musicians and audiences, often right after a performance has happened, as well as warm support among artists, who frequently come and see each others concerts/performances and help each other out. There are still many venues, established and new/temporary ones, where one can try things out, even residency type performances, where artists are asked to curate a couple of days (see Autopsi Pohl) - I find that quite special and necessary. Pre Covid there were also many house concerts happening - meaning a relaxed setting in peoples living rooms and backyards, to experience music. I have organized many of those over many years together with Tony Buck, as have Andrea Neumann, Ute Wassermann, Mazen Kerbaj and many others. Of course, house concerts happen in other cities too though.

Are there any recordings, labels, venues, musicians, or other participants you would like to shout out for cultivating the scene, or that you feel are essential to it? And is there a recording of you or your work that you feel is particularly representative of the scene?

Venues: KM28, Autopsi Pohl and ausland are among my favourites.

There are so many musicians, hard to make suggestions so I will just mention musicians who moved relatively recently, who are shaping and changing the scene: Marina Cyrino, Mathias Koole, Tony Elieh.

My duo Spill, with Tony Buck, started here in 2002. We released 4 recordings.

As smallest functional unit organized Graphème, I imagine you saw a variety of compositions from across the world and I wonder if you recognized any throughlines or even tenuous similarities in compositions or notations from the Berlin scene.

In the first edition we specifically did not include Berlin composers (other than ourselves), as we wanted to introduce the project as an international publication. Of course it being a first edition we also introduced our own work, all living in Berlin and being part of the scene here. I don’t think our 4 scores (Kerbaj, Wassermann, Buck, Mayas) are similar - quite the opposite. And I guess that’s also a problem with using labels such as Echtzeit - if it is supposed to include the totality of experimental/improvised music in Berlin it becomes a redundant label - unless all its meant to be is to represent diversity. One issue with this project was to bridge composed and improvised music scenes, which partly already happens in Berlin, however, one can still feel cultural and financial divisions.


- Interview conducted by Keith Prosk

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