The Skaņu Mežs festival for adventurous music (Riga, Latvia) will hold a free entry opening event on 5 October at 6pm at the Art museum RIGA BOURSE (6 Doma laukums, Riga). The line-up includes cross-genre duo Subtle Degrees, avant-folk group Circuit Des Yeux, bagpipe player, improviser Erwan Keravec and composer Candido Lima with a performance of his electro-acoustic music, as well as a performance of Edison Denisov’s music. The concerts will be preceded by a panel discussion on experimental music scenes in countries that have been under totalitarian regimes.
The latter two of the aforementioned performances are part of the international project Um-Scene (Unearthing the Music) that aims to shed more light onto the history of experimental music in countries that have experienced non-democratic regimes in the past century. The two performances will be preceded with a panel discussion, featuring Russian journalist Artemy Troitsky (Playboy, Radio Svoboda, Eho Moskvi), once described by The New York Times as “the leading Soviet rock critic”, British journalist Chris Bohn, who has written for such magazines as The Wire, Melody Maker and NME, Latvian musicologist Boriss Avramecs and German music researcher and cultural networker Alexander Pehlemann. The discussion will be moderated by Latvian poet and journalist Ilmārs Šlāpins.
Haley Fohr is a vocalist, composer and singer-songwriter based in Chicago, Illinois. Her musical endeavours focus around our human condition, and her 10-year career as Circuit des Yeux has grown into one of America’s most successful efforts to connect the personal to the universal. She is most distinctly identified by her 4-octave voice and unique style of 12-string guitar. Her mysterious Jackie Lynn project landed her on the cover of Wire Magazine in August of 2016. Her recent works include an Original Soundtrack for Charles Bryant’s silent film Salomé (1923), commissioned by Opera North, and a critically acclaimed 2017 album Reaching for Indigo, released on Drag City Records. The project’s most recent two albums have been rated 80.0 and 8.2 out of 10 by the music criticism platform Pitchfork, the website also suggesting Circuit Des Yeux’s album Reaching for Indigo to be a part of the most recent wave of music that is „pushing folk music toward more experimental territory”.
Subtle Degrees is a new two-musician ensemble consisting of Travis Laplante (tenor saxophone) and Gerald Cleaver (drums). The duo’s uncategorizable sound evokes everything from contemporary classical music, avant-garde jazz, minimalism, technical metal, and sacred world music. Laplante is also the founder/composer of saxophone quartet Battle Trance and the ensemble Little Women. A Dance That Empties, the duo’s debut album, is the culmination of a very long musical relationship. In 2001, when he was only 18 years old, Laplante played a concert at New York’s Knitting Factory, then a pre-eminent mecca for adventurous music of all kinds. Cleaver was in the audience, and came up to Laplante afterwards, handed him his phone number and said they should play together sometime. They soon did, “and I felt a very intimate and spiritual connection with Gerald that feels more alive than ever today,” Laplante says. “I’ve learned a tremendous amount from Gerald and have long considered him one of my favourite living improvisers.” Inspired by the longer durational forms of spiritual ceremonies, A Dance that Empties is a continuous journey that unfolds over 43 minutes, with musical motifs that foreshadow, recur, and evolve.
Erwan Keravec is a Breton piper (Scottish bagpipes), whose eclectic path ranges from traditional to contemporary music and improvisation. This encompasses playing solo pieces written for him by such contemporary composers as: Heiner Goebbels, Wolfgang Mitterer, Oscar Bianchi, Oscar Strasnoy, Philippe Leroux, José-Manuel Lopez Lopez…; leading a piper quartet, SONNEURS, playing pieces written by Wolfgang Mitterer, Susumu Yoshida, Samuel Sighicelli, Pierre-Yves Macé; free improvisation with Mats Gustafsson, Beñat Achiary, Audrey Chen, Julien Desprez, Jean-Luc Cappozzo, etc.; and writing and playing music for modern dance companies (Boris Charmatz, Emmanuelle Huynh, Gaëlle Bourges, Mickaël Phelippeau).
Portuguese composer Cândido Lima (b. 1939) studied among other places at the National Conservatory in Lisbon, and later took a doctorate in Musical Aesthetics from the University of Paris/ Sorbonne with a thesis supervised by the composer Yannis Xenakis. He attended international courses on piano, analysis and composition in Portugal, Spain, Holland, Germany and France with Nadia Boulanger, Aloys and Alphonse Kontarsky, Gérard Frémy, Stockhausen, Kagel, Ligeti, Pousseur, Boulez, Xenakis and others. He studied analysis and orchestra conducting with Gilbert Amy and Michel Tabachnik and attended further training and courses on electronic music, computers and computerised music at the University of Paris VIII / Vincennes, Paris I-Il / Panthéon-Sorbonne, in CEMAMu and IRCAM. In 1978 he was nominated Professor of Composition at the National Conservatory in Lisbon. There will be performed his works Oceanos, Moment-Landscape, Etras and Optic Music.
Edison Vasilievich Denisov (1929 – 1996) was a Russian composer in the so-called Underground, Anti-Collectivist, alternative or nonconformist division of Soviet music. He began his own study of scores that were difficult to obtain in the USSR at that time, including music by composers ranging from Mahler and Debussy to Boulez and Stockhausen. He wrote a series of articles giving a detailed analysis of different aspects of contemporary compositional techniques and at same time actively experimented as a composer, trying to find his own way. In 1979, at the Sixth Congress of the Union of Soviet Composers, he was blacklisted as one of Khrennikov’s Seven for unapproved participation in a number of festivals of Soviet music in the West. Tikhon Khrennikov, Stalinist leader of the Union of Soviet Composers, called their music “pointlessness… and noisy mud instead of real musical innovation”. There will be performed his Trio for flute (Ilona Meija), bassoon (Jānis Semjonovs) and piano (Herta Hansena).
Erwan Keravec is a 2019 artist of the SHAPE platform for adventurous music and audiovisual art, co-funded by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union.
Skaņu Mežs festival is supported by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Latvia, the State Culture Capital Foundation, the Municipality of Riga, the Trust for Mutual Understanding, the Danish Cultural Institute as well as iRobot, Valmiermuiža and the Red Bull Music Academy. Skaņu Mežs is also a member of the SHAPE platform for innovative music and audiovisual art, supported by the „Creative Europe” program of the European Union, and I.C.A.S., an international network of festivals, devoted to adventurous sound.