While what we broadly perceive as ‘new music’ originated in post-war Europe, it has not remained an exclusively European affair for very long. Having been enriched from early on by the integration of Asian and African traditional music, its grand scope of composing and notation techniques nowadays allows for rhythmic complexity and the inclusion of all kinds of instrumentation, thus enabling composers to deal with musical traditions and brands of musical thinking regardless of their origin. Contemporary music has thus increasingly become a medium apt to reflect on the changing perspectives both on the heritage and values of a culture and on its future outlook. Moreover, it can give a form to wholly new prospects that do not always correspond to, but rather challenge the views and attitudes of its recipients. When Japanese and Korean artists took their plunge into the field, at first through massive exchange programmes, they were able to appropriate the paradigms and techniques of European contemporary classical music to their own traditions and musical values.
With regard not only to the rich cultural legacy of the country and the great variety of musical styles employed there up until today, but especially to the recent political developments in Egypt and the Arab world, we believe that it is high time to stimulate a similar process in Egypt. Thus, in spite of the unstable situation in Egypt at the time, we have decided to start an initiative dedicated to Egyptian musical production after the 25th of January Revolution in 2011 – ON 25. We were astounded by the willingness of so many cultural institutions from Europe and the Mediterranean region, and even the Egyptian Ministry of Culture and some of the most prestigious venues in Egypt, to support our initiative, and have never come to regret our decision.
With ON 25, we are proud to present a number of innovative musical projects by Egyptian composers that reflect Egypt’s cultural heritage as well as the socio-political change in the region, thus creating a link between tradition and modernity. All of them were written after January 25, 2011, commissioned by the EECMS and its partners. The pieces are successively presented at our festivals in Egypt as well as at major European and Asian festivals and venues by members of the Egyptian Contemporary Music Ensemble (ECME) in collaboration with acclaimed European ensembles. Five works have already been performed in the course of our Egyptian/Arab composers concerts at the Festival der 1000 Töne (Augsburg, Germany) in November 2011 and the Cairo Contemporary Music Days in May 2012. We expect to present a total of at least ten new productions until 2013, including an audio-visual projects, and to release two ON 25 CD productions.
It is of vital importance for the artistic development we wish for that Egyptian artists get in touch with the international scene. An intuitive understanding of one’s own musical heritage as well as its limits can often only be achieved through an experimental approach, and
interaction between musicians with differering cultural backgrounds proves extremely helpful. The EECMS is happy that musicians from all over Europe participate in the performances of the new works and exchange their ideas with the Egyptian musicians and composers, and uses every opportunity to arrange formal and informal meetings between artists from Egypt and other countries. We are thus proud to present a piece by French composer Thierry Pécou for an Egyptian traditional music group in the course of our initiative as well.