Thank to all partners and supports over the last Five years, we could not make it with out you!
During the past period, the primary focus of the European-Egyptian Contemporary Music Society (EECMS) has been on developing and implementing projects that aim at bringing together Arab and European culture on several different levels. The starting point of these projects is the consideration of connecting the traditional Arab cultural heritage with the musical language of contemporary music: on the one hand, this approach enables Arab listeners to comprehend the achievements of European Modernism in greater intellectual and emotional depth through their connection to elements of their own cultural heritage; on the other hand, it encourages European composers to deeply engage in Arab music and culture. This coming to terms with an aesthetics and a world view that, unlike e.g. those of the Far East, have met with little response in modern composition yet, will enable the involved composers to adapt this completely new material to their composition practice. There is a wide range of musical possibilities available to choose from, from the integration of classical Arab pitch spaces, music theory, and traditional forms of improvisation to the exploration of the possibilities of Arab instruments.
The project Caprice presently focuses on the integration of the Oud (Arab lute) in works of contemporary music. With the kind support of the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation, two commissions of pieces for Oud and ensemble could initially be awarded, one to Swiss composer Oscar Bianchi, the other one to Syrian composer Zaid Jabri and expected a third to Dutch composer Wilbert Bulsink. The works will be premiered in April 2016 in the course of the Cairo Contemporary Music Days and the Egyptian Contemporary Music ensemble under the button of the Swiss conductor Elena Schwarz.
In turn, in the course of the project Negmeyat, the works of Egyptian popular poet Ahmed Fouad Negm constitute the vantage point of currently five contemporary pieces. Born in 1929 in the Nil delta into a humble home, after the premature death of his father, Negm was drawn to Suez where he scratched a living as a farm worker and with temporary work on the military camps of the British occupational forces. From early on, his sociocritical attitude seems to have led to conflicts with local authorities – for it was a prison guard who had initially encouraged him to submit his vernacular poems to a national competition, which he won instantly. This initiation proved to be an omen: in the times to come, Negm was to write the bulk of his poems as a political prisoner. Throughout the 60 years as an active writer, time and again, Negm’s astute and humorous criticism of social inequalities and political repression would incur the wrath of the officials. His relentlessness and his original and unbowable esprit in spite of all setbacks made him one of the most famous popular poets of the Middle East. The project Negmeyat was created in his honour. Five pieces for ensemble will reflect on Negm’s work, composed in different musical styles by Egyptian composers of several different generations.
Heritage & Modernity is the headline of the academic section of these projects. In the course of the program, composers and musicologists will on the one hand discuss the relationship between different musical traditions and European Modernism, and on the other hand shed some light on the significance of the cultural heritage from an artistic and a socio-political viewpoint. Moreover, several invited composers and some composers who have proactively approached us will be given the opportunity to interact with the involved Egyptian and Arab musicians, to hear top-notch Arab concerts, and to work individually with some of the best traditional instrumentalists in Egypt. All guests will be invited to participate in the roundtables and seminars and to present their own advances in their respective fields. Especially valuable will be the exchange with composers Oscar Bianchi and Zaid Jabri, whose works in a way constitute first approaches towards a consolidation that can faciliate the introduction of the unusual subject matter to young composers, and who will mentor the development of their new compositional ideas.
Covering four days, the event is planned for late April 2016, parallel to the Cairo Contemporary Music Days. An international call will follow in October.
Main Partners of the project are Gaudeamus Muziekweek and the Lithuanian Ensemble Network.