A rum evening this. The occasion was the Austrian premiere of AUN – The Beginning and the End of All Things, a new film by Austrian director Edgar Honetschläger for which Christian Fennesz had composed the soundtrack. Since the evening was advertised as a benefit for the Japanese Red Cross (the film being an Austrian-Japanese co-production), and since Fennesz would be there in person, attendance was a must. But, strangely for a benefit gig, the organizers had announced that there would only be 100 tickets available to the general public, and those for free. Since the Gartenbaukino, the largest cinema in Vienna, has 736 seats, that left a whopping 636 tickets reserved for people connected to the film. And since those 636 would also be given away free, it was hard to see where the fund-raising aspect would come in. Anyway, I expected there to be a massive run on those 100 tickets, and duly hammered my finger sore in a rush to call the reservations hotline.
In the event, I needn’t have worried. There were large numbers of empty seats on the night, both for the screening itself and for the Fennesz concert which followed. I would have expected the guitar/laptop wizard to generate the soundtrack live in real time as the film was shown, as is customary at such events, but it was not to be. Instead he played beautifully for an hour or so after the film, his performance a shimmering and, I thought, unusually aggressive (for him) soundscape hewn from those endless silvery riffs.
As for the fund-raising element, the audience were asked for voluntary donations. Fair enough, but I can’t help wondering whether more money would have been raised if the evening had been promoted as a regular film plus live performance under normal ticketing arrangements. And the film AUN, by the way, was a stinker. One of the most tediously incomprehensible art flicks I’ve ever had the misfortune to sit through, it made Nostalghia look like Carry On Up the Khyber.
I think the time of abstract electronica is basically a bit over. This music hasn’t really evolved, has it? It has become part of the art establishment, the artists travel from one (Inter)national festival to the next, which is good for them, but rather boring for the audiences. So much is always happening on the music market, but check the line-ups for Austrian festivals: Steirischer Herbst, Ars Electronica, go to Schwarzenbergplatz for the Morning Line Installation or opening performances-always the same people presenting the same music. Now they’ve given the previously wonderful Kontraste festival in Krems to some Dutch guys and what do they do? They present us more of the same. What a shame. The official art world is always behind new developments and is therefore a perfect home now for music that was important 20 years ago.
Well I haven’t really been following the Kontraste festival, although a quick look at the programme confirms that it is a very unimpressive line-up, KTL excepted. I think that with people like Fennesz and Rehberg the innovation comes more from the context in which the music is presented, rather than from the music itself. Collaborations, film and theatre work, site-specific performances – these are the ways in which these guys are focusing their creativity, making each new project different and helping to avoid that “heard it all before” feeling. Although saying that, I love what Fennesz does and could happily listen to him all day.