A weekend in December, a stage in Berlin-Mitte and 14 musical performances oscillating between the poles of revitalized classical music, electroacoustic pop and folk form the coordinates of a music festival that is so thrilling, so coherent and so much more uptodate than the otherwise long-unquestioned mode of festivals that one can speak of a potentially groundbreaking musical event for Berlin.
André de Ridder – the Berlin-based conductor and founder of the trailblazing and internationally acclaimed stargaze ensemble – found himself wondering why in Germany, and especially in Berlin, there was not a curated festival in the spirit of All Tomorrow’s Parties (ATP): Rather than being a mere musical showcase, such a festival could seek moments of epiphany, illumination and enlightenment – requiring an arc that is larger, carefully curated and not clouded by compromise.
At first glance, it appears that very different artistic positions will collide at the Volksbühne on 11, 12 and 13 December. Of course, on closer inspection they turn out to be deliberately assembled puzzle pieces, which together form a great musical panorama. The special thing about stargaze Weekender is its ability to relate to today’s pop listening habits, while at the same time challenging them. It should be mentioned that the London indie label Transgressive Records recently signed stargaze under contract – but as what? As a band? As a classical contemporary ensemble? None of these terms can precisely describe it. Beyond here lies the unknown.
Founded two and a half years ago, the collective of curators and musicians is internationally well-connected in the pop and electronic worlds and performs in various formations. They are heralded from the Boiler Room (“renegade classical ensemble”) to the Barbican in London, to Amsterdam’s Muziekgebouw, where stargaze did not merely perform with Terry Riley, but indeed acted as a source of ideas and innovation. Now in the context of its Weekender, stargaze returns to Berlin, bringing together the loose ends and existing energy lines of the recent interventions in concert.
The finale on Sunday (13 December) is devoted to potentially groundbreaking collaborations – the sensational Danish punk-noir band Iceage, whose sound swings dynamically between The Gun Club, the Bad Seeds and Joy Division, will perform in an unfamiliar dialogue with stargaze for the first time in Berlin. This clash of two worlds promises an intense, inspiring listening experience: the hypnotic-existentialist urgency of Elias Bender Rønnenfelt’s vocals with the artificial, instrumental contribution of stargaze. It is as if Alexander Kluge’s famous phrase about the value of “using the Subway Map of Brooklyn to find one’s way in the Harz Mountains” is transferred to the reality of the stargaze concert stage. The musicians of stargaze and Rønnenfelt first got to know each other this year at the Haldern Pop Festival. De Ridder: “stargaze is characterized by the fact that we cooperate with all kinds of musicians.
So on this evening the band Villagers from Ireland will perform with stargaze, and together we will also play new arrangements of the American composer Nico Muhly.” David Longstreth from Dirty Projectors is another of the evening’s potentially groundbreaking collaboration partners, here with a piece entitled “Michael Jordan” for double string quartet. Longstreth thus takes his place along the likes of Felix Mendelssohn on the extremely short list of composers to have written pieces for this instrumentation. De Ridder: “He always names his pieces after athletes who are so charged in the pop context that something happens to the music, as if it becomes more accessible as a result.“