Expect the unexpected when this Berlin
collective makes its hcmf// debut.
This year hcmf// welcomes the Berlin Splitter Orchester to the festival for the first time with two concerts: on Friday 27 November they team up with George Lewis to perform Creative Construction SetTM, a new work composed by Lewis for the ensemble. Then on Saturday 28 November they head to Bates Mill for Splitter Music, a concert devised specially for hcmf//, to be broadcast live on BBC Radio 3.
Founded in 2010 by Clare Cooper, Clayton Thomas and Gregor Hotz, the Splitter Orchester arose from Berlin’s diverse, experimental and improvisational ‘Echtzeitmusik’ scene. With 10 nationalities represented, the Orchester has developed its own work processes so that each member contributes creatively as a composer-performer.
American-born Liz Allbee (trumpet and objects) reveals more about the Orchester’s aims, inner workings and plans for hcmf//…
Tell us about the ‘Echtzeitmusik’ scene and what made it distinctive. What relation does the Splitter Orchester have to this wider scene?
Echtzeitmusik emerged in Berlin in the mid-90s. In the last 10 years the city, and the scene, have grown and changed tremendously. Splitter is the product of both the influence and legacy of Echtzeitmusik, as well as of more recent composer-performers from different places in the world who live and play in the city and who have influenced new shifts and changes in musical culture(s).
In part the Orchester represents the spirit of Echtzeit, particularly in its sense of a non-institutionalised musical experimentalism and disregard for strict categorisation, as well as a heady individual-collectivism.
Has the Orchester evolved since the time of its creation, and if so, in what ways?
It is always evolving, though not in the direction of clearly defined or desired goals (or if so, many different ones for sure). The consciousness of the possibilities continues to expand.
What unique qualities do the individual members bring to the collective?
What is special about Berlin as a place in which to come together and create?
Well, what has been special was the affordability, for one thing, which has allowed Berlin to be one of the few places where musicians could live, rehearse, gig and experiment without having to work a 40 hour week on top of it all. That seems to be getting more difficult.
What role does rehearsing play in your collaborative creative process? How do you use it as a way to avoid, rather than build, sonic habits?
We do it as we can, though it’s often difficult to get all of us together at once. I personally don’t know if habits should be avoided straight out of the gate. Maybe it’s just good to recognise them and see if they can be utilised, structurally, formally, compositionally. At any rate just becoming aware of them can change them. Additionally, one person’s habit can be described by another as a part of her voice.
How does one approach ‘composing’ for the Splitter Orchester?
Exercises and ideas are verbally communicated generally. Afterwards it is written down as clearly as possible, with the idea of repeating or building upon in the future. Communication of ideas is most often oral.
How much of a two-way process is it?
It is a 24 way process! Though it helps that each exercise has its own leader.
What does an external composer offer that you don’t already have within the collective?
A very fresh approach and new insight into our own ways of working. Learning and growing, musically and personably.
Which past collaborations do you think of as having been the most successful, and why?
We are just beginning to widen the scope so that our own members are individual composers, in orchestral pieces which we perform, for example Werner Decker and filmmaker Guillaume Cailleau’s piece at the Akademie der Kunst this past spring.
Additionally we are working on more multimedia pieces, for example a new video and music commission that Mario de Vega will compose for/with the Orchestra next year.
Thinking about George Lewis’s Creative Construction SetTM… What kinds of things will be happening during the piece?
Intentionality and unpredictability – social-musical structure in the moment and through time.
What decisions will be made?
Individual and collective ones, autonomous ones, generous ones.
What ‘rules’ or framework have you decided upon?
That’s cheating, watch/see the piece!
Has George Lewis presented you with any challenges to your existing ways of creating?
Sure, it’s always a challenge to be presented with something new, to begin with. But the process has been a wonderful nudge to realise even more possibilities within this group framework of composing. It’s been a true pleasure.