Free improv at S.M.A.K. ✨ Brand new festival

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Published on 08/02/24
Music and art make a good marriage. Citadelic, S.M.A.K. and Ha Concerts went in search of possibilities and together present the brand new festival Instant, for improvised music. 'Instant' can be taken literally: only in the morning at breakfast the musicians choose with whom and in which of the many halls and corridors of the S.M.A.K. they will play. To deviate from that - if the moment so decides - later in the day, cheerfully, that speaks. We spoke with inspirers Rogé Verstraete (Citadelic, El Negocito) and Wim Wabbes (Ha Concerts).

An interview by Stijn Buyst

Rogé Verstraete: 'The idea was to create a kind of trail, where people could go from one act to another. I thought Ha Concerts and S.M.A.K. were the ideal partners for that.'

Wim Wabbes: 'Philippe Van Cauteren of the S.M.A.K. is also very much into music; he is a very active concert-goer. That's how I met him once when I visited an Anthony Braxton concert with Susana Santos Silva (Portuguese trumpeter and improviser, sb). Susana and Philippe got talking and even before the evening was over, Philippe had arranged for Susana to play the next day - unannounced - at the S.M.A.K., between the works of Berlinde de Bruyckere and in the Floraliënhal. Philippe is hard at work on the relationship between improvisational music and visual art. He has also worked with Joachim Badenhorst, another musician with a very strong link to visual work. Many of the artists who come to perform at Instant are equally active in the art world, Peter Jacquemyn and Han Bennink for example.'

Anyway, historically that music was often played in art galleries and artists' lofts. 

Rogé: 'Of course: the majority of improvisers, and certainly the bigger ones still often play in art galleries.'

Wim: 'We aim for the atmosphere of a happening. Since we are programming in a museum, part of the audience will also be a nonstage audience. And the musicians will move throughout the halls, giving a nomadic aspect to the festival.'

Rogé: 'We're organizing the festival on Record Store Day on purpose, by the way, to link with that audience as well: there will be a market with stalls from record labels.' 

When Gavin Bryars played with his ensemble at MSK in December, that music worked perfectly in the acoustics of the Hemicycle Hall, but nothing of Bryars' binding lyrics could be understood. I assume Bryars had chosen those pieces based on the acoustics present. Rogé, you have been organizing concerts at the S.M.A.K. with Citadelic for some time now, what is your experience with the acoustics there?

Rogé: 'They are difficult spaces lol, but those musicians are so good that they can play with the sound of such a space. When Evan Parker (British reed player, sb) played at the S.M.A.K., I wanted to dampen the space a bit with cloths, but he explicitly asked me not to because he liked to play with the reverb of that hall. By the way, we don't yet know what the spaces will look like. The plan is to get all the musicians together at breakfast in the morning and then see who will play with whom. Then it will also become clear who is going to play where.'

Wim: 'Musicians, I think, also see those acoustics as an extra musician to play with. Just as they establish a relationship with their fellow players, they do the same with the sound of the architecture.'

Rogé: 'At that time, by the way, the S.M.A.K. is also hosting a sound installation by artist Tarek Atoui. I'm very curious to see how the musicians will interact with his work.'

Many unique combinations are likely to arise at that breakfast.

Rogé: 'Most of these musicians know each other, yet they often haven't played together. There are some you would expect, but nothing could be further from the truth. It's quite exciting, but most of all I hear a lot of enthusiasm. Barry Guy (British bassist, sb) for example, a big man, was immediately very enthusiastic about joining us.'

Wim: 'I think that because of this nomadic nature, things will happen that we cannot possibly foresee. Except for the pianists and drummers, all musicians can choose to wander through the halls with their instrument and organically join a duo, say. That could produce very nice results.' 

I can imagine that not all drummers stay in place. Pakweg Han Bennink I can see pulling his sticks on walks. If I were a curator, I'd keep an eye on that Broodthaers mussel pot anyway.

Wim: 'For Han Bennink, indeed, everything is percussion. On the other hand, plastic art can just as easily serve as a score, of course. I remember a concert where Fred Frith used pictures as the score for an improvisation. After that performance, Lukas Pairon of Ictus Ensemble came to me: he had to and would get his hands on that composition.

When I showed him that it was just pictures of walls and structures, he couldn't believe his eyes. Sometimes instant improvised music can turn out so perfectly that it looks like it was written down exactly the way it was. '

Instant Festival

New: strolling between visual art and impro / at the S.M.A.K.

Start: 12:00 Tickets in S.M.A.K. museum



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