Photo: Ultima Oslo Contemporary Music Festival / Henrik Beck
Design: NODE Berlin Oslo
I spent Norway’s Constitution Day at the landfill in Asunción, capital of Paraguay, home to the young members of The Recycled Instruments Orchestra of Cateura. Playing the violin is not the most obvious pastime for the inhabitants there; nevertheless, using instruments made from recycled waste, this orchestra has be come a cornerstone in the community, and for many it has become a vital part of their lives. For me, this says a lot about the necessity of music and of the power of thinking outside the box.
The Ultima Festival is a forum for unconventional musical ideas, and the theme for this year’s festival highlights people who find alternative ways to create new forms of musical expression. In an individualised, digitised society in which the outsider position is desirable to the point that collective individualism and subculture are regarded as brands, it’s interesting to study this role from a musicalhistorical perspective. In many cases this leads us to twentiethcentury United States, where composers such as Harry Partch, Conlon Nancarrow, and – later – Alvin Lucier created their highly original works on the outskirts of both American society and central European tradition. During Ultima, a special programme is devoted to the ideas be hind the music. For those with a particular interest, Ultima Academy focuses on the relationship between theory and practice in art music. We believe it’s important to ask our selves “Why?” Why? Because that’s what moves music forward.
Lars Petter Hagen