The Ashgate Research Companion to Experimental Music: The Interviews

Posted by Maxine Cook, Marketing Assistant

This week, James Saunders has published his interview with Antoine Beuger.


Interview with Antoine Beuger

Antoine Beuger’s suggestion that the subject of music is the pervasive noise of the world and that its form is cut out from this infinite diversity is perhaps surprising for a sounding result that is permanently on the verge of disappearing. The extreme dilution of sound in his work emphasises both its savoured value and the importance of space as its receptacle. Calm inaction is the norm, with sound and momentary action the exception. Listening to performances of his music, it is easy to forget what is being experienced: when sounds reappear after a long period of silence, they have an impact which is born only of necessity. Sounds also rarely appear together intentionally, almost always in isolation to further reinforce their identity: this is music of the utmost clarity. Yet within each sound Beuger suggests there are infinite possibilities, so that everything can be contained in the brief moments of activity which characterize his work. Structurally, his music from the 1990s is either rigorously ordered with a grid at its heart or very open, with the minimum necessary instructions as to how to project sounds. These approaches are linked: freedom out of precision, and precision out of freedom. More recently he has begun exploring the ontology of ensemble size in a series of pieces for specified numbers of players, such as dedekind duos (2003) in which two performers play specified pitches as long quiet tones, separated by enough time to breathe, or much longer, carefully listening to each other. From these pieces fundamental questions concerning the nature of separation and togetherness emerge, as does the serendipity of coincidence, focusing on how people interact with each other and project sound in performance. I was introduced to Beuger’s work by Manfred Werder, and we finally met up in Witten in April 2002 in a hotel breakfast room surrounded by most of the German contemporary music establishment, in town for the Neue Musiktage. Antoine showed me some scores, producing them from a beautiful well-used leather briefcase, and we had an interesting morning discussing each other’s work. I have been fascinated by his music ever since: for me it is a benchmark to which other music must be compared. The interplay of action and inaction, of sound and silence in carefully weighted and understated amounts continually makes me evaluate my own practice, and the ideas behind his work cut to the heart of the nature of music and making art.

The interview was conducted by email between 1 December 2003 – 12 March 2004.


Read the full interview here.

The Ashgate Research Companion to Experimental MusicAll the interviews from James Saunders can be found in The Ashgate Research Companion to Experimental Music.

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