“Only a handful of specially chosen, virtuosic professional musicians and exceptional talents can play new music” – Ensemble Musikfabrik strives to change this widespread prejudice towards the playability of contemporary music with its program “spielBar.”

As a matter of fact, composers such as Karlheinz Stockhausen, John Cage, Earle Brown, Vinko Globokar and James Tenney have occupied themselves with alternative notations systems that use not only musical instruments to create sounds, but also place everyday objects, such as branches, stones and paper, the voice, or the individual’s body, in the center of their works. Even though written with the intention to create art or “serious” music, the ability to read music or play an instrument is not an absolute necessity in order to perform these pieces.

On the basis of these works, participants in Ensemble Musikfabrik’s spielBar are encouraged to develop creative and intellectual musical skills, as opposed to playing technique. Under the direction of the ensemble soloists, amateur and hobby musicians, as well as musical novices, come together during the workshops for a musical collaboration. All the works that are rehearsed in the sessions have a very open conception, and give the participants the possibility to become deeply involved in the process of compositional development and in their own creativity.

The defining background of the workshops is the idea of social exchange. The formatting style of the title spielBar* is also intended to be understood programmatically – a spielBar is not only a place to try out the unusual, but also a meeting place to round off a day of new experiences with new friends.

Even though the program is primarily for novices, artistic aspiration is still the focal point. Every composition used in spielBar would also place high demands on professional musicians and requires a conscientious realization. All the pieces to be worked on during the workshops have been performed by professional musicians in concert and are therefore absolutely to be characterized as “art music.” The creative demands of the pieces maintain an artistic caliber and a performance praxis that go far beyond a purely music educational event, and encourage a sensory desire to make music.

In order for the concept to reach as wide an audience as possible, a spielBar website is being designed where selected works will be offered free of charge. Through an open, playfully accessible and interactive conceptual design aimed at a wide variety of target groups, an opportunity will be provided within the virtual community to continue to exchange – online as well as offline – over musical experiences (videos and commentary) and enthusiasm for the playability of New Music.

*There is a nice bit of German wordplay in spielBar: “spielbar” means “playable,” but the capitalization of the letter “B” adds an extra twist. The direct English translation would be “playAble,” putting the emphasis on everyone’s innate ability to make music. The German “spielBar,” however, adds the idea of a social meeting point, a place to gather with friends and enjoy the moment – cheers!

spielBar Workshop © Janet Sinica
spielbar Workshop
spielBar Workshop © Janet Sinica
spielBar Workshop © Janet Sinica

The pictures were taken during the workshop with Fördergesellschaft Kulturelle Bildung e.V. – supported by Landesmusikrat NRW.