Composer Bnaya Halperin-Kaddari has been commissioned to write the new spielBar-piece for Linkage!, a music educational programme by Ensemble Musikfabrik. Two groups of pupils will rehearse and premiere the piece “Playing with our Hearts” on November 3rd, during the introduction of the concert series “Musikfabrik im WDR 72“. On our blog, Bnaya has answered some questions about the piece.
You have been commissioned to write a piece for the new project Linkage!. What is the main difference of this commission compared to others?
In recent years I began using more and more the material conditions of the commissioned piece in order to drive the process. Questions like: Which bodies are going to perform the music? In what kind of acoustic space? Or at what time of the day? These are some of the tools I use in the development. So actually, there is no big difference in approach between my previous projects and this one.
The only requirement was, the composition has to be “spielBar” (playable), so it can be performed by participants without prior instrumental knowledge. How is your piece “spielBar”?
‘Playing with our Hearts’ is a participatory musical practice for living players and papers, and makes use of the fact that we each pulsate in quasi-periodic rhythm i.e our constant heart beat. Sonifying the different heart pulses of the players by tapping them on pieces of de-crumbled paper creates a (poly) rhythmic texture that changes over time. So all you need in order to play this music is to have some curious players who would take each other’s pulses and tap what they sense.
Please tell us something about the creative process: How did
you approach the piece? What was especially challenging?
For me playing is listening is playing. Both are active processes that develop over time. So much of our practice as musicians is about sharpening our senses, tuning into very subtle cues from our bodies and our surroundings. I wanted to propose a situation in which a transition from a habitual way of listening to a more focused listening-sensing takes place. Taking someone’s pulse is quite an intimate situation that puts the pulse-giver in a vulnerable position. But the pulse-giver is an active listener as well: Their beat might be affected by what they hear. And thus, the fixed roles of ‘who plays what’, or even ‘who plays whom’ become blurred, a process which I feel is important in developing empathy and enhancing our listening capacity.
“Playing with our Hearts” is the title of your piece which students will premiere on November 3rd at WDR Funkhaus. What does the title tell us about the composition?
Popular culture’s memory is filled with the theme of playing, in a negative sense, with someone’s emotions. I wanted to take this cry – “Don’t play with my heart!” – and flip its polarity, creating a positive situation in which we all play with our hearts as instruments. Not in an emotional manipulatory way, but as a tapping into the constant life pulse that is always there, but only rarely addressed.