Bus stereo

The Magma programme’s least visible feature was perhaps the most genius one: A bus travelling through the Nordics, picking up composition students en route to Berlin. Read Nicholas H. Møllerhaug’s closing report from Magma 2002.

Christian Blom og Jørgen Kalstrøm

In the aftermath of Magma, one can conclude that this has been a massive undertaking. Rolf Gupta, Gunda Djupvik and Ganer Skaug deserve credits for the effort needed to literally move the whole Nordic contemporary music scene to Berlin. Indirectly, this also involves one of Magma’s minor negative aspects.

A setting of Magma’s dimensions involves lots of giving and taking. Moving a festival to another country and another setting represents a whole new set of infrastructure challenges, a fact that was occasionally evident at this year’s Magma. For the future, one should strive for an infrastructure based more on the premises of the musicians and artists. Super-professional consultants such as the Magma-employed Artedefakt are important, but if one is to mobilise the local scene (which can be hesitant to embrace super-professional cultural profiling) it’s important to cater to the locals’ preferences. It’s a question of conveying a message concerning the Nordics and its composers to a local audience and get those people to show up at the concerts. Had the POING and Lasse Marhaug concerts been profiled correctly to a local audience, more than a thousand would have showed up at the Tränenpalast. These two, and Marhaug in particular, have already gained an audience down here in Berlin.

The enormous Nordic experimental underground scene must also be better profiled at the next Magma festival. One must also avoid at all cost a Crown Prince at the opening ceremonies. The royal presence was one of the main conversation topics among experimentally minded music friends here in the German capital. The notion was that it’s the kind of festivity the bourgeois can adhere to while the majority of the population turns its back to the event. In my first dispatches from Magma I was positive to His Royal Highness Crown Prince Haakon of Norway’s attendance, but now I’m reconsidering my statements (at least a little bit). As an alternative, one could settle for a programme separated into two parts where the “the other group’s” rhetoric is also present.

One of Magma’s best events was a pan-Nordic element that was one of the festival’s least visible. A genius and simple initiative taken by among others Ivar Frounberg from the Norwegian State Academy of Music, led to a bus travelling through the Nordics, picking up composition students as passengers en route to Berlin. A historic parallel to the legendary hippie-buses which travelled the continent during the sixties and seventies. Almost.

According to the travellers themselves, this was one of the most effective parts of Magma’s programme. More than anything it gave poor students a chance to experience the legendary German capital, fantastic music, camaraderie (a much better phrase than network building) and excellent masterclasses.

The Bergen-based Grieg Academy’s Christian Blom and Jørgen Kalstrøm were among the Magma visiting students and both were full of praise for the initiative. A bus full of composers is an example of an event that can contribute to a better festival in the future. It’s a long journey though, maybe a bit too long for some. As this piece is published at ballade.no and mic.no/english the poor students are still in their bus bound for home. Let us all send some sympathetic thoughts to the poor souls that are well on their way on a 24-hour ride.

I wonder what’s playing on the bus stereo…

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