Ultraschall Berlin

In the course of these two decades, the festival has gone through many metamorphoses, and has nevertheless remained true to his basic idea. From the very beginning, Ultraschall Berlin was a festival that integrated recently created works into a context of music history that goes back to the beginnings of the post-war avant-garde, i.e. the festival’s programmatic range now covers a period of more than 70 years. Although the number of world premieres and first performances has increased noticeably in recent years, as has the number of works commissioned by the festival, this dual approach remains valid for the festival: to offer a platform for current trends in contemporary music and at the same time to integrate these current productions into a music-historical continuum.

In the anniversary year, this character is even more pronounced. For example, with two concerts that explicitly refer to the era (and the sound world) of analog synthesizers. With the elaborate reconstruction of a piece for tape and synthesizer, a kind of music archaeological research project, the attempt of a historical performance practice of the (almost still) present. And with the virtuoso emulation (or simulation?) of analog synthesizer worlds by electronic means of today. Both concerts unmistakably take up a tendency of recent years. The more the digital revolution accelerates and permeates all areas of life, the more a longing for old technologies and nostalgically connoted analogue sounds becomes evident.

At the same time, distraction is increasing, social media are dissolving what was once called 'leisure'. New music is also affected by these currents. A festival like Ultraschall Berlin cannot and will not close its ears to such developments. At the same time, the festival consciously sets a counterpoint to recent trends. Our goal is not the extensive expansion of listening time, but the intensification and concentration on precise listening – a commitment to a 'critical listening', a self-confident and self-conscious listening and understanding of what contemporary artists have to say. The quality of the musical performance is an indispensable prerequisite for this. Only the best possible interpretation creates the possibility of understanding what the music is all about behind the immediate sound. And so, once again this year, the invited ensembles guarantee the instrumental and vocal quality that has always been close to our hearts.

20 years of Ultraschall Berlin – that also means 19 years of collaboration with the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program. A concert with works by Frangis Ali-Sade in 2000, in the festival’s second edition, marked the beginning of this extraordinarily productive collaboration. Since then, numerous guests of the Artists-in-Berlin Program have received multilayered portraits at Ultraschall Berlin, which occasionally – as with Simon Steen-Andersen – even became the starting point for a major career. With an orchestra piece by Tona Scherchen-Hsiao in this anniversary year, we take the liberty of looking back and paying tribute to the first female composer to ever receive this scholarship, in 1977, one and a half decades after the Program was founded.

And of course the orchestra concerts are a trademark of Ultraschall Berlin. Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin (DSO Berlin) and Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin (RSB) have been an integral part of the festival's dramaturgy since 1999. Traditionally, the DSO Berlin is represented with two concerts at the festival, this year the RSB for the first time commissions a composition for a new orchestra work, which will be premiered at the festival.

The five festival days with a total of 14 concerts are tightly packed, but they always offer the opportunity to discuss about what you have heard. The concerts will be accompanied by discussions with the artists, and the student project of the UltraschallReporter will also be continued.

Next festival edition: 16th – 20th of January 2019