Follow the Fellow

Monthly notes from inm fellow Les Vynogradov

22. März 2024 | Les Vynogradov

A portrait of inm felllow Les Vynogradov
©Lisa Korneichuk

Hi! I’m Les Vynogradov and this is Follow the Fellow.

I am INM’s new fellow (Weltoffenes Berlin↗, danke schön!) and in this series, I invite you to follow me in my sonic, spatial, and existential explorations of Berlin. I promise to be brief, not bore you to death, and to bring you a little gift from Ukraine in each episode!

April 2024

Spring is imminent. Here in Berlin, much like in Kyiv, it feels like a done deal as early as March. That’s a big change after Chicago: over there spring doesn’t seem to exist at all. It’s winter, winter, winter, and then sometime in May—bam!—it’s suddenly summer. Feels good to be back in vernal latitudes!

My first Berlin spring began with MaerzMusik –  namely, the Meet&Greet opening mixer co-organized by INM. I enjoyed meeting new people and having a good chat, but I enjoyed being gently choreographed by the organizers more. Take a seat here, switch to another table in 30 minutes… Fun! Someone told me it was a perfectly German thing to do since people wouldn’t know how to mingle otherwise. I concluded that in leisure as in work, Ordnung muss sein. And I think it’s beautiful.      

One of the conversations we had was about suffering as a prerequisite of good art. My interlocutor pointed out that evolutionally, we’ve always been driven by challenges, and our ability to adapt is what made us human. Fair enough, thought I, and yet something about the starving artist cliché just doesn’t sit right with me. Did Messiaen suffer to write »L'Ascension« while cruising between Paris, Neuchâtel, and Monaco? Or so many other talented artists who didn’t exactly struggle? But more importantly, do we want our contemporaries to suffer for art’s sake, normalizing artists’ precarity?

As a cultural manager from Ukraine, I have a rather straightforward view of this. As we are wrapping up KCMD’s program Instrumental providing instruments to Ukrainian musicians in need, I am thinking about some of the applications. Cruel though it may sound, we had to ask the applicants how the Russian full-scale invasion directly affected their lives. Among a myriad of stories about burnt-down apartments, forced relocation, captivity, life under occupation, and – naturally –  destroyed instruments, one answer stuck in my mind for some reason: “Thank God, [I was] only morally [affected].”

I am strictly anti-suffering. I don’t think it should ever be normalized, no matter the purpose. And if we can make each other’s life just a little sweeter –  even for fear of our art becoming desperately mediocre – I’ll take that bet.   

But hey, this blog is getting long! And I promised you a gift from Ukraine in every issue – so here you go:

Alla Zagaykevych is a pioneering figure in the Ukrainian electroacoustic scene, active since the 1990s not only as a prolific composer but also as a professor and festival organizer. A truly influential figure. Check out her Guy Debord-dedicated »Contre S.« for Kontra-Trio (fun fact: KCMD brought them to Kyiv for a master class in 2017) and then come back for more at our page about her.

_les

Contre S. (dédié à Guy Debord) for Kontra-Trio

Alla Zagaykevych · Alla Zagaykevych, Contre S. (dédié à Guy Debord) for Kontra-Trio

March 2024

Hi! I’m Les Vynogradov and this is Follow the Fellow.

I am INM’s new fellow (Weltoffenes Berlin, danke schön!) and in this series, I invite you to follow me in my sonic, spatial, and existential explorations of Berlin. I promise to be brief, not bore you to death, and to bring you a little gift from Ukraine in each episode!

So, who’s this Fellow guy? I’ve spent the first 32 years of my life in Kyiv studying French literature (being a Georges Perec fanboy, to be more precise), playing in doom metal and post-rock bands, and managing contemporary art projects. I helped IZOLYATSIA build a new community in Kyiv after Russians turned its huge post-industrial art center in Donetsk into a prison in 2014. I was the Head of Visual Art at the Ukrainian Institute, a state organization promoting Ukrainian culture internationally. For me, art and culture have had much more to do with real, palpable social and political change than ivory towers.

In 2021, I moved to Chicago with my wife who studied there and that’s where we met the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Ironically, it was also on the shores of Lake Michigan, 5,000 miles from home, that I joined Kyiv Contemporary Music Days (KCMD), a concert and educational platform for new music I’ve been working with to this day. Without KCMD, I wouldn’t have known the beautiful people of INM/field notes, and without INM, I wouldn’t be here today. Mysterious are the ways of Neue Musik!

And that is how after Chicago, Illinois I ended up in Berlin, which Mark Twain affectionately called the »Chicago of Europe.« And that’s where we are now.

I promised you a gift from Ukraine. Last week, KCMD, with the support of INM, brought one of Ukraine’s most talented violinists, Orest Smovzh, to play a very special show… at a bar in Kreuzberg. »Condensed Music« was a mosaic of over 80 pieces and improvisations from 4 to 110 seconds long, hand-picked and carefully assembled by Orest. With stuff from Peter Ablinger to John Zorn while also featuring works by obscure and non-professional composers, it was »a bit punk a bit crazy a bit contemplative a bit inebriated a bit nostalgic for unseen Berlin,« to quote Orest himself. Below are a few snippets of that madness for you to get the taste.

Don’t miss Orest’s next concert when he’s in town. And I will keep you in the loop of the upcoming KCMD events and share my other curious findings in the next episodes.

That’s all for now!

 


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  • Les Vynogradov
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