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The 40th edition of the Musica de Strasbourg festival runs until 2 October.

The Musica Festival, the great Alsatian event for the creation of avant-garde music in Strasbourg, the capital of Bas-Rhin, is celebrating its 40th edition this year, from Thursday 15 September to 2 October.

The first dates of the festival are featuring the Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, the festival’s guest of honour. To pay tribute to her, a great evening is being held tonight at the Palais des Festivals, with an exceptional concert that will review the career of the composer, who was awarded the Victoire de la musique classique again this year.

The public will be able to (re)discover some of her works such as Nuits, adieux (1991), Sept papillons (2000), or Light Still and Moving (2016). In the second part of the evening, the friends and members of the group Tres Coyotes, formed by John Paul Jones – the famous bassist of Led Zeppelin -, the composer and pianist Magnus Lindberg and the cellist Anssi Karttunen, will take the stage. This last part of the concert will be broadcast live on ARTE Concert.

In its programme, in addition to the tribute to Saariaho, Musica will bring composers such as Georges Aperghis, Éliane Radigue, Heiner Goebbels or Simon Steen-Andersen, offering concerts in unusual places, immersing us in the birthday party of an 8-year-old girl, individual ASMR sound massage sessions, experiences with bone conduction headphones, auditory and verbal hallucinations… in its 40th edition, the festival continues to find ways to surprise us.

This year, introspection is at the heart of the festival. The programme invites us to reflect on the intimate, on ourselves, but also on the links we have with others. From 15 September to 2 October, almost a hundred performances will take place in Strasbourg venues as diverse as churches, the National and University Library (BNU), the Maillon theatre, the Sängerhaus of the Palais des Fêtes, the Choreographic Centre, the Cité de la Musique et de la Danse, the National Theatre and the cocktail bar Speakeasy Aeden cocktail bar (where this Saturday 17th – there are some more times – the world premiere of Georges Aperghis’ La Construction du monde will take place, with the intervention of the percussionist and actor Richard Dubelski, long-time partner of the composer, who will perform the work with a unique and unusual object, a table… ). As if that were not enough, and for the more adventurous and lovers of surprises, Musica has discreetly hidden a number of concerts in places that are unusual or usually inaccessible to the inhabitants of Strasbourg. Twelve mysterious performances can be booked, at different times, without knowing the programme or the venue in advance. In this case, the capacity is very limited, so that the experience becomes a real privilege. You have to choose the day and the time slot, and then the address will be sent by SMS and email, 48 hours before the event. And then… let yourself be carried away by the surprise proposal! They can be local or foreign artists, or artists from the Strasbourg Philharmonic Orchestra.

The Danish composer Simon Steen-Andersen will be present with two performances. Firstly, on Tuesday 20th, the French premiere of TRANSIT, a staged concert for tuba, ensemble and live video. And secondly, on Wednesday 28th, a tribute to Karlheinz Stockhausen by staging Musik im Bauch with Les Percussions de Strasbourg. In 1975, the enigmatic German composer composed a work for the same ensemble, which will now perform it. The score contained more scenic and didactic indications than musical ones, and the music consisted of twelve melodies related to the signs of the zodiac, the Tierkreis cycle, embodied in music boxes that the composer himself had made. The idea for the work and its title came from his daughter Julika’s surprise when, at the age of two, she discovered little noises inside her, stomach noises: “You have music in your tummy,” he told her. A few years later, she suddenly woke up one morning after dreaming the piece and wrote it down.

Almost fifty years after the composition and the premiere of the work at the Royan Festival, Les Percussions de Strasbourg asked Simon Steen-Andersen to imagine a new production. Remaining faithful to the score and without adding a single note, the Danish artist reveals a potential for today’s eyes and ears by using staging processes and technologies directly inspired by other Stockhausen pieces. A simple question guided his approach: what might Music in the Belly [Musik im Bauch, in German] have been like in Stockhausen’s dream, before he woke up?

On Friday 23rd and Saturday 24th Heiner Goebbels will perform Schwarz auf Weiss, a musical play created in 1996. The action takes place outside of time, in the depths of an antediluvian past that nevertheless resembles our disturbing present. A group of people, probably survivors, find themselves confined in a large space. Behind the bronze door, they believe they are protected from the disasters of the outside world. They play, drink, sing… until suddenly a shadow appears on the wall. From their idleness is born a collective action, at first disorganised, but which little by little seems to be moving towards a common goal…

The Ensemble Modern is the collective protagonist of this extraordinary parable, which has been performed all over the world with consistent success for twenty-five years. The 18 musicians take to the stage with their instruments and bring it to life. For Heiner Goebbels, it was about exploring the theatrical potential of music in depth, unfolding the core of his vision: every work of art is a collective heritage and should be recognised as such.

On Wednesday 21st, the ensembles L’Imaginaire and HYPER DUO, based in Strasbourg and Biel respectively, join forces for a single concert. On the programme, an anthology of works by a new generation of composers who share the same sense of hybridisation and crossing of aesthetic boundaries: from pop incarnation to contemporary writing, from staged instrumental gesture to the virtual body on the screen, from regular pulsation to rhythmic deconstruction… L’Imaginaire will perform works by Malin Bång (Hyperoxic, from 2011), Daniel Zea (Toxic Box, from 2020) and Hibiki Mukai (L’Adieu aux sirènes, from 2022). HYPER DUO will feature works by Alex Paxton (Sometimes Voices, from 2020), Asia Ahmetjanova (pro-vocation, from 2021), Mathis Saunier (Civilisation, from 2021), Colin Alexander (Nocturnal Tapestry, from 2021) and the world premiere of Cadavre exquis, by Gilles Grimaitre & Julien Mégroz.

On 24 September there will be the first performance of I Don’t Want To Be an Individual All on My Own, by the young Scottish composer Genevieve Murphy (Dundee, 1988), in which she invites us all to her birthday party. The only catch is that it was twenty-something years ago, when she turned eight… From a very young age, Murphy developed a fascination with psychology and disability, with how people relate to each other and create emotional bonds. Through his work he makes us aware of how we behave and respond. I Don’t Want To Be an Individual All on My Own is a search for real connection in an individualised world. Telling the story through a sonic narrative of pop, spoken word and sound sculptures, it invites the participant to listen to the soundscape of their mind, hoping that their hearing can be the gateway to a dialogue with their thoughts.

On the 28th and 29th you can attend Philippe Gordiani’s auditory experience H.A.V., an immersion into science fiction. Spectators will be equipped with bone conduction headphones, with which they will experience a double hearing: the sound is transmitted both through the headphones and through the loudspeakers surrounding the audience. In this way, a voice can resonate in our head, while a sound ensemble unfolds in the space. It is said to be a proposal in which participants can experience auditory verbal hallucinations [hallucinations auditives-verbales, in French; hence the title H.A.V.], all set to electronic music and transported to the world of Aldous Huxley, J.G. Ballard or Greg Egan.

One of the most surprising proposals in the Musica 2022 programme is that offered by the French sound artist Thierry Madiot (Paris, 1963), who will provide several individual sessions, lasting ten minutes, of “sound massages”, using unexpected and varied objects that are not shown to those who receive the sensations. An intimate acoustic experience, like a caress for the ears, which consists of letting oneself be brushed by an almost inaudible sound and feel it all over one’s body without any physical contact…

© Photograph of the H.A.V. experience offered by the French musician Philippe Gordiani.