Classical: Jazz, avant-garde, whatever

The annual Badenweiler Festival celebrates the diversity of musicians on the ECM label.

THE DRIVE from Basle to the picturesque Black Forest town of Badenweiler takes in some majestic scenery, though if you arrive at lunchtime, the barrier drops and your car stays put. Sorry, but the local folk insist on a car-free lunch-break.

Of course, you can always make your entrance on foot, walk past pristine chemists and quaint patisseries, past the Roman baths and town church to one of the many cosy hotels that German pensioners love to visit. It is a deeply conservative, conventionally religious environment that harbours at least one unexpected secret: a prestigious avant-garde musical life. Pierre Boulez has been to Badenweiler; so have Luciano Berio and Gyorgy Kurtg.

Every year the Hotel Romerbad hosts a run of important concerts, but the star act springs to life in early summer when Manfred Eicher, the team from his ECM record label and a whole roster of his artists launch a three-day festival of mostly contemporary music.

Year after year the same people return, but Eicher's community of listeners continues to grow. "The intensity of their listening is incredible," he tells me, and he is not exaggerating. I watched their faces - many of them old enough to have witnessed a pre-war avant-garde - as Jon Christensen teased his drum-kit to life like a slow tide draining across pebbles. That was on Friday at 5.30pm (such a sensible time for a concert), when pianist Ketil Bjornstad structured chords with the kind of space-sensitive intuition that informs most of Eicher's recorded productions. Bjornstad provided a warm bed of harmony, while cellist David Darling bowed a mellow melody line and electric-guitarist Terje Rypdal set to work with a disorientating blend of musical poetry and improvised chaos.

Nothing that we heard could have been safely categorised either as "jazz" or "concert music", and yet the audience hung on to every note, happy to go wherever Bjornstad and his men took them.

Bjornstad paid tribute to Eicher by naming him the "fifth" member of the quartet. What exactly did he mean? "The role of the producer is, first and foremost, to be a listener," as Eicher put it to me after the concert. "The way I listen is the way I record. Listening should never be neutral; it should be personal. This `first' listener should also be someone with a sense of perspective, someone who gets involved with a piece, talks about its architecture, its dynamic spectrum and the frame in which the music is going to happen. If musicians welcome me in this sense, then it's the kind of respect that touches me deeply," he says.

An active response to sound is also crucial. "As Glenn Gould said, the role of a producer is as much to do with `sounds' as with artistic partnership. Every artist needs - in the solitude of his own decision-making - a reflector, and I see myself as someone who responds in a musical context. I do not see myself as being involved in any aspect of so-called marketing of the music, which is something that comes afterwards."

Still, he was visibly delighted when his British distributor (New Note) awarded him a golden disc for 100,000 British sales of Jan Garbarek's Officium album.

He dislikes what he calls the "cliche" of an ECM "sound", and would rather talk in terms of the label's individual approach to programming. Eicher was a self-effacing presence at the concerts, smiling quizzically from an end seat and signalling his thanks to the players as they walked off for an interval drink.

Saturday's programme was a celebration of violists in duet, with George Benjamin's busy Viola-Viola as its prompting idea. The girlish but intense Kim Kashkashian partnered Garth Know, formerly the Arditti Quartet's violist, in a programme that shared the rigours of Scelsi, Kurtg, Berio and Radulescu among two, with Isang Yun's long-drawn Contemplation testing the audience's powers of concentration, and Bartk (a sequence of earthy duos) the winning card.

The trumpeter Markus Stockhausen (son of Karlheinz) called the tune for the third and last concert, with Arild Andersen, a spectacular bass player, keeping things candidly conversational. David Darling marked his unscheduled return for a testing - and teasing - bass/cello duet. At one point Jon Christensen made music by tapping on his drinking glass before swallowing its contents.

That guy can magic more expression from a drum-kit - with or without sticks, on skin or on metal - than most string players can manage with a bow. He'd sit there, aiming his brush before deciding when or where to strike. And when he did, his timing was always spot-on.

Eicher's artists are usually outreaching and unpredictable, but Sunday's final act - indeed, the last act of the festival - was, in some respects, the most surprising of all. Gianni Coscia donned his accordion while Gianluigi Trovesi employed three varieties of clarinet for a programme that ranged from Kletzmer-style dance-music to John Lewis's Django and a whole string of bittersweet morceaux. For the first piece, Coscia sat alone on stage while Trovesi soulfully played his way downstairs from the first tier, and a similar end sequence brought us full circle. It was street-band stuff, mostly jolly, but tinged with disquieting sadness. I doubt that the region has heard anything like it in years.

While most stamped and cheered, one listener grumbled "Not ECM's usual style". Actually, it was typical. Many pieces ended on a musical question, which is where the grandeur of Badenweiler comes in, with its endless potential for reflection and solitary wandering.

"The influence of the surroundings, and of nature in particular, is there - whether you're aware of it or not," says Eicher. "And although I don't believe that music `belongs' in any fixed location, having an audience in such close proximity - and enjoying such a dedicated following - allows us to create a very special way of experiencing music."

And if you don't fancy travelling to Badenweiler, the first British ECM Festival will kick into gear in Brighton this November.

Arts and Entertainment
Reach for the sky: there are around 250 new buildings of 20-plus storeys planned for London alone, some 80 per cent of them residential
architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
television
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
filmReview: The ingenious film will intrigue, puzzle and trouble audiences by turns
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
News
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
people
News
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Arts and Entertainment
A life-size sculpture by Nick Reynolds depicting singer Pete Doherty on a crucifix hangs in St Marylebone church
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Escalating tension: Tang Wei and Chris Hemsworth in ‘Blackhat’
filmReview: Chris Hemsworth stars as a convicted hacker in Blackhat
Arts and Entertainment

Oscar voter speaks out

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars race for Best Picture will be the battle between Boyhood and Birdman

Oscars
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy), Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance)
tvReview: Wolf Hall
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Meighan of Kasabian collects the Best Album Award
music
Arts and Entertainment
Best supporting stylist: the late L’Wren Scott dressed Nicole Kidman in 1997
film
Arts and Entertainment
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Mick Carter (Danny Dyer) and Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor)
tv occurred in the crucial final scene
Arts and Entertainment
Glasgow wanted to demolish its Red Road flats last year
architecture
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower