South African Contemporary Music Organization NewMusicSA will proudly host the ISCM World New Music Days in Johannesburg and Soweto in 2023. The festival will feature concerts by professional orchestras, ensembles, informal groups, collaborations and soloists. The music featured throughout this festival will include new and innovative works from all international members of the International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM), as well as a rich and varied array of African music.
Scheduled to take place from November 24 to December 3, 2023 mainly in Johannesburg and Soweto but with some additional concerts in other South African provinces beyond Gauteng, the World New Music Days 2023 will bring together hundreds of composers, performers and other music professionals from around the world in an intense and delicious 10-day program of concerts, workshops, talks and multiple side activities.
The host, NewMusicSA, is a non-profit organization founded 20 years ago to support contemporary music in South Africa. His track record includes the production of annual festivals (Indaba and Unyazi), the commissioning of dozens of new works, the organization of workshops or the publication of scholars. newsletters, among many other activities. It is currently the only African member of the International Society for Contemporary Music, a “United Nations Organization” of the contemporary music scene with over 60 chapters worldwide founded 99 years ago. Their flagship event is the World New Music Days, a festival that takes place in a different country every year.
The World New Music Days 2023 in South Africa will be a historical milestone for two reasons: it will be the celebration of the centenary of ISCM, and it will be the first WNMD ever organized in Africa, marking a departure of ISCM from its beaten paths in favor of paths less traced, unknown and underexposed. No innovative and experimental music festival of this scale and magnitude has ever been held on the African continent. This will only be the third time this festival has been held in the Southern Hemisphere and the third time it has been held in a Global South country.
After the ISCM approached NewMusicSA with the invitation to host the World New Music Days Festival in 2023 in South Africa, NewMusicSA’s official bid to host the festival and meetings was approved in July 2020, during the ISCM General Assembly meeting held online.
Composer Diale Mabitsela, Chairman of the Board of NewMusicSAsaid: “There is something strange about being a black South African composer. Now, I don’t believe in healing the victimhood that often accompanies stories of transformation, but it should be noted how strange it is sometimes for me to reflect on the history of contemporary art music, knowing that I turn to a culture and a tradition that do not belong to me, while trying to situate myself there in one way or another. And here, ahead of us, with World New Music Days, lies an opportunity. Not so much to situate Africa in a scholarly European, American or Western musical tradition, but to answer the choice of Africa to the question that animates the many great works composed under this banner; from Debussy and Ravel, via Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Stockhausen, Ligeti, Glass and Reich; until today: How far can music go?”
The Artistic director of the World New Music Days 2023, composer and percussionist Lukas Ligetisaid: “The festival program will revolve around three axes. First, there will be the aforementioned contributions from the member organizations of the network. The second will be a look back at 100 years of history of the ISCM and, more specifically, of the WNMD, presenting some of the most important works of concert music composed during the last century. Finally, and above all, we will offer a multifaceted survey of the liveliness of creative activity in experimental and innovative music in Africa.”
The International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM) is the premier forum for the advancement, dissemination and exchange of new music from around the world. Through the ISCM, members promote contemporary music in all its varied forms, strengthening musical life in their local contexts and bringing their music and its creators to the world.
Since its founding in 1922, the ISCM network has grown to include more than 60 organizations in more than 50 countries on every continent. The annual ISCM World New Music Days festival is the primary vehicle through which ISCM pursues its mission. Organized each year by a different animator, the festival presents the music of each member section, highlighting the diversity of musical practices of our time. Recent festivals have taken place in Hong Kong, Lithuania, Sweden, Australia, Croatia, Belgium, Slovakia, Austria, Poland, Slovenia, South Korea, Canada, China and Estonia .
The festival events take place at the same time as the ISCM General Assembly meetings. Here delegates from member countries meet to discuss issues facing new music around the world and trends in international contemporary composition, and to plan ISCM events.
Glenda Keam, President of the International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM)says “World New Music Days 2023 will be far-reaching milestone for international connection through new music. It is both steeped in history and groundbreaking, marking a century of new musical creation through ISCM’s World New Music Days which have taken place every year since the first in Salzburg (1923) and bring for the first time the global network of organizations to the African continent. In line with the previous World Music Day Festivals, the story of international connection through new music has grown. Beginning the next 100 years of ISCM’s history by bringing the festival to the African continent with vastly improved activities will contribute immeasurably to the richness of cultural exchange globally.”
Ms. Keam adds: “The ISCM has been working to achieve balance and wider representation in its recent festivals, and recent General Assembly meetings have introduced measures to this end. Our statutes clearly articulate the critical importance of recognizing and supporting artistic diversity in musical creation in an inclusive manner, dismantling any bias against a particular musical style, or against a race, gender or religion, through processes open and democratic. World New Music Days 2023 in South Africa will increase the strength and viability of this objective.”
World New Music Days 2023 will bring together world-class musicians from around the world to perform with and with world-class musicians from Africa. Audiences will have a unique opportunity to hear not only new African music, but also experimental music from the past 100 years of ISCM’s history that is hardly ever played on the continent. Three of the world’s most notable new music ensembles with decades of stories of advocacy for new music are among the highlights of World New Music Days 2023: Ensemble Modern (Germany-based international ensemble), Austrian Chamber Orchestra Klangforum Wien and Basel Sinfonietta, are an exceptional set of forces in the new musical world that is sure to take Africa by storm. Their commitment, involvement and support for this unique event testify to its remarkable strengths and potential.
NewMusicSA is gradually working with local and international partners and actors to make this festival a reality. The Oppenheimer Memorial Trust provides much-needed organizational funding for event preparation and planning, the Rupert Music Foundation sponsors NewMusicSA’s annual activities, and Joburg Tourism and the Gauteng Tourism Authority facilitate logistical matters in coordination with Namanje Events. Recent funders of the organization include the National Arts Council of South Africa, the Arts & Culture Trust and SAMRO.