Composer Simon Eastwood reports on the ISCM World Music Days 2019 in Tallin, Estonia.

The ISCM World Music Days festival is a bit like a United Nations of contemporary music, with musicians from all over the world coming together to present and talk about new music. I was accompanied by fellow New Zealand composers Alex Taylor and Tristan Carter, with Nick Snowball being represented in absentia.

Tallinn, Estonia

Alex, Tristan and I shared an Airbnb in the old town which was a great way to get acquainted with this beautiful city. The medieval architecture gave the place a magical fairy-tale feeling, but also offering modern comforts as well with charming cafés and shops to explore.

The old town was quite touristic, but luckily it wasn’t high season, so the streets didn’t feel too crowded. Areas just outside the walls of the old town, like the Telliskivi area, for instance, offered a number of bars and restaurants with a more modern hipster feeling.

With such a busy programme for the festival, however, there wasn’t too much time to explore the city in depth. Each day involved between three and four concerts of contemporary music, sometimes going late into the night and all three of us still suffered from varying degrees of jet lag. Sometimes, unfortunately, it simply wasn’t possible to see everything. 

The festival programme was incredibly stimulating and we had the chance to see some great performances, the local choirs are particularly outstanding! The selection of venues was also a standout feature of the festival. The opening concert was hosted in the Maritime Museum in the shadow of a WWII-era submarine.

The Hall of the Black Heads

The Hall of the Black Heads

Other venues included repurposed factory buildings and a number of beautiful old churches. My piece ‘Interference’ was performed by two fantastic pianists, Kadri-Ann Sumera and Talvi Hunt, in the historic House of the Black Heads. The piece could be considered a sort of anti-duo. One player plays the piano keyboard while the other plays inside on the piano strings, manipulating the sound of the instrument.

Talvi and Kadri-Ann achieved a brilliant performance, and happily, the work was incredibly well received. Nick’s piece was a challenging piece of performance art, given a committed performance by local students. Alex’s piece for violin and piano received a theatrical treatment, and Tristan opened the final concert with a visceral improvisation for solo violin.

Simon with Kadri-Ann and Talvi

Simon with Kadri-Ann and Talvi

New Zealand can be very proud of its representation at the festival this year, with four composers and multiple delegates in attendance. Dr. Glenda Keam was also elected president of the ISCM, this is very encouraging considering next year the festival will be hosted in Auckland and Christchurch.

Personally, I am of course very grateful to CANZ for selecting my piece for the festival, and to Victoria University of Wellington for giving me the funds I needed to come.

Simon Eastwood, SOUNZ Composer


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