Clash of sounds

Ilan Volkov’s annual Tectonics Festival presents a rare fusion between classical and contemporary music

November 22, 2016 19:30
Alwynne Pritchard

NORWEGIAN-BASED Scottish composer Alwynne Pritchard.. (photo credit: THOR BRDRESKIFT)

As festival names go, Tectonics is pretty much in the humdinger category, even if the inference is a mite subliminal. The said four-day event, which starts tonight and runs through November 26, will incorporate a multifarious offering of musical and theatrical shows at several venues in Tel Aviv, including Tmuna Theater, Levontin 7 and Hateiva.

This is the fourth edition of the local version of the festival – aka “international ultrasound festival” – which started life in Reykjavik, Iceland 18 years ago and migrated to other spots around the world. Internationally renowned conductor Ilan Volkov, who curated the festival here, hopes the eclectic lineup of shows he has drawn up for the Israeli viewing and listening public will help us to expand our sonic, cerebral and emotional horizons.

“The name [of the festival] comes from the matter of boundaries, when worlds clash and they can work together,” he explains. “There are very great contrasts in this festival. They shift between written music and improvised music, and there are things in between and all kinds of other things. It also refers to extremes, such as very static and calm music, compared with music that is frenetic and powerful.”

Volkov is looking for us to come to the performances with an open mind and ears.

“This stretches people’s borders and generates thought and depth. It is not something that is amorphous.”

The names on the roster may not be instantly recognizable to most music consumers, but Volkov has lined up some big guns for the occasion. These include renowned Austrian composer, organist and educator Klaus Lang, American composer, saxophonist and interdisciplinary artist Neil Leonard and Norwegian-based Scottish composer Alwynne Pritchard, as well as some of our leading proponents of envelope- pushing material, such as the dynamic Malox twosome, theater director and performer Ari Teperberg, bass player Yair Glotman and organist Arin Maisky.

Volkov is happy with generous temporal stretch of the festival.

“It’s four days – compared with just two days in Glasgow,” he says.

Volkov was in Scotland prior to Tectonic and has enjoyed a long association with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra over the years.

“That allows us to offer all sorts of works which are very different, like solo organ, an electronic music show with a surround sound system, as well as more theatrical works or installations like they have at Tmuna Theater.”

By now it had become crystal clear that the only thing the Tectonic patron should expect is the unexpected. Volkov is also keen to fly the flag.

“This year we are focusing on new Israeli works, which includes premieres and renditions of creations that have been performed before but will be presented at the festival with different players.”

The curator, of course, wants us to come in droves, but he also wants us to be as involved as possible.

“I see this as being a little like going to a museum,” he posits. “You have to invest something of yourself and you have to put some work in when you go to a museum. You aren’t spoon fed.”

Volkov wants us to step away from our comfort zone and follow Captain Kirk’s trail “To boldly go where no man has gone before,” as the intro to the original series of Star Trek had it.

He is, of course, aware that he is not working the well-trodden side of the artistic street, but believes the public is gradually opening up to the possibilities of left-field creativity.

“Audiences for this are growing. I see that here, in Glasgow, where we consistently manage to bring more people to these works, and I think the same is happening in Tel Aviv.”

We are clearly not looking for feel-good entertainment here.

“The audiences come to see things with which they are generally not familiar, and they may not necessarily even like some of them. The idea is to encounter things that make you think and experience. Mind you, I feel that people who don’t know anything about this field can also get a lot of enjoyment from this. I often feel that, when we use the word ‘experimental,’ that can scare people. But a lot of the music we will have over the four days in Tel Aviv is very delicate, and enables the viewer to delve into the music in a deep way.”

Basically, Volkov posits, it is about how we approach the work on offer just as it is about what we are being offered.

“I think that if you approach something in an open way you will quickly fathom what is happening. Coming to a festival like this is a very different experience. You can’t get this from listening to music in the comfort of your own home, and listening through little earphones or tiny computer speakers. A lot of the music at the festival has to be experienced physically and, of course, some of the acts are visual. And there are intimate sound-based things in there too.”

The Tectonics curator is particularly pleased about Lang’s participation in the proceedings.

“He’s quite a figure in this field. He has written a lot of orchestral pieces, and a lot of chamber music. He has his own style but, interestingly, he is very influenced by American composers, like Morton Feldman and John Cage, but he always does things in his own way.”

Lang will have his work cut out for him here.

“I think it will be very interesting with him, because there will be a violin work by him and two ensemble pieces, and two sets with him playing solo on organ and harmonium. You will be able to really get into his music.”

It seems our own homegrown boys and girls are no slouches at this end of the creative spectrum either.

“I like the scene in Israel,” says Volkov. “It is a small scene, but everyone who engages in this field does really special things.”

Prepared to be surprised.

For tickets and more information:, (03) 561-1211 and, (03) 560-5084 and, (03) 682-2403 and

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