A whiter shade of art

Tel Aviv's White Night Festival indicates a local avant-garde movement that's in no danger of waning

Markus Stockhausen 88 29 (photo credit: )
Markus Stockhausen 88 29
(photo credit: )
Rumor has it that in terms of artistic taste, Israelis are a mostly conservative lot. However, while it is true that mainstream and eminently commercially viable endeavors like the Galgalatz radio station and cross-market oriented TV channels certainly have the lion's share of the public's affections - and cash - there is a growing undercurrent of "off kilter" music in these parts. The White Night Festival, which will take place at the Einav Center in Tel Aviv for the third year this Thursday and Friday, provides adequate corporeal and sonic evidence of a growing interest in avant-garde musical efforts. The festival program kicks off at 7:30 p.m. with a 30-minute music and movement improvisation slot by the 12-piece Tel Aviv Art Ensemble, with saxophonist Albert Beger and dancer Anat Shamgar as guest performers. Later on in the evening, another music and movement show features French born Jerusalemite bass player Jean Claude Jones and British dancer Julyen Hamilton. The Thursday program closes at 4 a.m. and the musical shenanigans restart six hours later with a concert by the Stockhausen Ensemble, ending at around 5:30 p.m. with a 40-minute slot, courtesy of the Denmark based Olga Magieres Septet. The lineup is impressive geographically as well as artistically. The artists' roster features guests from the US, Japan, Germany, the UK, Denmark and Poland. The biggest name on the list is undoubtedly German trumpeter-composer Markus Stockhausen, son of iconic contemporary composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, who will take the Einav Center stage at midnight, and give a master class intriguingly entitled "Improvisation, Intuitive Music and More" on Friday at 11 a.m. Besides free jazz and dance, the entertainment on offer incorporates contemporary classical music and video art. In fact, it is hard to think of many other cultural events in this country with such a broad artistic hinterland. Could this possibly mean that the avant garde movement here is in robust health? White Night Festival director and Tel Aviv Art Ensemble founder, Zvi Joffe, believes the local avant garde scene is gradually going from strength to strength. "Things have developed a lot over the years," he says. "I lived and studied in Denmark for several years, and I visit there regularly. I can tell you that we're not doing any worse than the Danes." New York resident and Israeli drummer Yigal Foni, who will appear at the festival together with his trombonist wife Reut Regev, has a slightly different take on what he calls the Israeli "creative music" market sector. "I see it as coming from the musicians. I think people here are more open now than they used to be. People often buy what you have to sell to them, and that includes creative music." While Foni and Joffe believe there is interest in their chosen discipline, the festival director is not exactly thrilled with the support he gets from the guys with the purse strings. "Yes, we get some help from the Tel Aviv Municipality," Joffe says, "but it's not much. And what we get from the Ministry of Culture is a joke." Still, support has been forthcoming from foreign sources. "I must say, all the embassies here, and places like the Goethe Institute, and the foreign ministries of the various countries where the artists come from, have all been wonderfully supportive," Joffe continues. "That has been very heartwarming. We could learn from them." For more information about the White Night Festival, go to: www.tlart.net