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Live Review

North Sea Round Town 2021

North Sea Round Town 2021

Courtesy Maarten Laupman


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Sun-Mi Hong
Diverse venues/sites: Laurenskerk, Goethe Institute, De Doelen, Worm, Boerderij Driebergen (Three Mountains Farm), private homes
North Sea Round Town
July 2-9, 2021

North Sea Round Town is a strongly community-based city festival in Rotterdam, deep in the Dutch delta. Founded 15 years ago, it takes place in June/July in the run-up to the gigantic commercial indoor North Sea Jazz Festival. During a three-week period, the festival with its more than 300 activities spreads all over Rotterdam and its neighborhoods. Meanwhile, it has acquired its very own identity and approach. It is anchored in manifold formats from the sources of the urban heterogeneity and 'vari-cultural' dynamics of Rotterdam. It increases cultural blood circulation, instigates liveliness, communion, good coexistence and openness.

As such it does not confine itself to represent local treasures in its diversity. It also seeks and fosters cross-pollination of different sorts, and it initiates projects of daring artistic challenge and progress. So, a diversity of trends, styles, scenes and communities find their place in the dynamics of this Rotterdam festival. This article covers a particular slice of the broad range of the three-weeks program.


After arrival, I navigated through the overcrowded inner city on my bike to arrive at the place of the first concert to attend, the majestic Laurenskerk. Built between 1449 and 1525, the church is the only late Gothic building in Rotterdam. It was heavily damaged in 1650 and in 1940. During the Reformation it was taken over 1572 from the Catholic church and the interior was adapted. However, Rotterdam was spared from iconoclasm in those days, so much was spared. Also, Batavian revolts at the end of 18th century had an impact on the interior. Its post-WW2 reconstruction resurrected much of the old glory. Presently, it still functions as a Protestant church but also busily serves for multifunctional purposes, among which are concerts. It was no doubt a magistral space that was available to the musicians to live their music out and let it flourish.

Inside the church I met an unusual scene, still Covid-regulated but in a colorful way: the center nave of the church was completely occupied by scattered jolly striped deck chairs. This was the thoughtful and playful reaction to the then still valid rules of reduced audience.

Spiritual journey of/with Hazard Ensemble

At the foot of the high organ the six musicians of the Hazard Ensemble, gathered by violinist/guitarist George Dumitriu for this evening, were placed in a wide, slightly raised semicircle ready to play and fill the magistral space with its sounds. From the very beginning the musicians played the grand space in a continual surging flow: an electric guitarist, a clarinetist/ saxophonist, a violinist, a bassist, a drummer and, right in the middle of all, a female vocalist/bassist. And, as usual presently, there were a lot of electronic devices employed by all musicians (except the drummer) and a modular synthesizer operated by the bassist. It was not only the music moving through the space, but the musicians moved themselves through it too. So, saxophone parts of Joachim Badenhorst came from the opposite side of the church, and vocalist Fuensanta Méndez Lecomte strode through the nave with angelic singing. Memories of the times that Jan Garbarek together with the Hilliard Ensemble played (in) churches came to mind then.

Drummer Frank Rosaly, visibly deeply engaged, employed a great variety of percussive possibilities: from air beating, body percussion, and assorted rattle devices to heavy smashes on his drums. Just at the moment that I myself felt a desire for hearing swooshing, and hissing cymbals, he started to walk through the church to arrive at the point of the cymbal's furthest resonating reach into the church's space. From there he gave the music a timely and magnificent ascending impulse. I leave it to the reader's imagination to create a sonic picture of what the mobility of the musicians evoked.

Fascinating perpetual dynamics of sound waves unfolded and suffused the cathedral's space, wandering between its corners at different heights. It intensified the visual impression of the dome with its mighty columns and lighted windows. In the longer run clouds of flickering light emanated from the height, pouring into the space—a synesthetic effect with the conflux of light and sound qualities -these were the sensations the music particularly evoked for myself.

The flow of the ensemble's music completely created and shaped in real time was fed from a deeper source that connected the musicians with each other, allowing them to create and contribute their own colorings, take their own initiatives and get into each other's elaborations. Certainly, the music had its ambient qualities but there was a lot more in its dynamics and courses, especially the emergence and shining of melodies and song molded from the flow, the elegance and force of some elongations, its rhythmical accelerations and percussive explosions, and wonderfully embedded individual excursions. It was a truly collective achievement of the six musicians to let the music breathe and thrive over a continual span of twice two hours (two sets with different audiences). I am pretty sure there would even have been enough energy for a third round. Due to the nature of the music-making both sets/rounds brought out and brilliantly manifested different temperaments, temperatures and colors.

Violinist/guitarist George Dumitriu clearly took up his role as leader here, sharing the sparking, transcending and transforming impulses in a subtle way with the other musicians, and with his typical placidity he kept an inner choreography running and let his viola shine. Young Mexican vocalist Fuensanta Mendez, positioned in the center of the semicircle, was the coruscating wild card of the performance, playing double bass, reciting personal texts and singing beautifully heartfelt songs in Spanish. She showed a great gift to repeatedly initiate songs from small tonal cells in the continuous musical flow. From small tonal configurations, she knew how to fully and brilliantly unfold the songs. After Charles Mingus and Tom Waits, finally Mexican traces again. In her performance she passionately embraced the songs and celebrated them with an emphatic, yearning gaze and wide- open offering arms. Nothing ever felt experimental about her improvisational shaping of those songs. She snatched them from the ether and fitted them in the real time moment of creation. That is a rare thing, but apparently for Fuensanta Mendez a very natural way to 'sing the world.' It was clear what a great and joyful force she is (see for example her Ensamble Grande here): Fuensanta Mendez, shining Aztec gold.

Experienced and approved Belgian bassist Lennart Heyndels excelled in this new ensemble not only on double bass, his initial instrument, but on modular synthesizer too by imbuing the music with cosmic light. On one end of the semi-circle was the place of Raphael Vanoli, the guitar-murmurer and -whisperer. He has developed a method to use his electric guitar to sound flute-like, as a wind instrument, by blowing into/against the resonating strings. What? It may seem strange, but he has developed great skills to naturally evoke elongating rippling waves of subliminal melodic attraction. Those sound waves undeniably had their very own qualities of breezing confluence and lightness of floating. Employed at right moments in the two performances, it revealed its magical effects. The long fade-out of the first concert carried by his shifting and elongating guitar breezes was one of the most delicate moments of the evening. It preserved the inner spirit of the whole in an intimate way.

Having been immersed in this subtle, as well as intense, mode of unconventional music making in the large Rotterdam church space, musical associations surfaced and passed by. To mind came the music of the recently deceased Jon Hassell, the music of The Necks, the You | Me opus of Kim Myhr, the "Book of Air" of the Cools brothers from Antwerp, and, maybe its nearest neighbor, the festival's grand event of the 2019 edition, the Dawn Trilogy (an AAJ review you can find here).

A closer look at these associations reveals that there might be a few similarities. The work of the Hazard Ensemble, however, was clearly something of its own and quite unique. Its singular approach was developed through the special collaborative spirit of its members and a magical trust in allowing the music to awaken, emerge and shine. Hazard Ensemble can be considered as a continuation of the 2019 work of "Dawn Trilogy" in spirit without being a replication of it.

The Audience

The view of the ensemble from the scattered deck chairs in the sacred dome space, in connection with the liquid musical sounds, evoked an image of lightness paired with depth, all carried by self-evident abandon and engrossment of the audience. It was initiated by not playing a concert of subsequent pieces but by building one unique longer arc created in a collective improvisational process over a span of two hours with a clear relatedness to the special space. Here, through the long form etc. sails were set very clearly to travel in togetherness. Through the open and manifold interaction lines it also evoked a feeling of communion.

Such an open process with ambient characteristics has the risk also to ripple along shallowly and without tension. The challenge for the musicians was to keep it floating and open for thrilling á la moment discoveries that make things happen you cannot usually find in solitary composing—at least not with those particular dynamics of emergence. That's why it is so worthwhile to work along that route of inner discovery, extraction, shaping and balance in real time during the performance.

For listeners it offered possibilities to navigate their own way, zooming in and out, leaning back or kneeling in. The Hazard Ensemble lead by George Dumitriu succeeded convincingly in letting 'all this' happen with bravura. With the production of this year's Hazard Ensemble concert and the of Sun-Mi Hung's dance opus, Raluca Baicu (Artistic Director) and Michelle Wilderom (General Director) of NSRT successfully continued the line of the remarkable "Dawn Trilogy" of the 2019-edition. Thereby NSRT has provided a highly valuable contribution to artistic development of contemporary jazz that also sets a benchmark internationally. They let the artists set the direction, and shape and elaborate it themselves. They took the role of close listening, understanding, and cooperatively letting it take form, and facilitating realization—an approach we also know from the recent editions of Jazzfest Berlin.

My own role

This report differs in some respects from the standard festival reports. I was not only participating in the usual observing, weighing and evaluating role. As artist in residence of the Goethe Institut and NSRT. I also had a presenting and performing role myself. I presented my live drawings in an exhibition at Goethe Institut, made live drawings during the attended concerts and a duo-performance drawing+drumming, myself together with Artist- in-Focus Sun Mi Hong. This also meant that I had a more intimate insight in the operational approach and the production of the festival. The more subjective 'inside'-view will be dealt with by an extra article later.

Zero to 100% speed-up

NSRT was one of the first festivals taking place as a full-scale live event after a long lockdown and extended period of no festival activities. There were still restrictions and the festival had to make a trade-off between audience number restriction, or fuller audience with covid-tests and proof of vaccination. Mostly it became the first option and it worked from the beginning, unhampering the festival/concerts. For many artists it was a zero to 100% public performance switch, which at NSRT resulted in a clearly sensitive flow-and-glow show.

Sun-Mi Hong forcefully beat her track

The next days were meant to set the sails for the passage of drummer Sun-Mi Hong as Artist in Focus, a passage along a series of special configurations and her commission work "Dance in Four Colors" as center piece. The passage comprised a new trio, two duos, a sextet together with four dancers and an appearance as sidewoman.

In the dance piece six musicians and four dancers had to navigate into and through significant expressive interaction based on a score created by Sun-Mi Hong in collaboration with pianist Philipp Rüttgers. It had to happen live along lines indicated by the score, by the lead of lead of Sun-Mi Hong's drumming, by pointers from choreographer Joseph Simon's and fundamentally by way of collective improvisation of the musicians and dancers.

On the music side there were piano, keyboard, electronics (Philipp Rüttgers), violine (George Dumitriu), viola (Oene Van Geel ), cello (Pau Sola Masafrets) electric bass guitar/double bass (Thomas Pol) and, of course, Sun-Mi Hong's drummimg, in short: string instruments, piano, drums and no horns at all. On the dance side there were four dancers of Dans Ateliers Rotterdam: Kenzo Kusuda, Menno van Gorp, Alesya Dobysh and Kelly Bigirindavyi -different personalities and temperaments, from heterogenous cultural (Japan, Russia, Burundi, Netherlands) and stylistic backgrounds (contemporary (improvised) dance, breakdance, house, Hip Hop) and different performance practices.

The field of action onstage was not -as is usually the case -divided into a music section and a dance area. Rather, musicians and dancers were entangled beings who spread in and over the entire playing field and moved freely within it. Significantly, the performance began in the darkened room with a careful examination of the space and its actual conditions by musicians and dancers in order to feel the energies of the playing field, to orientate, find one's own place, to tune in to it and to the other actors who moved and sounded there. This had some similarities with the initial evocation of Elegua, the orisha (deity) of the streets, entrances and pathways in Cuban music and the Santeria religion.

The movements by the dancers, complemented all through by movements of the musicians, navigated between chaos and order, violent eruption and creeping maneuvers, attraction and repulsion, configuring and clashing, cumulation and dispersal, densifying and crumbling, deceleration and acceleration. In the process, statue-like tableaus emerged that made the inner bond and embrace visible and palpable. In both performances I saw an interplay of distance and closeness, of rushing ahead and togetherness, an interplay of closing, completing and tearing open in the creation of a dynamically emerging and re-emerging equilibrium. And, at certain moments, the actions became densified and transcended the playful jigsaw formalism. Realms of magic were touched then and started to cast a transcendent spell on it. The performance bore a higher spirit that could be evoked and sensed at those moments.

The music, cleverly and colorful structured, was -from a dynamical and dramaturgical point of view -target-directed over and over again, as well as pulled through energetically. It contained attractive returning themes -at times with absorbed, leaked-through tinges of Carla Bley provenance. And, how Sun-Mi Hong led the music from the drum chair—even when at times not overtly drumming. It was effective, beautiful, simply admirable.

This integrative approach made both modes of expression, music and dance, more wondrous, and due to its thorough entanglement, it became an extraordinary and intense experience that addressed, stimulated and captivated all senses of the audience. It turned out as a 멋진 로테르담 저녁 / meosjin loteleudam jeonyeog—a terrific Rotterdam evening with a truly powerful, captivating de-distancing experience brought by the souls of that unifying 'vari- cultural' troupe from Rotterdam and Amsterdam. It manifested in the catharsis at the end of the performance in the large hall of De Doelen. Its de- distancing quality happened in a powerful dialectical process, and not just as an unreflective switch back to the accustomed. In that sense it sent the right signal and provided a valuable artistic experience at the right moment in these strange times. It was proof that music/dance can be more than an aesthetically beautiful, floating pleasure, nourishing our souls, but can touch on deeper grounds of existence too.

Referential points for the work of Sun-Mi Hong and her troupe could be "When the Mountain Changed Its Clothing" by Heiner Goebbels' and Vocal Theatre Carmina Slovenica's, the work of French Surnatural Orchestra (see my review here), the work T(r)opic by Julien Desprez and Rob Mazurek with Sao Paulo Underground and the Portuguese dancers of Coco, performed at Sons d'Hiver in Paris and at Jazzfest Berlin. Also, the collaborations of choreographer/dancer Josef Nadj with improvising musicians comes to mind.

This puts Sun-Mi Hong's work "Dance in Four Colors," an original landmark of jazz from the Netherlands, in a broader context.

Haystack trioism at the outskirts of Rotterdam

Next stop on the Sun-Mi Hong passage as artist in focus was an old farmhouse on the northern outskirts of Rotterdam next to the river Schie and near Delft, the town of renowned painter Vermeer (1632-1675). The buildings of the old farm, now home to art and atelier Wibbinekien, are an astonishing combination of the visible disappearance of a bygone life and world and raw, provisional and purposeful fitting out to meet ends. Lots of deficiencies, primitivities, damages or broken parts had not been removed, repaired, whitewashed or restored/renovated in idyllic style or in counterpoint to modern functional esthetics. It is in a raw, persistent state of transition. Bare earth for the floor and a still filled manure pit among others are part of it.

The farm's name, Three Mountains, is a puzzling mystery. The Netherlands has nothing that corresponds to the common notion of 'mountain' and the site of the farm doesn't show a noticeable elevation (the highest elevation of the country situated in the southeast is a hill of about 322 meters high). This Three Mountains Farm was the site for a brand-new trio comprising Sun-Mi Hong. The three musicians had to climb the main haystack in the farmyard, containing no hay or straw, but a grand piano and a drum-set instead. The concert had to bring in the harvest of this freshly established triarchy. The trio as such already was a surprise and the great unknown entity (for me at least) was saxophonist José Soares (1991).

Sun-Mi Hong is an experienced, dynamic, open drummer who knows when to play softly, when to be loud, and when to keep quiet. José Soares is the mysterious man who—as it turned out during the concert -has managed to capture and merge characteristics of both the sound of Trygve Seim (the tone bending) and Mats Gustafsson (the rawness) in the Lusitanian bedding of his unique and captivating tone of voice. It started to dawn on me that I had seen him earlier as sideman in Pedro Melo Alves' Omnia Ensemble and João Mortago's group Axes in Lisbon see my All About Jazz review here. Apparently, he is a much-in-demand sideman in Portugal and the Netherlands. Finally, there is the old hand Harmen Fraanje (1976) with his richly variegated performance practice through the years being part of great configurations with artists including Ernst Reijseger, Mats Eilertsen, Trygve Seim, Arve Henriksen, Toma Gouband or Magic Malik. He is one of the most internationally operative Dutch jazz musicians for quite some time now. He appears to also be open to real in-depth and long-term developmental collaboration with musicians of the young generation and this trio emerged as a strong, inspired, focused match capable of rolling out original and gripping musical lines beyond the more traveled trio tracks.

Drumming and drawing

During the festival week covered here, I was staying as artist-in-residence at the Goethe Institut in Rotterdam. Goethe-Institut presented an exhibition of my live drawings that had been created at festivals all over Europe over the past five years. It was a follow-up to my exhibitions in Wroclaw (2017), Katowice (2020, 2021) and Heidelberg (2020). Part of my residency program, alongside the exhibition and doing live drawing at the festival's concerts, was an interactive duo concert drumming+drawing together with the festival's artist in focus, Sun-Mi Hong.

Live drawing can take various forms: it can happen (1) in parallel with the musical performance, (2) through projection as a visible accompaniment to the musical performance, and finally (3) through projection as a visible interactive part of a joint musical performance. In the latter case live drawing not only reacts to the music but also initiates music, gives impulses for the music and influencing the music. Music and drawings both are created in real time mutual exchange and lively interaction.

This last variant took place in a drumming-and-drawing duo with drummer Sun-Mi Hong. It was our first performance encounter of real-time- creation, a truly thrilling challenge. It was more than worthwhile to have accepted this challenge and turned out to be a satisfying experience for both of us. I will reflect upon it more thoroughly in a later article and deal with the question of whether you can draw music and if you can make music from drawings- as-score.

On the audience's side the performance considerably raised the attention, involvement and enjoyment of the visitors present at the encounter, especially those not so familiar with open improvisation. Listeners could match their own experience of the music with the projected live drawing in progress: either in terms of identification/consonance, or mismatch/dissonance. Reception became more self-directed and active through this. For some it seemed to have had a still more holistic effect. They were captivated by the search for, and the momentaneous invention of, a unique common language purely in and from spontaneous interaction.

Fascinating for them was the process and means of finding each other, becoming connected, coinciding and creating something interlocking in common, something that emerged freely from the performers' very own inner sources and urge. In short, the audience was rather noticeably present, quite curious, keen and patient, and open to astonishment and receptive for joyous playfulness, too—which clearly manifested in informal talk after the performance. This all was also certainly due to the duo-format, the most focused, concentrated constellation of interplay that both forced and enabled performers to rely on the impulses and accessible resources of the moment, enlarge and expand upon them. The two different means of expression elucidated each other, became inextricably connected as an autonomous piece (for this effect see a review of a recent staging of my live drawing in Mannheim, Germany).

Kitchen music

A couple of festivals in Europe work with concerts in private homes. One of the first to build a substantial tradition of this is festival Jazztopad in Wroclaw, Poland. Musicians that participated in the concert hall concerts play in open and changing combinations at people's homes, which creates and intensifies social cohesion and leads into surprising new combinations and outcomes. Jazzfest Berlin also started it three years ago and will continue. While Wroclaw and Berlin do it on a special fixed day, Rotterdam integrated it at various points in the program. It is a logical consequence of NSRT's approach to operate community-oriented events at various places and levels.

These concerts mostly take place in homes of people who have a close relation-ship with the festival. In this case it was the home of visual artist and festival photographer Maarten Laupman, who lives in a former ambulance garage (in a neighborhood behind Rotterdam central station) that had been transformed into a grand living space, a loft at ground level. Here a duo-concert of drummer Sun-Mi Hong and trumpeter Alistair Payne took place in the kitchen.

The kitchen was situated in the front part beyond the entrance in a deepening of the space bordered on the opposite side by a wide stair leading to the higher part. The wide stair steps functioned as seats (for the audience), a kind of grandstand, and the kitchen became the two musicians' workplace. In Copenhagen I experienced a concert with an improvising chef (Jakob Mielcke with Jakob Bro and Thomas Morgan) but I never saw musicians giving a concert in a real kitchen, a real kitchen that was entirely dyed in 60s design orange, which is a statement too.

The music itself wasn't less surprising or fascinating. Payne and Hong, on trumpet and drums, performed pieces from their latest (lockdown) album "IN: Slow Walk" / "IN:人." It manifested as the intimate sober music of two voices within a wide-open, clairaudient space. Payne engraved distinct clear lines into the bare space, while Hong's rustling illuminated it as vividly crystalizing silhouettes. The deep grumbling of her mallets gave the trumpet blasts underlying volcanic power. Both together turned out as earthy sylvan spirits calmly making the air sing and rustle full of bold essential clarity. Both musicians apprehend things by using the fundamental guises of their instruments to fathom and grasp the world. It is the dialectics of abstracting horn lines and concrete echoing of the world through deep drumming that gives their music making such a convincing and sustaining appeal. From this, their rendition of Thelonious Monk's "Crepuscule with Nellie" turned up in a striking elementary guise. No reproduction was at work here but originality and re-creation from a deeper ground and instinct.

Hell-dog in Worm

The last night of my artist in residence time in Rotterdam brought me to the great WORM venue to experience Amsterdam Trio Blik of Annelie Koning (voice), Luc Ex, (acoustic bass guitar) and drummer Tristan Renfrow in their rugged program based on the poetry of Charles Bukowski's "Love is a Dog from Hell" (1977).

WORM "is the ultimate test environment for alternative art production, experimental ways of living and non-academic knowledge development." Here all kinds of arts, expressive actions and events, technical experimentation, discursive excursions and crazy exploratory expeditions to and beyond the edges are busily going on there. Worm is functioning as a "network organization at the intersection of (popular) culture and (performing) arts." Situated in the center of Rotterdam, Worm has two event stages, fully operating analogue and digital cinema facilities, the S/ash Gallery exhibition space, the UBIK performance space, The Performance Bar, the Pirate Bay media archive, WORM Sound Studio, and a film laboratory and the and Wunderbar Café. The chaos inevitably caused by so much whirling activity is used there as productive creational energy.

In Blik the rhythmically dense and unescapable pogo attack of Renfrow and Luc Ex formed a heavy base. Koning's clear and nimble voice impinged on it with contrast, nuance and agility keeping the whole moving on thereby preserving and shaping the ambivalence inherent in the poems of wild man Charles Bukowski (1920-1994). Blik, the Dutch band-name, by the way, not only means 'gaze' but also 'can.'

It is the heteronomy, the blending and collisions of incongruent sentiments of Bukowski's lament and stating in "The Crunch," "This Than," "Beds Toilets" etc. that seek their expression in Blik's music making. While, quite oddly, Bukowski's poems often are recited with classical music as background, Blik's approach was really something else. It gave Bukowski's word salvos more of the edges Bukowski himself was operating upon. More about Blik's performance can hopefully be seen in or inferred from the live-drawings I made during the concert (see the gallery here).

The Bukowski program was preceded by a complex composition entitled "Toch Nog Gelukkig"/"Still Happy After All" that Koning had created collectively with Gerjan Piksen and Jeroen Callaars. She herself then interacted as vocalist live with a pre-recorded part of the composition that played a game with the babble of voices in our minds, distracting us, making ourselves doubt, become insecure, getting heavily irritated or impatient in this inner struggle. Koning interacted live with all these distracting voices in all modes of her own voice in order to assert herself as unified persona. It is a scintillating undertaking if you consider that PER-SONA is a sonic concept, a concept based on sound. Thus, this night another scene/network/venue was co-opted and considerably expanded the artistic range of the festival.

Words and images

My written account here supplements the live-drawings I created as part of my artist-in-residency task. The written account itself then is informed to a high degree by my live drawing during the attended concerts—it's a bidirectional affair evidently. Unfortunately, it is not possible here to present both the written and the drawn notes next to each other to obtain the potential of their interaction. It will be dealt with in an additional article later. For a small selection of live drawings see also the gallery here.

My written report here complements the live drawings that I made as part of my artist-in-residence assignment. The written report itself is then again largely influenced by my live drawing during the concerts I attended—obviously a bidirectional matter.

Cutting lines and edges: a new young dynamic international scene in The Netherlands

This festival brought some close encounters with amazingly open, talented and courageously collaborating musicians of an astonishing new international scene here in The Netherlands. Things appear to fall into place among them, fire inspiration, imagination and spark a highly productive and open spirit in this scene. Devoid of inhibitions that restricted former generations, they spur each other on such that it's all fire and flames that sparkle. In former years incentives and responses for international students apparently were not strong enough to stay for longer in The Netherlands and bloom there. Those who grew and achieved international status often left after a while to prosper elsewhere.

What happened in recent years kind of dissolved a veil and caused a wondrous quantum leap of exceptional bloom mainly among international students coming from the much-frequented popular conservatories among European music students. The proportion of musicians of Dutch descent in that scene is remarkably small. Self-confidence and a strong sense of collaboration and community apparently get paired in this new generation. It established high dynamics of creation and performance as well as a clearly noticeable and visible drive of enterprising. Apparently, the lines of kindred spirits, young musicians destined for each other, crossed in Amsterdam and Rotterdam and evoked a vibe which is still infecting an entire scene. A clearly different mood and spirit has started to prevail and has yielded disarming results. It brought forth musicians and music of high standard and cutting-edge character. To get more specific insight in potential and progress of these newcomers an extra article would be required.

What's (in) a festival? Rotterdam dynamics and spirit

NSRT not only took up this strong forward-to-new-territories mood. It reinforced it by going beyond just programming a selection of groups from that scene. The two festival directors embedded the musicians in the development of projects pushing the envelope and enable cross-fertilization. They let the artists set the direction, shape and elaborate it themselves. They took the role of close listening, understanding, and cooperatively letting it take form, and facilitating realization—an approach we also know from recent editions of Jazzfest Berlin (see my resume "The Boldest Swipe Anno 2019") and some other renewing festivals. This fits in with the dynamism of the city and its citizens as I experienced it during my residency. It is not acting from particularity or lucky miracle bags of diversity. It is acting from generality, connections and junctions, to uncover and establish interesting new ones, invigorate and deepen old ones. It is acting to throw new light on known things, acting to lead from the known, handed down into arriving at uncommon and surprising perspectives. NSRT has decidedly taken this path, has joined forces with new young sources and spirits and has given rise to strong and continuing vibrations. Go ahead, vooruit, ça ira!

Special thanks to Sun-Mi Hong, Dave Mullan, Marco Douma, Menno Versluys, Claudia Curio

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