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Punkt Festival 2016

Henning Bolte By

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Punkt Festival
Kristiansand, Norway
September, 3-5, 2016

Punkt Festival in Kristiansand, Southern Norway, is a small, informal festival of internationally high artistic reputation and esteem. It takes place during the first week of September. Founded in 2005 its 12th edition as usual presented a wide range of musical performances and seminars plus a special sound installation in co-operation with the Kristiansand Kunsthal. It's one of the few festivals, that cuts through genres for purely artistic (and no commercial) reasons. This year's co-operation with Kristiansand Kunsthall was an exhibition by the profiled light and video artist HC Gilje.

At the festivals core is the immediate live remix of an initial musical performance as a whole, made by a crew of highly respected artists loosely gathered around the inner circle of Punkt musicians. The last two editions boasted a broadened fanning set-up with headliners like Laurie Anderson and three parallel live-remixes. This year the set-up had a more contracted, concentrated format with mainly Norwegian musicians, Armenian-North-American pianist Tigran Hamasyan, and British prog rock band Three Trapped Tigers (for both second appearance at the festival). In general Punkt Festival never repeats a set-up. Certain key elements are permanent though, and certain artists reoccur every once in a while. This report contains some further considerations on the occasion of this year's edition.

The festival as an artistic focus point for development and dissemination

The Kristiansand event is not just a festival event in the common sense. It is an important focal meeting point in both retro-and prospective perspective. The Punkt concept of improvisation and live-remix has been disseminated to venues and festivals in other countries. Musicians and groups involved in those satellite-events in return have been invited to participate in the performances of the Kristiansand mother ship festival. Punkt has done live remix events in a vast number of places around the world, namely London, Paris, Montreal, San Sebastian, Amsterdam, Mannheim, Ludwigshafen, Oslo, Moers, Tallinn, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Cologne, Düsseldorf, Milan, Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Mumbai, Prague, Brno, Garana, Wroclaw, Rzeszow, Lodz, Gdansk, and Warsaw. Punkt Festival is a manifestation of a network of musicians, artists and scholars from various disciplines, writers and media professionals.

Reactions from the field are varied. You have those artistic directors/programmers who step into it full force offering their performance space and are open for genre defying combinations and meetings. Then there are those who like the way the musicians of the Punkt-crew act on stage making music. They invite Punkt-musicians for concerts whether or not joined by musicians from their own country's scene without recognizing or taking care of potentials of the live-remix part. Punkt- musicians then apply remixing techniques WITHIN one and the same performance. The term 'live remix' can indeed easily be misunderstood. Googling it, you will find things about directly intervening in an ongoing performance (mostly of a dj) changing sound characteristics or direction. In improvised music this is indicated as live electronics (more about the 'mix' term in the last chapter). And then there are of course those who just ignore the whole thing or try to evade it.

Punkt has worked with all kinds of musicians from all kinds of styles and genres from Early Music ace Jordi Savall to hardcore techno representatives. It seems that especially musicians from the classical field love the remixing experience and are fond of it. They enjoy it to hear the music they make casted back in this form as an effort of careful listening of a respected musician. It means a lot in a field where so many things are canonized and sealed. Mostly not the musicians but defensive gatekeeping programmers are preventing fresh air circulation (see also below).

Cast back of blind listening

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