NAMES receives Ensemble Promotion Prize of the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation
The New Art and Music Ensemble NAMES recently received the Ensemble Promotion Prize of the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation, endowed with 70,000 euros. A conversation with Anna Lindenbaum, violinist and founding member of NAMES.
Anna Lindenbaum is a violinist, freelance musician, founding member of the ensemble NAMES and focuses on the performance of contemporary music and interdisciplinary projects. She studied violin with Benjamin Schmid and Esther Hoppe at the Mozarteum University - as did all her ensemble colleagues - and with Tanja Becker Bender at the Musikhochschule Hamburg. Her busy concert schedule at home and abroad has taken her to festivals such as the Lockenhaus Chamber Music Festival, the Salzburg Festival, Wiener Festwochen, Wien Modern, Soundframefestival, Ruhrtriennale, Beethovenfest Bonn, Münchner Opernfestspiele, Styriarte and others. She also plays in orchestras such as Klangforum Wien, Concentus Musicus, Camerata Salzburg, Ensemble Prisma, Ensemble Phace, oenm Salzburg, Mozarteumorchester, Haydnphilharmonie and others.
The Salzburg-based ensemble NAMES - democratically organised as a collective - sees itself as an experimental laboratory for all those who appreciate new ideas and sound art. The aim is to combine different forms of contemporary art in programmes and concepts and also to build bridges to other art forms such as performance, dance, visual arts and literature. With eleven musicians - Alexander Bauer, Marco Döttlinger, Valerie Fritz, Marina Iglesias Gonzalo, Matthias Leboucher, Anna Lindenbaum, Spela Mastnak, Leo Morello, Josef Ramsauer, Alexandra Lampert-Raschké and Marco Sala - from seven European countries, there is also great cultural diversity.
Congratulations on receiving the "Ensemble-Förderpreis 2023" from the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation. What does this great prize mean for you and the Ensemble NAMES? Are there already projects and plans for how you would like to use the prize money?
The prize means a great confirmation and relief for our work. You get the feeling that you are doing the right thing. When you're young and haven't been in professional life for that long and then you don't do what is promoted a lot and big in the classical concert business, you're also often insecure in what you do and in the decisions you make. There are not too many prizes for ensembles. There are rather awards for individual artists and promotional prizes for compositions. So this prize is an incredible opportunity for us. It means money, of course, which opens up possibilities we didn't have before.
But the prize also brings a lot of attention, we are now more in the spotlight. This results in new contacts as well as new opportunities to perform. We are seen by people who have not seen us before. The prize money is tied to structural support measures. That means we are not allowed to pay ourselves the money or invest it in amenities (laughs). The money may be invested in measures that sustainably promote us. These are things like the purchase of percussion and technology. Things that we used to have to procure differently. A big point for us is also the employment of a person who takes organisational work off our hands. Fortunately, the number of concerts is increasing, but this is also accompanied by a lot of organisational work, which we used to share collectively.
What does "working collectively" mean?
It is often the case that there is an artistic director who makes artistic decisions alone. Or one is employed as a musician with a roster. We want to avoid that. We make all the decisions together, but we also share all the work, including the organisational work.
Are there many ensembles that specialise in contemporary music? Do you need focal points to establish yourself on the music market?
There are already some new music ensembles, yes. Our characteristic is cross-disciplinary artistic work and for us it was also clear from the beginning that we wanted to deal with contemporary music, performance and interdisciplinarity. Our artistic interest is in the foreground. Market relevance is one thing. Of course it plays a role if you want to get gigs. On the other hand, it is very dangerous to concentrate only on market relevance. I think it's very important to do things that you yourself find important and exciting. If that goes down well, it's nice, but as soon as you do things just to get gigs, you lose yourself a bit. That is not conducive to artistic output.
What do you and the ensemble NAMES want to convey artistically?
We are interested in the dialogue between music and other art forms, because we believe that there is a lot of undiscovered and great potential in this. For us, this is very fertile ground. The mutual influence of the arts is very exciting. Last week, for example, we were in Bulgaria for some concerts to collaborate with the Bulgarian artist Antoni Rayzhekov, who conceived a performance with so-called biofeedback sensors. We were four musicians on stage without instruments, but wearing sensors on our bodies to measure body signals like heart rate or stress level. These signals were transformed into sound. As they moved, the frequencies and signals changed and so did the sounds. Another example is the concert series planned for 2023 on the theme of "dystopias". We will look at how to express the theme with different arts. The third concert in this series will take place in November at the "Wien Modern" festival, which we are very excited about!
What was the path like from the founding of the ensemble in 2014 to this prize?
The road was long and rocky and it still is (laughs). There weren't that many people at the Mozarteum in the instrumental department who were involved in New Music - with the exception of the composition department and the Studio for Electronic Music. A few students who were very interested in this subject got together to realise projects together. It started with one or two concerts a year. We all had a lot to do with our studies and so the ensemble slowly developed until it finally came to the founding of the NAMES ensemble. One of the main organisational agendas is to raise funds. There are funding opportunities from the city, the state and the federal government. There is also project funding and funding for composition commissions. After our association was founded, the next big step was our own rehearsal room, and now we have to get organisational help. It takes five to six years to keep going and still none of us lives exclusively from the ensemble, but it is our heart's project!
What was your greatest illusion?
That practising alone would be enough.
Is there anything else you would like to pass on to us?
Come to our concerts!