This November, the 21st edition of the MUSICA NOVA international electro-acoustic music competition took place in Prague. It was entered by 107 composers from 22 countries; for the most part, musicians professionally trained at established universities and art schools. As a rule, the creators undergo lifelong education, since mastering computer technologies is the prerequisite for their work in this domain.
What "had to be done"? Last year, after evaluating the two decades of their activity, the members of the jury, independently from each other, arrived at the conclusion that composers tend to produce more "projects" and "experiments" than "works". In other words, in most cases the jury perceived a lack of a sufficient artistic reflection of inner links: WHY / ABOUT WHAT / HOW ... I don't, however, consider us to be a bunch of fogeys who have no idea of what's going on, unaware that a "work" can have an open-ended concept. I set the "FOR WHOM" to one side since, especially of late, when artistic activity in the European Union has been incorporated into the so-called cultural services, it is necessary to accentuate the discourse at whose centre lies freedom and individuality and its right to express itself irrespective of what is expected from the audience and public-money distributors, without whom, at least in part, a minority creative discipline cannot cope. The other side of the freedom coin, however, is responsibility. And this is one of the things we bear in mind: that creators should weigh up the gift of freedom carefully and reflect on their works before sending them into the "public space", which is clogged up with information and artistic deadwood. We are aware of the fact that contemporary creation necessarily contains "material" yet to be filtered by time; hence, much more low-quality stuff than in the repertoire refined by history. In this respect, the audience should not be deceived, otherwise we will completely lose their confidence.
Yet history is not a trustworthy filter in this sense either, as Michel Foucault wrote in his book The Archaeology of Knowledge. Even remarkable works can fall into oblivion, mostly by reason of the fact that they have not found enough support within the social context of institutions, media, or simply "random" interest on the part of a "random fool", who hasn't let himself succumb to the ruling stereotypes of perception and evaluation. And this is where our responsibility rests too, in shared responsibility, as those forming the opportunity, financial incentive (albeit quite low), expert evaluation, as well as the entry in the public exchange.
Accordingly, we decided to slightly predetermine the shape of this year's competition by the word "rhythm", which we didn't mean anyhow trivially. We simply wanted to draw the attention of the creators to the form, temporality, which in the case of electro-acoustic music can acquire truly varied semblances, particularly within acousmatic music, working with moulding of the acoustic space.
The members of the jury, the majority of whom have long-time pedagogic experience and are also familiar with the situation abroad, have reached the consensus that it does make sense to stimulate aesthetic reflection in education through competitions. At the majority of schools, teachers focus on familiarisation with the functions of new technologies and software, mastering them, and to a much lesser extent deal with aesthetic and philosophical aspects, often with the explanation that "this cannot be taught at school". In addition, students frequently earn their living through performing commissions in which they can refine creations yet do not have sufficient time for their ripening.
After 1990, we didn't want to direct the competition in any respect, only in the sense that we declared that we were interested in top-quality sound artistic works and that we didn't aim to overly generalise the task by extending it to encompass multimedia creations, since we would have to evaluate material often incomparable, too variable in terms of configuration of its functions. …