The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Presenter Interview
Norway's Ultima Contemporary Music Festival is held annually each autumn. This year the spotlight is on Japan.
Norway's Ultima Contemporary Music Festival is held annually each autumn. This year the spotlight is on Japan
What programs do you have to nurture an audience for contemporary music in Norway?
Johnson: We have quite a strong educational program. One performer we sent out this year met with 500 music students around the Oslo area giving concerts, talking to children about music. We also do programs actively reaching out to kids, both those who are already trained in music and those who aren't. We have one for best young string instrument players in Norway, where we expose them to contemporary performers and improvisation. These are young people who may eventually end up in the Oslo or Bergen philharmonic orchestras, so we want to expose them to other types of music. Our Ultima educational program is only run during the two weeks leading up to the festival but, still, we were able to reach about 4,000 school children in 2004. We don't have the money to do this year-round, however, so we have been developing projects that other people can adopt and use at other times in the year.

Henrichsen: There is also a strong educational aspect to our festival itself. We have a master class for composition students every year for example. There is an important part of our program.

Do you have any measurements of the success of these activities?
Johnson: Yes. The contemporary music audience was about 10,000 in Norway in the early 1990s and it is now 15,000 and 20,000. Actually the work of building a contemporary music audience is a process of constantly rebuilding your audience because it is not an audience that stays with you for a long time as the times change and the musicians change. But I think we are building a more professional audience that seeks international level performances. As you know, it is very easy and cheap to travel between countries in Europe, so people can easily go to London or Berlin or Amsterdam or some other city for a concert, which means that we are in effect competing against all these European capitals. That is another reason why we have to maintain very high standards, so that we can keep rebuilding an audience in Oslo.

After your Japanese program in 2005, will there be any kind of reciprocation, where you will be sending Norwegian musicians to Japan?
Johnson: We hope there will be further exchanges, but we never make that a demand form our side. If other countries want to cooperate with us for their sake, that's fine. But, we do not say, "We will take your artists if you take ours." We don't work that way. Everything has to be based on completely independent judgment. We are part of a Paris-based international network of 17 or 18 festivals around Europe, and we meet four times a year to discuss and disseminate ideas.

Henrichsen: This network is a fantastic tool for exchanging information about artists and disseminating ideas. And because of these connections, for example, the Jo Kondo work we have commissioned will also be performed probably in UK, Austria and Germany. And they will be taking the program because they think it is interesting, not because of any obligation. And that is the way it should be.

We hear there are many Japanese music students studying in Norway
Johnson: That's right, In fact there have been Japanese musicians in Mr. Henrichsen's ensemble from time to time. There are many Japanese who have studied in Norway over the past ten years especially. And now there are some professional Japanese musicians performing in our orchestras. And we have a Japanese woman working on our Festival as a program coordinator who studied music therapy here in Norway. I hope such active exchanges between Japan and Norway will continue to expand toward the future.
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