© Ernst Neisel

Culture and national identity – two thematic areas that are closely intertwined with each other. A language is an identity-building feature of a nation-state. Even if political borders and language boundaries hardly ever run congruently, the concept of a linguistic community is nonetheless constitutive of a nation-state. But to what extent do the arts and in particular music, long described as a universal language equally understandable to all, also contribute to a country’s sense of identity?

The traditions of Central Eastern Europe’s experimental music cultures are diverse and multifaceted. And in the 19th and 20th centuries, the contribution of music to the promotion of national identity, not only in Bohemia but in Hungary as well, must not be underestimated. And also in the Baltic countries, singers’ movements and festivals served among other things to mobilise the population for national movements under the conditions of foreign rule by Russia, Austria, Prussia, Germany or the Soviet Union. The upheavals of 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union were primarily driven by the “singing revolutions” of the Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian peoples.

Next-generation music talents from Central Eastern Europe

Against this backdrop, the next-generation music talents from Central Eastern Europe taking part in the project “Woher? Wohin? Mythen – Nation – Identitäten” are approaching the complex processes of construction or assertion of national identity in areas historically characterised by cultural diversity, which in public discourse cannot sustain themselves without the invention of traditions or invocation of imaginary communities. The young composers are aiming at an artistic reflection on the difficult investigation of historical or political myths in public discourse.

In a workshop with experts in the cultural sciences, critics, the composer and conductor Peter Eötvös and the Ensemble Modern, the participating young composers approached the theme on theoretical and practical levels. Subsequently, commissions for composing musical works were given to eight musicians from Latvia (3), Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovenia (2). The resulting works will be premiered by the Ensemble Modern in Germany and Central Eastern Europe through 2014.

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