The festival Sound Disobedience emerged as an echo of the confrontation within a seemingly homogenous music practice known as free improvisation. This confrontation is its key moment, for it tears apart the seeming unity of this music practice and presents it in its own diversity. It represents marginal music practices that have been internationally recognised as a part of the broader music environment for over half a century and in Slovenia for the last thirty years. The festival did not emerge from a vacuum, for it is a successor of numerous similar festivals in Europe and broader (some of which appeared as early as the 1970s) which appeared as initiatives by various musicians, associations, societies and communes and are kept alive even today by public funds. In this aspect the festival Sound Disobedience is an initiative by a musician for musicians. From its very beginnings, free improvisation could be found between institutional and non-institutional music fields. It was always considered marginal, for the practitioners of this music are also its main audience; however, by establishing its own spaces and festivals it regularly managed to enter institutional spaces. The nature of this genre is typically local in the formation of the audience, community and scene, even though it is as a rule oriented internationally. On the outside it appears to be an international community, which is built on connections and meetings and on establishing its own publishing, distribution, concert and festival models outside the prevailing dominant models, however as a community it is not immune to the mechanisms that rule the music industry, i.e. the trends, the star system and cliques. It appears to be open, all encompassing, but at the same time it is limited from within. It assumes the position of an extreme inter-subjective expression, but at the same time it is opening up and building a shared expression. It eludes hierarchies and thus attempts to show its disobedience, but at the same time it establishes temporary hierarchies and relations on as well as off stage. The temporality of the moment is the medium in which it resounds, and the festival captures this temporality and presents, reflects and confronts it through the silent sounds of fertile and constructive confrontation.
In the broader sense the festival is a child of the neighbouring festivals, such as Konfrontationen in Nickelsdorf, Unlimited in Wels or the larger and broader set International Jazz Festival in Saalfelden. However, these festivals all take place in remote, small local centres, rather than in a big town or city. These festivals served as a model for Jazz Cerkno and the Brda Contemporary Music Festival in Goriška brda, which are similar in their outline to the Sound Disobedience festival. The Brda Contemporary Music festival is organised by Zlatko Kaučič, one of the main figures on the Slovene scene known not only for his work, concert series on Hum and the teaching of young musicians, but also for exposing the Slovene improvisers to the first live contact with the international scene. In the past similar contents could also be found at the Ljubljana Jazz festival and the Druga godba festival, as well as the series of concerts which took place in Cankarjev dom, but even more intensively they resounded alongside the silent movies in the series Kino-Uho (Cinema-Ear), organised in the Slovenian Cinematheque by Miha Zadnikar, who is also the organiser of the Defonija series on Metelkova, which has been running for a number of years now. Alongside these ran the early concert endeavours of the woodwind musician Vasko Atanasovski which took place in Maribor and the series The Hiden Notes of David Braun, also in Maribor, which later provided the basis for the Izzven Jazz festival which today runs a similar programme in Narodni dom in Maribor. Free improvisation occasionally appeared at the Sajeta festival, in the projects and concerts organised in Slovenia and abroad by Matjaž Manček within the frame of KUD Kataman, in the series of sound events and lectures Bitshift, in the Sonica Series and at the festival City of Women. This field was also briefly, but incredibly powerfully influenced by the international festival of improvised music Personal – Collective, which was organised by the Japanese percussionist Seijiro Murayama. These are all stations on the path to our Sound Disobedience festival, which is today accompanied by series such as FriForma, Ropotarnica and SOU.ND.ING duo in Ljubljana, Rojišče in Vrhnika, Sunday NOISE in Bistrica ob Sotli and Mariboring in Maribor. Sound disobedience is a sum of the creative, organisational, media and cultural-political initiatives and endeavours, which formed the Slovene scene, musicians, organisers, publishers, reporters, reviewers, spaces and the listening community. At the same time the festival also represents the unrest and conflict within the initiator and programme director of the festival, the double bass player and improviser Tomaž Grom, who does not use the festival to establish a coherent vision, but uses it as a unique training range for creative meetings and collisions. In some cases he stages collisions between free improvisation and contemporary theatre, performance and dance, or between free improvisation and sound or inter-media art or the fields of jazz, free jazz, electro-acoustic, electronic and contemporary classical music. Unlike a number of other festivals and series that stage these collisions and meetings by counterpoising the different music genres, Sound Disobedience tries to stage them predominantly through the practice of improvisation. This is what makes the festival contemporary in nature, for it is a festival that not only tries to present these practices, but also reflects upon them and offers a critical insight into them. The festival is a meeting ground for various generations of improvisers, from the pioneers to the generations that follow them, and it also provides a fertile ground for the different aesthetic principles and approaches that are often linked to a certain geographic location. If the early generations emerged from the Afro-American radicalisation of jazz (free jazz) and the search for their own expression outside of it, i.e. a unique deviance from the modernism found within classical Western music and the established forms and principles found within popular music, the historical difference between the generations can be found in the fact that the younger generation of free improvisers no longer base their work on the differences and deviances from other traditions, genres and approaches, but in the confrontation with them. The confrontation with the concepts of sound and space in sound art, with performance practices and concepts in contemporary art, entering the interactive and audio-visual fields, confronting silence, intersecting the tradition of experimental music as open compositions and non-determined sound matter, disseminating sonority and the dispersion in space and the sounding of everyday noise, the noises created by various objects, processes and surfaces, analogue and digital electronic sound synthesis co-sounding with contemporary and past electronic practices and with the field recordings and last, but not least, entering the dialogue with others, presented by composed practices. These are the flows found throughout Sound Disobedience, and to which the domestic clique of improvisers in the local and international projects belong together with the numerous co-operations created and nourished by the festival.
In the background the Sound Disobedience festival is powered by its own inner logic that draws from the contents of Sploh Institute’s annual production and brings these contents to life in the new, festival format, which does not bring merely meetings in music and in contact with it, but also alongside it, in the intense social contacts that such an environment offers to the musicians as well as visitors. We might even state that the festival emerged from the necessity to ground the numerous activities created by the various creative people, while ensuring that its contents get better exposure through the dynamics of the media space. At the core of the festival lies the concert series Confine Aperto which has been going on for years, however the festival provides focus for its dispersed nature and the variety of sound aesthetics that form the series, as they are confronted in the same space, which leads to contacts, collisions, confrontations, meetings within the scene and provides the necessary and healthy comparative frame within the Slovene scene. In the background murmurs the influence of the music workshop Research, Reflection, which has over the years of its existence became one of the main incubators of today’s strong and extremely active domestic scene of improvisers. Even though they hover in the background, the workshops provide an essential element of the festival, for they provide a space in which knowledge, experience, the various approaches, models aesthetics, and ideologies are transferred from one musician to another, only to be in the end transferred to us through their performances on stage. This obstacle course brings the festival its research component, while reflection is brought to it by the guest lectures and the lively debates that accompany them, where the internal dynamics within the field of free improvisation obtain their reflection and criticism through the different views, which indicate that this is by no means a unified field, but a dynamic entity with internal conflicts, numerous positions, as well as ideological, aesthetic and social views. The festival format is an ideal field for these confrontations that are deliberately cultivated during the festival as a necessary reflection for a creative practice. To a lesser degree the festival also includes the contemporary dance and performative practices that are improvised together with the music embodied in the series Non-form, and the field of inter-media art, which is embodied in the practices of sound performances, installations, conceptual art and sound art. These are the cross-sections and intermediate spaces, penetrated by free improvisation in the attempt to confront them in various, sometimes even conflicting ways. Disobedience is the key element that can be linked to the term non-idiomatic improvisation as a radical and at the same time utopian formulation of free improvisation, through which this formed and set its own foundation and already at the very start showed its inner conflicts and contradictive nature. This is also expressed in the field of disobedient as a unique impossible rebellion, impossible, yet necessary.
The text was originally published in the booklet of the 2018’s edition of Sound Disobedience festival