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Nuria Núñez Hierro

With ‘Bestiarium’, composer Nuria Núñez Hierro wants to confront young listeners with the contemporary musical language of music theater and thereby oppose the established practice of adapting and re-addressing classical pieces to the label “Music for the Young”. To begin with, in an analytical part, the interplay of musical and theatrical elements of current contemporary productions will be examined and then related to the communication with children to develop a hybrid format of contemporary music theater, concert, and sound installation for children. ‘Bestiarium’ is referring to the work of Luis Borges.

Nuria Núñez Hierro is a spanish composer (September, 07th, 1980). Her music explores the potential of duality performer/instrument through unconventional instrumental techniques, amplification and integrated vocal gestures. In her work she often incorporates scenics sound objects to expand the expressive possibilities of the performers and to research new forms of behavior and communication in listening.

She has been awarded numerous prizes and scholarship such as the First Prize and the Audience Prize at the Composition Competition for Orchestra of the Spring Festival of Weimar (2014), the Villa aurora Fellowship (2015, artistic residence in Los Ángeles), the Kompositionsstipendium of the Thüringer Landesmusikakademie Sondershausen (2013, artistic residence and a commission work for orchestra), the Third Prize on the VII Jurgenson International Composer’s Competition (Centre for Contemporary Music of Moscow) or the Nomination for the European Composer Award of the Festival Young Euro Classic Berlin (2012, with her work Donde se forjan las quimeras).Currently she lives and works in Berlin, where she is a fellow (from 2014 to 2016) of the Graduate School for the Arts and Sciences of the University of Arts Berlin (Forum for postgraduate Studies and Research at Berlin University of the Arts) with the project Bestiarium, a study of the interrelations of both musical and theatrical elements in current performative productions for all audiences.

In the last few years the number of works (such as operas, concertos, musiktheater and performances) for young audiences has been increasing. Interestingly enough, many of these works turn to old music or folkloric style in order to contextualize their dramatic action. Besides, the label “for young audiences” usually involves a certain facilitation of the musical language, favouring the theatrical and visual aspects at the expense of the aesthetic quality of the musical discourse. Nonetheless, if children’s hearing is still free from the conventionalities of traditional harmony, why should we assume that they will not be able to cope with contemporary musical language?, why then offering them only a part of our musical culture when, in reality, they are the most capable of facing the most diverse sound languages?

Bestiarium is an experimental interactive proposal in which musical theater, sound installations and an interactive sound workshop gather together in an hour long stage experience for people from 6 years old and up. With the intent of provoking a real confrontation of children and young people with contemporary musical language, as well as reflecting upon the current dramatic-musical production for all ages, and contributing to the development of new dramatic ways and structures, Bestiarium is thus born.

The first results of this project were presented on June 20th 2015 in the framework of the Salon of Aesthetic Experiments at Haus der Kulturen der Welt. This event is a collaborative project between the Graduate School at the Forum for Post Graduate Studies at Berlin University of the Arts and the Haus der Kulturen der Welt and is kindly supported by the Einstein Foundation Berlin.

Bestiarium develops its plot like an interactive Sound-Walk in which the audience shares the stage with the performers and plays an active role in the plot. For the performance at the Auditorium of the Haus der Kulturen der Welt we created a set design simulating a small labyrinth in which four creatures are placed and introduced along the walk. In his Libro de los seres imaginarios (Book of the imaginary beings) the Argentinean writer Jorge Luis Borges explored ancient bestiaries to compile a handbook of fantasy creatures conceived through time and space by the human imagination.Taking Borges’s book and other medieval bestiaries as sources of inspiration, our project introduces an interactive experience in which the young audience would share the dramatic space with the performers, sitting among them, observing and taking an active role in the dramatic action.

The action takes place in the storehouse of unsuccessful books where Ingrid works. This storehouse is a strange place that stores all the unfinished, faulty, or badly written books that were ever forsaken by their authors. The oldest of them all is the Enigm’s Book, an enormous book that it is actually the best ever written successful book:The enigmas in the book are so perfect that no one can try to solve them without going crazy. For this reason the book should be hidden but the only way to do this is by playing a magical musical spell with the help of some of the creatures living in this strange storehouse.

The formal development of the story is shaped by the interactions between the actress, the audience, and the different creatures dwelling in the storagehouse. These creatures will help the leading character, Ingrid, by suggesting her and the audience different musical-theatrical exercises. It is like a “Treasure hunt” (in German: a Schnitzeljagd): Once an exercise has been properly performed, the creatures will provide one part at a time of the magic spell that will put the book back where it belongs.

A project by Nuria Núñez Hierro with the collaboration of Iñigo Giner Miranda (stage director), Àngela Ribera (stage and costume designer) and the performers Vera Kardos, Cathrin Romeis, Meriel Price (DieOrdnungderDinge), Alba Gentili-Tedeschi and Manuel Rodríguez Valenzuela.