Eastern Europe does not exist. In its place we find - from the outside as well as from the inside - a strangely multilayered bundle of experiences, opinions and prejudices dating from various historic periods, and still forming moving constellations of self-understandings and identities. Hungary and Croatia were not part of the Ottoman Empire to the same extent as were Bulgaria or Serbia, for example. Slovakia and Poland were part of the Eastern Bloc, but not Slovenia and Croatia, who were formerly part of bloc-free Yugoslavia. The Czech Republic, Hungary or Slovenia will probably be part of the European Union soon, which one could not say with the same confidence of some of the others mentioned here. And actually prior to all of this is what some Slovakian musicians very intently and proudly call the "genius loci", the ingenuity of the vernacular, the driving force of each region's own traditions.

The one former frontier appearing most obvious to us, the Iron Curtain, once arbitrarily defining what the West thought to be East in Europe, slowly has begun to dissolve, and in the loosening of this rigidity a number of the other stories (re)appear, historically remote ones as well as those written by today's markets. Participants in Slovenia's techno scene see themselves on the same lines that run from Rome to Berlin, from Istanbul to London. Experimental free-improvisers from Hungary play with an Austrian musician. A Slovakian electroacoustic composer remixes Western European iconoclasts, and an Hungarian independent pop group refers ironically to Western clichés about melancholy. Current purveyors of Polish electronic music gain confidence for international appearances by drawing on Polish experimental tradition, which was actually kept strong by the Cold War and martial law.

It might seem more appropriate, in accord with today's ideology of political correctness, to ask a team of curators from these countries to choose music and musicians for reports like this. But instead of presenting that kind of a self-portrait or self-portrayal, these reports evolved according to the principles of a classical portrait: The portraitists, coming from outside devote some time to the object of their desire and finally draw up a highly personal picture of the experience; classic, if sketchy, portraits based on external observation - actually, a series of snapshots. The old insight that each act of observation changes the subject of that observation, in some cases proved to be unexpectedly direct: The fact that our reports and the related research were clearly conceived of as overlapping individual regions and genres meant that many aspects of this work gave rise to understandings which were surprising and involved changes, not only for us but for those being observed, too. Finally these processes turned into being among the motivations for publishing these snapshots in a bilingual version.

By "overlapping individual regions and genres" is meant criteria and search patterns which are inclusive rather than exclusive. Of course, exclusive criteria must also be given, particularly when material must be gathered on the spot in the course of only a couple of days for a few hours of radio or pages of a book. There are well-defined and well-functioning genres, such as contemporary classical music (as in Poland and Hungary, with role models like Lutoslawski, Ligeti and Kurtag), jazz (represented in Croatia or Poland by seminal musicians such as Tomasz Stanko and Urszula Dudziak), or techno (represented in Slovakia and Slovenia, for example, by Umek ) and hip-hop (as in Bulgaria and Poland, represented, for example, by DJ 600 Volt). But these well-defined areas were not our main concern. We searched for current instances of 'new departure', and inquired after those people who are now - still or again - at work in the country or the specific place. We did not want renowned exiles as interview subjects, but rather those who are influencing today's scenes in the countries, from composers' unions to record labels to Internet platforms. We were looking for 'independent' music and musicians, and right there one might discern a subtle and manipulative strategy of ours, since a very 'Western' category hides within this concept. For decades Social Realism - even though it has varied from country to country - has made more or less everything nonofficial and nonacademic pretty "independent" anyway, to say the least. And during just about ten years of life under a market economy, those experimental scenes between and within improvisation, composition, electronics and the underground could not develop in the way they did in Western Europe, where diversity and individuality are intrinsic qualities of the self-image formed in decades of ever-delicate differentiations. Even though these categories surrounding the above-mentioned vexing terms such as 'new departure' and 'independent' remained present, more and more, from country to country during our travels, we have found that reflecting upon the use of such categories, concepts and expectations has turned out to be a basic means of investigation in itself.

In this way, the interconnection between music, politics and society which was investigated and postulated from the outset took ever new and sometimes unexpected turns. More unpleasant than unexpected is the fact that there is but a small number of female artists. Apart from rare exceptions such as DJ Miss Marcolina from Sofia, they make themselves equally heard not in improvisation, electronic music, the underground or on the Internet, but almost exclusively in the field of composed contemporary music - Katarzyna Glowicka and Agata Zubel in Poland, Larisa Vrhunc and Tadeja Vulc in Slovenia, or Iris Szeghi in Slovakia for instance. And although the report about Romania could not be included in this book for time and production reasons, we want to point out that the research and journey to Bucharest revealed a fascinating picture in this context. Proceeding from Miriam Marbe, several generations of female composers follow one another: Adriana Hölszky and Violeta Dinescu are known not least because they have relocated to the West; living and working in Bucharest are Irina Hasnas, Maia Ciobanu, Mihaela Vosganian, and of course Ana-Maria Avram as well as Irinel Anghel, active both in the areas of composition and improvisation. Together with their partners they both have met with wide acclaim for their work.

Travelling from Vienna to explore the various countries of Eastern Europe makes one feel - not the least for historical reasons - both very close and extremely far away at the same time. Austrian Broadcasting Corporation's culturally oriented radio station ORF Österreich 1 has presented a programme of weeklong specials under the title Nebenan (Next door) at regular intervals since 2001 in order to make contacts in times of the EU eastern expansion, to increase knowledge, and in doing so, to produce understanding. The daily Zeit-Ton programme - Monday through Friday from 11:05 p.m. to midnight - took part in this specials and examined current, contemporary, and experimental musics, with two or three programs for a given country. The print versions in this book are based on the transcripts of these programmes and have been published in the Viennese music journal Skug. On the occasion of the ORF festival musikprotokoll im steirischen herbst 2002 and its focus on music from these countries, line_in:line_out is publishing, in cooperation with the musikprotokoll, a bilingual (German-English) edition of the reports up to this point, last but not least, with the help of this medium, in order to stimulate further transborder and trans-genre exchange.

Christian Scheib / Translation: Friederike Kulcsar

Susanna Niedermayr and Christian Scheib: In the East - New Music Territories in Europe. Reports from Changing Countries., PFAU 2002. >>> Volume 2.

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