I dreamed of presenting an opera this year at Festival Maribor, the Magic Flute no less. We required bucket loads of money to lavish on sets, an orchestra and Russian singers. I imagined silhouettes of opera stars arriving in limousines as you arrived bejeweled, wearing fur coats strolling down the newly goldplated streets of Maribor...
Damn this financial crisis, now it’s left us with nothing. Literally NOTHING.
When we realised that those opera singers were too expensive, and that their celebrity was out of reach, my opera fantasy slipped away – I was given three days to come up with an alternative. One day into the three I rang Brigita Pavlic and affected my best Eureka tone “I’ve got it..., I’ve got nothing for you?”
“What” she said, “you son of a bitch”. She of course doesn’t speak like that, but her alarm clanged out.
“Don’t despair” I bellowed back, “I’ve got something: it’s Nothing.
Yes indeed - the weirdest, most wonderful and disconcerting word in the universe(s) would serve as inspiration. And the concept is Maribor’s. It doesn’t need money – indeed the entry fee must be nothing (pay to exit though). Let’s run free with it. We can do anything we want so long as it isn’t something. The audience can attend without furs – indeed they can wear nothing. But what is nothing?
Try to think about it!
You can’t – you’re in it, so you’re disturbing nothing being Nothing because you’re something. And on it goes. Could we affect it as some kind of Trope - a sort of figurative artistic allusion - philosophy in music? Get real. And on it goes. As soon as we are faced with nothing we try to fill the space with something. From each angle it causes a stumble- religious (the dreaded void), the scientific (the contradictions and evolutionary principles), the philosophical (…). And on it goes.
From the ancients through to the greatest contemporary physicists; stumbles and paradoxes populate “Nothing’s” all omniscient landscape. Nothing is not a Eureka moment it’s the Goddamn Holy Grail. And there’s nothing we can do with it. No matter where you look you will not find. So what are we doing with it?
You tell us! We have a program. Oh yes, we have a program. My fear is that we deliver more than we’ve promised. There will be staggers everywhere - murky strange atomic stumbles. Even that most clear thinking of writers Bill Bryson trips at: Nothing: “But for a very long time there were no atoms and no universe for them to float about in. There was nothing – nothing at all anywhere –except for something unimaginably small, which scientists call a singularity. As it happens this was enough.
... one proton shrunk to one billionth of its size … every last particle of matter (that’s dust gas and every other particles of material you can find) between here and the edge of creation” (WHATEVER that may mean) … and squeeze them into a space so infinitesimally tight that it has no dimensions at all.”
This describes the lead up to the Big Bang. But that isn’t “Nothing”. He’s most assuredly described something.
The FINNISH have the best word for Nothing. It doesn’t exist. The word doesn’t exist!! Eureka. Ah, now we’re getting closer. NOT.
Ok… well maybe after all it is best if we poke around searching for Nothing in music. In the space between the notes. In fact music is best when it’s about Nothing. Or so it could go.
NOTHING doesn’t exist. Nothing is nothing. “could there ever be nothing if there were no one to know there was nothing?”
From the Ancient Greeks; to seemingly infinite space, obscure mathematics and physics; the ultimate nirvana for a Buddhist (finding contentment in nothing); the worst insult you can give to a child (you are nothing); incorporating zero; wearing nothing, being nothing; and playing nothing.
Playing nothing? We’ll try, but of course something will be happening. And that’s the beauty of nothing, it’s impossible to achieve. Surveying nothing without really knowing even what it is, however, is edifying, it’s liberating, it’s naked knowledge. “Everything came from nothing” and will end up as nothing? Space is nothing? Another impossibility, perhaps, because light travelling from stars billions of light years away has to travel through something to get here- an electro magnetic force-field exists out there, even in Nothing.
God –nick-name: the Big Bang, came out of Nothing? So why am I talking about Nothing so much in this very something introduction welcoming you to the fourth Festival Maribor? Because it’s the most ambitious thing we’ve undertaken. I know I’ll over deliver. There’s no way I can offer you nothing. The best I can do is to serve up scraps of skerricks that veer towards our inchoate notions of nothing. One thing I can say about Nothing is that in itself it’s the polar opposite of neurotic, but trying to get your head around it makes you completely so.
On the other hand, Timeline is EVERYTHING!! Before you go to bed on the night of “Timeline”, you’ll have heard 43,000 years of music that our ancestors have drummed, scraped, blown and sung into a songline of our own devising. Our collective musical existence will flash into your ears. Of course I’ve left some things out, whole decades indeed, complete wonderful cultures, your favourite piece (or if I have included it, then it’s in part, or jammed up against something you may detest). This program isn’t about pleasing any more that that flash of your life as you go to the great Nothing is a movie. And in between, and around these two programs, we have Italians in masse – YIPPEE I hear you shout. My new-found friend Giovanni Antonini needs no introduction – I just wanted to write his name because it’s so mellifluous. Sollima is the great dramatic, sonorous cellist connected with blood of these parts through Monika. And talking of these parts I dare not mention, otherwise risk jinxing Dejan Lazic’s attendance - because his coming in past years was derailed due to accident and mishap.
Fingers are crossed for his Croatian brilliance to finally make it. The darkly inspirational force of Dornava Castle awaits Satu and our mused imagination. Open certain doors there at your peril. Maribor is the laboratory of my imagination.
I want to thank Brigita for being insane. I want to thank Janet and Jan for being insanely generous, and I thank you Mariborians for being. And on it goes.