A 27-hour concert marathon in Abu Dhabi

Pianist and Composer Nik Bartsch and his acoustic quartet mobile performed a continuous 27-hour concert of Ritual Groove Music on September 1 at New York University in Abu Dhabi.
Pianist and Composer Nik Bartsch and his acoustic quartet mobile performed a continuous 27-hour concert of Ritual Groove Music on September 1 at New York University in Abu Dhabi.

Abu Dhabi - Why a 27-hour concert? Because when people can choose to watch the entire season of Game of Thrones in one weekend, this can be done too!


Silvia Radan

Published: Fri 2 Sep 2016, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Fri 2 Sep 2016, 1:40 PM

As you read this, a 27-hour concert is being performed in the Arts Centre of New York University - Abu Dhabi. Nik Bartsch's quartet Mobile is opening the 2016-2017 performing arts season at NYUAD, which, as in its previous first season, is open to the public and free to attend.

Bill Bragin, executive artistic director of the Arts Centre, met with Khaleej Times to talk about something the UAE has never experienced before - a 27 hours concert marathon!
Such a concert is a pretty big bang opening! So, what is it all about?
We did know that we wanted to open the second season with something that would make a mark and this is a very big way to open the season. Nik is very serious about the importance of these large scale works and the effect it has on an audience and the effect it has on the musicians.
One of the things that happens is: you get so used to going to a performance that is 90 minutes long and certain rules apply about how you structure something in that length, but when you work in 27 hours you have to think about time in a different way.
How is the concert structured?
There will be seven different "main ceremonies" - as Nik calls them - that will be more like highly focused traditional concerts and then there are what he calls modular bridges in between.
When thinking what does 27 hours mean is the way people now are used to watching movies or TV series. Instead of watching a movie that is 90 minutes long, people decide "I'm going to watch the entire season of Game of Thrones this weekend.
What will the audience listen to in these 27 hours?
It's original music. He titled all his pieces 'Module', in module numbers. Part of that is he doesn't want to tell you how to feel or how to think about it, so it's a pretty neutral title.
The quartet works a lot with different rhythmic structures and small melodic structures. Some of it is strictly composed, some of it is improvised, but they are not necessarily improvising the melodies, but almost playing with the structures.
I find the music incredibly beautiful. It feels really good in the body, rhythmically is very exciting, it connects to classical music and especially contemporary minimalism music.
Is the audience bound to the seats for the entire time?
People are welcome to come and go. We want people to take it seriously as much as they can and invest the time because I think the idea of letting go of your preconception of how long you can sit in a concert and what happens once you start to lose track of time would be transformative.
We are using multiple venues. The band will be in the Black Box, which has about 200 seats, but we are setting the lobby here too with cushions and rugs, and we'll have an audio feed in the lobby, so if you want, you may come out and have a snack, read a book or chat with some friends. The idea is that you can still be connected to the piece, but in a more social, relaxed space.
And then we got the Project Space, where we've got a video feed and some photos of previous rituals Nik's done - he's done as long as 36 hours, so this is a bite size.
The concert started at 7pm on Thursday. It's designed to loosely track the cycles of day and night, so it will start with the sunset and the first "main ceremony" is at 8.30 pm, so it won't start with a pop, it will start with a gradual sunset.
Who is the quartet?
The band is based in Zurich, Switzerland. It's Nik on piano, Kaspar Rast and Nicolas Stocker on drums and percussions and Sha playing base clarinet and alto saxophone. Nick and one of the drummers were playing together since they were kids.
One of the things I said in the brochure is "trust us" and in this case I also have to trust the musicians and trust the audience. All these dynamics are going to be new for everybody and it's a big adventure.

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