Ana Horvat and Tihomir Ranogajec in Africa

The program of this year's World New Music Days has been announced, which will be organized by the International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM) from 24 November to 3 December in Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa. This will be a particularly festive year as the program marks the 100th anniversary of the first festival of this type organized in 1923 in Salzburg.

Since then, the festival has changed venues every year, always bringing together the world elite of contemporary music of academic profile and getting acquainted with the music scene of the host country. In recent years, lesser-known locations for this musical style have become established, such as China and New Zealand, followed by this year's selection of South Africa as the first ISCM festival on the African continent. It is worth remembering that two very successful festival editions were also organized in Zagreb, in cooperation with Music Biennale Zagreb (2005 and 2011), thanks to the efforts of the Croatian member of the ISCM, the Croatian Composers' Society.

 

The artistic director of the festival is composer and percussionist Lukas Ligeti, son of the famous Hungarian composer György Ligeti, who lives and teaches at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. Each year, a selected committee chooses a program between proposals sent by individual ISCM member societies and individual composers’ applications, trying to give everyone the opportunity to compete for the program. We were especially pleased with the news that for this year's festival program, as many as two compositions by young Croatian composers passed the international selection.

One was selected from the proposals submitted to the ISCM by a committee within the Croatian Composers' Society (Berislav Šipuš, Iva Lovrec Štefanović and Vanja Lisjak). it is the composition MI for piano and electronics by Ana Horvat, and the other composition was selected from a multitude of individual applications by composers around the world – Rush Hour for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano and percussions by Tihomir Ranogajac.

 

The 11-minute composition MI was created during the 2020 pandemic, written for pianist Mia Elezović who wanted to record the eponymous album of new Croatian piano music released in 2021 by Cantus d.o.o. But the ears of composer, producer Tibor Szirovicza and sound engineer Branko Starc were the only ones to hear her live; a public performance was held only last year, in 2022, at Mia Elezović's concert in Seoul.

According to the author, the work was written during the pandemic and is dedicated to Mia, which is why it bears in the title an abbreviated form of the pianist’s name. "Over time, this has become the noun MI [US] symbolically reflecting our feelings about the limited contact we are able to have in these difficult times of uncertainty and worry during lockdown, but also a chance to revive some old values of human interrelationships", reveals the composer who is looking forward to the opportunity to introduce herself to colleagues from around the world.

 

On the other hand, Tihomir Ranogajec from Osijek has experience working at the International Festival of Contemporary Music Novalis in his native Osijek, so he decided to try his hand at applying to ISCM's World New Music Days. He chose his composition Rush Hour created as part of a masterclass at the 30th Music Biennale Zagreb in 2019, where it was premiered by the Ensemble Riot.

In recent times, the performance of the work was organized at last year's Novalis on October 15th, performed by the Synchronos ensemble in the hall of the Cultural Center Osijek. As Ranogajec says, "the modern world and society are ruthless, stressful and do not favor peace, calmness and the joy of simple, small things in life." I myself have faced a multitude of obligations, deadlines and stressful situations at work and in private life, where a lot of opportunities mean usually a lot of stress.

In the composition, he envisioned an average traffic jam in a big city, with a multitude of vehicles and frustrated people stuck and forced to wait. "Therefore, in the end, it is a tribute to the modern world, society and incessant deadlines that are measured in hours, minutes, and sometimes seconds", reveals Ranogajec, who like Ana Horvat is employed at the Academy of Arts and Culture in Osijek. The news of the performance of their music on the other side of the world is a great event for the city of Osijek, for their Academy, as well as for the entire Croatian music scene. Bravo! We are expecting news of their trip to South Africa!