Seven questions

… for Artistic Director Reiner Michalke (from 2020)

© Patrick Essex
What does the Monheim Triennale aim for?

We want something extraordinary: a music festival organised in a new format.

What distinguishes the Monheim Triennale from other music festivals?

The first and perhaps most striking feature is its three-year interval. This triannual format is rather unique and enables appropriate planning.

The second characteristic is its broad stylistic range. We want to showcase current music the way it really is: without being labelled and without genre restrictions. Ranging from composed New Music to diverse facets of improvised music and ambitious contributions from the pop avant-garde. Without any hierarchies, at eye level.

The third and most importand characteristic is our focus on the artists' personalities, not on their specific works, nor bands or ensembles. We have invited artists to present themselves with a diverse range of contributions. Strictly speaking, the festival is a series of 16 portraits emanating from the artists, developed together with them, and which will all fit together perfectly like the pieces to a puzzle. We strive for commissioned musical artistry without agenda, allowing the artists to present many facets of their scope of work. The Monheim audience will ideally get to know the individual artist, not simply a finished product.

How did you find all these musicians?

Together with our board of curators we initially compiled a ‘longlist’ of names. Names of musicians we consider to be just that little bit more different. We have looked for artists who create something new and distinguish themselves through special curiosity, talent and ambition. The type of artists who will lead the way for many other artists, and perhaps for us all. This cooperation with a top-class board of curators was not only a lot of fun, it was also a completely new experience for me personally.

The second painful step was to narrow down to a ‘shortlist’ of 16 musicians. And exactly these 16 musicians have now been invited.

Was it hard to convince the musicians?

We knew that we were proposing something new and unheard of with our idea which would also be challenging for the musicians. That's why I chose to approach each of the invited musicians personally in order to explain the festival’s idea and details. You could say, that I pitched our idea to each musician, and this resulted in most of them accepting our proposal.

Did the fact that Monheim is ‘different’ affect the musician’s decision?

That was always a topic of discussion with the musicians. I told them that Monheim has unprecedented dynamics going for it, due to its particular and in every respect unusual political structure. No reference is possible to decades of a music or festival city tradition, instead I pointed out that the city of Monheim has been changing and developing into a completely new direction over the past ten years. Part of that ‘new direction’ in Monheim is that music culture and the arts are held in particular high regard. And they don’t care about common ratings. Monheim does not shy away from choosing a different path and to offend every now and then.

What do Monheim’s citizens expect from the festival?

It is still too early to be able to reflect from experience as the first edition hasn’t taken place yet. However, Monheim’s citizens have certainly proven that they are capable of trying out new things off the beaten track and lead them to success. They are well aware that the Triennale is no easy listening, no mainstream. And yet, or perhaps because of this, we are getting a lot of most encouraging feedback. The process of establishing the Triennale will take more than just one or two festival editions to effectively engrain itself into their cultural landscape. 

Monheim's people are part of the normative cultural-political setting in their city. It is them who present us and themselves with the opportunity to reposition culture in their everyday lives. That is again something very unique. Culture is for everyone to engage in, and we hope that many of Monheim’s citizens will get involved in the festival. Even if it is only that they tell their friends and acquaintances in other cities about it.

Achim Tang, our Artist in Residence, who has been living in Monheim since 2019 and introduces the idea of the festival to everyday life in Monheim, helps us a lot.

Are you looking forward to the festival?

You can bet on it!

The interview was conducted by Markus Müller.

Festival Concept

You can download the detailed concept description (July 2018) of the Monheim Triennial as a PDF here.