Making a life abroad

By Rebecca_Lenton  -  04 March 2015

I have been involved in Berlin’s contemporary music scene since 1999. At that time the city was in the grips of vast changes; the Berlin Wall had come down only 10 years prior and the city was beginning to redefine itself. The skyline was full of cranes and building work was taking place wherever you looked. New shops and cafes were opening, and sometimes closing again, from week to week. Berlin was the cheapest European capital at that time and it attracted many people in the arts. 

Space was affordable and it provided the opportunity to experiment. You could listen to concerts, watch art films and visit exhibitions and installations in all kinds of places from the tiniest cellar to the top of the TV tower. There was a feeling that anything was possible.

In 2001, I became a member of the KNM Berlin, an ensemble for contemporary music, where our work is very varied. We play at many of the major European contemporary music festivals, but also organise our own productions, inviting composers and artists of different genres to work with us. Sometimes we play in larger formations with conductors, but more often than not we play chamber music. We’re required to be very flexible as performers and sometimes have to do more than just play our regular instruments. Some of the more bizarre moments that come to mind include skipping, crawling across the stage, and playing a kalimba solo!  The great thing about this kind of work is that it really expands your field of playing and the way you listen. Composers are continually looking for new sounds, new techniques, new combinations and it’s our job as interpreters to help achieve those goals. Our field is a very specialised one so outreach is also very important to us; our ongoing projects with school children, students and amateur musicians play a considerable role in our work, as do our moderated concerts encouraging audiences to approach listening to contemporary music in a more open and less fearful way.


Aside from KNM, I also freelance with other contemporary ensembles in Europe. This usually involves a lot of travelling and I’m often away for 5 to 10 days for a project. The British tradition of rehearsal-performance doesn’t really exist on the continent, so projects are generally longer. In the contemporary music scene the whole canon of programming is very different; it is very common to practise and rehearse a substantial piece very intensely for one concert, only to never perform it again. We become accustomed to learning a lot of notes very quickly! I suppose, one could look upon it as a melting pot. The future will show what has stood the test of time...

About Rebecca_Lenton

Flautist Rebecca is a contemporary music specialist living in Berlin. Her impressive diversity as a player means she is in great demand in the European music scene.

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