Manyness – A work of sound art for Shirley Jaffe

Fri, 14.4. and Sat, 15.4., 13–18 Uhr, Neubau, free of charge

Fri, 12.5. and Sat, 13.5., 13–18 Uhr, Neubau, free of charge

«Early on I knew that I wanted some kind of dislocated experience and complexity, despite living in a world here that was increasingly searching for a reductive experience. There has always been, consciously realized or not, this desire to give expression to the manyness of visual happenings going on at one time, and to stop them for moments on canvas. This manyness has never been symmetrical, nor even all over the canvas. I have always tried to make something odd, unsatisfying, yet fitting, occur.» (Shirley Jaffe)

During her year-and-a-half-long stint in Berlin beginning in 1963, Shirley Jaffe felt strongly drawn to the music of composers like Karlheinz Stockhausen, Iannis Xenakis, and Elliott Carter. The artist was impressed by the “the adventure that they were going through. It introduced me to new sound.” That sound is part of Manyness, a musical happening that transforms the Kunstmuseum Basel’s Neubau into a scene of sonic experience.

On four days, Manyness will resound throughout the venue for five hours, from 1pm until 6pm; uninterrupted, in succession and simultaneously, in complementary and overlapping voices, in various spaces and niches, in the courtyard, in checkrooms and bathrooms, but never directly in front of Shirley Jaffe’s works.

The five-hour program will bring moments of instrumental bravura and great noise, as in Iannis Xenakis’s monumental work Persephassa, which the Sinfonieorchester Basel’s six percussionists will perform on a wide variety of instruments small and large. Yet there will also be exceptionally gentle and delicate passages, as in Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Amour for solo clarinet. The ultra-modernist Ruth Crawford Seeger’s sonic cascades will contrast with the young American composers Jessie Marino’s and Julie Herndon’s contemplative acoustic images.

With its thrilling and daring musical compositions, the program Manyness is designed to underscore the profoundly experimental quality of Jaffe’s art.

Two world premieres

Svetlana Maraš, professor of creative music technology and codirector of Electronic Studio Basel, is creating a piece for Manyness in which she turns the tall wall between the Kunstmuseum’s Hauptbau and Neubau venues into a table on which the sounds of electroacoustic music are produced. Speakers and objects will move across the wall on long strings, connected to historic audiotape equipment. The musical score derives from Shirley Jaffe’s picture Labyrinth.

The music theater director Philip Bartels is developing a work inspired by Jaffe’s painting Walkyrie. The three musicians Mariella Bachmann, Ellen Fallowfield, and Simone Keller, whose extraordinary gifts on the clarinet, cello, and piano have left audiences all over the world spellbound, will realize the work’s premiere at the Kunstmuseum Basel, performing on death whistles and wind machines.

Manyness deliberately plays with repetitions: the compositions will be heard several times in the course of the day, though no two performances will be identical. The audience is never constrained to listen to anything “all the way through,” as the entire building is constantly filled with sounds, encouraging visitors to explore different angles of view and hearing.

Other pieces will be performed only a single time, including a duo for two Ondes Martenot, the rare electronic instrument that Shirley Jaffe may have heard in Paris in a concert featuring music by Olivier Messiaen, and a composition by Martin Lorenz for analog modular synthesizers as well as a historic video synthesizer that will generate live abstract images corresponding to the music.

Simone Keller

The classically trained pianist Simone Keller (*1980) moves between different styles and genres, seeks the experimental and cultivates tradition. She is particularly committed to grant access to music to all of society . She plays concerts at renowned international institutions but is also present in different niches, where she constantly gets involved in the new and unfamiliar.

Philip Bartels

The director and musician Philip Bartels (*1978) professes his commitment to collective art in his works and seeks his challenges in ambivalent social tensions. In addition to his productions at theatre institutions, he repeatedly seeks artistic engagement with people who are underrepresented on stage and finds places that are not yet established.


Philip Bartels and Simone Keller have been working together continuously since 2010 and since 2014 have jointly led the collective ox&öl, which organises and carries out projects in the field of experimental music, theatre and participatory mediation offers in which diversity and inclusion are a natural part of artistic practice. For example, over several years, ox&öl has launched an intergenerational project for children from multicultural schools and seniors with the title"piccolo concerto grosso" in Zurich's Tonhalle and the Great Hall of the KKL Luzern . They brought a spoken music theatre with poetry for children and job seekers to the stage and developed and carried out a collaborative concert format for juvenile offenders in the prison system over several years. ox&öl was awarded the recognition prize of the Department of Culture of the Canton of Zurich in the field of cultural participation and was nominated for the "Junge Ohren Preis" in Frankfurt am Main for its "trend-setting mediation work".

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