17 May 2013
Residency at Künstlerhaus Schloss Wiepersdorf
© Kristian Ireland
During the second half of 2012, I was a composer in residence at Künstlerhaus Schloss Wiepersdorf (Wiepersdorf Castle Artist Residence), in the land of Brandenburg in Germany, approximately 80 kilometres south of Berlin. My four-month residency was supported by the Brandenburg Ministry of Science, Research, and Culture.
Künstlerhaus Schloss Wiepersdorf is a centre for cultural, artistic, and intellectual exchange. It houses an artist residency fellowship program, supporting artists who work primarily in the fields of literature, visual arts, music, and media, and researchers in the humanities. It also regularly hosts public events such as exhibitions, concerts, readings, colloquia, and a summer arts festival. These events encourage communication between the resident artists, the local residents, and the guest artists from Germany and elsewhere who are invited to give presentations.
Schloss Wiepersdorf also houses a museum devoted to preserving its own history, and the histories of its former long-term residents: Ludwig Achim and Bettina von Arnim, both central figures in the cultural life of the Romantic movement in Germany. Bettina von Arnim, née Brentano (1785-1859), was a writer, composer, publisher, artist, an unconventional personality, a strong supporter of artistic activity, and an outspoken advocate for the rights of underprivileged and persecuted peoples. Her intellectual and artistic activities were primarily focused around her salon in Unter den Linden, Berlin. Among Bettina's close associates were Beethoven and Goethe, and among her acquaintances were Schumann, Brahms, Liszt, the Brothers Grimm, the violinist Josef Joachim, Wilhelm von Humboldt, Karl Marx, and Frederick William IV, King of Prussia. In 1811, she married Achim von Arnim (1781-1831), a highly regarded Romantic poet. They had seven children together, after initially settling in Berlin. (Achim von Arnim had previously worked with Bettina's brother, Clemens Brentano, on collecting the folk songs that form Das Knaben Wunderhorn, later set to music by Gustav Mahler.) Achim and Bettina relocated to Schloss Wiepersdorf in 1814, however Bettina returned to Berlin and maintained her activities there. Although they lived apart, they corresponded often. Following Achim's unexpected passing in 1831, Bettina published his works on his behalf.
After surviving the periods of social change in Germany through much of the 20th century, the purpose of Schloss Wiepersdorf was established as an artist residence in the early 1990s.
During my residency, I focused on research into contemporary musical instrumental techniques, on new composition (works currently in progress), and historical research texts. Also in residence were a wonderful group of visual artists, writers, photographers, composers, musicians, and researchers. Positively inspirited by the house and its history, and encouraged by the staff and resident artists, I also found the time to give a number of piano recitals, including works by Chopin, Liszt, Grieg, and Debussy. In particular, I was invited to present recitals at the Romantische Tage event in October (see an article in the German paper Märkische Allgemeine), attended by members of the family von Arnim, (and focused in part on a discussion on the Brothers Grimm), and at the Sommerfest in August. In December, I also presented a similar recital program in Winterthur, Switzerland, with particular focus on late works of Franz Liszt, including, among others, Unstern, Nuages gris, La lugubre gondola I, and R.W.-Venezia: works that reach from late Romanticism toward contemporary art music.
Künstlerhaus Schloss Wiepersdorf and its surroundings hold many rare things of interest for present-day resident artists. The Schloss, a neo-baroque manor, still resonates with the influences of Romanticism. Inside the house, one finds original furnishings, gilded mirrors, art objects, portraits of the von Arnims, fabric upholstered walls, and other characteristic interior features retained from its time as the home of the von Arnims. The house is surrounded by gardens and tall trees. The grounds hold open grassy spaces, an Orangerie (greenhouse conservatory), an ornamental green with formal plantings, statues of Roman and Greek mythological figures, stone dwarves, a church and family cemetery, and an orchard, among other features. The estate is bounded by extensive forests, which are home to deer, foxes, and other wildlife. The resident artists have a familiar in the resident house cat, named Schiller. Long cycling paths trail through the forests and around the open farming areas, connecting neighbouring villages.
Residency programs provide artists with time, space, quiet, a chance to work thoroughly on thought-intensive projects, a window of potential for many practitioners. Welcome also is the communication and interaction with other resident artists, which may lead to future collaboration. An artist residence may also provide one with the possibility of forming meaningful connections with the cultural and artistic life of its locale and nearby cities. Künstlerhaus Schloss Wiepersdorf enables the possibility of all these experiences.
I'm most grateful to the staff of Künstlerhaus Schloss Wiepersdorf, to the Brandenburg Ministry of Science, Research, and Culture, and wish that the fellowship program may continue long into the future.
Kristian Ireland - AMC profile
© Australian Music Centre (2013) — Permission must be obtained from the AMC if you wish to reproduce this article either online or in print.
Kristian Ireland is an independent composer, musician, and researcher
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