Modern Music Days (MMD) was launched in 2015 as a concert series committed to promote the performance and understanding of 20th century repertoire and contemporary music. This initiative is a collaboration between Teatru Manoel, the Valletta 2018 Foundation and the Malta Association for Contemporary Music as part of the cultural calendar of Valletta 2018, European Capital of Culture.


Accessibility is at the heart of this project. Ruben Zahra, composer and artistic director of MMD, adopts an interdisciplinary approach to his audience development strategy. "The borders between the art forms are becoming ever more blurred," explains Zahra. "Today many artists shift between different art forms: visual artists use music in their installations while musicians apply video-art in their work." And this is precisely what's in store for the MMD performance on September 15 at the Valletta Campus Theatre (former MITP) as part of the Evenings on Campus festival. The programme for this concert includes an eclectic selection of works for percussion ensemble, video & piano and contemporary dance.


Percussionists Daniel Cauchi, Luke Baldacchino and Kristian Schembri will present three works for percussion: Trio per Uno by Nebojsa Zivkovic is visually and musically dominated by a single bass drum, which is placed flat on a stand. Each of the players has his own pair of bongos and Chinese gongs. All three players are required to play on the bass drum with their own sticks, sometimes all at once. The second percussion piece on the programme is Surprise! - composed by Pulse Percussion Trio from The Netherlands. In this piece, the protagonist instrument is the marimba - a keyboard percussion instrument consisting of wooden bars struck with mallets to produce musical tones. The three percussionists play on the same instrument as they hammer out melodic patterns for this virtuoso showpiece. The programme will also include percussion works by Maltese composer Charles Camilleri.


The percussion extravaganza will be accompanied by another visually engaging medium featuring two works for video and piano performed by Tricia Dawn Williams. In Transit by Dutch composer Michel Van der Aa, the movements of the pianist interact theatrically with the video as the focus shifts between the narrative and the virtuoso performance of the pianist. In All Work & No Play, Maltese composer Ruben Zahra creates a musical dialogue between video footage of a typewriter and the piano, exploring fanatic rhythms and obsessive bell tones.


The grand finale of the programme is the ballet Parade, portraying the music of Erik Satie, scored to a one-act scenario by Jean Cocteau with costumes and sets designed by Pablo Picasso. This new version revisits the historical ballet with new media techniques that include stop-motion animation by Christ Scicluna and projection dancing by MAKA Visuals. This project brought together several artists from different fields under the direction of Ruben Zahra: the choreography by Moveo Dance Company is a contemporary development on the original Ballets Russes version. The costume design by Ritienne Zammit follows a similar direction with the Picasso sketches as a point of departure. The score for Parade was originally written for full orchestra but Satie transcribed the music for four-hands piano. The score will be performed by pianists Gisèle Grima and Tricia Dawn Williams with percussion accompaniment by Kristian Schembri.


Modern Music Days truly breaks the mould on conventions. The concert on September 15 at the Valletta Campus Theatre will take the audience out of their comfort zone to experience an innovative yet accessible music journey.



December 10th - 2018







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