Concerts between music and art centres (LABconciertosII)

On the occasion of the imminent opening of the second edition of the music festival Black Mirror at LABoral Centro de Arte, I will take the opportunity to explore the relationship between exhibition centres and their musical programmes

Published: Feb 16, 2015

By José Luis Calderón, Nicola Mariani Arte y Sociedad

The fact that art is not only plastic arts has been well known since ancient times. Art itself has made it clear through diversification and mixture of genres since the 1960s in order to expand its limits beyond the conventional. Among all arts, music and filmmaking are the most popular, although music is the one that affects our emotions most directly. I will not deny this. How many of us have thought –and even said- that we cannot live one day without music. Music is all around for us to feel it. Subjective fact: I confess I am a music lover. I am completely clear about this, and my parents took care of this by giving me a musical education. Objective facts: after some more exploration on the presence of music in exhibition centres: a) There are more concerts than disconcerts between museums and music. b) The general public –or even expert audiences- tend to be poorly aware of the music programmes of art centres.

This post is a continuation of the one posted by my colleague at LABlog Laura Cano. However in this case, in addition to reminding the activities related to music at LABoral Centro de Arte- and in particular the Black Mirror festival-, I will carry out a detailed update of the current situation in Spain of the relationship between museums or art centres and music.

As a reminder, LABoral Centro de Artey Creación Industrial has developed since 2011 a special relationship or commitment with everything related to sound – either music or sound art, which are the same thing - , in several lines of work: mapaSonoru (since 2011), El arte y su sonido (since 2012) and recently artistic residencies related to music. The last great musical event at LABoral is Black Mirror Festival, a festival that, as Laura Cano told us some days ago, was created one year ago with the purpose of showing the new musical and audiovisual currents (experimental and/or software-based), with a special focus on Asturian creators. Although its first edition took place in the church of Laboral Ciudad de la Cultura, this second edition, that opens on Saturday, February 21, takes place at LABoral’s Art Centre and entrance is completely free. It has been organised by Javier Bejarano and this year’s bill includes the musicians Sara Galán, Alfe (A letterfor Elisa) and the duet Elle Belga made up by the former guitarist of Manta Ray José Luís García, and Fany Álvarez. In Laura’s post you can learn more about them or listen to some of their tracks. In addition, in parallel with this festival, a cycle called Trashumancias will be conducted with the aim of exporting the model of the festival to other creation centres in Asturias to establish links or networks around this issue.

Mastretta in a concert at Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza during the exhibition  “Heroínas” (Foto: El País)

However, for those of us who are a little bit more interested in the relationship between art centres and music, What is currently being done in Spain in this regard? It will be complicated to discuss this into detail, so I will try to give you an overview, focusing on the context of the capital. Firstly, my two general conclusions are the following: a) On the one hand there is quite more activity that one would imagine; b) on the other hand Each venue adapts its programme to its own nature. Many centres or museums, including the most traditional ones, have an activity of classical music concerts. Others choose more contemporary styles (rock, pop, electronic or experimental music) and some others experiment with diverse currents. Let’s go step by step. I will also like to encourage readers to comment or provide information about other centres or activities that might be missing in this article.


Even if it sounds conventional or common place, when we talk about dissemination of music we cannot forget classical music. You are not less stylish just because you like it. Among museums, this is mostly represented in traditional museums, in accordance with their own style. Thus, within the Madrid’s Triangle of Art, Museo del Prado follows this line of classical music concerts, although last year it released jointly with Universal Music a selection of classical jazz for entertaining the temporary exhibition “El Greco y la Pintura Moderna” (below you can find the corresponding links). Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza follows a very similar line through its classical music concerts for the friends of the museum, moreover, recently they created Spotify playlists to show temporary exhibitions to visitors from new perspectives. The idea of EducaThyssen is to offer visitors other resources –in this case musical ones- so that they can feel other experiences, hands-on experiences, when visiting the museums, and from other perspectives. The department of this museum is also working on educational resources for carrying out visits to the museum linking the works of a certain period with the music of that time. Museo Reina Sofía has combined lines of classical and contemporary style. After five editions of an Acoustic Space for concerts of contemporary pop-electronic music in partnership with Mahou, its current musical activity is limited to the research line on sound art, with a workshop that will take place next April.


Didactical concerts at Fundación Juan March

This line is also developed by the emblematic Museo Lázaro Galdiano, with its musical programme AIEenRuta, consisting of a group of young artists that play classical music in the museum. However, the leading cultural and museum institution in the dissemination of classical music in Madrid, in my opinion, is Fundación Juan March that, as most of you probably know, does not only add concertos in its programmes, but rather music itself is one of the essential axis of its programme, having the same role and relevance that the exhibitions of plastic arts.


Piano and violin concerto by  IvanŽenatý at the Museum of Romanticism (Madrid. Photo: Czech Centre of Madrid)


The Museo del Romanticismo is one of the most charming museums of Madrid that has contributed more in this line. In addition to their ad-hoc offer of XIXth century music concerts, for several years they have developed the cycle “a las veinte cero cero”, that they share with Museo Cerralbo, that consists of concerts by current indie musicians in both museums. Círculo de Bellas Artes de Madrid also develops an intense musical activity parallel to the exhibitions, focusing on classical music and jazz. Cultural Centres such as Alcobendas, La Casa Encendida, Matadero or Centro Cultural Conde Duque also develop programmes that focus more on contemporary music. However it must be reminded that in some cases there are cuttings that affect this type of activities.

I am more acquainted with this activities in Madrid, nevertheless I wish to mention some other important examples in other cities and provinces. In Barcelona La Pedrera continues to be a reference centre, at least based on the information that I have received so far. Museo Guggenheim Bilbao has been seven years celebrating its Art AfterDark sessions, a perfect way of entertaining the visits to the exhibition of the museum behind closed doors, one Friday night each month, with dj’s. Cultural centres such as Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo or Centro Las Cigarreras de Alicante combine pop and jazz with flamenco, just like other Spanish art centes not mentioned in this post, while the Museo Picasso Málaga develops the aforementioned classical line, with high-quality programmes and bands.


Like Laura Cano, I will also mention some foreign references and I take the opportunity to share an anecdote that happened to me the last time I visited London’s National Gallery, some years ago: while visiting the permanent collection, I found myself unexpectedly in a piano and violin concerto in one of the halls. This was not a separated activity and the music reached the adjoining halls on that floor, making the visit to the permanent collection more vivid. This means that there are interesting ideas outside the “Iberian” reign. And between national and foreign, we could continue the conversation, discussing many other art centres, at least until next week’s post.


As conclusion, I believe that our country has done a lot over these last years in the integration of music with plastic and visual arts –and vice versa-, however there is always still a good deal to be done and new musical scores to be composed in the cultural programmes of art venues. Furthermore, each exhibition centre develops its musical programme according to its own character and philosophy in terms of the styles they identify with. In the case of LABoral Centro de Arte, its musical programme is consistent and “in tune with” – a perfect term in this context- with its projects and hallmark. Following its relationship with technology, these concerts are closer to musics that use software or electronics, minimalist and/or experimental music.

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