Simon Steen-Andersen. © Christian Vium
“Darf man das tun?” Can you do that, Rainer Pöllmann asked at the beginning of his laudatory speech at this year’s Mauricio Kagel Music Prize award ceremony, celebrating the 2017 recipient of the prestigious award, Simon Steen-Andersen.
Can you smash a piano by dropping it onto a concrete floor from a height of eight meters and make this the central theme of a piano concerto, just as Simon Steen-Andersen does in his Piano Concerto (2014), premiered at Donaueschinger Musiktage? Yes you can, Pöllmann continues. “The point is not the act of destruction. Something new is born from the debris; and before you know it, the pianist is performing a duo with himself on two pianos – one real and one virtual.”
The jury’s reasoning
On 29 October, Simon Steen-Andersen was celebrated as this year’s recipient of the Mauricio Kagel Music Prize at a ceremony held in the Philharmonie Essen. In addition to Rainer Pöllman’s laudatory speech, the jury – consisting of Laura Berman, Hein Mulders, Jonathan Stockhammer and Nike Wagner – explained why Steen-Andersen was selected to receive the honor and the 50,000 euro prize:
“Simon Steen-Andersen is a composing artist wholly committed to the present. Characterising himself as a composer, performer and installation artist, he is, in short, an interdisciplinary artist in the true sense of the word.
Simon Steen-Andersen (b. 1976) grew up in a thoroughly media-dominated world. So for him, as for a great many artists of his generation, continually switching from one medium to another is a matter of course: transmediality determines his creative process as well as the very core of his work.
Steen-Andersen’s curiosity, sense of humour, honesty and unconventionality soon garnered him international renown as an unusual artistic figure. His virtuosic approach to a wide range of different media is at once creative and reflexive. In his constant movement forwards, Steen-Andersen formulates tasks for his artistic works, pushing his art to its limits with those tasks in mind – in order to redefine both task and limitation ever anew. Steen-Andersen pushes boundaries – boundaries of structure and form, the boundaries of representation and reception, the boundaries of the arts.
His subject is the performative. He consistently talks about the people “behind the instrument” to focus on the performative qualities of music-making. Hence the concomitant importance of the communicative element in his music, of conveying “existence, fragility and intimacy”. We are co-opted by the worlds he creates through his oeuvre; once we’ve entered these worlds as listeners, we are very reluctant to leave them in the end.
At 41, Simon Steen-Andersen is already an internationally successful artist. A shrewd strategist and fearless experimenter, he consistently develops radically individual, unconventional artistic positions, which lay the foundations for his standing in the art world. The Jury hopes the award of the 2017 Mauricio Kagel Music Prize of the Kunststiftung NRW will give Mr Steen-Andersen some space in which to develop freely outside the stress and strain of the art scene. The award should enable him to continue working intently on problems and issues of his choice and to take his next artistic steps with a large measure of independence.”
WDR interview online
The German public-broadcaster WDR interviewed Simon Steen-Andersen prior to the award ceremony. You can listen to the interview here.