Haggai Fershtman

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Released 07/07/2016
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Israel Haggai Fershtman Paralysing FearHaggai Fershtman is perhaps one of the most active musicians in Israel
today. Perhaps I exaggerate, and one can find an even more active session
musician on the Israeli scene, but one will surely not be able to find a more
versatile one. Fershtman is, at 43, almost a legend drummer/percussionist in
our parts, and has managed to play alongside some of the biggest names in
Israel regardless of the scene or genre. Be it various shades of rock, metal,
punk, funk, reggae, jazz, classical or experimental, Fershtman has travelled
there and acted like a local! In our constellation Fershtman also reveals
himself as an avid thinker, tackling our topics with an analytic conviction
that points to the fact that these issues are not new to him in any way. In
fact, Fershtman was the only guest so far who has, in advance, planned
discussion topics in reaction to our ongoing research. With an academic fascination in philosophy and psychology, Fershtman
rapidly answers my questions and allows us to sum up complicated ideas that
were already featured in some of our past installations. “With a never ending
variant characterising artistic creation and expression, it is the (artistic
o.i.) repeat that should be the anomaly, and not change”. This expression in
thought is perhaps the most crystallized representative of Fershtman’s mindset:
he embodies a moral and artistic pluralism, and relates to experimentalism from
within that same frame, claiming that the basic tenet of the practice must be
the presentation of a question mark where once a resounding exclamation mark
reigned. Fershtman continues and relates this idea to older ones by Theodor
Adorno, and recognizes technology and specifically recording as the main
game-changer in terms of artistic expression and thought. Recordings, tells us
Fershtman, allow not only the unique voice to be heard directly, and not only
through representation, but also allows the wide scale dissemination of content
leading towards a familiarity with genres, allowing a more nuanced
experimentalism. He concludes this train of thought with a notion from Marx,
relating experimentalism to the artistic responsibility a creator might have,
and the latter’s moral/social task in using art as a transformative, ethical
mirror. How is this done, I ask? Fershtman replies: by allowing art to question
our societal, agreed upon symbols. Fershtman is the one to immediately announce our following topic: the subconscious.
Art, tells us Fershtman, is very similar to the subconscious in its attempt to
rearrange personal or collective symbols; this, with a utilitarian focus in
mind, leading towards a more aware/able psyche, or on grander terms – more
aware/able society. Fershtman is a generous man – he does not skimp in
gestures, words and affection, and indeed, in order to exemplify his ideas, he
gives us a very personal yet telling story from his past as a young drummer: As
the young Fershtman discovers his prowess in the field, he finds himself
accepted and even somewhat acclaimed, yet takes heed of the competitive nature
he begins to discover within himself. Lead by his ego, and its almost universal
tendency to demand space, Fershtman finds himself “setting himself up”, as he
terms it. Later I realise that the “setup” was in fact a sort of paralysing
fear seeming to arise in ensemble playing every time a musical moment seemed to
gain momentum. It was at these points that Fershtman would, almost
instinctively, take an experimental stance and decide to bend or break the
moment in order to circumvent an egotistical desire he was not fully
comfortable to identify himself with. This can serve as possible example to a
connection, through art or music, with the subconscious. The adult Fershtman continues
the thought process he could perhaps only feel as a young man, and speaks of
the function of the body as an energetic receptor. He relates to completely
free improvisation as a practice through which he notices how the body reacts almost
instinctively to its surroundings, taking into account this never ending
variant of possibility. According to Fershtman, this allows not only a dialogue
with one’s surroundings, but also with one’s subconscious.Travelling through our next topic, Béla
Tarr’s film – Werckmesiter
Harmonies, we discover
another aspect of experimental necessity according to Fershtman. The main
notion Fershtman relates to in the Hungarian film is its reference to the
historic technicality in musical practice, shifting from natural tuning to its
opposite, represented by equal temperament; this idea, as a possible metaphor to
supposedly technical or even scientific processes that could potentially point
towards a totalitarian mindset, and how this idea seeps into societal thought
or thoughts of governance. Fershtman relates this to the idea of the great
subconscious and how it must affect the smaller, personal subconscious.
“Individuals will always look to contextualise their existence through symbols.
If an experimental practice attempts to question these symbols, then a vehement
negative reaction should not come as a surprise”. These symbols are that which
keeps everything in place, giving existence a subjective meaning that allows one
to disregard the traumas trapped in his/her subconscious. But then you have
those who feel comfortable enough to dive into the subconscious, or even
explore it on artistic terms, and I add: and even audiences that would like to
partake in such spectacle. A thought crosses my mind, which I share with
Fershtman: imagine a future society, where individuals are in a secure enough
mindset allowing the notion of experimental artistic self-exploration to seep
through the ranks and become a common practice. How much shit art and mindless
self-adoration will we have to endure as a consequence? We both shudder at the
thought, but agree that we are still a long ways away, perhaps completely off
track altogether. It was here I suddenly realized that we had managed to turn a
resounding exclamation mark into a serious question mark. Experimental? No
doubt. Good, however…?  


Instrumental Yes