Though Vienna is the capital of music probably in the world and definitely in Europe, it is rare that musicians from that part visit Pakistan for a performance. Only in the last few years though, there has been a steady trickle of musicians that have been visiting from that country.
It is no wonder that audiences here are not exposed to the various forms and types of music in the west. In common perception, it is dominated by the generic term pop music. Even there the guitars, the drums, both acoustic and electronic, have now been steadily replaced by computer generated sounds and post production makeovers.
But in the hills and valleys of Austria, life is serener and people are not falling over one other to stay in the rat race. Music is still a recall to peace and tranquillity. The folk tradition may have changed but not changed enough to don the attire of popular music that dominates not only the west but through it the rest of the world as well.
Life is hurtling away and the response has been twin-fold — one of matching the tearaway speed with the corresponding noise, loudness and bang of equal or even more intensity to be directly reflective of that madness. But there has been another response — that of transposing a world or an environment that it is its very opposite. In this case it is the serenity, calmness and a soothing touch that reminds people of something that they might have lost and be in search of. And, luckily, not all is lost because there are traces or more than traces of the traditional music or folk melodies that still provide the underpinning to the sensibility that rules over our likes, dislikes temperament type.
This kind of music was much in evidence by an unpretentious duo of musicians who have come to Pakistan for a number of concerts in the major cities of the country including Lahore where they performed at the Alhamra Arts Council. The duo of Christopher Haritzer and Paul Schuberth first met in 2014 and have played together — their collective work involves big bands productions, jazz projects and performances in the field of dance and theatre. In their own compositions, the musicians are inspired by jazz, avante garde and international folk music.
Born in 1987 in Lienz/East-Tirol, raised and nurtured in the local brass band of Großkirchheim in the Möll Valley, Christopher Haritzer has been living in and around Linz since 2013. Though he plays the clarinet, he received his first musical education in the music school of the Möll Valley, then studied music at the private Anton-Bruckner-University in Linz revolving round the expertise of Jazz-clarinet and Styrian harmonica, folk music that the Austrians and the Swiss specialise in.
He is the founder and leader of the monthly Flow Circus Sessions on the Salonschiff Fräulein Florentine“in Linz, Alt-Urfahr since 2016. He is the member of the quintet Café Kus Kus and an important part or almost a pillar of the quartet Çarx”. He is also incharge of mini brass band Die Almrauschigen belonging to the Upper Carinthian/East Tirolean and member of the multi-divisional music/theatre ensemble Schlüterwerke and Wolkenpumper.
Paul Schuberth, the accordion player was born in 1994 in Steyr, Upper Austria and lives in Linz. He has performed in competitions around Austria, Germany, Bulgaria, Tunisia, Italy, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia and Slovenia. He is very good with accordion improvisations which he displayed during the concerts held here. Paul Schuberth loves classic music, jazz, folk, rock, rap, new music, electronic music and folk music and this was heard in his pieces.
Austria has been more renowned for classical music, the high classical music that ruled Europe for the last four centuries. The Mozarts and Beethovens and Liszts dominate the musical waves, and it is rare that musicians of that caliber visit countries like Pakistan because of their busy schedules and prohibitive costs. These orchestras which may run into twenties, fifties or even hundred pieces are too expensive to afford and may find the various locations of the world as not suited to their music production. So they are choosy about their performance circuit. One has not seen an orchestra playing music ever in this country or a visit from Austria or any other country that still takes pride in hosting classical music concerts.
All music has a cathartic effect but the music tastes in West Europe too have changed significantly with the younger generation more into the lyric-based rhythm-dominated music that is reminiscent of cathartic ritualistic exercises bordering on exorcism. Some are in the process of making their music relevant to the times and making changes, either piecemeal or on a large scale, with greater infusion of contemporary sound while some are staying put and wanting to see that age through with their virtuosity and expertise in playing symphonies, sonatas and concertos more in line with laidback relaxed temperament.
The present series of concerts in Pakistan was more in synch with the folk traditions that have been there for centuries, resisting change or incorporating change rather than being washed away with it. The evening was pleasant, soothing, a restoration of faith in simplicity, harmony and proportion.