The ensemble ascolta developed a concept for an innovative, evening long performance together with the internationally renowned israeli composer Chaya Czernowin. Taking shape in the years 2006-2008, the Dialogue Experiment was performed in the season 2008-2009 in Germany and Austria. The participants are seven composers from California, all students of Chaya Czernowin and seven musicians from Germany, the ensemble ascolta.
The composers involved are: Rick Burkhardt, Chaya Czernowin, Peter Edwards, Michelle Lou, Chris Mercer, Ming Tsao and Rob Wannamaker.
The compositional process evolved in three stages, a multiple dialogue quite like the process of rehearsing chamber music.
The first step was for each composer to create a musical statement, a quasi autonomous piece of around 8 minutes duration as basis for subsequent dialogue.
This statement is then opened up to dialogue with the other composers, musical material extracted in a phase of collective composition in which the work develops territories belonging to all the composers together.
Thirdly, the final form of the project takes shape in dialogue between the composers and the musicians: the performance is part of the composition.
The result is not a normal concert situation, but neither is it traditional music theatre. It is a "teatro dell'ascoltare" (theatre of listening). The instrumentalists are protagonists and co-composers.
The dialogue roles are multiple. There are overlaps in nationality and culture between the groups. Composer-interpreters in the ensemble interact with interpreter-composers among the californians. A further field of understanding is that of the instruments used: at least one of the composers creates new instruments for each new piece, while the musicians of ascolta are also committed to the development of new instruments.
Artistically the projct covers new territory. It is a sounding contribution to the discussion about what constitutes a work of art, questions borderline activity and the division of labour. It is an attempt to bring collective composition to a new level.