“Art is not some vague projection into space but a power, so strong and full of purpose that it serves the refinement of the soul. It is its language which speaks to the soul.
If artists avert this task, a chasm remains unbridged, and there is no power entitled to take the place of art. Inevitably, while the human soul will gain in strength, art too will increase its vitality since both are inextricably connected and complimentary to each other. […] During these dumb, blind periods, men lay special and exclusive stress on outward success. They are only interested in material possessions and welcome any technical advancement, which only helps man's body, proclaiming this servitude as an achievement of major magnitude, while spiritual forces are neglected, if not completely ignored. The solitary seekers, the hungry of soul, the visionaries are derided or dubbed as spiritually abnormal. Those rare souls, however, who refuse to be lulled into lethargy and forever yearn, however vaguely, for spiritual life, advancement, and knowledge, sound disconsolate and lamentful amidst the coarse materialistic chorus of spiritual darkness. Agony surrounds these terrified souls and their followers. Sorely tormented by doubt and fear and losing strength, they often prefer creeping obliteration to this sudden leap into darkness.”
(Wassily Kandinsky, On the spiritual in art, 1946; Publisher: Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation)
The Chromas Association was founded in Trieste in May 1987 with the specific aim of revitalizing the city’s music scene in the field of contemporary music. It took its name from a computerized work of art entitled Chromas, created in the USA by Edward Zajec and based upon the music of Giampaolo Coral. Since the early 1970s, with the cessation of the activities of Arte Viva, an expression of avant-garde culture of the 1960s, shows involving new music, in Trieste, were limited to rare events and even these were at the margins of the stereotyped programming and lacking in context.
In 1987 many dogmas in new music were collapsing or had already dissolved, creating space for a wide range of aesthetic forms. The ideological block that had sustained the currents of Structuralism and committed art, very evident at least until the 1970s, was gradually crumbling from within, hand in hand with the decline, in the broadest sense, of the ideologies themselves, leaving room for extremely generic and dubious aesthetic alternatives. Prior to this there had been a Venice Biennale at which the end of research and experimentation was officially consecrated, handing over to aesthetic movements that were artistically weak but well related to political power and the market of publishing interests.
Ideally, the Chromas association was founded in counterpoint to this “institutionalized” situation which, in fact, emarginated anyone who was not “in line” (see the case of Giacinto Scelsi). It was not about finding median solutions between experimentalism and (Italian) pseudo-romanticism, but to reconsider methods of composition and aesthetic lines with different assumptions, giving space to young composers, and particularly those from Eastern Europe, often extraneous to the ideological mechanisms and the marketplace.
The first step was to apply a known teaching of Bruno Maderna, according to which, for a composer, a good performance is much more useful than any maestro. Therefore, offering commissions to young composers and giving them a chance to hear their music premiered. Hence the title of the festival: Trieste Prima - International Encounters with Contemporary Music. Looking through the programmes, in addition to performances of all the composers active in Trieste, one encounters the names of masters of several generations, of the historical avantgarde (Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Bartok, Webern), through to those that established themselves following World War II (Boulez, Stockhausen , Xenakis, Donatoni, Berio, Nono, Ligeti, Rihm, Schnittke and many others) through to young composers who, in 1987, were practically novices and today are among the most well-known in international terms (Fausto Romitelli, Olga Neuwirth, Ivan Fedele, Georg Friedrich Haas, Pascal Dusapin etc.).
To escape the narrow logic of the concert, in cooperation with musicologists and composers, a wide variety of themes of composition have been addressed, associating them through many meetings and conferences, with interpretative knowledge. The cycle “Youngsters and contemporary music” has given ample space to newly-graduated musicians and as a result of uninterrupted cooperation with Italy’s State broadcaster, the RAI, a large archive of the concerts has been committed to tape. The creation of the Chromas Ensemble within the Association in 1991 has further contributed to the promotion and dissemination of music by young composers, especially those from Central Europe.