The relationship between the collective and the individual was in focus this summer at the 33rd edition of isa – the International Summer Academy of the mdw – University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna.

Personal autonomy and individual fulfilment are priorities that can stand at odds with those of community and collaboration – and with this currently being a major society-wide theme, it’s naturally also quite present in today’s performative and academic practice. Every high-calibre music ensemble necessarily consists of autonomous, distinctive, and strong individuals.

At the same time, however, ensemble music-making always entails proceeding in a concerted manner that can only arise from interaction. One effect of the COVID pandemic has been a (not always voluntary) trend toward isolation and withdrawal into the private sphere. But amidst a geopolitical situation still overshadowed by the horrifying war in Ukraine and in view of the more-than-trivial influence wielded by social media, there exists a simultaneously growing danger of co-optation by algorithmically fostered collectives.

isa23’s diverse formats invited us to explore possible approaches and modes of work that enabled the tension between the individual and the collective experienced as a mutually inspiring challenge.
And in this, WE and ME was key!
A team of internationally renowned tutors has been engaged to help unleash creative energies in the master classes and workshops, while the isaFestival’s approximately 30 concerts provided an ideal setting in which to expand isa’s lived community by an eager audience.

isaCommunity invited especially people from the surrounding region to take part in isa’s creative explorations.
And directly following isa’s artistic programming, the international and interdisciplinary academic conference isaScience – entitled “Sonic Ties: Rethinking Communities und Collectives” – has shed light on the questions raised by isa23’s theme from various sociological, cultural-economic, and cultural policy perspectives.
Many thanks to all for an extraordinary exciting, high-calibre, and joyfully shared experience at isa23!

Johannes Meissl
Artistic Director, isa & Vice Rector, mdw