Vinko Globokar: Composer, Trombonist, Conductor, Writer, Teacher, Pioneer
At the age of 87, Vinko Globokar (born in 1934 in Anderny/France) can look back at many accomplishments in his life.
When his family relocated from France to Slowenia 1947, he started learning the trombone and became a member in the Big Band of Radio Ljubljana at the young age of 16.
In 1955 he moved to Paris to deepen his trombone studies at the Conservatoire with André Hodeir and graduated with the first prize and a degree in chamber music.
While in Paris, he continued playing Jazz in famous night clubs and became a studio musician for jazz and chansons. He recorded several dozen albums with Edith Piaf, Gilbert Bécaud et al.
He never forgot his roots and never drew a line between vernacular, jazz, pop, improvisation and avant-garde, even though the latter prevailed in his life as a composer to this day.
In the Parisian cafés, where intellectuals were debating philosophy and new literary currents, he became familiar with Jean-Paul Sartre and Claude Levi-Strauss who influenced him sustainably.
“I always give a lot of thought to finding a balance between Lévi-Strauss’ accounts of myth, and those things that can also be applied to music – a balance between the ‘natural’ and the ‘cultural’. The ‘natural’ aspect we find above all in folk music. What interests me is not the ultimate acoustic result (melodies and rhythms) so much as the music is produced: the behaviour of the musicians, the way the instruments are treated, and the various possibilities of making oneself understood on the recourse to sound”. (Vinko Globokar in: Laboratorium. Text zur Musik 1967-1997, ed. Sigrid Konrad, Saarbrücken 1998)
As a trombonist of contemporary music, he premiered many important solo works and concertos by leading 20th century composers, e.g. Sequenza V by Luciano Berio.
At the same time he developed new playing techniques and invented mechanisms for playing the trombone, often using his entire body as an extension of the instrument. Improvisation and experimentalism played a vital role in this process which culminated in his foundation of the New Phonic Art Ensemble in 1969. With three other musicians he toured the world presenting concerts in which they solely improvised without any prior verbal or written communication at all. Recordings on long discs give testimony of these unique events to this day.
There was seamless transition of him being an interpreter and then a composer of stage, orchestral and ensemble works which were premiered by leading forces around the world.
His body of works are filled with philosophical theories and humanitarian intentions. Especially his works surrounding the subject if emigration and exile (Der Engel der Geschichte
No. 1-3; Exile
No. 1 to 3, Le chemin de la liberté
) are filled with literary quotes and his poetry, appellations and accusations at once. Languages come easily to Globokar who speaks several and believes in a world without borders and cultural or religious differences. His compositions contribute a great deal to the political discourse of today.
All of these qualities and experiences made him an apt and sought-after teacher at conservatories and universities in Europe and the US. At the Musikhochschule Cologne for example he taught alongside Mauricio Kagel, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Bernd Alois Zimmermann who formed an influential circle in the local and international music scene.
Together with Pierre Boulez and Luciano Berio he was one of the founders and directors of IRCAM (Institut de recherche et coordination acoustique/musique) in 1977. Pierre Boulez honored his colleague on the occasion of his 75th birthday with the following words:
“… I am constantly astonished by his persistence in a just struggle. The outcome now is a body of increasingly well-controlled works, always inventive, an in touch with the era and its principle problems. This preoccupation is surprising, since many musicians with some sort of social perspective have sunk into a kind of anti-elitist populism which does little to aid their cause. In Vinko Globokar, essentially, one finds a critical attitude that admits no compromise and retains all the strength and exceptionality of an individual who feels impelled to create his own universe. It’s certainly not the easiest path, nor the most saleable, but it is by far the most courageous and encouraging one.” (in: Vinko Globokar, a brochure for his 75th anniversary, Ricordi Bühnen- und Musikverlag GmbH, München 2009)
Les mots, les langues et les sons
, from 2019, dedicated to the writers e.e.cummings, R. Char, A.B. Novak, P. Celan, B. Čošič, V. Maiakovski, E. Sanguineti gewidmet, commissioned by the Callithumpian Consort, with funding provided by New England Conservatory, Jeffrey Duryea, and the French American Cultural Exchange (FACE) Contemporary Music Fund, a program of FACE with major support from the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, SACEM, Institut français, and the Florence Gould Foundation, was premiered in Boston under his presence. His manuscripts are being held and conserved at the Paul Sacher Stiftung in Basel/Switzerland.
Globokar also made a name for himself as a conductor, not only of his own works, and still does so until today. As recent as in 2020, a new CD was released on the Kairos label with his Les soliloques decortiqués, on which he conducted the BIT 20 ensemble.
He is a savant permeated by kindness, altruism and an almost touching modesty.