Lockdown Music Stories: VENI
VENI Veronika Szász, István Bata interview
“Our democratic society needs its unique and diverse cultural and media landscape in this historical situation, which was unimaginable until recently,” said German culture minister Monika Grütters. “The creative courage of creative people can help to overcome the crisis. We should seize every opportunity to create good things for the future. That is why the following applies: artists are not only indispensable but also vital, especially now”.
These lines, coming from the German government in March 2020, confirm my thoughts about the role of artists, especially now. This is why I was asking Veronika Szász and István Bata from VENI a few questions about the current situation. I was curious about how they are doing, what they are thinking, under lockdown?
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- How can musicians in Budapest now help society? How can bands, with their creative courage, point to a better future?
- Veronika Szász: It is up to the artists to be creative and to create works that invite others to interact. Throughout history, many creative artists have worked all their lives without being appreciated by the audience. Many died poor and lonely, without any fame. Yet they did what they had to do because the real artist always wants to create. This is still the same, even though we have many doubts and fears.
- Do you get any extra inspiration from such a historic situation? Do you guys feel more motivated now? Does isolation change much in artistic work?
- Veronika Szász: I grew up in a poor and humble family, never travelled much, went to a restaurant, did wellness, etc. My everyday life was spent with creation, in which I lived out my unrealistic desires. So for me, this is like what I have practiced for 31 years. What's interesting is that now other people are being forced into my lifestyle too, so maybe they will have a greater hunger for art. Not only do hard times create new and more open recipients, but maybe a lot of people do start now to draw, sing, or play their dusty flute. And this is something that will make the world more beautiful.
- István Bata: Creative work is usually a lonely activity, and this situation now may even be beneficial in that one is less distracted during a creative process. In the life of our band, creative background work has always been time-consuming, and there is more time now. Instead of continuous spinning, calm attention and thoroughness took over. Of course, this should not necessarily accompany a pandemic, so the smartest thing to do now is focusing on what long-forgotten truths teach us.
- How do you intend to (re)connect with your audience in these circumstances? What new tools and platforms you would think are going to help to achieve this?
- Veronika Szász: Fortunately, our audience follows us, listens to what we have to say, and does not shy away from giving us feedback. It might as well happen that there will be new followers too, for which we would be very grateful. But the magic of live contact and live music cannot be replaced in any way. What's more, our music comes to life when performing live, to interpret our songs in an improvisational way in interaction with the audience, when both of us have a distinct strength in pure, virtuoso and suggestive live play.
- István Bata: When thinking of performing arts, it is an important thing to experience performances in the present. Although these can now be done virtually in an alternative way, the digital space is not in any way a substitute for a personal presence. It lacks the power of the occasional nature of a performance. Therefore, I think that in this inward-looking period, everyone should put their sensitivity to the world on a new base, so the concert experience can be re-evaluated, among many other things.
VENI Veronika Szász István Bata
- What you would think the single biggest change is going to be in the world of music in Budapest once this crisis ends?
- István Bata: If the economy suffers from global emergency stoppages (which, let's face it, there is a good chance for), then there will also be fewer financial resources for art. If this happens, it will affect the livelihoods of musicians and other artists as well, but prosperity has never favoured creativity. So instead of having bread, we might get inspiration as a result of the difficulty of recovering. Creativity is always most needed where a situation needs to be resolved.
- Is there any “Lockdown” piece of music produced recently that you can share with the readers?
- Veronika Szász: We have been in quarantine for a couple of weeks only, and certainly, we have new music since, but it takes longer for us to polish songs before we play them. Neither the current situation can discourage us from producing the quality that people have come to expect from us. However, there is a way we can give, which we think is very important, so we keep making recordings that we can share with our audience.
- Is there any way for music lovers to support your work, and how?
- István Bata: The main income of bands is the honour of concert performance, followed by the sale of recordings, most of which nowadays also take place after the concerts. Because these are now impossible, people can only support performers by buying their music on Spotify and other platforms, watching their videos on Youtube, and giving feedback on social platforms. One important thing we keep trying to keep in mind is that an artist should be represented in the cyberspace by his or her works, not by the private life of an individual who has been captured at home.
Veronika Szász, author, singer, fine artist and István Bata multi-instrumentalist musician started working together in spring 2016. The album, under the title Unfold, was released in the winter of 2018, by Gábor Deutsch (Anorganik). The songs premiered in the spring of 2019 at the Knight's Hall of St. Stephen's Basilica in Budapest. This is a conceptually composed, mostly 75-minute long improvisational program of electronic music. The material is a conversation of vocals and instrumental play in an artificial music sphere.