The Shape of Intonal Festival in 2023

10 Minute Read
Art & Culture

We spotlight some of the key artists set to perform at the multi disciplinary arts and music festival in Malmö later this month.

Intonal Festival remains one of Europe’s most innovative and exciting showcases of experimental Art, Music and contemporary culture. It represents some of the more abstract fringes of these scenes and presents them all amidst a dynamic, unique assortment of spaces and venues including churches, halls and beyond.

This month marks the return of the event, taking place between the 26th and 30th of April in the Swedish city of Malmö and playing host to the likes of Bendik Giske, Coby Sey, Gavsborg, Laraaji, Jay Glass Dubs, Susannah Stark and Solid Blake amongst a list of many, many more.


The ethos behind Intonal festival has always been to celebrate art without the distraction of corporate or commercial interests – making it a uniquely special event which is loved as much by the artists who perform and attend as the audiences who observe.

We spoke to a handful of acts set to perform at the festival this year – Ying-Hsueh, RIVET, Maria Bertel and Gregory Vartian-Foss. They reflect on what the event means to them…

Ying-Hsueh Chen

How would you define your music?

“I am trained as a classical percussionist and pianist, but in recent years I have been especially inspired by world music and folklore traditions. At this moment I am especially fascinated by traditional music for Shakuhachi, in which you can hear silence. I am generally fascinated by contemporary music that just works without being niche.

I strive so that my performance and work are timeless and can immediately speak to people, not because it is commercial, but because it is somehow a collective seed and each human is touched by it.

I am fascinated by the experience that reaches different polarities, and my work reflects that. For example, my first CD ‘Raw Elegance’, my second album ‘Dark Rad’.”

Do you feel that there are less boundaries musically speaking in the present?

“I don’t really believe that music has fewer boundaries than before. of course it depends on what “boundaries” means…. I believe that we have more freedom and fewer taboos to create new rules – to free ourselves.”

What are you most excited about at the festival?

“I look forward to working with Maria Bertel and Victoria Pacheco and to meeting all kinds of wonderful artists in person.”

What will you try to achieve with your performance at Intonal?

“What I will play with Maria Bertel is totally unknown right now and that is the excitement of it. I only know I really admire the way she plays the trombone and I believe that we can create good music together.”

Foto: Emilia Therese

"I strive so that my performance and work are timeless and can immediately speak to people, not because it is commercial, but because it is somehow a collective seed and each human is touched by it."



What do you strive for when producing and writing music?

“To feel free! I had a 5 year writer’s block before I realised I don’t have to follow any scene or genre rules as long as I don’t expect to be part of anything.”

Does playing at Intonal offer an opportunity to try new things and experiment?

“Yeah, Intonal is the most open minded place to play in Sweden, I’d say. And the Malmö crowd is amazing. They never seize to impress me. Such open-minded tolerance and patience. And the fact that Intonal facilitates experimentation and collaboration via residencies definitely adds to it. I’m really thankful for having Intonal in my life.”

What’s your perspective on the current Electronic scene which seems to be bigger and more widely appreciated than ever?

“In 25+ years in the scene, I’ve come to the realisation that the scene feels best for me at arm’s length. It’s so easy to get frustrated when you’re heavily invested in it. It’s also easy to get cynical and focus on all the obvious patterns. I prefer my current position, which is the one of an old lady peeking through the blinds as the kids make a racket in the yard. Silently muttering something about the past.”

Your own musical tastes are vast, what sounds and influences inform and guide you as an artist in the present?

“That really varies quickly and wildly. At times when I feel detached and disappointed with music, there’s always a curveball out of nowhere that knocks me out completely. If you ever don’t like what you hear around you, just keep digging. There’s gold wherever you dig. The last few months’ big impressions have been:

Evgueni Galperine on ECM
Maxime Denuc – Nachthorn
Leikeli47 – Shape Up
Romance/Dean Hurley output
Collaborating with Luis Pestana and Gregory Vartian-Foss”

What are you most excited about at the festival?

“Checking out all those weird names I am entirely unfamiliar with. That’s where the blowing of minds happen. And playing at the castle!!”

Maria Bertel

How would you define your sound in the context of style and genre and what role do you feel that sound plays at a festival like Intonal?

“I would say that my sound relates to noise, drone music and a great deal of improvisation. I’m striving to create a sound that resonates in the body, as a physical experience. I like the way the late Leonora Carrington saw it. She was very much against her art being intellectualised. She wanted people to just experience it, and accept it as rooms/dimensions created by her, just as real as everything else in the physical world. The first time I saw her work, I was struck by the vibrations of the colours and how she integrated layers. I could almost hear it, a very mind altering experience.”

What are you hoping to achieve with your performance at Intonal and what does the platform offer you?

“It’s a nice feeling to have your voice appear among such a body of great artists. This platform is doing important work promoting artists whose practice is broader than the mainstream.”

You play both independently and alongside others in a group, what differences do you attach to each performance?

“For me a group performance means that your ideas are remoulded and then thrown back at you, all changed and out of control, in a good way. At the same time, you have the freedom to occasionally draw back a little to just listen and then dive back into what the others are up to. In groups, Ideas clash and x quantities appear, that is my favourite part.
As a solo artist, you get to make all the decisions, it can be very exciting and a bit of hard work sometimes.”

Where did your early influences stem from and are you still as guided by them in the present?

“I was always very sensitive to sound as a child, and to this day it still overrules and steals my attention. My mum noticed that even as a baby I would be hypnotised by the radio, and later imitate sounds around our home. As a teenager, I was very drawn to hard rock and metal, though the whole scene and attitude around it didn’t really appeal to me. I still have this love for distorted sound with all the overtones it produces and the physicality it also contains. It speaks to something fundamental in me I guess.”

What are you most excited about at the festival?

“I’m very excited to experience all the performances and be inspired. I will be performing alongside the amazing artists Vica Pacheco and Percussionist Ying-Hsueh. The name of this constellation is ITA, it’s a new group and the performance at Intonal Festival will be our first together. It will be based on Vica’s visual animations of living elements that create a network in constant movement. So I’m very exited about that.”


"It’s a nice feeling to have your voice appear among such a body of great artists. This platform is doing important work promoting artists whose practice is broader than the mainstream."


Gregory Vartian-Foss

You come from a classical background, is it exciting to be involved in music and sounds beyond your heritage at the likes of Intonal festival?

“It’s exciting to make music beyond the scope of my work in the orchestra. But I have always pushed my boundaries by seeking out performance opportunities outside of my work. It has been enriching to be involved in additional projects which change my perception of the role and capabilities of my instrument. Most often the projects I’ve done outside of standard symphonic repertoire have still been “concert art music” with other acoustic instruments so working with Mika and Luis, who primarily make music using computers, is a new experience for me.”

You’ve built a life around music but why is it important to you personally?

“I have always loved to have the chance to express myself through music. This has been very fulfilling from an emotional and intellectual perspective. But it is the physicality of practising and performing that I find most interesting now. It has taken considerable effort to figure out how to physically play in a good condition, year after year. I find the longer I play the more I’m investigating how to move in a general sense. This pursuit of using my energy effectively keeps me engaged with my body and mind. I will never run out of things to discover in this regard and it’s good to be reminded of this daily.”

How have your experiences travelling within an orchestra broadened your horizons?

“The symphonic repertoire is vast. It has been a wonderful journey to play different programs every week and study so much music through the years. I am a strong proponent of orchestras commissioning and premiering new works. It seldom happens but I think for the idiom to thrive this practice is essential both for the players and the public. I love orchestral music from the 20th century, but it is rare to see Ligeti, Stockhausen, Luigi Nono, and many, many other composers from the modern era on concert programs. This is a shame and I think we should trust and expose audiences to contemporary repertoire as well.”

You have a strong interest in Jazz – how has this approach to sound helped direct your own musical style?

“I played saxophone for 12 years and after a certain point, one starts to study jazz music if that is their chosen instrument. The jazz idiom is filled with extremely creative people from throughout its history up to the present day. I get inspired by the willingness of people to push limits by constantly redefining what the music can express. Studying Jazz music also gave me the chance to improvise which is very different from orchestral playing where all the music is written down.”

What are you most excited about at the festival?

“I am excited to share what Mika, Luis, and I worked on during our residency. When I first started going to Inkonst some years ago I wondered whether I would be a part of what goes on at the club, in my own way. It means a lot for that dream to come to fruition at Intonal with a piece I have been involved in creating. I’m always excited for Intonal because I know I will hear a lot of artists I’ve never heard of before. This leaves me with a lot of inspiration and freshness when the festival end.”

By participating in SHAPE+ residencies, these artists joined the roster of “the SHAPE+ platform for innovative music and audiovisual art, co-financed by the European Union.