26.04.–05.05.2024 / Tartu


Festival theme Umwelt

Umwelt was the idea of Baltic German nature researcher Jakob von Uexküll. He was an Estonian-born Baltic German biologist who dedicated his life to the question how animals perceive the world. To describe this, he adopted the term ‘Umwelt’. He studied zoology at the University of Tartu (1884–1889), and continued his research in Heidelberg and Hamburg, Germany. As a zoology professor at Hamburg University he founded an institute to study the Umwelt of animals and was its director from 1926–1940. In the 1930s he spent his summers in Estonia. Jakob von Uexküll’s summer residence was in Puhtulaiu, Lääne County, Estonia, which was refurbished as the Puhtu biological station.

What is Umwelt?

Every animal perceives the world differently, depending on how their bodies and sensory organs are built. Although we cannot see the world exactly with someone else’s eyes, it is exciting to imagine how a centipede, grasshopper, fish or butterfly views and understands it. Thus, in our imagination we reach new forms of perception, sliding into a dreamworld that carries us to the peripheries of the sensory universe. There may even be many Umwelts in one person, overlapping only partially – our ears tell us one thing, but our eyes and fingers describe a totally different world.

How to tell stories that remain in the peripheries of a worldview that is so heavily focused on human perception? How to speak in languages spoken by non-humans? Can there be a bridge connecting a human and non-human? Is it language, music or another, unknown form of perception?

Composers tackle all those exciting questions this spring at the Baltic and Estonian Music Days on the banks of the Emajõgi River in Tartu. Come and listen, and be a part of enlightening journeys into musical Umwelts!

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Festival is supported by Estonian Ministry of Culture / Cultural Endowment of Estonia / Estonian National Culture Foundation / LHV / Tallinn Culture & Sports Department / City of Tartu

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