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Music in Germany Since 1968 by Alastair Williams. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013. £60.00.

  • Ian Pace


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1 Williams, Alastair, Constructing Musicology (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2001).

2 The term Neue Musik gained most widespread currency in the 1919 essay of that name by Bekker, Paul, reprinted in Bekker, Neue Musik: Dritter Band der Gesammelten Schriften (Stuttgart and Berlin: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1923), pp. 85118, a polemic against the staid nature of German music at the time which nonetheless held up the work of Debussy, Schreker and Schoenberg as possible catalysts for change. Bekker's article provoked a wave of writings in the next years from Hermann Scherchen, Walther Krug, Bartók, Paul Stefan, Schoenberg, and others. For a thorough overview of the history of the concept, see von Blumröder, Christoph, Der Begriff »neue Musik« im 20. Jahrhundert (Munich and Salzburg: Musikverlag Emil Katzbichler, 1981).

3 In particular, he justifies the omission of all East German composers other than Reiner Bredemeyer and Friedrich Goldmann on the grounds that new music did not flourish in this country. But it is not clear why then Paul Dessau, Georg Katzer, Steffen Schleiermacher and Jakob Ullmann, all of whose work makes of interesting comparison with that of composers in West Germany, should be excluded, yet Detlev Müller-Siemens or Manfred Trojahn, identified by Williams himself as associated with neo-romanticism, should.

4 We are told that the Arditti Quartet ‘add much to the music that is not present in the notation’ (p. 23), without any consideration of what it means for something to be ‘present in the notation’ nor of any wider issues of performance aesthetics.

5 The role of the orchestras is one of various factors that differentiate the options available to German (and some other) composers more so than those who receive their primary commissions from other countries. This is witnessed by the fact that the mature Lachenmann (from temA (1968) onwards) has written only three major works for medium-size ensemble (Mouvement (-vor der Erstarrung), Zwei Gefühle and Concertini) to date, but 17 orchestral works.

6 See, for example, recent studies such as Kutschke, Beate, ed., Musikkulturen in der Revolte: Studien zu Rock, Avantgarde und Klassik im Umfeld von ‘1968’ (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 2008), Drott, Eric, Music and the Elusive Revolution: Cultural Politics and Political Culture in France, 1968–1981 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2011), and Kutschke, Beate and Norton, Barley, eds, Music and Protest in 1968 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013).

7 There is no mention of the Größe Koalition between 1966 and 1969 headed by former NSDAP member Kurt Georg Kiesinger, the continuing presence of former Nazi officials at high levels of government, industry and culture, or the earlier trial of Adolf Eichmann and then the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials of 1963–65, all major catalysts for radicalised attitudes towards Vergangenheitsbewältigung (coming to terms with the past) amongst a generation too young to have been personally involved with the Third Reich, but in many cases with parents who had.

8 Williams also conflates Lachenmann's use of the term Strukturalismus with structuralism as it was understood in a French context, without substantiating this linking of the two concepts.

9 Williams seems unaware of the model presented by Borio, Gianmario, in Musikalische Avantgarde um 1960 (Regensburg: Laaber, 1993), which traces many ‘post-serial’ developments from the late 1950s onwards.

10 There are numerous texts relevant to this key moment in West German musical history, including Klüppelholz, Werner, Sprache als Musik: Studien zur Vokalkomposition bei Karlheinz Stockhausen, Hans G Helms, Mauricio Kagel, Dieter Schnebel und György Ligeti (Saarbrücken: Pfau, 1995); von Zahn, Robert, ‘“Refüsierte Gesänge”: Musik im Atelier Bauermeister’, in Das Atelier Mary Bauermeister in Köln 1960–62, ed. Historisches Archiv der Stadt Köln (Cologne: Emons, 1993), pp. 100119; and Riedl, Josef Anton, ‘NEUE MUSIK München, Siemens-Studio für elektronische Musik und musica viva (1953–1963)’, in ‘Eine Sprache der Gegenwart’: musica viva 1945–1995, ed. Ulm, Renate (Mainz and Munich: Piper Schott, 1995), pp. 6574.

11 See in particular Boulez, Pierre, ‘Proposals’ (1948) and ‘Sound and Word’ (1958), in Stocktakings: Notes from an Apprenticeship, collected by Paule Thévenin, trans. Walsh, Stephen, with introduction by Robert Piencikowski (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991), pp. 4754, 39–43, and John Cage to Pierre Boulez, 22 May 1951, in Nattiez, Jean-Jacques, ed. The Boulez–Cage Correspondence, trans. and ed. Samuels, Robert (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp. 92–7.

12 For example Knilli, Friedrich, Das Hörspiel: Mittel und Möglichkeiten eines totalen Schallspiels (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1961); Schwitzke, Heinz, Das Hörspiel: Dramaturgie und Geschichte (Cologne: Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 1963); Fischer, Kurt, Das Hörspiel: Form und Funktion (Stuttgart: Kröner, 1964); and Schwitzke, Heinz and Hiesel, Franz (eds), Reclams Hörspielführer (Stuttgart: Reclam, 1969). It could be argued that the genre moved in new directions following Kagel's work, but this is a different claim to that made by Williams.

13 ‘So wird es beispielsweise möglich, das Problem der “rundfunkeigenen Musik” in Angriff zu nehmen und auch für das Hörspiel akustische Effekte von bisher noch nicht gehörter Gestalt bereitzustellen’ (‘It will, for example, become possible to attack head-on the problem of producing “radio-specific” music and also provide not-yet-heard configurations of acoustic effects’); minutes from meeting at NWDR, 18 October 1951, cited in Cross, Lowell, ‘Electronic Music 1948–1953’, Perspectives of New Music, 7/1 (1968), pp. 4950.

14 Also, Kagel would have been well aware of how Schnebel drew upon a wide range of fragments from the standard classical repertoire in his realisation Glossolalie 61 and nostalgie (1962) (the latter filmed by Kagel as Solo (1967)).

15 Trapp, Klaus, ‘Darmstadt und die 68er-Bewegung’, in Von Kranichstein zur Gegenwarg. 50 Jahre Darmstädter Ferienkurse 1946–1996, ed. Stephan, Rudolf et al. (Stuttgart: DACO, 1996), pp. 369–75; and Iddon, Martin, ‘Trying To Speak: Between Politics and Aesthetics, Darmstadt 1970–1972’, twentieth-century music 3/2 (2007), pp. 255–75.

16 For example the mere fact that Lachenmann uses the shō in the 26th number from the opera, combined with the knowledge that Lachenmann has some knowledge of Japanese culture, is sufficient for the ‘sense of stillness that is akin to a calming of the ego, and even to a state of non-being’ to be interpreted as an invocation of ‘the mystery of transcendence’ rather than anything to be interpreted ‘in simple orientalist terms’ (pp. 113–14).

17 ‘Produkte einer mit sich selbst kokettierenden und spielenden Scheinradikalität’. In Lachenmann, Helmut, ‘Komponieren im Schatten von Darmstadt’, in Musik in existentielle Erfahrung: Schriften 1966–1995, ed. Häusler, Josef (Wiesbaden; Breitkopf & Härtel, 1996) p. 343. Translated by Toop, Richard as ‘Composing in the Shadow of Darmstadt’ in Contemporary Music Review, 23/3– 4 (2004), p. 45.

18 Lachenmann, Helmut, ‘Musik als existentielle Erfahrung’, interview with Ulrich Mösch (1994), in Musik in existentielle Erfahrung, p. 222.

Music in Germany Since 1968 by Alastair Williams. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013. £60.00.

  • Ian Pace


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