Darmstadt International Summer Course Celebrated as Avant-Garde Stronghold

By Philip Trapp on Jun 09, 2016 02:42 PM EDT

Last month, a three-day festival was held in Brooklyn to honor Darmstadt, Germany's Darmstadt International Music Institute and the 70th anniversary of their Summer Course for New Music -- a starting point for many revered avant-garde composers like Karlheinz Stockhausen, Pierre Boulez and John Cage.

Taking place at New York's experimental community venue, Roulette, and presented by the Goethe Institute in conjunction with Darmstadt International, the celebration included numerous tribute performances. One highlight was a three-hour Stockhausen show from the Orchestra of the S.E.M. Ensemble with Talea Ensemble:

"Here was a rare immersion in modern classics. The Talea contributed a gripping performance of Stockhausen's groundbreaking 'Mikrophonie I,' in which hand microphones are used to pick up the resonances from a tam-tam struck and manipulated by different objects."

Darmstadt Institute in New York also offers the Summer Course for New Music, similar to the parent institution in Germany, for aspiring composers of forward-thinking works. George Grella of the New York Classical Review summed up the course's unique, respected aesthetic:

"The Darmstadt course is better known, fairly or not, as the 'Darmstadt School,' the style (and more importantly, ideology) of atonality of Stockhausen, Pierre Boulez, Luigi Nono, and Bruno Maderna. Darmstadt set itself up as the logical post-World War musical utopia. It used history, particularly romanticism, as a launch pad, and also as an oppositional pole by which to define itself."

The 70th anniversary concert series at Roulette took place over three nights, May 9-11, and included such artists as Wet Ink Ensemble, Jennifer Walshe, Mivos Quartet and I.C.E., the International Contemporary Ensemble. The celebration of "radical innovation" was a fitting exploratory tribute to Darmstadt's decades of inventive classical instruction.

Below, take a listen to Stockhausen's aforementioned work, "Mikrophonie I," an explosive and heralded investigation of directional microphonic techniques. As titled, this is the first of two parts in the composer's "Mikrophonie" suite, written by Stockhausen in 1964 and 1965.

Let us know what you think of the experimental piece in the comments section below, we would love to hear from you.

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TagsAvant-Garde, Experimental Music, Karlheinz Stockhausen

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