New music

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New music (English new music , French nouvelle musique ) is the collective term for an abundance of different currents in composed Western art music from around 1910 to the present day. Her focus is on compositions of 20th century music . It is particularly characterized by - sometimes radical - extensions of tonal, harmonic, melodic, rhythmic means and forms. It is the search for new sounds, new forms or new connections of old styles, which happens partly through the continuation of existing traditions, partly through deliberate break with tradition and appears either as progress or as renewal (neo or post styles).

New music is roughly divided into the period from around 1910 to the Second World War - often referred to as modernity - and the reorientation after the Second World War that was perceived as "radical" - mostly apostrophized as avant-garde - to the present. The latter period is sometimes subdivided into the 50s, 60s and 70s, although the last three decades have not yet been further differentiated (the collective term postmodernism has not caught on).

The term contemporary music (English contemporary music , French musique contemporaine ) is used to describe the music of the present in the narrower sense , without referring to a fixed periodization. The term New Music was coined by the lecture of the same name by music journalist Paul Bekker in 1919.

New music representatives are sometimes referred to as new speakers .

Compositional means and styles

The most important step in the reorientation of musical language has been taken in the area of harmony , namely gradually abandoning tonality - towards free atonality and finally towards twelve-tone technique . The tendency to use increasingly complex chord formations, already the 19th century leads towards the end in harmonious areas that minor major tonality no longer be with the underlying clearly explain -. A process that already with Wagner and Liszt his Begins. From this, Arnold Schönberg and his students Alban Berg and Anton Webern draw the most well-planned consequence, which culminates in the formulation (1924) of the method of “composition with twelve only related notes” (dodecaphony). These atonal compositional rules provide the composer with a tool that helps avoid the principles of tonality. The designation as the “ Second Viennese School ” in analogy to the “ First Viennese School ” ( Haydn , Mozart , Beethoven ) already reveals the special position that this group of composers has as a mediator.

In the first two decades of the 20th century, the principle of using all twelve tones of the tempered scale equally, without preferring individual tones, in a planned manner, seemed to have occupied different composers who simultaneously, but independently of Schönberg, reached similarly bold results. One of these experimenters, in whose works twelve-tone and serial approaches can be recognized, was Josef Matthias Hauer , who publicly argued with Schönberg over the “copyright” to twelve-tone music. Furthermore, Alexander Scriabin to name, whose atonal, on Quart stratification based Klangzentrum technology has paved the way to remarkable experiments in the wake of an entire generation of young Russian composers. The importance of this generation of composers, which emerged in the climate of the revolutions of 1905 and 1917, for New Music only became apparent in the second half of the century, as it was systematically eliminated by the Stalinist dictatorship in the late 1920s. Here are representative Nikolai Roslawez , Arthur Lourié , Alexander Mosolov and Ivan Wyschnegradsky called.

A major shortcoming of the abandonment of the major-minor tonality, however, was the extensive loss of the formative powers of this harmonic system. The composers addressed this deficiency in very different ways. In order to avoid the classical-romantic musical forms, some free ( rhapsody , fantasy ) or neutral ( concert , orchestral piece ) names or self-chosen, sometimes extremely short, aphoristic forms (Webern, Schönberg) were chosen for New Music . Others stuck to traditional forms, although their works themselves take this concept ad absurdum, or fill the traditional ideas of form with new content (one-movement piano sonatas by Scriabin, sonata form with the abandonment of the tonality that first established this in Schönberg). Even the fundamental idea of ​​a continuous, purposeful processing of musical thoughts within a work loses its primacy, parallel to the loss of the 19th century belief in progress. New possibilities of design, about previously neglected parameters of music , such as timbre , rhythm , dynamics , systematic or free assembly techniques by Igor Stravinsky or Charles Ives , the rejection of the contemporary direction of music, as well as an increasing individualism claim their place .

A musical source whose potential has also been used for experiments is folklore . Whereas previous generations of composers had repeatedly chosen exotic subjects in order to legitimize structures deviating from the prevailing compositional rules, a stylistic and structural adaptation of Javanese gamelan music , which he had got to know at the Paris World Exhibition in 1889, can be observed for the first time in Claude Debussy . In this context, the work of Béla Bartók is to be regarded as exemplary, who had already explored most of the fundamental peculiarities of his new style in 1908 by means of a systematic examination of the folklore of the Balkans. In the course of this development, Bartók's Allegro barbaro (1911) dealt with the “piano as a percussion instrument”, which subsequently had a decisive influence on the composers' use of this instrument. Igor Stravinsky also appropriated the rhythmic complexities that Slavic folklore brings out in his early ballet compositions, which were written for Sergei Djagilev's Ballets Russes . Significantly, for his most revolutionary experiment in this respect ( Le sacre du printemps 1913) , Stravinsky uses a given “barbaric-pagan” stage plot.

It is also Stravinsky who, in the further course of the 1910s, developed his compositional style further in a direction that became exemplary for neoclassicism . Various young composers appeared in France who dedicated themselves to a similar, emphatically anti-romantic aesthetic. The Groupe des Six , of which Jean Cocteau was the leading theorist , was formed around the odd Erik Satie . In Germany, Paul Hindemith , the most prominent representative of this trend. The suggestion to use the musical canon of forms, for example the baroque, to renew the musical language, had already been submitted by Ferruccio Busoni in his draft of a new aesthetic of musical art . In the spring of 1920 Busoni formulated this idea again in an essay entitled Young Classicity .

The radical experiments devoted to the possibilities of microtonal music are also exceptional . Alois Hába should be mentioned here , who, encouraged by Busoni , found his prerequisites in the Bohemian-Moravian musicianship and, on the other hand, Iwan Wyschnegradsky , whose microtonality is to be understood as a consistent further development of the sound center technique of Alexander Scriabin . In the wake of the based in the visual arts Italian Futurism to Filippo Tommaso Marinetti and Francesco Balilla Pratella designed Luigi Russolo in his manifesto The Art of Noises (1913, 1916) one as Bruitism designated style, the newly constructed sound generator, the so-called Intonarumori , served .

The musical range of expression is expanded even more by another interesting experiment, penetrates the musical also in the area of practical application of noise, namely the "tone clusters" mentioned tone clusters of Henry Cowell . Some of Leo Ornstein's and George Antheil's early piano pieces also tend to have similar clusters of notes . With Edgar Varèse and Charles Ives two composers should be mentioned whose works, which are extraordinary in every respect, cannot be slipped into any major trend and whose importance was only fully realized in the second half of the century.

The increasing industrialization, which slowly began to encompass all areas of life, is reflected in an enthusiasm for technology and (compositional) machine aesthetics, which was initially carried by the futuristic movement. Thus the various technical innovations such as the invention of the electron tube , the development of radio technology , sound film and tape technology move into the musical field of vision. These innovations also favored the development of new electric playing instruments, which is also important with regard to the original compositions created for them. Worth mentioning here are Lew Termens Thermenvox , Friedrich Trautwein's Trautonium and the Ondes Martenot by the French Maurice Martenot. The sometimes enthusiastic hope for progress that was linked to the musical application of these early experiments was only partially fulfilled. Nevertheless, the new instruments and technical developments had a musically inspiring potential, which was reflected in some composers in extraordinarily visionary concepts that could not actually be technically realized until decades later. The first compositional exploration of the musical possibilities of self-playing pianos also belong in this context . The media dissemination of music by means of records and radio also enabled the enormously accelerated exchange and recording of hitherto almost unknown musical developments, as can be seen from the rapid popularization and reception of jazz . In general, it can be stated that the period from around 1920 onwards was one of the general “departure to new shores” - with many very different approaches. In essence, this pluralism of styles has been preserved to this day or ceased after a short period of mutual polemics between serialism and supporters of traditional compositional directions (from around the mid-1950s).

Historical requirements

In the 20th century, a line of development in musical progress continued; every composer known today has contributed something to it. This old longing for progress and modernity - through the conscious separation of tradition and convention  - can, however, take on a fetish-like character in an occidental society shaped by science and technology. The appearance of the “new” is always accompanied by a feeling of insecurity and skepticism. At the beginning of the 20th century, dealing with music and discussing its meaning and purpose was reserved for a negligibly small, but all the more knowledgeable part of society. This relationship - the small, elitist group of the privileged here and the large uninvolved masses there - has only changed externally due to the increasing distribution of music in the media. Music is accessible to everyone today, but when it comes to understanding New Music , there is a lack of education in many cases, including that of hearing. The change in the relationship between people and music made the aesthetic questions about the nature and purpose of music a public debate.

In the history of music there were transitional phases ( epoch boundaries ) in which the “old” and the “new” appeared simultaneously. The traditional contemporary or epoch style was still maintained, but at the same time "new music" was introduced in each case, which subsequently replaced it. These transitions were always understood by contemporaries as phases of renewal and designated accordingly. The Ars Nova of the 14th century, for example, also has the “new” in its name, and Renaissance characterizes a deliberately chosen new beginning. The transition phases are mostly characterized by an increase in stylistic devices, in which these - in the sense of mannerism  - are exaggerated to the point of nonsense. The change in style to “new” music then takes place, for example, through the removal of one of the traditional stylistic devices, on the basis of which a compositional-aesthetic progress can then be systematically striven for and realized, or through the gradual preference for alternatives introduced in parallel.

In this sense, one can understand the classical-romantic music of the 19th century as an enhancement of the Viennese classical music . The increase in funds is most noticeable here in terms of quantity - the length and number of members of the romantic orchestral compositions increased dramatically. In addition, the increased need for expression and extra-musical (poetic) content moved increasingly into the focus of the composers. Attempts to create musical national styles must also be seen as a reaction to the various revolutionary social events of the century. Furthermore, the economic conditions for the musicians, based on patronage and publishing activities, changed. The social and political circumstances affected the composition of the audience and the organization of concert life. In addition, there was a strong individualization ( personal style ) of the romantic tonal language (s).

historical overview

The following overview only provides a brief overview of the relevant time periods, outstanding composers, rough style characteristics and masterpieces. Corresponding deepening is then reserved for the main articles.

  • Every periodization is a shortening. In many cases the seemingly contradicting styles not only take place at the same time, but many composers have also composed in several styles - sometimes in one and the same work.
  • Even if a composer appears to be outstanding for a style or a period, there has always been a large number of composers who have also written exemplary works in sometimes very independent ways. The rule is: every successful work deserves its own consideration and classification - regardless of the framework in which it is usually placed for stylistic reasons.
  • In principle, the dictum of Rudolf Stephan applies to the assignment of works to styles : "If, however, stylistic criteria [...] are assumed, [...] such [works] by numerous other, mostly younger composers [...] can be counted [...]." in works (which can definitely be mentioned in this context) [...] boundaries become tangible, which perhaps cannot be precisely fixed, but which (to use Maurice Merleau-Ponty) are quickly noticed as already exceeded. ”A fixed style- or epoch scheme does not exist and is in principle not possible. All attributions of similarities or differences are interpretations that require precise explanation. The fact that works are classified partly according to stylistic terms (e.g. "Expressionism") and partly according to composition-technical criteria (e.g. "Atonality") inevitably leads to multiple overlaps.

The turn from the 19th to the 20th century

The traditional compositional means of the classical period were only able to cope with these tendencies to increase to a certain extent. Towards the end of the 19th century, the musical development began to emerge, in which Paul Bekker then retrospectively recognized the "new music" (as a term it was only later written with a capital "N"). His attention was initially focused on Gustav Mahler , Franz Schreker , Ferruccio Busoni and Arnold Schönberg . Overall, the turn of the century saw itself as a phase of new beginnings and decay . In any case, it stood under the auspices of modernity , the radicalization of which can be seen in “New Music” and whose manifold consequences influenced the entire 20th century. The qualitative difference between this epoch transition and the earlier ones is essentially that some composers now saw their historical mandate in developing the "new" out of tradition and consistently looking for new ways and means that would complement the traditional classical-romantic aesthetic would be able to replace completely.

The deliberate break with tradition is the most striking feature of this transition phase. The will to renew gradually encompasses all stylistic devices ( harmony , melody , rhythm , dynamics , form , orchestration , etc.). The new musical styles of the turn of the century, however, are still clearly in the traditional context of the 19th century. Early expressionism inherited the romanticism and increased its (psychologized) will to express, impressionism refined the timbres etc. But soon those parameters were also taken into account and for musical experiments that up to now had only marginal importance, such as rhythm, or - as an important novelty - the inclusion of noises as a musically malleable material. The advancing mechanization of urban living conditions was reflected in futurism . Another significant aspect is the equal coexistence of very different procedures in dealing with and in relation to tradition. In any case, “New Music” cannot be understood as a superordinate style, but can only be identified on the basis of individual composers or even individual works in the various styles. The 20th century thus appears to be a century of polystyle.

The “new” was initially neither accepted without comment, nor welcomed by the majority of the audience. The premiere of particularly advanced pieces regularly led to the most violent reactions on the part of the audience, which today seem rather strange in their drastic nature. The lively descriptions of various legendary scandal performances (e.g. Richard Strauss ' Salome 1905, Stravinski's Le sacre du printemps 1913) with melee, key whistles, police operations, etc., as well as the journalistic echo with undisguised polemics and rough defamations attest to the difficult situation that who had "new speakers" from the start. After all, "New Music" seems to have met with a surprisingly high level of public interest at this early stage. With increasing acceptance by the public, however, a certain (“scandalous”) expectation also arose. This in turn results in a discreet compulsion towards originality, modernity and novelty, which harbors the danger of fashionable flattening and routine repetition.

New music composers have not made it easy for themselves or their listeners and performers. Regardless of the nature of their musical experiments, they seem to have quickly realized that the audience was helpless and incomprehensible about their sometimes very demanding creations. That was all the more disappointing for many, as it was the very same audience that gave unanimous applause to the masters of the Classical-Romantic tradition, whose legitimate heirs were understood to be. As a result, the need for explanation of the new was recognized. Many composers therefore endeavored to provide the theoretical and aesthetic substructure for understanding their works at the same time. The musicological and music theoretical literature, such as Schönberg's or Busoni's visionary draft of a new aesthetics of musical art (1906), has a particular influence on the development of new music. Also noteworthy in this context is the almanac Der Blaue Reiter (1912) published by Kandinsky and Marc , which contains, among other things, an essay on Free Music by the Russian futurist Nikolai Kulbin . This readiness to deal with the unsolved problems of tradition in an intellectual and technical way, as well as the sometimes indomitable attitude in the pursuit of the compositional goals and experimental arrangements, are further characteristic features of New Music.

The style pluralism that emerged under these conditions has continued to the present day. In this respect, the term “new music” is not suitable either as an epoch or as a style. Rather, it has a qualitative connotation, which is related to the degree of originality (in the sense of novel or unheard-of) of the manufacturing method, such as the end result. Expressionism and impressionism , but also styles of the fine arts such as futurism and dadaism, offer aesthetic foundations on which new music can arise. Perhaps those composers and works that have established themselves as “modern classics” in the concert business over the past century and whose innovations have found their way into the canon of compositional techniques can best be understood under the heading “New Music” looking: So in addition to Arnold Schönberg and Anton Webern , Igor Stravinsky , Béla Bartók and Paul Hindemith . The presentation and assessment of the historical development on the basis of an assumed "rivalry" between Schönberg and Stravinsky is a construct that can be traced back to Theodor W. Adorno . The Second World War represented a clear turning point . Many of the early stylistic, formal and aesthetic experiments in New Music were then incorporated into the canon of compositional tools that were taught from the middle of the century and passed on to a younger generation of composers (again) of new music . In this respect, the technical innovations in sound recording and radio technology are also causally linked to new music. First of all, they made a significant contribution to the popularization of music and also caused a change in the audience structure. Furthermore, for the first time in music history, they provided an insight into the history of interpretation of old and new music. Ultimately, they enabled the (technically reproduced) presence of any music. In addition, this technique is itself a novelty, the musical potential of which has been systematically researched from the start and used by composers in appropriate compositional experiments.

Modern (1900-1933)

Impressionism or: Debussy - Ravel - Dukas

Impressionism is the transfer of the term from the visual arts to music from around 1890 to the First World War , in which the tonal “atmosphere” dominates and the distinctive color is emphasized. It differs from the late Romanticism that takes place at the same time, with its heavy burdening overload through Mediterranean lightness and mobility (which does not exclude spooky or shadowy moods) and through the avoidance of complex counterpoint and excessive chromatics in favor of sensitive timbres, especially in orchestral instrumentation. The center of this trend is France, the main representatives are Claude Debussy , Maurice Ravel (who, however, also composed many works that cannot be described as Impressionist) and Paul Dukas .

The musical works have in common with those of painting the moment of color, freedom of form and a tendency towards exoticism . At the Paris World Exhibition in 1889 , Claude Debussy learned the sound of Javanese gamelan ensembles, which had a strong influence on him, as did the chinoiseries of his time. Besides the use of Pentatonik (about in preludes I, Les collines d'Anacapri (z. B.) and Ganztonskalen preludes I, voiles ) used Debussy by the then Salonmusik (eg. Preludes I, Minstrels ) and early jazz music borrowed harmony (as in Children's Corner and Golliwogg's Cakewalk ). Like Ravel, Debussy loved the coloring of Spanish dance music.

The fact that some of Debussy's works that meet the characteristics of Impressionism can, for good reasons, also be assigned to Art Nouveau , Art Nouveau or Symbolism , only shows that the visual / literary parallels have some common stylistic features, but none of them are clear Style mapping can be derived.

The characteristics of Impressionist music are:

  • Melody: colored by pentatonic scales, church keys, whole-tone scales and exotic scales; in their core form are closely related to the accordion; often rambling, meandering, without any clear internal structure.
  • Harmonics: dissolution of the cadence as a structure-forming feature; Obfuscation of tonality; Transition to bitonality and polytonality. Change in attitude towards dissonance: no more pressure to dissolve dissonant chords. Preference for altered chords; Layering of chords (dominant and tonic simultaneously) in thirds to the undecimal; Fourth and fifth layers.
  • Rhythm: tendency to obfuscate meter to the point of abolishing meter schemes; Metrics become unimportant, accents are set freely; frequent clock changes, frequent syncopation.
  • Instrumentation: differentiation of color nuances; Search for new sound effects with a preference for fusion sounds; shimmering, shimmering, blurring sound surfaces with rich inner movement. Settlement of dabs of sound (pointillism). Preference for harp. Differentiated pedal effects in piano music. Arnold Schönberg's idea of ​​a timbre melody has already been implemented in many cases .
  • Form: loosening up and abandoning traditional forms; no rigid form schemes. Often repeating a phrase two or more times.

The works have become famous:

Vienna School or: Schönberg - Webern - Berg

The so-called Viennese School , which has been regarded as such since 1904 and is less often called the Second or New Vienna School or Vienna Atonal School , designates the circle of Viennese composers with Arnold Schönberg and his students Anton Webern and Alban Berg as the center. Due to the strong attraction of Schönberg as a teacher, who attracted students from many countries, and due to his teaching activities in different cities, the term “school” was transferred to the style that this school produced. The term is mostly applied to compositions that are worked in twelve-tone technique.

The composers of the Viennese School were, if not exclusively, with the main work Transfigured Night Op. 4 , a string sextet by Schönberg from 1899, set the style for late romanticism . This is supported by Webern's Piano Quintet (1907), which, however, did not develop a history of impact as it was only published in 1953. The early songs of Alban Berg belong to this body.

The school shaped the style of what is known as musical expressionism , to which some - mostly early works - by other composers join.

Under the keyword atonality , which describes less a style than what is later called a compositional technique, the Vienna School is “in charge”. The compositional development then leads on to the twelve-tone technique , which is also a composition technique and not a style.

It should not be overlooked that Schönberg and Berg also developed a number of intersections with neoclassicism - mainly on the level of form and less in relation to the composition and style elements adopted.


Expressionism in music was in direct contact with the currents of the same name in the visual arts ( Die Brücke , Dresden 1905; Der Blaue Reiter , Munich 1909; Galerie Der Sturm , Berlin 1910) and literature (Trakl, Heym, Stramm, Benn, Wildgans , Wedekind, Toller et al.) From around 1906. The style was completed around 1925, but the musical characteristics and many of the expressive gestures have endured to the present day.

The main representatives are the composers of the Vienna School : Arnold Schönberg , Anton Webern and Alban Berg as well as, against a different background in the history of ideas, Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin .

The composers sought a subjective immediacy of expression that should be drawn as directly as possible from the human soul. To do this, a break with tradition, with traditional aesthetics and the previous, worn-out forms of expression was inevitable. Stylistically, the changed function of the dissonances is particularly striking, as they appear on an equal footing with consonances and are no longer resolved - which was also known as the “emancipation of dissonance”. The tonal system is largely dissolved and expanded to atonality . The musical characteristics include: extreme pitches , extreme dynamic contrasts (from whispering to screaming, from pppp to ffff ), jagged melody lines with wide jumps; Metrically unbound, free rhythm and new instrumentation . Form: asymmetrical period structure; rapid succession of contrasting moments; often very short “aphoristic” pieces.

Rudolf Stephan: “Wherever and in whatever form it first appeared, expressionist art was alienated, violently rejected and journalistically opposed, but also welcomed enthusiastically by individuals. She had given up the traditional artistic ideal of being 'beautiful' in favor of a (alleged) claim to truth; it was probably not infrequently even deliberately 'ugly'. So it was the first deliberate 'no longer fine art'. "

Major works:

  • Scriabin: Le Poème de l'Extase op.54 for orchestra (1905–1908)
  • Webern: Five Movements for String Quartet op.5 (1909)
  • Webern: Six pieces for large orchestra op.6 (1909)
  • Schönberg: Three Piano Pieces op.11 (1909)
  • Schönberg: Five Orchestral Pieces op.16 (1909, revised 1922)
  • Schönberg: Expectation op.17 , monodrama (1909, only performed in 1924)
  • Schönberg: Six Little Piano Pieces op.19 (1911)
  • Webern: Five pieces for orchestra op.10 (1911)
  • Schoenberg: Pierrot Lunaire op 21st for a speaking voice and ensemble (1912)
  • Berg: Five orchestral songs based on poems by Peter Altenberg op.4 (1912)
  • Stravinsky: Le sacre du printemps (1913)
  • Berg: Three Orchestral Pieces op.6 (1914)
  • Scriabin: Vers la flamme, poème op.72 for piano (1914)
  • Webern: songs for voice and ensembles opp. 14-18 (1917-1925)
  • Berg: Wozzeck op. 7 , opera (1917–1922, first performance 1925)
  • Bartók: The Wonderful Mandarin for Orchestra (1918–1923, rev. 1924 and 1926–31)

The term “atonal” appeared in music theoretical literature around 1900 and from then migrated into music journalism - mostly used in a hostile and militant way. Mostly a music with a harmonic is referred to, which does not establish any binding keys or references to a fundamental tone, i.e. to the tonality . “Atonality”, even if it is often used in this way, is not a stylistic term, but belongs to the field of composition techniques, works written atonally belong predominantly to Expressionism . In addition to the main works mentioned there, the following became important, especially for the transition phase from expanded tonality to atonality:

  • Schönberg: Chamber Symphony No. 1 op.9 (1906)
  • Schönberg: String Quartet No. 2, Op. 10 (1907-08), still bears the key designation F sharp minor, but is already free-tonal, especially in the two vocal movements (soprano) "Litany" and "Entrückung".
  • Schönberg: The Book of the Hanging Gardens op. 15 , 15 poems by Stefan George for voice and piano (1908–1909)

Break through fascism or: The Second World War

During the time of National Socialism , most forms of new music , like jazz music , were described as "degenerate" and their performance and distribution were banned or suppressed. The “ Degenerate Music ” exhibition on the occasion of the 1938 Reichsmusiktage in Düsseldorf denounced the work of composers such as Paul Hindemith, Arnold Schönberg, Alban Berg, Kurt Weill and others, as well as all Jewish composers. Instead, harmless entertainment and everyday music such as operetta , dance and marching music , especially folk music , which were included in the propaganda , was promoted in line with Nazi cultural policy . Numerous composers and musicians were persecuted or murdered by the National Socialists, often because of their Jewish origins. Many went into exile. Some of those who stayed in Germany were ascribed an "inner exile".

An important source of the position of New Music in the time of National Socialism was the annotated reconstruction of the above-mentioned exhibition “ Degenerate Music ”, which was first shown in Frankfurt from 1988, which gradually began to work on this topic.

Institutionalization and the musical new beginning after 1945

The harsh rejection of new music by the concert audience, which went down in history in a series of spectacular premiere scandals, has significantly promoted literary engagement with new music. Initially, the critics of the relevant newspapers took their positions, but the composers were also increasingly encouraged to express their views on their creations or to use the means for the works of their colleagues. At the same time, an ever more extensive music literature was created, which also sought to describe the philosophical, sociological and historical dimensions of new music. Another consequence is the creation of specialized forums for the performance of new music. Schönberg'sAssociation for Private Musical Performances ” (1918) is an early, consequent step that slowly removes “New Music” from the field of vision of the (quantitatively large) concert audience and turns it into a matter of specialists for specialists. The establishment of regular concert events such as the “ Donaueschinger Musiktage ” and the founding of societies for new music are a further reaction to the significantly changed sociological situation in which the composers of new music and their audience found themselves. The turning point in the development of New Music caused by the catastrophe of World War II is attempted to compensate for the progressive institutionalization of musical life after 1945. The conscious new beginning of the reopened or newly founded music academies tried to pick up the thread of the interrupted development again. The founding of the public broadcasting corporations gives the composers a new forum for their works, and the awarding of composition commissions also stimulates their production.

After the end of the Second World War, the International Summer Courses for New Music , which are organized every two years by the Darmstadt International Music Institute , become the most influential international New Music event in Germany. Composition techniques of serial music were predominant there . Anton Webern becomes the leading figure. Olivier Messiaen , who in his works a. a. musical techniques of non-European musical cultures, but also methods of serial music , is the teacher of some of the composers who attract the most attention there. Among them are:

(Also important in this context are the Institute for New Music and Music Education (INMM) Darmstadt with its annual spring conference and the Darmstadt International Music Institute (IMD), which has an extensive archive of rare recordings, especially from previous events of the International Summer Courses for Newcomers Music . The recordings are available on various media, including digital media since at least 1986.)

While in the pre-war period the main impulses for the development of new music came from Central Europe, primarily the German-speaking area, and other avant-garde artists, e.g. B. Charles Ives in the USA, received little attention, the development now became increasingly international. Traditionally strong music countries such as France (with Olivier Messiaen, Pierre Boulez and Iannis Xenakis), Italy ( Luciano Berio , Luigi Nono ) made important contributions, others such as Poland ( Witold Lutosławski , Krzysztof Penderecki ) or Switzerland with Heinz Holliger and Jacques Wildberger , were added. In the USA, the circle around John Cage and Morton Feldman was important for Europe. It was not atypical of the post-war development in Germany that the emigrated musicians could only contribute little, but rather that the "offspring" (especially Karlheinz Stockhausen ) were influential - with considerable support e.g. B. from France: As the teacher of Stockhausen and Boulez, Messiaen was a regular at the international summer courses in Darmstadt. In this sense, the music may even have helped in the post-war peace process. Last but not least, some important representatives of New Music found their way from elsewhere to their places of activity in Germany, such as György Ligeti from Hungary , Isang Yun from Korea and Mauricio Kagel from Argentina .

Theodor Adorno (right) with Max Horkheimer

Theodor W. Adorno (1903–1969), a student of Alban Berg, is considered to be the most important (albeit controversial) theorist of new music in the German-speaking world . In his Philosophy of New Music , published in 1949 , Adorno advocates Schönberg's atonal compositional style and contrasts it with Stravinsky's neoclassical style, which is seen as a relapse into already outdated compositional technique. For Adorno, the atonal revolution around 1910 by Schönberg means the liberation of music from the constraints of tonality and thus the unhindered development of musical expression qua free atonality with the full instinctual life of the sounds. In the German-speaking world, Adorno's thinking was followed by a. Heinz-Klaus Metzger .

The first turning point was around 1950. The critic Karl Schumann sums up that the economic miracle also led to a cultural miracle . From the 1950s onwards, various developments occur, including: a .:

Another dimension for some composers is the addition of an ideological or political (as a rule "left" oriented) basic orientation, especially recognizable, of course, in vocal compositions. The quasi father of the idea are Hanns Eisler , later Luigi Nono, Hans Werner Henze , Rolf Riehm, Helmut Lachenmann, Nicolaus A. Huber and Mathias Spahlinger .

From the 1970s on, in particular, a trend towards individualization, in particular a permanent replacement from serial composition, began. In the music of our time one can therefore speak of a stylistic pluralism . In György Ligeti's music z. B. musical influences from different cultures and times can be observed. The Italian improviser and composer Giacinto Scelsi , the Englishman Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji , the Estonian Arvo Pärt and the Mexican by choice Conlon Nancarrow represent completely independent positions . The American Harry Partch represents a special extreme case : the dissemination of his music was opposed by the fact that it relied on its own microtonal instruments.

A fixed division of composers into currents and “schools” cannot be compulsory, as many contemporary composers have dealt with several styles in their lives (best example: Igor Stravinsky, who, although he was considered the antipode of Schönberg for decades, switched to serial technology in old age ). In addition to the respective avant-garde, there is a large number of composers who integrate new techniques more or less partially and selectively into their traditional way of composing or attempt a synthesis between the two worlds, which is what the keyword moderate modernity or "naive modernity" not quite sufficient because the description is too one-sided.


Ensembles (selection)

One of the first ensembles for new music was the Ensemble du Domaine Musical , initiated by Pierre Boulez . In 1976 he then founded the Ensemble intercontemporain , based on the model of which numerous ensembles of new music with a similar line-up subsequently formed, such as the Ensemble Modern in Frankfurt, the Klangforum Wien, the musikFabrik NRW, the Asko Ensemble, the London Sinfonietta and the KammarensembleN in Stockholm.

Organizations and institutions


See also


chronologically; see also under the main articles

Overall representations


  • Paul Bekker : Neue Musik [lectures 1917–1921] (= vol. 3 of the collected writings), Berlin: Deutsche Verlagsanstalt 1923, 207 pp.
  • Adolf Weißmann : The music in the world crisis , Stuttgart 1922; English translation 1925: The Problems of Modern Music
  • Hans Mersmann : Modern music since the romantic era (= handbook of musicology [without volume counting]), Potsdam: Akademische Verlagsanstalt 1928, 226 pp.
  • Theodor W. Adorno : Philosophy of New Music, Tübingen: JCB Mohr 1949; 2nd ed. Frankfurt: European Publishing House 1958; 3rd ed. 1966, last edition.
  • Hans Heinz Stuckenschmidt : New Music between the Two Wars , Berlin: Suhrkamp 1951, 2nd edition as New Music , Frankfurt: Suhrkamp 1981, latest edition ISBN 3-518-37157-6
  • Hans Heinz Stuckenschmidt: Creator of New Music - Portraits and Studies , Frankfurt: Suhrkamp 1958
  • Hans Heinz Stuckenschmidt: Music of the 20th Century , Munich: Kindler 1969
  • Hans Heinz Stuckenschmidt: The music of half a century - 1925 to 1975 - essay and criticism , Munich: Piper 1976
  • Stephan Hinton: Neue Sachlichkeit , 1989, 12 p., In: Hans Heinrich Eggebrecht and Albrecht Riethmüller (eds): Concise dictionary of musical terminology , loose-leaf collection, Wiesbaden: Steiner 1971–2006
  • Martin Thrun: New Music in German Musical Life until 1933 . Orpheus, Bonn 1995, ISBN 3-922626-75-0


  • Josef Häusler: Music in the 20th Century - From Schönberg to Penderecki , Bremen: Schünemann 1969. 80 pages overview, 340 pages “portraits of modern composers”.
  • Ulrich Dibelius : Modern Music after 1945 , 1966/1988, 3rd extended new edition Munich: Piper 1998, 891 S. ISBN 3-492-04037-3
  • Hans Vogt : New Music since 1945 , 1972, 3rd expanded edition Stuttgart: Reclam 1982, 538 pp.
  • Dieter Zimmer Various (Hg): Perspectives on New Music. Material and didactic information , Mainz: Schott 1974, 333 pp.

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Dorothea Kolland : The youth music movement. “Community music”, theory and practice. Metzler, Stuttgart 1979, p. 231, note 160: “The word 'Neutöner' may have been taken over from Möller van der Bruck ( sic!, Correct: Moeller van den Bruck ), who published a book in 1899 with the title 'Neutöner', However, he related this title to writers. "
  2. Luigi Russolo: The Art of Noise (1916, 1999) PDF ( Memento from April 10, 2018 in the Internet Archive ) at nanoä
  3. Rudolf Stephan: Expressionism , in: The music in history and present 2, factual part, vol. 3, column 244.
  4. ^ Paul Bekker: Lecture New Music as full text at Wikisource
  5. ^ Rudolf Stephan: Expressionism. In: Music in Past and Present , 2nd Edition, Sachteil Bd. 3, 1995, Sp. 245f.
  6. see: Albrecht Dümling, Peter Girth (Hrsg.): Entartete Musik. Documentation and commentary on the Düsseldorf exhibition of 1938 , Düsseldorf: der kleine verlag, 1./2. Edition 1988, 3rd revised and expanded edition 1993. ISBN 3-924166-29-3
  7. tightrope walk. Contributions to contemporary music ( Memento from September 14, 2019 in the Internet Archive )

Web links