Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Old Darmstadt In'n'outta There

Well, I just spent four hours checking out this year's edition of the Darmstadt Courses for New Music. Heard some music (music harmless, performances dangerously good), looked at some scores, saw a number of young composers wandering about with the Darmstadt glaze in their eyes. I could blog a bit more about it, but I suspect that it says enough about the vitality of Darmstadt these days to note that, midway through this year's course, if I were to blog it, I'd probably be the first music blog even to take notice.

3 comments:

Peter T. said...

Dear Daniel,

maybe we who do not live so close to Darmstadt as you do would appreciate some more detailed blogging about this thing. Or do you think we go daily to Renewable music only to read: Well, kids, I could say something, but I will not, good night?
And yet something: do you really believe that importance of certain event (or any other entity) is simply a fuction of its "blogging rate"?

Thanks
Peter

Daniel Wolf said...

Peter --

Darmstadt is, first of all, a teaching institution, intended for younger musicians, and I'm certain that the real action -- if there is any -- is taking place in the exchanges among those musicians. I would be far more interested in hearing from one of the three hundred or so students there than from a premature codger and temperamental curmudgeon like myself.

That said, having observed the courses for eighteen years, my impression was one of a rather tired and struggling institution. Part of that impression is due to holding the courses in a local Gymnasium (even though the present Lichtenberg Schule is better than the Büchner Schule used in the past, these places tend to be poorly outfitted and run-down) and the atmosphere of Darmstadt in summer. But that was always the case, and the course have always been run on a shoestring. But this summer's atmosphere appeared bleaker than usual -- where was the passion, excitement and controversy encountered in the past? The course seems organized to avoid surprises -- and participant-organized events and discussion were not visible. The showroom of scores was dominated by works from the same old big-name publishers, with little to see of new publishers or younger composers. It was literally easier to walk in an buy a piece from 1957 than from 2007. On this evening's concert -- Ferneyhough string quartets beautifully played by the Arditti -- the hall was not packed like it would have been 18 years ago, and the atmosphere was polite -- just like plain vanilla classical music concerts anywhere else.

A summer course in which such a large body of talent is gathered has tremendous potential to do more rather than less, and to be flexible, if not experiment, with format and content. Perhaps we're seeing a more modest effort these days, scaled down both by lack of money and a reaction to perceived excesses in the past. But I can't help but recognize a lot of potential lost and that's a shame.

Peter T. said...

That´s better, thanks!
P.