Some of the biggest names in ‘new music’ are associated with the Darmstadt school- Stockhausen, Cage, Boulez, Ligeti, Messiaen and many more. The school’s Summer Courses for New Music have a recorded archive stretching back 70 years, and in true ‘new’ fashion, instead of drily reissuing archival recordings ‘as is’ and making them seem stuffy and no longer avantgarde by context, instead Hanno Leichtmann has been let loose on the recordings in order to not collate them but sample them, twist them, create homages to them and generally freshen them up into a work that’s both old and new.
Sometimes we revel not in the lectures but in the music itself. The theatrics and bold tape manipulations of the 1960’s are most notably on display in tracks like “Substanzsuche”, with pieces like “Klangfigur (fur Klavier, Stimmen und Regler” openly melodic. There are elements of spoken word recordings dropped in, as short snippets or as elements looping into abstraction, in a manner that strangely recalls the Monkees movie “Head” (a reference that may seem obtuse but which will become apparent to people who’ve listened to both), especially when the accents are American.
At other times, pieces like “Einheit von Maß und Zahl” are more faithful to the lecture format, inserting a large chunk of spoken word explanation about feeding a music score into a computer and underpinning it with drone and spontaneous percussion in a manner reminiscent of Johann Johannson’s “IBM 1401”.
It’s a very refreshing way to revisit and rework an archive. A movement of artists whose core work involved challenging preconceptions would, I presume, be generally satisfied that their work has been reappropriated in such a manner. What we have here, in effect, is an intriguing and high-quality bit of music history that’s also brand new.