Music and Space


The 2014 Darmstadt Summer Courses' Analysis, Aesthetics and Theory Seminar Series


On the 7th August an overwhelming number of participants turned up to a modest classroom in the Bessunger Knabenschule, all in search of some rigorous early morning musicological stimulation. Three experts from quite diverse specialisms, Ulrich Mosch, Christoph Neidhöfer and Yuval Shaked, formed the panel of tutors who would guide the participants into 'Music and Space', this year's over-arching theme. It was a theme which offered two interwoven issues to be explored across five three-hour sessions and Ulrich Mosch opened the seminar series with a very necessary contextual overview.

He acknowledged that there is a wide range of literature which can be grouped under the umbrella term 'Raumtheorie' (Space Theory): literature dealing with the 'physical', 'philosophical', 'social', 'political', 'geographical', and 'aesthetic' notions of space, the latter being the starting point for the seminar series' investigations.


Mosch narrowed the topic of 'aesthetics' down to the distinction between either Kantian categories of perception, space and time, or 'musical' space, such as the 'real' space of the concert venue and the 'musical' space created by musician interaction and listening. It was at this point that two key questions emerged: How are these 'musical' spaces organised? How does the organisation of 'musical' space change historically? Each seminar session mapped these questions onto a different compositional work. Appropriately – although it was apparently an organisational coincidence – we began with an analytical exploration of Stockhausen's Carré, the work which had been performed twice in the Summer Courses' opening concert. Mosch described how this piece is symbolic of a 'historical position', as it was created more than fifty years ago and was the first in which 'space' had been considered on such a large scale within a compositional work.


In the same vein, the next two seminars focused on Nono's Prometeo and Boulez's Répons, each in turn helping to establish a useful level of foundational knowledge so that, in Seminars IV and V, a number of developmental trajectories could be constructed between Carré, Prometeo and Répons, and more recent music. For example, the notion of the 'island' and 'archipelago' as a metaphor for spatial distribution could be traced from Prometeo to José María Sánchez-Verdù's ATLAS – Inseln der Utopie. Further examination revealed that a particular shift seems to have occurred, from a compositional concern for instrumental distribution to instrumental and audience distribution. Finally, Seminar V turned to the problem of recording compositions concerned with spatial distribution – the music moves, but the recording remains static – and it was particular interesting at this stage to be joined by Clemens Gadenstätter. The seminar series closed with a highly engaging discussion about the use of spatial distribution and transformation in his Fluchten/Agorasonie.

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By Steph Jones
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