Translated by Kenneth Chalmers
The Philosophy of Time and Pluralistic Thought of Bernd Alois Zimmermann
“Schoenberg once spoke of the music as having the character of a draft. In fact, the composer is the reporter, the performer.”BERND ALOIS ZIMMERMANN1
The music of Bernd Alois Zimmermann (1918-1970) is far less “music for music’s sake” than that of other avant-garde composers, in that it almost always has some intellectual foundation. Zimmermann not only had an affinity with philosophy, theology, literature and the visual arts, but, like Mahler, he was also a philosopher-composer. The subjects of his major works were often related to existential questions: the contradictions of existence, human freedom, transience and death, last things. There is every evidence to suggest that he was more attracted to the time-transcending than the temporal. He certainly took a keen interest in the political problems of his time, but he was even more affected by eternal questions. He saw it as his task as a composer to comment on situations that paradoxically have always existed, and which he thought would return in the future.
He himself considered his compositional development to be on-going, and his work divides into three phases: the pre-serial, serial and post-serial.2 After following Hindemith, Stravinsky and Schoenberg in his first period, he immersed himself in serialism in the second, further developing the method’s techniques. In his third phase he was able to move beyond serialism, and he devised a new method, known as pluralistic composition. The beginning of this phase is marked by the keynote essay Intervall und Zeit (“Interval and...
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