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New Ears for New Music

Translated by Kenneth Chalmers

Constantin Floros

20th-century music is characterized by a bewildering multitude of trends and movements. Often several movements co-exist in contradiction to each other, in a reflection of the century’s intellectual currents and social and political changes, and the reactions they prompted. In this book, renowned musicologist and author Constantin Floros provides a survey of the different styles and tendencies in new music, presenting the most important composers from Schoenberg to Rihm in a series of fluent and readable essays that will appeal to connoisseurs and non-specialists alike. For Floros, music and biography are inseparable, and here he puts music in the context of the social and psychological background of its time.
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“No Artist Works at a Distance from Humanity” – In Praise of Wolfgang Rihm


Wolfgang Rihm has frequently spoken in praise of his fellow composers, but once declared that praise often amounts to arrogance – a statement that makes me nervous – so I would like to start by stating that my intention is to do no more than present a few personal thoughts on his music.

It has rightly been said that artistic creativity is surrounded by mystery. If it does obey any laws, these remain to be discovered and explored. Stefan Zweig laid great emphasis on the fact that creativity was “a permanent struggle between the unconscious and the conscious” and that the formula for the artistic process itself was “inspiration plus perspiration”.1

Among contemporary composers, Wolfgang Rihm is one of the most versatile and productive, if not the most productive. For forty years he has produced work after work, and his well of invention seems inexhaustible. His output runs to more than two hundred works in almost every genre: music theatre, orchestral, chamber and vocal music, and recently “sacred” music as well. One particularly strong characteristic seems to be a boundless desire for freedom and independence. He studied for a while with Stockhausen, with whom he was on friendly terms, as he has been with Boulez and Helmut Lachenmann, and Luigi Nono was one of his mentors. Yet while he has engaged with the music of all these composers, he has always remained himself. He is associated with no trend and no school of composition – something that his...

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