EMS Proceedings and Other Publications

The stance of German “New Simplicity” composers on sound art

Viviane Waschbüsch

Viviane Waschbüsch, attachement


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For composers of the “new simplicity” movement including Wolfgang Rihm, Hans-Jürgen von Bose and Detlev Müller-Siemens, sound art has always been a difficult subject. In the early 1970’s while searching for an alternative musical language to serialism, they planned a return to the romantic ideals of chamber music, symphonic music and opera. This approach seemed antithetical to the concept of electroacoustic creation; however, if we look at the first manifesto of the “new simplicity” movement from 1974 we discover that the original members Hans-Jürgen von Bose, Wolfgang Rihm and Detlev Müller-Siemens were in fact very interested in the development of electroacoustic creation – but found the evolution of the synthesizers and new sound tools to be too slow. While others continued to research new concepts and sound, they decided to take a more conservative approach. Thus, in the mid-1970s they refrained from using electroacoustic elements in their works and did not compose any sound art installations. If this paper seems to focus on the work of Wolfgang Rihm – though he composed less for electroacoustic elements than Hans-Jürgen von Bose – the reason stems from the controversy he started in an interview when he called the creators of sound art “garden gnomes of music”. Neither Hans-Jürgen von Bose nor Detlev Müller-Siemens ever made any public comments on their position towards sound art. Rihm’s statement on electroacoustic music is the only one from a composer of the “new simplicity” generation. This is why it is of major importance to look closer at the development of the use of electroacoustic music and sound art performances in the works of Rihm, von Bose, and Müller-Siemens. This paper will follow the development of these three composers in the large field of electroacoustic music and explain how their aesthetic points of view changed and were transformed through the years into a more open-minded view on electroacoustic and sound art performances.

EMS14 Proceedings