Darmstadt School

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Darmstadt School refers to a loose group of compositional styles created by composers who attended the Darmstadt International Summer Courses for New Music from the early 1950s to the early 1960s.


Coined by Luigi Nono in his 1958 lecture "Die Entwicklung der Reihentechnik" (Nono 1975, 30; Fox 1999), Darmstadt School describes the uncompromisingly serial music written by composers such as Pierre Boulez, Bruno Maderna, Karlheinz Stockhausen (the three composers Nono specifically names in his lecture, along with himself), Franco Evangelisti, Luciano Berio, and Henri Pousseur from 1951 to 1961. The Darmstadt School then effectively dissolved due to musical differences and a sea change caused by the unexpected death of the director of the Darmstadt Summer Courses, Wolfgang Steinecke.

Almost from the outset, the phrase Darmstadt School was used as a belittling term by commentators like Dr. Kurt Honolka (a 1962 article is quoted in Boehmer 1987, 43) to describe any music written in an uncompromising style.

Background, influences

Composers such as Boulez, Stockhausen, and Nono were writing their music in the aftermath of World War II, during which many composers, such as Richard Strauss, had their music politicised by the Third Reich. In order to avoid this happening again, and to keep art for art's sake, the Darmstadt School attempted to create a new, anational style of music to which no false meaning could possibly be attached. Recent biographers of...
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