First impressions…

Well, it has been about a month since I arrived in Hamburg, and the time has certainly flown!  Much to my surprise I have decided to attend 8 seminars in addition to lessons, research/travels and composing!  I hadn’t anticipated that would happen, but the courses offered are fascinating and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity!  An added bonus, is that I find my interest and prior familiarity with the content helps my Deutsch much more than language courses ever did (of course, I am still missing a good chunk of the details in the meantime…)

The courses I’m attending cover a broad range of topics within composition and include a seminar on Ligeti’s life and work taught by his former student and colleague, Manfred Stahnke, who is a microtonal composer and theorist; a course on Spectral composition with Georg Hajdu, who is a also a pioneering proponent of the Bohlen-Pierce scale and former student of Ligeti and Clarence Barlow; a course on “Tone Psychology” jointly taught by Stahnke and Hajdu, where essentially we discuss topics in regard to microtonal music, BP, psychological perception of music, psychoacoustics, etc.; a seminar on contemporary French/Spectral music with Sascha Lino Lemke, a very talented and relatively young composer  (and astonishingly well organized/prepared in seminars) who studied with Grisey at IRCAM and PMH here in Hamburg before that.  My primary professor, Peter Michael Hamel, has been absolutely wonderful and incredibly knowledgable in a remarkably wide range of topics.  I am attending three of his seminars on new music, ethnomusicology/transcription/analysis, and music for media as well as lessons, and additionally a composer’s discussion forum with Manfred Stahnke.

I don’t yet know exactly how I will balance research, courses and composing, but I suppose the point is just to soak up as much as I can.  The students here are also wonderful, and there was a new music concert after the opening welcome meeting that was quite impressive.  The standards for the performance of contemporary music are very high, and I am learning as much about aesthetics here from the student’s as I am from the faculty. I almost feel as if I am starting over from a blank slate, but in the most positive way possible.  It feels good to “know” what I don’t know (which is a whole heck of a lot).  My first observation on a very surface level, is that compositionally the focus is on sound/timbre/space rather than traditional musical elements, such as melody/harmony/rhythm, etc.  But I’ll elaborate upon this later…

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