Perspectives on Rihm and Reimann

Some of you may remember the festschrift for Siegfried Mauser‘s 65th birthday, the publication of which conicided with the dedicatee’s criminal conviction finally becoming effective in late 2019. At present, Mauser is still on the loose and keeps evading the prison sentence with the help of his attorneys and supporters. In the meantime, the pianist Shoko Kuroe has recorded two of the musical contributions to the volume, Wolfgang Rihm‘s piano piece Solitudo and Aribert Reimann‘s Albumblatt für Sigi. In her remarkable comments on these miniatures, which can be found below the videos, Shoko Kuroe discusses the music in the psychological context of victim-perpetrator relationship associated with the dedicatee. This is noteworthy both for the performances and their superordinate perspective, and that’s why I am sharing these videos—along with my own review of the festschrift which appeared one year ago.

Abuse of Power at Music Universities

Institutionalised professional music education originates in the nineteenth century and has, in some respects, failed to move beyond the antiquated principles and authoritarian mechanisms of master-pupil instruction. Due to a long-established system of artistic and personal obedience of students toward their professors, music universities in Germany are prone to abuse of power. A recent article by the Harfenduo Laura Oetzel & Daniel Mattelé discloses some alarming cases of misconduct which, on a large scale, appear symptomatic of the entire classical music business. I contemplated over what could be done to identify and eliminate structures in music education that set the stage for abusive or intrusive behaviour of professors, and ended up with a series of measures to be taken by rectorates and university administrations:

  • Establish guidance and supervision for new faculty members and a human resources development scheme
  • Make regular trainings in music education, teaching methodology, and psychology of learning compulsory
  • Install obligatory teaching evaluations on the basis of anonymous surveys, conducted by external staff not affiliated with the university
  • Enforcement of regulatory sanctions such as disciplinary proceedings, salary cuts, or legal consequences

More questions that should be addressed when applying further measures in the course of supervision and personnel development schemes are: In what way are university administrations supposed to take action, once they have learned of cases of misconduct, in order to prevent recurrence and call the responsible persons to account for their behaviour? How can an independent point of contact be established to which affected students can reach out for counsel and help without facing negative consequences? How can students be encouraged to report experiences of abusive behaviour, and how can they meet the widespread fear that teachers might exert adverse influence on their further career?

Night Wind Paper Published

As the lovely tradition of vinyl albums and subsequent single releases would have it, an excerpt from my dissertation on Nikolai Medtner‘s piano sonatas has now been published as a separate paper in German language—coinciding with the composer’s 141th birthday. I invite you to have a look at my discussion of Medtner’s largest and structurally most enigmatic piano composition, the epic E minor Sonata, Op. 25 No. 2, which is inspired by Fyodor Tyutchev’s poem Night Wind. The article is available in open access as part of the GMTH Proceedings, a new publication series of the Gesellschaft für Musiktheorie, the current issue of which summarises the contributions of a 2017 conference at Graz University of the Arts.

Thoughts at Year’s End

Here are some recent considerations about how a professional body of musicians should be like. I am unaware of any existing organisation to offer all of these features, but I might be mistaken. Amendments and additional thoughts are welcome!

  • It should represent and primarily act in favour of freelance musicianship and music teaching, support its self-employed members through networking and lobbying, be acutely aware of their economical situation, and promote political initiatives for a fixed fee structure.
  • It should enter a dialogue at eye level with federal and state politicians, and be in permanent touch with leading figures in the music and media industry, publishing business, unions, and collecting societies.
  • It should think beyond the music business and collaborate with other freelance organisations and associations from adjacent fields in the creative industry.
  • Its organs and board members should appear in public continuously and on all relevant media (print, broadcasting, and on the web). External communication is crucial and should lie in the responsibility of a professional PR officer.
  • It should have its own journal or bulletin, dedicated to the members’ most important issues, and issued independently from other media outlets or periodicals.
  • It should offer legal advice for members, as well as special conditions in liability, compensation, and disability insurances.
  • It should hinge the organisation and funding of concerts and other public events on the members’ approval, and have them self-evaluate and legitimise all such activities on a regular basis.
  • It should encourage its members to participate in internal discourse, to present their ideas publicly, and to form workgroups for specific topics which regularly report their work to the board.
  • It should establish a junior development programme, acquire new members through campaigning at universities and conservatories, and set up a membership bonus scheme.
  • It should employ a full-time professional management responsible for all executive work, accounting, and membership administration. Maximum transparency of all financial transactions and budgeting should be granted to all members.
  • It should limit the election period of its board members to 2–3 years and allow delegations of votes to other members. A general assembly should be held online twice a year, enabling the members to participate in all relevant decisions.
  • It should offer graded membership fees that mustn’t exceed 1 percent of the respective member’s annual income.

Open Letter to the nmz

The German music journal neue musikzeitung regularly features a section with news from the Deutscher Tonkünstlerverband. My colleague Anne Uerlichs and I recently wrote an open letter of complaint to the editors-in-chief, criticising the poor quality of some of these articles. For example, the current issue includes a review of a recent DTKV Berlin event, the Steglitz Early Music Days, written by the organiser herself in an  embarrassingly boastful tone, full of entitlement and self-praise. This is but one of several journalistic failures recently found in the nmz, some of which clearly contradict their own editorial guidelines and the general principle of unbiased coverage. We wonder how such derailments are even possible, and propose that a committee be installed for the quality control and supervision of the DTKV contributions. The full letter is available here (in German language only).