Make the Zodiac Great Again

Some of you may have heard of the German pianist Stefan Mickisch, known for his opera introductions and—more idiosyncratically—for assigning the keys of the circle of fifths to the twelve zodiac signs. In a concert announcement issued a few days ago, he praised his theory in boastful terms, referring to himself as the revealer of an absolute musical truth. To me, his conclusions appear self-referential and highly biased, and I tend to consider the whole affair a mere speculation, lacking clear philological evidence. I asked a number of questions on the pianist’s public Facebook profile which he appreciated but answered only inconsistently. Yet after I expressed my serious doubts, he would react in an aggressive tone, call me a »rare jackass« and »arrogant ignoramus« (my translations; see screenshot below), and ask me to STFU. After that, he headed for all my profiles and pages to leave spiteful troll comments everywhere. Mickisch’s offensive language probably reveals more about his character and professional attitude than he is aware.

Maladministration at DTKV Berlin

The Berlin section of Deutscher Tonkünstlerverband has recently shown several cases of communication failure and administrative misconduct. Right now, the executive board aims to expel a highly engaged member whose alleged transgression has been to propose structural reforms and to notify the community of the recent misdevelopments. If you are a member, please attend the upcoming general assembly on Monday, November 26, 10 am, at the DTKV Studio (Schillerstraße 64, Berlin-Charlottenburg), express your protest, and contend with the current administration. It’s about time for some changes—take action now if you care for a strong professional representation of musicians in Berlin!

Soloists First, Educators Second?

The ongoing discussion in VAN Magazine on the future of music education in Germany reaches another level. In her follow-up article to the recent contributions by Clemens Thomas, Heinz Geuen, Esther Bishop, and myself, Judith Gerhardt finally adds the perspective of music pedagogy students at Berlin University of the Arts, focusing on the misbalance between soloist training (which is way more encouraged and promoted at institutions) and music education (a subject generally regarded as inferior and less representative, despite its significantly higher social and political relevance). Once more it becomes apparent that a paradigm change is overdue—and now, after students and musicians have variously expressed their discontent with the present system, it is about time for administrations and educational policy on federal and state level to join the discussion and determine how professional music education can be re-organised and modernised.

The Peak of Sexist Music Journalism

I recently stumbled upon this 2015 piece by Damian Thompson claiming the general inferiority of woman composers, and can’t quite figure out whether it really is the blatantly offensive, misogynic bullshit which it appears to be, or if there is some sort of hidden irony in it which I just don’t get. I tend to believe it is the former. Only good thing about this crap is that the author rapidly and unmistakably discloses himself as an ignorant moron, excreting loads of incredible nonsense while not having the slightest clue of what terms such as ›well crafted‹ or ›badly crafted‹ actually mean in a musical context. What is more, he totally lacks the criteria to judge whether, and under which preconditions, assessments such as ›great‹, ›genius‹ or ›first rank‹ may be reasonably applied to music, nor is he aware of the sheer obsolescence of his terminology. He does not even deliver a proper argument in support of his boastful headline, assuming that »there are no great female composers«. Howsoever disgraceful this overt sexism comes across, I still don’t think that Thompson is a troll who should simply be ignored. Given that the article is already three years old, my comment may not seem necessary at all, but I cannot help but wish that the author’s name may forever be associated with this breathtaking load of rubbish.

Full Diss-closure

300 pages. 156000 words. 982000 characters. 710 footnotes. Around 300 works cited. 128 music examples. Roughly 6 years of work. — That’s my PhD dissertation in musicology, submitted today to the Vienna University of Music and Performing Arts, and titled »The Sonata as an Ageless Principle«. It is a study of Nikolai Medtner‘s early piano sonatas, examined as manifestations of a traditional genre and central paradigm of instrumental music, and analysed from various perspectives. To those of you interested in the forthcoming open-access publication, I will send a notification as soon as it is available online in full. For the time being, here is an abstract of the thesis and a pre-published chapter on the general features of Medtner’s musical language.