Wendelin Bitzan

Wendelin Bitzan

GMTH Conference in Salzburg

Tomorrow I will be off to Universität Mozarteum Salzburg again for this year’s conference of the Gesellschaft für Musiktheorie. Not going to present an individual paper this time (which feels sort of comfortable), but looking forward to chairing a session, to leading a professional development workshop together with my colleague Sigrun Heinzelmann, and to lots of encounters and fascinating exchanges of thoughts with peers, audiences, and my colleagues on the board. Hope to see you there! #gmth2022 #musictheory

Composing in the Ivory Tower

In a recent interview in the neue musikzeitung, Claus-Steffen Mahnkopf, a prolific composer and professor at Hochschule für Musik und Theater Leipzig for almost 20 years, admits that he has no idea why there are hardly any domestic applications for studying composition at music universities in Germany. After that, he complains at length that his works and conceptions, which he routinely submits to orchestras and opera houses to be considered for performance, keep being rejected all the time. Seriously, Herr Mahnkopf? I wonder how somebody involved in the training of composers for decades can be so clueless about the deficiencies in pre-university education, and the immense decline in meeting the preconditions needed for applying to a music university. And, besides this discomforting lack of care for the young generation, both he and the interviewer fail to notice the obvious interconnection of the two issues in question: the absence of a sustainable and integrative system of encouraging and supporting young people in a possible professional career in music, and the alienation of classical music business from everything topical and contemporary. Shouldn’t a professor of composition be more concerned about the future of his profession, and at least take interest in strategies of how teenagers can be introduced to composing and performing new music? Nearly every of Mahnkopf’s sentences demonstrates that somebody is speaking who totally lost contact with the basis of early education and promotion of young musicians. #ivorytower #upperclassproblems

Scriabin Conference in Reading

Happy to be participating in the Scriabin @ 150 conference and celebration, taking place the following weekend at Queen Anne’s School, Caversham, Reading, UK. Alongside an illustrious line-up of scholars and musicians sharing their thoughts, interpretations, and approaches towards Scriabin’s music, I will contribute my bit on the relationship and latent intercommunities between Scriabin and his Muscovite contemporary Nikolai Medtner. Thank you, Kenneth Smith, Marina Frolova-Walker, and everybody else involved, for making this happen!

NB. I am super excited about this event for two particular reasons:
  • It is the prime candidate for the Sexiest Conference of the Year award.
  • It is probably the only conference that offers a free DIY Scriabin facemask for downloading, printing, and colouring (according to the composer’s synaesthetic preferences, I would suggest).

Lobbying for Berlin Musicians

Advocacy on behalf of Berlin musicians is on its way! I am looking forward to five meetings within the following six days, forming part of my endeavours as a board member of Deutscher Tonkünstlerverband Berlin. We will be in touch with representatives of Landesmusikrat Berlin, Fachgruppe Musik of ver.di, Bundesverband der Freien Musikschulen, DACH Musik Berlin, and the colleagues of Pro Musik Verband to discuss perspectives of freelance work and cultural policy. These activities are carried out on a voluntary basis as long as there is no possibility for public funding of associations and interest groups in the arts. So we need to keep up these efforts also in favour of the overall goal to professionalise the whole occupational field.

Lysenko’s Soviet Legacy?

Recently I was made aware of the claim that the Soviet national anthem, written by Aleksandr Vasilyevich Aleksandrov in 1943 and adopted as the anthem of the Russian Federation in 2000, might have been inspired by a piano work by the Ukrainian composer Mykola Vitaliyovych Lysenko, Fragment épique of 1876. Indeed, the hymn’s beginning sounds very similar to a passage near the ending of Lysenko’s composition. Is this creative appropriation, as one source argues, or even plagiarism (provided that Aleksandrov knew Lysenko’s work, which might be hard to substantiate)? Or is it just a random resemblance, with the melody and harmonic progression of both examples being derived from the common Romanesca schema, also known as major-minor parallelism? What do you think?