In this week's New Yorker, I write about the 2012 edition of the Donaueschingen Music Days. On the SWR website, you can watch videos of two events: the closing concert, with works by Bernhard Gander, Aureliano Cattaneo, and Franck Bedrossian; and the Nadar Ensemble concert, which includes Stefan Prins's remarkable PlayStation piece Generation Kill. Prins is currently studying for a doctorate at Harvard; I wonder if any American presenter will be brave enough to take on this work, which implies a critique of the American drone program. Those with hardy ears should check out Fremdkörper, Prins's two-disc set on the Sub Rosa label. YouTube has evidence of Johannes Kreidler's now famous instrument-smashing action at the opening concert, protesting the planned merger of the two SWR orchestras. Kreidler, a composer with a bent for high-tech whimsy, is plentifully documented on video; above is Charts Music, which extracts ditsy melodies from plunging stock prices. There's also the mildly demented video world of Trond Reinholdtsen, whose work Musik was an absurdist highlight of Donaueschingen 2012. As for Gander, I'd cautiously recommend videos of his Viennese Radio Symphony project melting pot, which can only be described as Austrian atonal hip-hop.
For some years now, the Neos label — source of all those invaluable Mieczysław Weinberg recordings, notably the Blu-ray of The Passenger — has been issuing Donaueschingen compilations. I picked up the three-disc 2011 set, which includes Hans Thomalla's mesmerizing California desert fantasia, The Brightest Form of Absence. I've written before about Raphaël Cendo's black-metal apocalypse cantata Introduction aux ténèbres, which appears in Neos's 2009 collection. One of the most treasured items in my record library is the col legno set 40 Jahre Donaueschinger Musiktage; alas, this seems to be out of print. Just out on col lengo is a one-disc portrait of the Austrian composer Clemens Gadenstätter, whose Sad Songs was a Donaueschingen highlight that I lacked space to address; its very ingenious setup included four gongs distributed around the audience, each one vibrating in sympathy with frequencies picked up remotely from the stage.
The real scandal at Donaueschingen, as I pointed out in a previous post, was the paucity of female composers. Only one — Malin Bång — appeared on the main concert series. See The Rambler and Lauren Redhead for a related discussion.