New Simplicity

Last updated

New Simplicity (in German, Neue Einfachheit) was a stylistic tendency amongst some of the younger generation of German composers in the late 1970s and early 1980s, reacting against not only the European avant garde of the 1950s and 1960s, but also against the broader tendency toward objectivity found from the beginning of the twentieth century. Alternative terms sometimes used for this movement are "Inclusive Composition", "New Subjectivity" (Neue Subjektivität), "New Inwardness" (Neue Innigkeit), "New Romanticism", "New Sensuality", "New Expressivity", "New Classicism", and "New Tonality".



At the end of the 1970s, the German movement was first recognized by Aribert Reimann, who named seven composers, not previously associated as a group, who had each come to similar positions "in an entirely personal fashion". [1] These seven composers were: Hans-Jürgen von Bose, Hans-Christian von Dadelsen, Detlev Müller-Siemens, Wolfgang Rihm, Wolfgang von Schweinitz, Ulrich Stranz, and Manfred Trojahn. In general, these composers strove for an immediacy between the creative impulse and the musical result (in contrast to the elaborate precompositional planning characteristic of the avant garde), with the intention also of communicating more readily with audiences. In some cases this meant a return to the tonal language of the 19th century as well as to the traditional forms (symphony, sonata) and instrumental combinations (string quartet, piano trio) which had been avoided for the most part by the avant garde. For others it meant working with simpler textures or the employment of triadic harmonies in non-tonal contexts. Of the composers most closely identified with this movement, only Wolfgang Rihm has established a significant reputation outside of Germany. At least three writers have gone so far as to argue that one of the Darmstadt avant-garde composers against whom the New Simplicity was ostensibly rebelling, Karlheinz Stockhausen, had anticipated their position through a radical simplification of his style accomplished between 1966 and 1975, which culminated in his Tierkreis melodies. [2] [3] [4] Another writer finds Rihm's inclusive aesthetic better viewed as "an expansion of constructivist concerns . . . than as a negation of them". [5]

Other groups

There is a quite distinct group of composers also active in Germany and elsewhere, to whom the term 'New Simplicity' is occasionally applied. These are particularly associated with the Cologne School and include such figures as Walter Zimmermann, [6] Johannes Fritsch,[ citation needed ] Ladislav Kupkovič, Péter Eötvös, Bojidar Dino, Daniel Chorzempa, John McGuire, Mesías Maiguashca, and Clarence Barlow, [7] as well as others from different countries such as Christopher Fox, Gerald Barry, Gavin Bryars, and Kevin Volans. [8] [9] Most of these composers tend to use quite sparse, pared-down musical material (sometimes showing the influence of the early 'naive' period of work from John Cage, and that of Morton Feldman, especially in the case of Zimmermann) to which are applied more intricate musical processes; in the latter respect, the influence of Stockhausen and Mauricio Kagel is clear, though some of the figures concerned believed their aesthetic to constitute a break with the avant-garde as represented in particular at Darmstadt. In the United States and the Americas composers like Samuel Barber, Miguel del Aguila and Astor Piazzolla challenged the concept of music as an experiment with works that became instantly popular and remained in the classical music repertoire to this day.

In Denmark some fifteen years earlier than the German movement, a less widely known group also called "The New Simplicity" (Den Ny Enkelhed) arose, including composers Hans Abrahamsen, Henning Christiansen, and Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen. This was seen as a specifically Danish response to the complexity of music of the Darmstadt School, but differed from the later German group in that these composers sought to increase rather than decrease objectivity by using the simplest, impersonal musical material in order to liberate it from the composer’s attitudes and feelings. [10] [11]

This term has also been used essentially synonymously with the related but distinct group of composers such as Henryk Górecki, Arvo Pärt, and John Tavener. [12]


By the 1990s a new radical approach to composition began to emerge in Germany, reacting against the New Simplicity's pluralism, which tended to acquire arbitrary features in composers lacking solid technical ability. Reference to earlier styles provoked unfavourable comparisons: the aim of comprehensibility and accessibility was seen to have been better achieved by music of the past and in more authentic forms. [13]

Other New Simplicity composers

Related Research Articles

Karlheinz Stockhausen German composer

Karlheinz Stockhausen was a German composer, widely acknowledged by critics as one of the most important but also controversial composers of the 20th and early 21st centuries. He is known for his groundbreaking work in electronic music, for introducing controlled chance into serial composition, and for musical spatialization.

Contemporary classical music is classical music composed close to the present day. At the beginning of the 21st century, it commonly referred to the post-1945 modern forms of post-tonal music after the death of Anton Webern, and included serial music, electronic music, experimental music, and minimalist music. Newer forms of music include spectral music, and post-minimalism.

Process music

Process music is music that arises from a process. It may make that process audible to the listener, or the process may be concealed.

Music box Box that produces musical notes

A music box or musical box is an automatic musical instrument in a box that produces musical notes by using a set of pins placed on a revolving cylinder or disc to pluck the tuned teeth of a steel comb. The earliest known mechanical musical instruments date back to 9th-century Baghdad. In Flanders, in the early 13th century, a bell ringer invented a cylinder with pins which operate cams, which then hit the bells. The popular device best known today as a "music box" developed from musical snuff boxes of the 18th century and were originally called carillons à musique. Some of the more complex boxes also contain a tiny drum and/or bells in addition to the metal comb.

Karel August Goeyvaerts was a Belgian composer.

Formula composition is a serially derived technique encountered principally in the music of Karlheinz Stockhausen, involving the projection, expansion, and Ausmultiplikation of either a single melody-formula, or a two- or three-voice contrapuntal construction.

Darmstadt School

Darmstadt School refers to a group of composers who were associated with the Darmstadt International Summer Courses for New Music from the early 1950s to the early 1960s in Darmstadt, Germany, and who shared some aesthetic attitudes. Initially, this included only Pierre Boulez, Bruno Maderna, Luigi Nono, and Karlheinz Stockhausen, but others came to be added, in various ways. The term does not refer to an educational institution.

<i>Tierkreis</i> (Stockhausen)

Tierkreis (1974–75) is a musical composition by the German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen. The title is the German word for Zodiac, and the composition consists of twelve melodies, each representing one sign of the zodiac.

Boudewijn Buckinx is a Belgian composer and writer on music.

Mesías Maiguashca is an Ecuadorian composer and an advocate of Neue Musik, especially electroacoustic music.

York Höller is a German composer and Professor of composition at the Hochschule für Musik Köln.

John McGuire is an American composer, pianist, organist, and music editor.


Originale, musical theatre with Kontakte, is a music theatre work by the German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, written in collaboration with the artist Mary Bauermeister. It was first performed in 1961 in Cologne, and is given the work number 12⅔ in Stockhausen's catalogue of works.

Sonata for Two Pianos (1950–51), also called simply Opus 1 or Nummer 1, is a chamber music work by Belgian composer Karel Goeyvaerts, and a seminal work in the early history of European serialism.

Spatial music is composed music that intentionally exploits sound localization. Though present in Western music from biblical times in the form of the antiphon, as a component specific to new musical techniques the concept of spatial music was introduced as early as 1928 in Germany.

In music, the Cologne School is a loosely associated group of composers and performers of the generation that came to prominence in the 1970s, who lived and worked in the city of Cologne, Germany.

Oeldorf Group

The Oeldorf Group was a musicians' collective active in Germany in the 1970s. Based in the village of Oeldorf, near Cologne, their performances emphasized live-electronic music.

<i>Für kommende Zeiten</i>

Für kommende Zeiten is a collection of seventeen text compositions by Karlheinz Stockhausen, composed between August 1968 and July 1970. It is a successor to the similar collection titled Aus den sieben Tagen, written in 1968. These compositions are characterized as "Intuitive music"—music produced primarily from the intuition rather than the intellect of the performer(s). It is work number 33 in Stockhausen's catalog of works, and the collection is dedicated to the composer's son Markus.

Christoph Caskel is a German percussionist and teacher.

Michael Svoboda is an American composer and trombonist who lives and works in Switzerland.


  1. Reimann 1979, p. 25.
  2. Faltin 1979, p. 192.
  3. Andraschke 1981, pp. 126, 137–41.
  4. Gruhn 1981, pp. 185–186.
  5. Williams 2006, p. 384.
  6. Fox 2007, p. 31.
  7. Kapko-Foretić 1980, p. 50.
  8. Fox 2007, pp. 27–28.
  9. Rickards 2002, pp. 50–51.
  10. Beyer 2001.
  11. Jakobsen 2001.
  12. Fisk 1994, p. 402.
  13. Schubert 2001.

Cited sources

Further reading