Research project

Contemporary Studies for …

Project team: Martin Losert, Achim Bornhöft

Contemporary music plays a relatively minor role overall in music school audition programs, apart from competitions and achievement awards. One of the reasons for this is the lack of quality in the existing contemporary teaching literature. Existing collections and individual pieces are limited to the accumulation of so-called new playing techniques. These are often devoted to special techniques, but not examples of contemporary music and its corresponding compositional structure and aesthetics. In addition, the existing etudes and etudes are often so difficult that they can only be mastered by students in the upper school grades or by conservatory students, or they are musical gimmicks based on improvisation models from the 1960s that lack the characteristic features and difficulties of newer music.

This is precisely where the “Contemporary Studies for …” project comes in. Composers are specifically approached to write etudes or studies for various instruments. In order for the pieces to be representative of today’s music, it is important that the composers already have a certain reputation. The idea behind the planned etude books is that the students should be encouraged to engage with with different styles and their associated musical, instrumental and interpretational challenges, rather than with specific playing techniques.

Although new playing techniques can be found in some of the completed etudes, the aim is not just to practice them, but to use them in a meaningful musical context. From this point of view, they are not technical studies, but concert etudes in the classical sense.

The project has been running since 2016; the first book will be published by Gravis-Verlag at the end of 2019, and further books are planned (for piano, cello, violin and flute). In order to ensure that the project is a lasting success, future volumes will be published for as many common instruments as possible. In our discussions with various composers, many signaled their interest in participating in the project.