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All-School Project: Darmstadt


Since 2007 Curtis has leveraged an annual all-school project—hailed by the New York Times as the “best teaching idea” of 2008—to serve as a focal point for artistic programs and the academic curriculum. The current project focuses on the Darmstadt school of avant-garde composers who emerged in the early 1950s as the world was reeling from the effects of the Second World War. Curtis delves into the Darmstadt school as well as the counter-culture reactions to it: exploring the history, politics, and artistic concepts that shaped the music of this turbulent era, described so poignantly by W.H. Auden as “The Age of Anxiety.” 

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Revolution: Modernism, vodcast series 

Curtis composers David Ludwig and Emily Cooley talk 20th- and 21st-century music in "Revolution: Modernism," a video podcast series exploring avant-garde and experimental music from the past and the impact it has on music today. Guests from the Curtis community add their own unique perspectives to the discussion.


From Overtones

Darmstadt and Beyond: Curtis takes on the 20th Century. Overtones, Fall 2016

A Sinfonia Diary: Presenting Luciano Berio's whirling tour-de-force was a six-month team effort. Coaches and performers reflect on the journey. Overtones, Spring 2016

Curtis's deans reflect on DarmstadtOvertones, Fall 2015.


HD video performances from Curtis Performs

John Cage's 4'33" in a Field Concert Hall recital, December 2015

The Curtis 20/21 Ensemble performed excerpts from Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire and more with the chamber ensemble duende in December, 2015 at the SEI Innovation Studio at the Kimmel Center.


WRTI: Curtis Takes On the Music of the Darmstadt Composers, by David Patrick Stearns.




Curtis 20/21 Ensemble
Kaija Saariaho, composer in residence*

Sunday, October 30, 2016
3 p.m.

Gould Rehearsal Hall, Curtis Institute of Music
1616 Locust Street, Philadelphia  

Celebrated violinist Jennifer Koh ('02) joins the Curtis 20/21 Ensemble for a concert portrait of Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, "one of the most original compositional voices of our time" (Denver Post).

* The 2016-2017 composer in residence program is supported by a grant from the Musical Fund Society of Philadelphia and The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. 

Curtis 20/21 Ensemble presents 1948

Thursday, December 3, 2016
8 p.m.

Field Concert Hall
1726 Locust Street

The years around 1948 marked the start of a Modernist revolution in music, as a new generation of rebellious composers produced wildly experimental work. The Curtis 20/21 Ensemble series begins in post-war Europe with the foundation of the early Darmstadt school and the (sometimes electronic) music of the young European avant-garde.


Curtis 20/21 Ensemble presents The New Yorkers

Wednesday, February 11, 2017
8 p.m.

Field Concert Hall
1726 Locust Street

The "New York school" composers of the 1950s and 60s were just as irreverent as their European counterparts. With John Cage as a ringleader, composers like Morton Feldman, Earle Brown, Christian Wolff, and many others explored the new territory of abstract indeterminism that freed their work from traditional expectations.


Curtis 20/21 Ensemble presents Beyond Darmstadt II

Saturday, March 25, 2017
8 p.m.

Gould Rehearsal Hall
1616Locust Street

As the Darmstadt school exerted an aesthetic dominance over the middle part of the 20th century, it stimulated a strong reaction. Composers worldwide rejected the stylistic orthodoxy of the post-war European avant-garde in favor of compositional techniques that drew from eclectic sources-from ancient sounds to popular music, jazz, and indigenous cultural traditions. A new group of American minimalists, neo-Romantics, and "downtown" composers emerged to create a new ecology of vivid sounds and vibrant rhythm that redefined new music and initiated the post-Modern era of today.


All-School Project

The Curtis Institute of Music’s all-school projects are interdepartmental, educational, and cultural extravaganzas characterized by an intensive and simultaneous examination of a specific composition, genre, or era by the academic curriculum, performance studies, and extracurriculum.

The projects provide a unique opportunity for all Curtis students:

  • to deepen and broaden their artistry by studying and performing together a defined repertoire
  • to practice critical listening and analysis of that repertoire, along with research, writing, and discussion in Musical Studies courses
  • to explore the surrounding social history, literature, philosophy, psychology, visual art, politics, and general cultural ethos in Liberal Arts courses.
  • Extracurricular programs such as outside concerts, lectures, museum visits, and social activities expand the students’ learning experience beyond the walls of Curtis.


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