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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 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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