Mike Svoboda: Studies on "Adorno (sex, drugs, and New Music)"

(2007) 40' / for a vocalist, 8 musicians, and video.

featuring Phil Minton, vocals


Harald Kimmig, violine
Fried Dähn, violoncello
Stefan Hussong, accordion
Mike Svoboda, trombone
Wolfgang Fernow, double bass
Michael Kiedaisch, drums
Thomas Neuhaus, electronics
Philipp Stangl, electronics
Dietrich Hahne, video

Commissioned by the Saarland Radio and premiered in May 2007 at the Festival Mouvement, Wolfgang Korb, director.


vocal soloist
and two ensembles

  • violine
  • accordion
  • violoncello
  • live-electronics
  • trombone
  • percussion
  • double bass
  • live electronics


Program note

"Let me paraphrase Frank Zappa's statement about jazz: new music is not dead, it just smells funny. Certainly I am not the first composer for whom the hunger for new forms of expression and musical material does not represent my foremost motivation. In addition, it seems to me as early as the 80s, the tempo of discovery in all musical endeavours - playing technique, sound projects, performance practice, etc. - had basically slowed to a halt, if not stagnated completely. But still I do feel a degree of nostalgic longing for the times back when new music was new, when there were fields of sound possibilities to be explored, where experimental music really had to do with experimentation and was not just a label for music that falls between the genres even within the new music ghetto. For several years now, I have been sketching a work of music theater that would comment on the 60s, those golden years, which is called Adorno (sex, drugs, and new music) and these "Studies on..." are my first adventure in that direction.

When I first arrived in Germany in 1982 and attended the Darmstädter Ferienkurse für Neue Musik, the philosopher and musicologist Theodor W. Adorno was an omnipresent and unavoidable Übervater, whose texts were quoted at seemingly every possible occasion. His view of things seemed to have defined the new music scene in post-war Germany. To put it in a nut-shell, the politically-correct mode of composition was the negation of any musical affect that was instrumentalised to mislead the German population during the reign of the 3rd Reich: emphatic, emotional music, marches (rhythm), etc. A heavy subject indeed. In addition, Adorno's texts were used by the student leaders in the 1968 student revolts in Frankfurt, which Adorno anticipated during the last years of his life and, as is reported, was rather upset about. Some of these connections to the student uprisings of late 60s can be seen in Dietrich Hahne's video.

This Studies on "Adorno (sex, drugs, and new music)" is in particular an observation of the relationship between audio and visual information. For the coordination of the these two elements, I gave Dietrich Hahne, a composer himself, my score in which is indicated when a video should appear and when not. Otherwise I gave him neither stipulations nor suggestions, but rather asked him to relate his visual art - mostly from filmed interviews taken by the state television - to the density and rhythmical aspects of the music as he sees fit." - Mike Svoboda, April 2008

Go back