Thanks…and that’s what I also wanted to say… (guest speech by Brigitta Muntendorf)

One of the prizewinners of this year’s Awards of the Ernst-von-Siemens-Musikstiftung (which is internationally considered to be one of the most important awards for young composers) was the young composer Brigitta Muntendorf from Cologne.

To everybody’s surprise she slightly broke protocol by reading a prepared speech after receiving the award document. This somewhat controversial act should have incited an interesting discussion which could not really be explored during the long award ceremony, which usually girates around the winner of the “big” Siemens Award (this year the recipient was conductor and musicologist Peter Gülke), so I thought it could be interesting to post the text here.
I have translated the full text of this short speech, because I find it very revealing and courageous regarding the current mood and the current goals of the young generation of German composers. Thanks to Brigitta Muntendorf for allowing me to translate and distribute this text!
(Moritz Eggert)

Thanks…and that’s what I also wanted to say…


I want to express the deepest and heartfelt thanks for receiving this award.

I also want to especially say thank you for something that has touched me and made me ponder in the entire last year, after first hearing about receiving this award.
For me this award means essentially receiving – as a gift – the utmost artistic freedom.

So I have asked myself – what about this artistic freedom? In my work, in my music? If this award gives me artistic freedom, does it possibly suggest that there actually is a lack of artistic freedom at the moment, in New Music?

Because artistic freedom doesn’t mean being able to do whatever you want. Artistic freedom means being able to point at the wounds inherent in contemporary society.

And because I come from the profession of composers…. the first gaping wound that I see is the one that exists in New Music. The wound of isolation from society, the wound of elitist tendencies whose upholding means barring the way into the public conscience.

And I also have to point at places where New Music doesn’t reach – places in our society that experience a fire that cannot be quenched easily.

To point my finger at this fire…. this is the main goal that I want to follow with my music and also in my total “package” as an artist. This is why I have founded the ensemble Garage, where – together with the musicians – the goal is using this ensemble as a speech organ for the needs of our society, to create networks, to seek independence and to call out to our generation of composers to find new ways which actually can affect our society, that actually can confront its reality.

To point my finger at this fire….this is why – since 2011 – I write music theatre pieces together with Thierry Bruehl for and with the “Taschenopernfestival Salzburg”, because there, in this city, in close collaboration with directors, librettists, actors, musicians and composers a truly contemporary music theatre is created, that looks at reality, that talks about it, that avoids compromises and seeks new realities.

The Award of the Ernst von Siemens Musikstiftung is one of the few deeply artistic prizes who forces me to accept the responsibility of artistic freedom.

And in my humble opinion I think that each and everybody who supports projects in the field of contemporary music, regardless of whether they are artists, festival directors, sponsors, endorsers or representants of institutions, should do this only with one single intention:
To find a language not FOR but WITHIN reality, a language that New Music sought to achieve at first, to further the kind of New Music that actually dares to become an active organ WITHIN our society, not outside of it.

And I wish everybody to not be scared of inconsistencies within the present, of losing tradition, of transformation and of missing verification of one’s contemporary work.

To go to these burning places, to point at them and to create a conscience for them. Because that is art.
Or – as my friend, colleague and fantastic artist Thierry Bruehl has put it nicely: True Art is achieving to make reality impossible.

Brigitta Muntendorf