Preparing Atopy. A lecture in 6 parts. Part four: The Little Sister



I have just spoken about the pimply little sister of classical music. Welcome New Music with a big “N”. Welcome E-Musik, which means “serious music” in German. Welcome, Avantgarde.

I know little pimply sister very well, because I belong to her, having taken part in composition competitions, mostly well behaved, having applied for scholarships, having been active in the German Composer’s Society and the GEMA, which is the German ASCAP. I have made pilgrimages to Donaueschingen, to Darmstadt, have made my diploma and my masterclass diploma. I have visited countless composition courses around the world and have exchanged ideas with pimply young composers from all over the world, have been a pimply young composer myself.

I don’t hate the world of the little sister. Actually little sister is much prettier than she looks at first glance. She also knows beauty, grace and charm. But sometimes it’s a hidden kind of magic that she exudes. She has dark-rimmed spectacles, like me. Sometimes she is a bit pale, because she doesn’t go out that much. At a dance she stands in the corner, her arms crossed, a little pouty expression on her face. She wants to be asked for a dance, but would never get the idea for dancing herself. She is a nerd, or a geek, to use two contemporary words. She knows a lot, but is also extremely conservative in her views. The things have to be like they always used to be. Certain things cannot be done anymore, others just have to be done, or you don’t belong in her world.
I fear my little sister is quite bourgeois, but I really, really like here anyway, honestly. She wants to look shiny and new, but she wears clothes out of the 1950’s or even further back. Perhaps they have a slightly different pattern, but they are the same.

At some point I realized that there is not only the world of my little sister, but that there are other worlds as well. With this revelation I found her world extremely small and stuffy. And in this stuffiness even good things can become a prison.

This was the moment when I said goodbye to her.

It wasn’t an easy or quick decision. It was a slow process, ever so slightly. At some point I suddenly realized that I am more outside, going out, instead of being with her at our little home. Perhaps this is part of becoming an adult, that we radically approach homelessness, that we seek the free and unknown instead of that which feels cozy and comfortable.

I like my little sister still, after all these years. Sometimes she invites me, and I’m happy if we see each other. We drink a cup of coffee together or drink a cognac to the old times. But I know for sure that there other challenges, other possibilities than the ones that my little sister can offer me.

The problem of my little sister is that she actually could do a lot with her skills. She just should go out a little more, out of the brick walls that she calls home.

But as long as this is not the case, she will be nothing else than the little sister of classical music. One barely notices her, that’s how small she is. Some say that she doesn’t really belong to the old fallow sister of Classical Music. That she actually should find her own spot where she can grow and linger. But little sister does follow the laws that her older sister heeds. And that’s the problem.

Little Sister, let me tell you: go out a little. Go out to play, play, in another world. Leave the place where you spent most of your life.

And now I will mention – for the first time – the word that gives this article its name.


Atopical means: without place, placeless.

It also has the same meaning of the word “extraordinary” in Greek.

Be atopical, sister.

Moritz Eggert


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