The last 50 years have produced some of the most exciting and powerful music, painting and sculpture in history, but to many people it remains an undiscovered world. This course aims to introduce participants to some of this era’s major composers including Arvo Pärt, James MacMillan, Brett Dean, Sofia Gubaidulina, Jörg Widmann and John Adams, alongside artists such as Agnes Martin, Gerhard Richter, Bill Viola, Joan Mitchell and Jenny Saville.
15 Jan 2025 – Introduction: Music Year Zero
The years 1911 to 1913 saw a revolution in classical music alongside the ones in the visual arts and literature. We will explore six key works from this period by Bartók, Debussy, Ives, Schönberg, Scriabin and Stravinsky in parallel with paintings by Klint, Spilliaert, Werefkin, Vlaminck, Nolde and others. When we move forward to listen to works written more recently, we will discover how the ripples of this modernist explosion can still be felt.
22 Jan 2025 – Above: What Does Spirituality Sound Like Now?
Religion no longer occupies a central place in the lives of many people today. Nevertheless, a number of composers and artists have in recent years written requiems or masses or drawn explicitly on the tropes of Christianity in Western or Eastern forms. We will consider works by believers and sceptics, including John Tavener, Bill Viola, Györgi Ligeti, Craigie Aitchison, Julian Schnabel and Meredith Monk.
29 Jan 2025 – To Nothingness: Minimalism, Absence & Social Comment
Composers known as “Minimalists”, including Steve Reich, Philip Glass and John Adams, are among the most well-known today as are the American painters who are similarly described: Frank Stella, Donald Judd and others. It’s fascinating and surprising to look at where such a new approach to music came from: the different sound-world of the 60s, and equally interesting to see what started life as such a spare aesthetic has transformed into right now.
05 Feb 2025 – On: Continuing Great Traditions
Composers often pride themselves on their music being a radical departure from the past. Yet there are many composers whose work is clearly rooted in familiar and traditional approaches including David Matthews, Osvaldo Golijov and Jennifer Higdon. Their symphonies, concertos and choral works are not merely imitations of the past but build new roads across more familiar ground. We will listen to their works and look at paintings by David Hockney, Joan Mitchell, Lynette Yiadom Boakye and Lucian Freud.
12 Feb 2025 – Back: New Takes on Classical Music’s Canon
For many composers the dominance of certain canonical figures from classical music’s past, particularly J S Bach, has been double-edged. Are they examples to be imitated, parodied, resisted, embraced? We will explore together some of the most powerful pieces written in the shadow of such a legacy. Expect to listen to pieces by Alfred Schnittke, Thomas Adès and Jörg Widmann and look at paintings by Paula Rego, Lubaina Himid, Anselm Kiefer and Georg Baselitz.