Music Composition Today

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  • Ming Tsao Hochschule für Musik, Theater und Medien Hannover



In this essay, composer Ming Tsao presents a critical overview of today's new music scene, with a special emphasis on the task of teaching music composition today and the culture of new music festivals. Tsao's main critique delves into the current tendency towards entertainment predominantly displayed in some German new music festivals, commonly advertised as experimental music. Alongside this critique, Tsao presents Steven Takasugi's musical theater work "Side Show" (2009-15) as an example of today's music composition that resists this emerging commercialism in concert music. In this text, Tsao makes reference to the writings and ideas of German composer Helmut Lachenmann, mainly on his concepts of Geräuschmusik, Kadenzklänge, Texturklänge, and the language-like aspects of music, as well as to the writings of poet J. H. Prynne [note by editor].


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Biografia do Autor

Ming Tsao, Hochschule für Musik, Theater und Medien Hannover

Ming Tsao has composed works for ensembles including the Arditti Quartet, ELISION Ensemble, ensemble ascolta, ensemble recherche, Ensemble KNM Berlin and Ensemble SurPlus and has had premieres at the Darmstadter Ferienkürse, Donaueschinger Musiktage, MaerzMusik Berlin, Wien Modern and the Wittener Tage für neue Kammermusik. He studied composition at Berklee College of Music in Boston and Ethnomusicology at Columbia University in New York before studies in Logic, Philosophy and Mathematics. Returning to composition, he gained a Ph.D. in Music Composition from the University of California, San Diego under Chaya Czernowin as well as studying privately with Brian Ferneyhough. He was Professor of Composition at Göteborg University from 2009 and is currently Visiting Professor of Composition at the Hanover University of Music, Drama and Media. A selection of his chamber works was collected on the portrait CD Pathology of Syntax, released in 2014 by Mode Records. Kairos Music has released his works on two CDs, Plus Minus and Die Geisterinsel. His music is published by Edition Peters. E-mail:


LACHENMANN, Helmut. On Structuralism. Contemporary Music Review, Vol. 12, Part 1, 1995. DOI:

PRYNNE, J. H. A Letter to Steve McCaffery. The Gig 7, (November 2000).

______. Difficulties in the Translation of "Difficult" Poems. Cambridge Literary Review, I/3 (Easter, 2010).

REEVE, N. H.; KERRIDGE, Richard. Nearly Too Much: The Poetry of J. H. Prynne. Liverpool University Press, 1995.

TSAO, Ming. Helmut Lachenmann"™s "˜Sound Types"™. Perspectives of New Music, Volume 52, No. 1 (Winter 2014). DOI:




Como Citar

Tsao, M. (2020). Music Composition Today. Revista Vórtex, 8(1), 1–10.