New Music Studio

From Unearthing The Music

The New Music Studio was established due to Albert Simon’s inspiration in 1970. On the internationally well-known place were have been shown more than 600 contemporary music pieces between 1970 and 1990. The concerts held in the Studio were the most significant events in the alternative art life in the 1970s/1980s, and their effect is decisive today, as well. The fundamental concept of the Studio was the collective composing and improvisation.

The founding members were László Sáry (1940), Zoltán Jeney (1943), Péter Eötvös (1944), László Vidovszky (1944) and Zoltán Kocsis (1952), later Barnabás Dukay (1950), Zsolt Serei (1954), György Kurtág, Jr. (1954), Gyula Csapó (1955) and András Wilhelm (1949) joined the team.

The Studio officially operated under the Central Art Company of Hungarian Young Communist League and located in its building in the 7th district of Budapest, in the Rottenbiler street. The Studio became the venue for performances which did not occur in traditional concert rooms because of technical or other causes. The purpose of the organizers was to make the Hungarian and international avant-garde music known not only for the professional community but also for a broad audience with the help of public lectures. Therefore the Studio's members also organized concerts in the countryside.

Their common goal was to help the reception and integration of the most progressive music trends of the postwar decades (relate to John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and Pierre Boulez) in Hungary. They tended to provide a forum for the Hungarian tendencies independent of the mainstream post-Bartók music composing traditions. These composers and musicians sought new musical ideas, and a new way of thinking and this aspiration was equal with the denial of almost everything that happened since Béla Bartók. According to András Wilhelm, it was necessary to examine and interpret the essential elements again and try out new musical behaviour and to use earlier unknown instrumental formations as well.

Dialogue between the composers and musicians was supported and often took place after concerts. Some general music lectures and seminars were held regarding the music tools of every age or the phenomena and problems of the contemporary music composing processes. They planned to train the listeners to understand this new music. Because of this mission, the Studio established a club, which anyone who was interested in new music was welcome to join. The club members received information about the news in the music world, and they participated in the inner workings of the Studio as listeners, composers or performers.

Jeney, Sáry and Vidovszky’s joint composition titled "Undisturbed" was created for the Radio in the summer of 1974, and it was seen as the most significant venture and achievement of the Studio according to another founding member, Zoltán Kocsis. This piece consists of 3 parts which were written independently from each other. The performance itself consisted of these three parts played together.

"Undisturbed" was created from the composers’ experiences in the Studio in the earlier years. One part of this work was to bring closer the practice of composing and the performance with collective improvisation and integrating improvising elements into the performance and the part-writing. In this way, the composers participated in the production of pieces and simultaneously the performers completed tasks which demanded one kind of composing mentality. On the other hand, they explored such sounding materials which went beyond specific closed systems (for example serialism or aleatoria), and this work needed a very precise and very free way of description and performance at the same time.

In December of 1975 the New Music Studio gave a concert in the main room of the Hungarian Academy of Music: this was the first performance in front of such a broad audience. Furthermore, the Studio-members toured abroad often, for example in Paris in 1974 and in Warsaw in 1975.

It is interesting to mention the reflections of the official cultural policy to the phenomena of new music and the work in the Studio. The journalist of one daily paper of Budapest wrote appreciatively of the "pullover concert" of musicians dealing with electronic musical experiments. He mentioned that people criticised the youngsters in pullovers and jeans who scandalised others in earlier concerts, but today pullovers represent another type of "elegance", among the tuxedos and evening dresses. To step on the stage wearing a pullover and jeans slowly became a convention.

Dominic Gill, journalist of the Financial Times London, wrote a report on the Budapest Music Weeks in November of 1974. In this article, he mentioned the New Music Studio. As he wrote, "some of the most stimulating and adventurous new music in Hungary comes from this informal school". He listened to some pieces and one of these features these words: "[…] it was an avant-garde essay for real poetry: a quite conceptual web pierced with cruel sounds, threaded with dream-like echoes modulated and filtered back into the auditorium from the foyers outside - a sequence of contrasting patterns seen through a series of color-filters and distorting mirrors, very haunting.”