Shortly after the cessation of hostilities in 1946, the city of Darmstadt, located in the state of Hessen in central Germany, hosted unique musical gatherings that would eventually become an institution. These “International Summer Courses for New Music” had two main objectives. First, they sought to propagate American political and cultural values in an effort to reeducate the German population, and second, they provided a meeting place where musicians would be exposed to modern styles and techniques that had been prohibited during the fascist years. These lofty aims were only partially fulfilled as Darmstadt rejected American hegemony within a couple of years. The immediate result was a protected space where musicians of the avant-garde could explore and create new music free from all social and political pressures. Darmstadt became the name associated with creative freedom!
Over the last decade or so, Hong Kong has done it’s own Darmstadt evolution. In the wake of the handover to China, Bright Sheng brought us the “Intimacy of Creativity,” a preachy US-centric and male dominated import designed to tell Hong Kong people that Daddy knows best. As cries for true democracy, self-determination, economic independence, acknowledgement of local identities and creative freedoms have become more urgent, however, a new and much more apropos kid has come to the fore. It is called the “Modern Academy” and run by the Hong Kong New Music Ensemble under the direction of William Lane. As the name implies, the Hong Kong New Music Ensemble—comprised of highly talented international and local musicians—is based in Hong Kong! It collaborates with local institutions, local organizations and local contemporary composers year round! And that intimate local knowledge combined with a truly global perspective is amply reflected in the “Modern Academy” summer course of 2015. An international rostrum of established and versatile composers will introduce 60 participants from roughly 10 countries to cutting edge explorations of new techniques and expressions while paying tribute to Edgard Varèse and Luciano Berio.
Edgard Varèse: Offrandes, “La croix du sud”
However, participant will also engage with cross-disciplinary platforms of acute relevance to this part of the world. Whether it is the combination of music and moving images so prevalent in a thriving HK film industry, or the exploration of music specifically written to accompany bodily movement in space, time and direction, the Modern Academy 2015 offers a truly grounded post-modern perspective. Given its history and location, Hong Kong always had the unique potential to become associated with creative freedom; apparently that potential is in the process of being realized.