In 1962 the Argentine-German composer Mauricio Kagel (1931-2008) completed an innovative multimedia/interdisciplinary piece, Antithese für einen Darsteller mit elektronischen und öffentlichen Klängen. The unique compositional style and formal structure consisting of heterogeneous compositional components reflected his profound insights into issues inherent in postwar avant-garde music. Kagel remarked strikingly that “anarchy in the piece was omnipresent.” Indeed, his use of the term ‘anarchy’ is a keystone not only of the structural features of Antithese, but also of Kagel’s aesthetic of music in the piece. The present study seeks to reveal Kagel’s idea of anarchy in musical context and how he attempts to epitomize this particular thought in the complex and transliterate formal structure of Antithese.
This study first reviews Kagel’s Buenos Aires period in terms of the cultivation and development of his musical composition and notion of anarchy. The review also incorporates problematic aspects of postwar new music in Europe which emerged in the period chronologically parallel to Kagel’s Argentinian era. The next stage deals with Kagel’s engagement in electroacoustic composition in Germany and the development of his own compositional method and style in its realm, where he consciously distanced himself from controversy between Parisian musique concrète and Cologne elektronische Musik.
Because Antithese is a unique form of Instrumental Theater – a compositional approach Kagel invented – and a piece he dedicated to John Cage, this study examines distinctive features of Kagel’s theatricalization in the piece in contrast to his other theatrical pieces, as well as to Cage’s musical theater work. This examination clarifies the aesthetic distinction between Kagel and Cage which underlies their theatrical-theoretical differences. Intriguing in terms of compositional aesthetic content is that Antithese encompasses Kagel’s serial thought and an approach of Grenzüberschreitung of art genres which may seem antithetical in compositional-characteristic terms. This feature suggests that a latent part of his aesthetic intention was to create tension as a concealed component derived from the coexistence of heterogeneous ideas and elements on various levels of Antithese’s complex structure. Indeed, tension, as an indispensable element of the piece, is a key to deciphering Kagel’s notion of anarchy in music.
Mikawa, Makoto, “Anarchy in the Unity: Compositional and Aesthetic Tensions in Mauricio Kagel’s Antithese für einen Darsteller mit elektronischen und öffentlichen Klängen (1962)” (2012). Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository. Paper 951.