Richard McGregor

"Die Detonation ist am Körper angekommen" - Rihm's creative explosion in 1981

In the late 1970s, following intense, wounding criticism of his compositional voice, Wolfgang Rihm began to engage more intensely in studying other artistic forms in the search for a new means of musical expression. As part of this process he began to translate literary and artistic ideas into his musical procedures such that, by December 1981, in an interview with Wilhelm Matejka he could claim to have finally found his own sound. This paper will explore the crucial significance of two works from that year in this process of discovery: Umhergetrieben, aufgewirbelt for alto flute and mixed chorus and Tutuguri VI for 6 percussionists completed just before and after his marriage in July 1981.  They are, I will argue, the key works that underpin his confident assertion and which enabled the creation of Tutuguri II and III later that year, and his subsequent musical development.

In order to understand Rihm's subsequent development of technique and idea it is crucial to discern the effect of these non-musical stimuli on his creative processes at that time, and the complex interconnections subsequently made evident in his compositions, writings and interviews. This paper combines elements of textual interpretation with contextual analysis of these two works in order to explore aspects of stylistic change exhibited within them, specifically in Tutuguri VI through Rihm's treatment of the percussion and in Umhergetrieben aufgewirbelt through his distinctive setting of Nietzsche's text. I will also examine symbolism inherent in the works and semiotic interpretations. Links will be made to Rihm's writings and interviews in particular those of 1980-82 in which the connections with, and influence of, other art forms illuminates his compositional processes.