Artforum: A 'Mesmerizing Display' at Concert of Christian Wolff's Music

Critic David Grundy, writing for Artforum, looked back on Jacob H. Strauss 1922 Professor of Music, Emeritus, Christian Wolff's distinguished seventy-three-year career as a composer in a thoughtful and laudatory review of a recent concert of Wolff's music in Berlin.

The program featured newly commissioned works alongside pieces dating over fifty years of Wolff's career, leading Grundy to reflect on Wolff's life, his style ("that language of presence through absence, of rigorous openness," Grundy attempts), and his understanding of the connection between musical experimentation and political possibility. Nearing ninety, Wolff continues to champion the avant-garde with music that's "taut, thoughtful, and beguilingly strange, its textures sparse and sometimes demanding, filled with complex rhythms and tensile silences," notes Grundy. At the heart of Wolff's experimentalist practice is a modest but determined political ethos. Grundy paraphrases: "Music is not on the barricades, but it is one of the ways he can contribute something to the current situation, offering, in its own language and on its own terms, the possibility that new things might happen, that things could be different, and that the world could be better than it is."

The concert was the opening event of October's Month for Contemporary Music in Berlin, with low brass trio Zinc and Copper performing Wolff's music in the Zwingli-Kirche.

Read the full review here