Dr. Thomas Schäfer: The province as the capital

Darmstadt: one of the “capitals” of the music of our time? Darmstadt: able to compete with new-music metropolises like Cologne, Paris, New York, and Berlin? Darmstadt: synonymous with state-of-the-art contemporary composition and interpretation of as well as reflection about current music? Questions that can only be answered with a definite “Yes”.


Whoever wants to talk about new music after 1945 cannot get around Darmstadt. In Darmstadt, the reconstruction of the cultural life after 1945 is very closely linked to one name: Wolfgang Steinecke (1910–1961). It was he who founded both the Darmstadt International Summer Courses for New Music in 1946 and the International Music Institute Darmstadt (IMD) in 1948.

The initial idea was, along the lines of a summer academy, to intensively exchange ideas about the practice and theory of current music, to make up for what had been missed, oppressed and suppressed, and to tie back into the tradition of modernity.

Nowadays, the International Summer Courses for New Music, which were hosted for the 45th time in 2010, are an international forum and festival for young composers, interpreters and theorists. The interest in and desire for participation in and continuation of the myth of the Darmstadt summer courses are consistent: upwards of 500 candidates from nearly 50 countries wanted to participate in the summer courses of 2010.


The artistic responsibility and organization of the biannual event is assumed by the International Music Institute Darmstadt.

The IMD acts as a network partner on various national and international platforms, is a member of several as­­sociations committed to conveying and propagating new music, defines itself as a driving force for research projects, possesses an extensive – publicly accessible – library, and last but not least, archives the history of the international summer courses from their inception. Sixty years of national and international music history in sound, writing, and image are found here. Here too: whoever wants to get a detailed overview of music of our times cannot get around Darmstadt.

autorDr. Thomas Schäfer was born in Hamburg in 1967. He studied musico­­l­ogy, modern German literature and philosophy at the University of Hamburg. In 1997, he habilitated at the Humboldt University of Berlin. From 1998 to 1999, the author held a postdoctoral position in the “aesthetic education” post-graduate programme at the University of Hamburg and was also editor for new music at Norddeutscher Rund­­­funk (North German broadcasting corporation) in Hamburg. From 2000 to 2007, he was dramatic adviser for contemporary music at the Vienna concert house. In 2008, he was programme curator for the Vienna Modern Festival. Since 2009, Thomas Schäfer has been director of the International Music Institute Darmstadt (IMD) and art director of the Darmstadt International Summer Courses for New Music.