After “New Simplicity”: “New Complexity”

New Simplicity (in German, die neue Einfachheit) was a stylistic tendency amongst some of the younger generation of German composers in the late 1970s and early 1980s, reacting against not only the European avant garde of the 1950s and 1960s, but also against the broader tendency toward objectivity found from the beginning of the twentieth century. Alternative terms sometimes used for this movement are “inclusive composition”, “new subjectivity” (neue Subjektivität), “new inwardness” (Neue Innigkeit), “New Romanticism”, “New Sensuality”, “New Expressivity”, “New Classicism”, and “New Tonality”.

After “New Simplicity”, there is New Complexity.

New Complexity is a label principally applied to composers seeking a “complex, multi-layered interplay of evolutionary processes occurring simultaneously within every dimension of the musical material”.

Though often atonal, highly abstract, and dissonant in sound, New Complexity music is most readily characterized by the use of techniques which require complex musical notation. This includes extended techniques, complex and often unstable textures, microtonality, highly disjunct melodic contour, complex layered rhythms, abrupt changes in texture, and so on.

It is also characterized, in contrast to the music of the immediate post–World War II serialists, by the frequent reliance of its composers on poetic conceptions, very often implied in the titles of individual works and work-cycles.

The origin of the name New Complexity is uncertain; amongst the candidates suggested for having coined it are the composer Nigel Osborne, the Belgian musicologist Harry Halbreich, and the British-Australian musicologist Richard Toop, who gave currency to the concept of a movement with his article “Four Facets of the New Complexity” (Toop 1988), an article that nevertheless emphasized the individuality of four composers (Richard Barrett, Chris Dench, James Dillon, and Michael Finnissy), both in terms of their working methods and the sound of their compositions, and which demonstrated they did not constitute a unified “school of thought” (Boros 1994, 92–93).

In the UK, particularly at the instigation of ensembles Suoraan and later Ensemble Exposé, works by “New Complexity” composers were for some time frequently programmed together with then unfashionable non-UK composers including Xenakis and Feldman, but also such diverse figures as Clarence Barlow, Hans-Joachim Hespos, and Heinz Holliger.

There are various individual performers who have become to varying degrees closely associated with the movement, among them flautists Nancy Ruffer and Lisa Cella, oboists Christopher Redgate and Peter Veale, clarinettists Carl Rosman, Andrew Sparling and Michael Norsworthy, pianists Augustus Arnone, James Clapperton, Nicolas Hodges, Mark Knoop, Marilyn Nonken, Mark Gasser, Ermis Theodorakis, and Ian Pace, violinists Mieko Kanno and Mark Menzies, cellists Franklin Cox, Arne Deforce and Friedrich Gauwerky. A number of ensembles are also known for performing New Complexity works, such as the Arditti Quartet, JACK Quartet, Ensemble Exposé, Thallein Ensemble, Ensemble 21, Ensemble SurPlus, and ELISION Ensemble. Works by Ferneyhough and Dillon, in particular, has been taken on by a wider range of European ensembles, including ensemble recherche, Ensemble Accroche-Note, the Nieuw Ensemble, and Ensemble Contrechamps.

For more details: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Complexity