Mauricio Kagel was undoubtedly one of the major figures in the new music of the last fifty years. Growing up in the rich cultural atmosphere of Buenos Aires in the 1940s and '50s, where the writer Jorge Luis Borges was one of his teachers, he became a member of avant-garde circles as well as receiving a rigorous musical education. By 1957 Kagel had acted on the advice of Pierre Boulez to move to Europe to pursue a career as a composer. He quickly established himself at Cologne, the rallying point for young composers at the time, and became one of the leading, if controversial, figures at the famous Darmstadt summer courses. He embraced multiple serialism, aleatory technique and electronics, but he is best known for his pioneering explorations in music theatre, radio play, film and mixed media. BjÃ¶rn Heile charts Kagel's compositional development, considering the aesthetic and ideological issues the composer raises in his work. Focusing on Kagel's use of music as a means of intellectual inquiry, Heile shows Kagel to constantly question the nature of music and its role in society. Kagel's broadening of the concept of music to include theatre, film and other media, his disdain for purism as well as his subversive humour and sense of the absurd have challenged reified notions of music and art. Heile considers Kagel's background as Argentine immigrant to Europe (born to Russian-Jewish immigrants to Argentina) to situate the composer's aesthetic. What emerges is the breadth of Kagel's imagination and the multiplicity of contexts he drew from, which were both distinctive and, in the age of pluralist multiculturalism and globalization, exemplary. As Heile demonstrates, it was Kagel's enlarged notion of music as inherently multimedial that may be his most important contribution to new music, and on which his reputation ultimately rests.
'BjÃ¶rn Heile provides a wide-ranging and persuasive portrait of one of contemporary music's most prominent yet provocative senior figures. Kagel isn't easy to pin down, but this book manages it by demonstrating close familiarity with all the works discussed, and it conveys their essence, both visual and aural, clearly and engagingly. Touching on the wider musical and critical context as well, Dr Heile's book is the first to make plain Kagel's significance for an English-language readership, and it should leave its readers more eager than ever to explore this rewarding repertory.' Arnold Whittall, King's College, London. 'Astonishingly, this excellent book is the first in English about one of the most fascinating and paradoxical of living composers. BjÃ¶rn Heile's impressive survey reveals the extraordinary range of Kagel's work, from his anarchic inventions of the 1960s and '70s - embracing music, film, theatre, dance and radiophonic art - to an ironic yet sophisticated treatment of post-modern culture, culminating in concert music of lasting imagination and power. Despite Kagel's centrality to the European avant-garde, Heile finds enduring Argentinian characteristics: most audibly its dance music, more enigmatically a Borgesian surrealism in which fantasy replaces reality. Underlying Kagel's achievement, as Heile observes, "the wondrous and the absurd go hand in hand"' Richard Steinitz ’For the first time the whole Kagel, from the Argentinian beginnings to 2004… very readable book… In his own words, Kagel is trying to write music "which encourages thinking and has to complemented by thinking". Heile's monograph completely fulfils this demand. It is as useful for looking up factual information as for reflection - on a composer who, like no other, brings ideas to sensory perception. That is the best that can be said about a Kagel book.’ Neue Zeitschrift fÃ¼r Musik ’Kagel is a major cultural figure with a wonderfully rich output of work that shows
Contents: Introduction: In search of Kagel; Buenos Aires; Beginnings in Cologne; The instrumental theatre; Experimentalism and multimedia; Referentiality and postmodernism; Apocrypha and simulacra; Notes; Chronological list of works; Select bibliography; Indexes.