I think the invention of non-12-note tempered melodic/harmonic concepts came from an eternal human wish to really “invent” and not just “repeat.” And this idea came together with a deep feeling that the old 12 tones are too deeply connected with developments up to Schoenberg—are just worn out—and don’t fit the special experiences of our ear. I personally think that “microtonality” has to go together with research into the time domain. So a rhythmic language will have to be developed extensively, especially pulse-related music. The anonymity of melody, harmony and pulse in the so-called “avant garde music” was disastrous.For me the use of microtones is not bound to a specific “system.” I love just intonation, but I am using “strange” intervals either from the harmonic series or not. I even use the piano, for this tuning is for me one of many. Musical invention is boundless.
Manfred Stahnke was born in 1951 in Kiel. In 1966 he started to study composition and musicology in Lübeck, Freiburg, Hamburg and the U.S. In 1973 he passed his exams in music theory and composition in Freiburg. In 1979 he earned his doctorate in Hamburg with Constantin Floros; the subject of his thesis was Pierre Boulez’ Third Piano Sonata. Manfred Stahnke studied composition in Freiburg in 1970 with Wolfgang Fortner, and from 1973-74 with Klaus Huber. As of 1974 his principal professor was György Ligeti. For many years now Stahnke has worked intensively with the new, computer-supported techniques. In the U.S. he used computers in 1979 and 1980 to create precise microtonal music. At Stanford University, where he started working in 1980, he was introduced to real-time systems, which were new at the time. Since 1989 he has been using his knowledge of computer music at the School of Music and Theater in Hamburg, above all to conduct precise microtone experiments and to study complex metrics, in particular from the Middle Ages in Europe, and to study various non-European music traditions. Starting in 1983 Stahnke worked as an associate lecturer of music theory at the School of Music and Theater in Hamburg, and he has been a professor of composition and music theory at the same school since 1994, where he teaches his own composition class. Stahnke’s works have received prizes and awards: 1978 in Hitzacker, 1979 in Stuttgart and 1983 in Bonn (Beethoven Prize). The East German Cultural Committee granted him awards in 1983 and 1985. In 1985 he also received the Bach Award Scholarship, Hamburg, and the Culture Award Scholarship, Kiel, and he was awarded in 1989 the Ligeti Prize. Stahnke has dealt with aspects of contemporary music at international symposiums and written numerous essays on theory. He has been a lecturer in, among other places, Wellington (New Zealand) with Jack Body, and at the Institute of Musicology of the University of Hamburg, and he has conducted seminars in many countries. In 1991 Manfred Stahnke and Peter Niklas Wilson founded the Gesellschaft für Neue Musik Hamburg e. V. (The Society of New Music). And in 1992 he founded the ensemble Chaosma together with friends of his from studying with Ligeti. Since 1999 he has been a member of the Music Advisory Board of the Goethe Institute. In the same year he was elected a member of the Free Academy of the Arts in Hamburg. In 2002 the microtonal opera “Orpheus Kristall” was premiered at Muenchener Biennale.