press reviews

Electronic works

Klangfiguren II
The young G.M. Koenig’s piece bears witness to an unparalleled mastery of the new material, an unmistakable virtuosity with which he handles it. (Darmstädter Echo, June 4 1956)
His are the purest electronics of all, Klangfiguren II – clean, hard, unspectacular, wonderful. (WIRE, Sept. 1991) 

Gottfried Michael Koenigs ‘Essay’ is an electronic study that fascinates because of the counterpoint of moving sounds, a far echo of traditional music-making. (Der Tagespiegel, no. 3817)

The colour-coded Funktionen are brillant: witty, pithy exercises in stereo counterpoint. (WIRE, Sept. 1991)
One thing that strikes my attention when listening to these works is that Koenig does not try to simulate any sound space or psychoacoustic behavior at all. It is important to listen to the music of this collection (CD BVHAAST9001/2), in which the composer’s goal is to present the sounds and their transformations as abstract as they are. It is a music that goes beyond our cultural barriers to perception. (LEONARDO, 2/1 1992)

Instrumental works

Two Piano Pieces
Gottfried Michael Koenig’s Two Piano Pieces are among the very best of their kind. Their complicated construction in ‘layers’ is merely a means to an end; a well-balanced harmony predominated. (Neue Kurier, Vienna, 24.11.1960)

Woodwind Quintet
Gottfried Michael Koenig’s quintet for wind instruments was rehearsed for three months before its premiere. Everyone involved could be satisfied with the result: the performers, for the 34 year-old electronic music student from Cologne had clearly become acquainted with the best of the best woodwind playing and adapted his skills correspondingly, and the audience for recognizing in Koenig’s time-table many an interesting, attractive range of register variation, of colour and ornamental density and of highly effective chord pillars. (Die Welt, April 28, 1960)

String Quartet 1959
The Koenig work, Quartet 1959, dedicated to the LaSalle Quartet, is a glassy, brittle affair, full of interesting stabs in unexpected places. It is squeaky, thin to the point of scrawniness, and like much of the music written by young men today, it makes a few notes do where many were needed by their predecessors… Mr. Koenig’s music is game and sassy. It puckers up its face and says ‘blah’, and this is an attitude which I find commendable wherever it occurs. (The Post & Times-Star, April 6 1960)
Koenig takes as his point of departure the music of Webern… His quartet is paradoxical music, full of tiny detonations and tiny assurances of a familiar fragment that disappears before it can be identified or grasped. Koenig is playing a wild, fantastic little game with us, demonstrating that two and two are five, that up is down, and regularity and convention are for regression. But all artists play some tricks, at least those with a sense of irony, among whom are often the best. (Cincinnati Enquirer, April 6, 1960) 

Segmente 99–105
Most rewarding was the totally original way in which the instruments related to each other: unforseeable yet always justifying, in retrospect, their particular mode of dialogue. Also astonishing was the balance of ‘tonality’ and ‘atonality’ (the former being defined by pitch cell repetition rather than chordal structures). In short, Segmente was a well-crafted, well-balanced work. (Computer Music Journal, 7/2, 1983) 

3 ASKO Pieces
This work, entirely instrumental but written with the aid of a computer, raised once again the issue of algorithmic music. The composer’s task is divided in two: first, he must determine his working environment and his decision criteria. Second, he must extract all relevant musical variables and fix them in terms of an explicit program comprehensible to a computer. It was very interesting to note that even at a first hearing, the degree of coordination of ‘primitive’ musical elements (density, reduction, tension, resolution, predictability) emerged in so natural a manner from an automated procedure. Altogether superb work, the 3 Asko Pieces were splendidly performed and directed (notwithstanding notational difficulties). (Computer Music Journal, vol.9, no.2, 1985)
The machine did not produce the customary synthetic sounds here but made even the composition – in accordance with the program which Koenig had devised himself and which constituted his actual contribution to this work. The execution of the composition was a matter of approximately one minute for the computer. – Koenig had not only given the computer precise instructions but also specified the freedom with which the computer – by means of a random generator – could decide how to go on. The machine – and this is the crucial difference from the electronic music of the 1950s – had learned how to compose. In those days composers had to start off with the labourious task of producing sounds, then to transform them and finally splice them in order to make the piece. One could produce synthetic sounds in those days, but there were no computers to help. (Darmstädter Echo, December 29 1986)

Segmente 92–98
Gottfried Michael Koenig requires complex, virtuoso figures of his players in Segmente 92–98 for violin and cello. He conducts quasi-systematic experiments with contrapuntal interplay, solo interludes and excursions into borderlands which result in a eerily fragile sonority. (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 24.9.1996)
The seventy- year-old’s succinct idiom is so conscious of form that every tone and every figure is pleasingly anchored in the structure of the piece, at the same time forming perpetually new constellations. (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 19.9.1996)

Beitrag is a large-scale, entirely instrumental work for twenty-five instruments, the score of which was computer-generated using the composer’s well-known PROJECT 1. The composition is vintage Koenig with excellent orchestration and great orchestral dynamicism. It is an important and significant work: Koenig has accomplished another step in the use of automated compositional structures, giving a palpable demonstration of how such procedures in the right hands can produce an authentic composition… Koenig has successfully blended his extensive experience with the formalization of compositional structures with a refined taste for orchestration and the dynamic use of timbre. (Perspectives of New Music)
Gottfried Michael Koenig’s computer-generated orchestral piece Beitrag is an artistically well-balanced, sensitively perceived sound-puzzle with the coolness of expression so typical of Koenig. (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Nov. 1986)

String Quartet 1987
The Darmstadt school is clearly audible: serial thinking all over the place. What the musicians play is some kind of exchange of thought: short and sweet, but expressively tense. In the background there is a string quartet tradition, especially the late Beethoven. Koenig has subtly filtered this tradition. (Darmstädter Echo, August 10, 1988)

Theoretical writings 

Ästhetische Praxis (Aesthetic Practice)
Koenig has not lowered his standard one bit in the 40 years since the first essay. In terms of content and relevance his Äesthetische Praxis is unrivalled in New Music after 1945. (Positionen, May 1994)
It supplies invaluable insights into the concepts of aesthetic and physical sound of a time which, under the paradigm of a hackneyed post-modernism, has receded into a much too distant past. … Koenig’s texts read as lucidly formulated theoretical discourses; they are also a fascinating record of a steadfast reformulation, relativation and elaboration of mental approaches, of the transmission of conceptual ideas and knowledge. (Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, Nov. 1992)
Mr. Koenig’s originality both as a composer and theoretician is well known. Less well known is the streak of social criticism pervading his early writings, and deriving from the Frankfurt School. For the American reader, G.M. Koenig’s peculiar notion of work with computers in music, which does not endorse ‘computer music’, is of interest, since it provides a critical perspective of mindless acceptance of technology. In his writings, Mr. Koenig clearly articulates a ‘European’ view of the function of computers in music, and in the arts generally, which is much influenced by his sophisticated reflections on electronic music in the tradition of the Cologne School. (However, G.M. Koenig is of no ‘school’.) It is to be hoped that some of his writings will appear in English in the future. (Computer Music Journal, Winter 1996)