Music as Existential Experience

  • 27 March 2020

When the Artistic Director of Monday Evening Concerts, Johnathan Hepfer, proposed his idea for an evening of music inspired by the works of Argentine artist Guillermo Kuitca, he spoke of presenting ‘four iconoclasts who changed the course of music history by standing on each other's shoulders and moving boldly: Richard Wagner, Arnold Schoenberg, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Helmut Lachenmann.’ Hepfer, referencing the simplicity of a chess game, elaborated that in each step of the concert program’s trajectory, there would be ‘a simultaneous sense of passing the torch, and also of killing one's metaphorical father in the name of artistic progress... Each composer devours his predecessor, and by doing so, keeps his spirit alive. This is the eternal game of chess in art.’ Performed within the acclaimed exhibition ‘Guillermo Kuitca’ in late July 2019, ‘Music As Existential Experience from Monday Evening Concerts’ was a direct response to Kuitca’s long-standing engagement with literature and philosophical thought, bridging degrees of abstraction between painting and sound. Taking this notion of ‘moving boldly’ quite literally, the audience was asked to physically move between locations within the exhibition and gallery, creating a seamless and constant relationship with the paintings on view, and relentlessly sustaining the performance – not allowing for applause – for over an hour.

Photo: Mario de Lopez

Photo: Mario de Lopez

The interwoven symbiosis of visual art and musical composition created a profound connection between the imagery, and use of gesture and color in Kuitca’s paintings; and together with the live musical performances, seemed to render a larger work of art experienced only by the musicians and audience members alike. This relationship heightened the notions of solitude, isolation and alienation found within the paintings, and for all in attendance, was undoubtedly an evening of ‘Music as Existential Experience.’


Claus-Steffen Mahnkopf - Trema I (1994) 2 min Richard Wagner - Tristan und Isolde Vorspiel (1859/65) 10 min *** Claus-Steffen Mahnkopf - Trema II (1994) 2 min Arnold Schoenberg - Verklärte Nacht (1899) 28 min Claus-Steffen Mahnkopf - Trema III (1994) 2 min *** Karlheinz Stockhausen - Gesang der Jünglinge (1955 - 56) 14 min Helmut Lachenmann - Intérieur I (1965 - 66) 16 min

Vicki Ray, harmonium

Ji Eun Hwang, violin Aiko Richter, violina Xenia Deviatkina-Loh, viola Morgan O'Shaughnessey, viola Niall Taro Ferguson, cello Hyunji Yi, cello

Jonathan Hepfer, percussion

Photo: Mario de Lopez

Photo: Mario de Lopez

About Monday Evening Concerts ​Founded in 1939, Monday Evening Concerts (MEC) is one of the longest running series in the world devoted to contemporary music. MEC has gained international admiration for its presentation of music frequently new, sometimes old and always uniquely stimulating. Musical history is made at Monday Evening Concerts, whether it was the American debut of Pierre Boulez, world premieres of Igor Stravinsky, or the appearances here of such artists as Marino Formenti and the Arditti Quartet. Presenting the finest local and visiting artists, MEC is the place to hear adventurous new music in Los Angeles.Monday Evening Concerts is a seven-time national winner of the ASCAP/Chamber Music America Award for Adventurous Programming and is the subject of a full-length book entitled ‘Evenings On and Off the Roof’ written by Dorothy Lamb Crawford.