Contemporary and Classical New Music - Discussion and Recommendations

Recently came across the Berlin Prise for Young Artists finalist video and it’s got me on a bit of a contemporary music deep dive, and I was surprised there wasn’t already a contemporary music discussion thread.

I would love to hear people’s recommendations of favourite contemporary composers/musicians, and also generally want to nerd out about how amazing some of the performances in the above video are.
I’m especially interested to see the crossover of what sorts of contemporary music synth and electronics folk like!


Love everything these guys put out

Also Erstwhiles sister label

and Michael Pisaro-Liu’s Gravity Wave


genuine q: is there a difference between whats considered “contemporary” vs a term i hear often “classical new music”??

either way id be remiss not to mention sarah belle reid, one of the kindest, most generous ppl ive ever met in electronic / new music circles. Bio — Sarah Belle Reid


I’ve seen them used pretty interchangeably (edit: changed title to reflect this), I definitely feel like classical new music fits the bounds of this thread :slight_smile: it’s so strange that terms for genre within classical music feels so blurred, though maybe that’s intentional.
I guess most of it can be summarised as ‘music that is art first and entertainment second’.
I’m excited to listen to some Sarah Belle Reid today, I’ve come across her music before a little but she definitely deserves some dedicated listening :slight_smile:

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Hi !

I don’t know when “new” started, so I try anyway and start with one I come back to whenever I feel a need to “reset” my music brain :
Fausto Romitelli
He was an Italian composer (very sadly he passed away very young, in 2004), mostly spectral music I’d say, although in a really modern way (think Pink Floyd meets Griset meets Aphex Twin).
I recommend starting with Professor Badtrip, his three parts work (lesson one, two and three) in which he composes music inspired by the texts of Henri Michaux written under the influence of mescaline, the idea with those compositions is IIRC that it is trying to convey the feeling that the music itself is under the influence of said drug.

The rendering of the composition by Ensemble Ictus is perfect, as always.
If you feel like digging more into his catalogue you should try his (almost) opera “An Index of Metals”, beautiful…

Thanks for starting such a thread, I will check every recommendation in it !


Digging more into Sarah’s music today and the way she is combining traditional instruments and electronic processes is very very exciting to me. I personally work a lot with traditional folk instruments with modular and pure data so her work is really resonating!


I’m so glad this thread exists! I love getting recommendations for this musical world. Quick question, though: what timespan do you consider “contemporary”? I think of it as from the last hundred years or so, as composers shrugged off the Romantic era and started to get delightfully weird, but that’s just me.

In either case, I suggest checking out Olga Neuwirth. I bought this album of hers blind, basically on the basis that she’s a contemporary composer making chamber music, and was really impressed by it.

And seconded with Sarah Belle Reid—she’s fantastic!


A very interesting question, and one im not in the best position to answer, being faily new to this whole area.

In visual art we generally use contemporary to refer to art by artists who are still making art, as in, the literally definition of contemporary. But then we also use ‘modern’ to refer to a period of art that ended 50 years ago. It seems all art has a label problem :stuck_out_tongue:

I would pretty much agree with you, for the scope of this thread, we’re referring to anything from the time where classical music got weird.

My personal interest and focus though is current composers from minority backgrounds working modern social issues into their work and exploring and challenging the legacy of the west, and specifically of straight white men and their dominance and in classical music, and the perception of western classical music as ‘superior’. Which I was really excited to find discussed a lot in the video I linked in my original post!


Haha, ain’t that the truth! Even the term “new music” feels like a misnomer in some respects, although it’s still probably the most accurate label to use. But yeah, maybe a good rule of thumb is that the artists in question are still making work.

Also, while I’m thinking of it, Eliane Radigue might be worth your time. I’m not incredibly knowledgeable of her work, but I picked up a copy of Opus 17 not too long ago, in which she composes with tape feedback, as well as doing a piece very similar to Lucier’s I am Sitting in a Room (which is also a piece worth looking checking out, although Lucier doesn’t quite fit what you’re looking for, haha).


A big +1 for Fausto Romitelli.

I’m a huge fan of Pierre-Yves Macé. He really deserves to be more famous outside of France.
He’s as good when composing electroacoustic / musique concrète than musique for small and large ensembles.

A few tracks

And there’s a lot more !


Contemporary ensemble plays death metal inspired minimalism. I love this record.

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Anna Thorvaldsdottir is my favourite composer (and a wonderful person). I try to create place in my music a lot and I love her messy, organic landscapes. In the Light of Air is a fantastic 40 minute chamber piece and she’s also got a lot of fantastic orchestral music. Other composers I enjoy include Kaija Saariaho, John Luther Adams, Éliane Radigue, Pauline Oliveros, and Tanya Tagaq. I started off in the contemporary classical world and have been learning more about the electronic world over the last few years (there’s a lot of overlap). In both worlds I’m most excited about music that focuses more on timbre/colour than on pitch and rhythm.


My introduction to contemporary classical (or whatever) came to me from NPR of all places with this series, Meet the Composer. Would recommend starting at episode 1 though they’re not in any order (I just love that one, featuring John Luther Adams) but there are many gems. Bonus for Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith “exclusive” track. I wish the song exploder podcast was more like this one.


everything i kno is bc of sarah, i cannot iterate enough how open & giving she is. truly one of the biggest forces of good in making synthesis / electronic music creation accessible to anyone.

ill also recommend some friends who i think fall into these genres who do great work, tbh these arent really genres im too familiar w so hopefully they fit lol tbh the line between electronic / synthesist / new musician is one thats hard for me to place sometimes

finally ill leave this organizations link here! Who We Are - New Music USA

ive been enjoying everything that ppl have linked so far!! i feel v fortunate to have been mentored and in community w more classically trained artists, yet kno so little abt these genres or the ‘scene’, so im happy to be able to explore more!!


exactly my choice of composers :+1:

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