“Explore!” and “Enjoy!” – two unconventional as well as characteristic playing instructions found in scores by the British composer Rebecca Saunders – friendly invitations to take precisely the same kind of probing and playful stance that has inspired the activities of the INTERNATIONAL ENSEMBLE MODERN ACADEMY (IEMA) and KLANGSPUREN SCHWAZ from the beginning. “I think a musician loves his instrument, that he takes pleasure in the sounds he makes. Especially playing with unusual sounds should be a source of enjoyment! It is just that one must first acquire the technical possibilities to enter this space. Once one is inside and has started to play, however, it should be a pleasure to work with these sounds. It is so much fun to explore these new sound spaces with others. That is also why I have such long working relationships with musicians,” comments the composer in a conversation. It shall therefore be quite the ideal constellation when this year for the 25th and 15th anniversaries of KLANGSPUREN and KLANGSPUREN IEMA respectively Rebecca Saunders in the role of Composer in Residence will share her profound knowledge and musical curiosity with the students of the IEMA.  Rebecca Saunders was born in London in 1967 and studied initially with Nigel Osborne in Edinburgh. She later went to Germany on a scholarship, where she graduated in Karlsruhe with Wolfgang Rihm. Today Saunders, who is also highly and widely revered as a teacher, lives in Berlin and is professor of composition at the Hanover University of Music. Among the many distinctions she has received for her work and contribution to her field are the Mauricio Kagel Music Prize 2015 and her appointments as a member of the Berlin as well as the Saxon Academy of Arts, to name a few. She has written a good 60 compositions, which boast a strong and growing presence on international stages and in the playing schedules of major ensembles and orchestras. 


The composer’s expressive sonorism arises from the intensive joint examination of the sounds, instruments, and moving bodies she conducts with like-minded, “co-explorative” musicians. In this way, many of her works have emerged from close collaboration with some of the outstanding virtuosos of our day, including the singer Juliet Fraser, the cellist Séverine Ballon, the trumpeter Marco Blaauw, or the pianist Nicolas Hodges. Regular cooperation with such groups as Ensemble Modern, Ensemble Musikfabrik, Klangforum Wien, Arditti Quartet, or Freiburger Barockorchester has given rise to synergies from which everyone profits. Her music is marked by a wide range of unconventional playing techniques, nuances of timbre, variable spatial impressions, and original textures. At the same time Saunders has shown herself to be a master of effective dramaturgical progression and expansive sound architecture. One of the most fascinating challenges for the musicians interpreting her music is to allow audiences to experience the subtle fringe zones of sound production. Despite her amazingly faithful codification of the acoustically audible elements of the score, the composer from time to time also consciously crosses borders, entering a space where sound eludes control. Here, challenge becomes encouragement to follow one’s own desire to experiment, and the overcoming of virtuoso constraints leads to serendipitous gain for musicians who listen intently to themselves and each other – no wonder, it’s all in the spirit of “Explore!” and “Enjoy!”

Rebecca Saunders @Astrid Ackermann