Paper conceived for the isaSCIENCE Symposium, August 2021


To develop a conception of a musical ecosystem as alternative systemic model, I intersect theoretical explorations with an autoethnographic account of recent feminist actions around the ZKM Karlsruhe. A major concert and symposium ‘Einklang freier Wesen’ was planned by this institution in January 2021, featuring some the most prominent ensembles, a composer as well as an array of speakers – all white men. We – the people who are active in the music world – need more inclusive and global models for the future. Regarding the ZKM event, the uproar in the community culminated in collaborative online protest. Quickly planned actions were conducted by a network of women under #ZKMfreecritters, backed by institutions such as the Archiv Frau und Musik, GRiNM, Musica Femina München, the research project ‘On the Fragility of Sounds’ and the female:pressure network. While the news platform SWR joined in, the event was officially cancelled, followed by an apology announcing ZKM’s decision to rethink their event. My exploration mixes elements from autoethnography, artistic research, and ecosystem ecology to discuss recent developments in the field of contemporary music. As composer and artistic researcher I explain my practice alongside a description of my relationship with the canon. Sketching out how the canon is surrounded by a much larger, dynamic system, I position my practice as innovative agency within a bigger musical dimension. The discourse about the necessity of this paradigmatic change intensifies considering the pandemic crisis and the state of the Earth. To conclude, I describe how the canon appears to be a tree among others, while I prefer to explore the forest via listening and study its ecology, instead. Arguments from ecosystem ecology bring further understanding about the process of decision making in times of complexity. For composers, decision making is a key resource in their practice.


Autoethnography, artistic research, ecosystem ecology, critical art theory, feminism, perception theory, storytelling