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Current publication

The graphic worlds of the composer Hermann Meier

Buch Hermann Meier, Heidy Zimmermann, Michelle Ziegler, Roman Brotbeck

The editors

Heidy Zimmermann

Is a research assistant at the Paul Sacher Foundation in Basel, where she is also responsible for the archives of Hermann Meier.

Michelle Ziegler

Studied musicology, art history and media studies in Fribourg (Switzerland). She is a freelance journalist and is writing a doctoral thesis about Hermann Meier.

Roman Brotbeck

Works as a musicologist at the Bern University of the Arts HKB and as a freelance writer. His research areas are the music of the 20th century, microtonality, experimental music theatre, and Robert Walser.


2017. 224 pp., ca 130 colour illustrations. Paperback, CHF 48.00 / EUR 48.00
ISBN 978-3-0340-1418-2
Published in October 2017.

The composer Hermann Meier (1906–2002) from Solothurn pursued visionary musical ideas in his works. In the 1950s, he set himself free from the usual practices of the avant-garde. With his large-scale graphic composition plans, he conjured up notions of a “Mondrian music” instead, of “architectonics with rectangles”. His works were hardly ever played during his lifetime, but Meier is today being discovered as one of the most significant representatives of the avant-garde in Switzerland. In tandem with an exhibition of his works in the Solothurn Art Gallery, this first book about Meier is now being published.

Although he worked in the remote village of Zullwil in the “Schwarzbubenland” region in the east of Canton Solothurn, Hermann Meier followed contemporary artistic trends with great interest. Taking his own version of serial theory as his starting point, he set himself free of melodic procedures in the 1950s, working instead with hard blocks of sound. In his old age, he composed only electronic works for many years. What remained unchanged, however, was his highly visual working method. Meier created large-scale, graphic composition plans that he then “set to music” in a second step in his composition process. His work thus offers insightful analogies for scholarly debates about the music of the 20th century and about graphic notation.

This is the first documentary volume about Meier’s work. Besides twelve essays, it also includes numerous illustrations, a work catalogue and a detailed inventory of the sources in his archives. This publication thus serves as a “handbook” for Hermann Meier and offers an insight into a hitherto neglected chapter of Swiss music history.


Heidy Zimmermann: “Koordinatensysteme musikalischer Gedanken” (“Coordinate systems of musical ideas”).
David Magnus: “Ästhetische Operativität. Über die Verbindung von Klang und Bild in der musikalischen Notation” (“Aesthetic operativity. On the link between sound and image in musical notation”).
Pascal Decroupet: “Klangmorphologien, Strukturbeziehungen und Übersichtsdiagramme. Zur Rolle der bildhaften und grafischen Skizzen bei seriellen und postseriellen Komponisten” (“Sound morphologies, structural relationships and overview diagrams. On the role of pictorial and graphic sketches for serial and post-serial composers”).
Jörg Jewanski: “Musik nach Bildern oder Musik wie Bilder. Beziehungen zwischen Musik und Malerei im 20. Jahrhundert” (“Music after images or music like images. Relationships between music and painting in the 20th century”).
Doris Lanz: “‘Versuchen Sie Brasilia in ein Musikstück zu verwandeln’. Zur Rolle des Visuellen in Wladimir Vogels Werk/Œuvre und Lehrtätigkeit” (“‘Try and turn Brasilia into a piece of music’. On the role of the visual in Wladimir Vogel’s oeuvre and his teaching”).
Roman Brotbeck: “‘Das kleine Hänschen’ Hermann Meier. Die Schweizer Wladimir-Vogel-Schüler im Vergleich” (“Hermann Meier, ‘Little Hans’. Wladimir Vogel’s Swiss students in comparison”).
Michel Roth: “‘Grosse Wand ohne Bilder’. Sämtliche Orchesterwerke von Hermann Meier, ein Leseprotokoll” (“‘A large wall without pictures’. The complete orchestral works of Hermann Meier. A reading log”).
Christoph Haffter: “‘… alles unerbittlich zerreissen!’ Das Ideal der aufgehobenen Zeit in Hermann Meiers Orchesterwerken der 1960er-Jahre” (“‘… tear everything up, relentlessly!’ The ideal of cancelled time in Hermann Meier’s orchestral works of the 1960s”).
Marc Kilchenmann: “Die Rolle der grafischen Pläne im Kompositionsprozess bei Hermann Meier” (“The role of graphic plans in Hermann Meier’s compositional process”).
Michelle Ziegler: “‘Ich glaube nicht mehr, dass ich mit gewöhnlichen Instrumenten weiterfahren kann’. Hermann Meiers Klaviermusik an der Schwelle zur Elektronik” (“‘I don’t believe that I can continue with normal instruments any more’. Hermann Meier’s piano music on the cusp of electronics”).
Michael Harenberg: “Flächen – Strukturen – Schichtungen. Zu den technischen Bedingungen der elektronischen Musik Hermann Meiers” (“Surfaces – structures – layers. On the technical requirements of Hermann Meier’s electronic music”).
Michelle Ziegler, in conversation with the pianists Gilles Grimaître and Dominik Blum: “Das Gebäude muss zum Klingen gebracht warden” (“The building must be made to resound”).

Pictures from the Exhibition Mondrian-Music

at the Art Gallery in Solothurn

28th of October 2017 -  4th of February 2018

Past Events


Plan Hermann Meier 23.6.84

Mondrian music

The graphic worlds of the composer Hermann Meier

28 October 2017 – 4 February 2018
Solothurn Art Gallery – Graphic Collection


The composer Hermann Meier (1906–2002) from Solothurn pursued visionary musical ideas in his works. He was especially inspired by contemporary painting and architecture, in both of which he had a keen interest. Meier dreamed of a “Mondrian music”, of “music-making with finished surfaces”, and of an “architectonics with rectangles”. He no longer wanted to draft his new music on manuscript paper using conventional notation, but wanted instead to draw it, to set it down and layer it. Thus Meier created large-scale, often highly colourful, graphic composition plans that he subsequently “set to music”. These graphic ideas suggest a proximity to the paintings of Concrete artists, and they radicalised his art of composing. In a late creative phase, Meier conceived his plans exclusively for electronic music. This exhibition shows many of Meier’s composition plans in public for the first-ever time. Besides a representative selection of these graphic notations, further documents from Meier’s archives are on display, along with graphic scores of other composers such as the legendary “December 1952” by Earle Brown (1926–2002). This exhibition will be complemented by several concerts that will enable the visitor to gain comprehensive insights into the work of this unconventional Solothurn artist, who is barely known to a broader public. The exhibition is being held in collaboration with the Paul Sacher Foundation Basel and the Bern University of the Arts HKB. It has been curated by Michelle Ziegler.

Other events during the exhibition

Ausstellung Hermann Meier im Kunstmuseum Solothurn

Saturday, 28 October 2017

5 p.m., opening reception in the Solothurn Art Gallery
7.30 p.m., Orchestra concert with the Biel-Solothurn Symphony Orchestra in the Franciscan Church in Solothurn

Saturday, 4 November 2017, 4 p.m.

Public guided tour with a short concert

Tuesday, 14 November 2017, 12.15 p.m.

Art lunch

Wednesday, 22 November 2017, 2 – 5 p.m.

Art communication
Kids’ club “listening with your eyes”, for children aged 7 – 12, with Claudia Leimer, art communicator.

Saturday, 2 December 2017 from 1:30 p.m.

Concert day “Music after pictures”
Solothurn Concert Hall
Four short concerts, a brief introduction and a CD launch, with Dominik Blum.
Works by Hermann Meier, Earle Brown and Morton Feldman

Sunday, 17 December 2017, 11 a.m.

Public guided tour with a short concert




Subject to change without notice

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