One century ago, in 1920 and 1922, Antwerp hosted three conferences of modern art. These events were characterized by the antithesis between on the one hand a Flemish, socially engaged, humanitarian expressionism, and on the other hand an internationally oriented abstract movement. Although these artistic conferences focused mostly on visual (and also applied) arts, the presence of music was more than a marginal phenomenon: through lectures and concerts, the conferences stimulated the development of a modernist music movement in Antwerp. Upcoming composers, among whom especially graduate students of the Royal Flemish Conservatoire of Antwerp, gathered around the intriguing avant-garde artist E.L.T. Mesens, also known as the ‘talisman of surrealism’, who was greatly influenced by Eric Satie. Some of them, including August L. Baeyens and Karel Albert, built careers upon this music movement and would later become of great influence as a composer, journal editor, teacher, and opera director.
The present research project investigates the origin and evolution of this Antwerp modernist music movement, and examines, analyzes, performs, and records a selection of its music.