TONES – New Music in the Historical Avant-garde

10 December 2022 – 11 June 2023

Among the artistic movements of historical modernism, countless theories, ideas and manifestos emerged that offered new alternatives to traditional concepts of music. Even the concept of music itself changed fundamentally: the arrival of sound recording devices extended possibilities to capture everyday sounds, the exclusivity of tonal sound structures was questioned, and composers and performers experimented with new, mechanical sound-producing tools and compositional methods. However, it was only after the Second World War that these new ideas became fully realised with the advent of electronic instruments.

Erdei KrisztinaRiseset, Victory Over the Sun,13 framed photos, 2 gif loops, video [13:00], 2020,  Fotó: Gál Csaba (PIM – Kassák Múzeum)
This exhibition presents a selection of innovative musical endeavours from the period, based on music theory texts and artworks published in Lajos Kassák’s journals Ma (Today) and Dokumentum (Document), published during the 1920s, and explores the most important Hungarian forums for modern musical trends, with interviews tracing the later history of the new music.
In addition, works by contemporary artists and composers revisit and re-interpret earlier avant-garde endeavours and experiments. 

Exhibiting artists: Zsófia Ádám, János Bali, Bálint Bolcsó, Krisztina Erdei, Réka Farkas-Kovách, Samu Gryllus, Csanád Kedves, Krisztián Kertész, Áron Lakatos, Eszter Nádas, Zsófia Nagy, Péter Tornyai, Zsombor Tóth, Dániel Váczi

Vernissage: 6pm, 9 December 2022
The opening will feature the premiere of Andrea Szigetvári’s work for mechanical piano, Peano Piano – Fractal Sonification. Both the instrument and the opportunity to rehearse were provided by the Budapest Music Center. 

Curator: Judit Csatlós
Curator’s assistant: Eszter Rácz
Music expert: Andrea Szigetvári
Music history expert: Andrea van der Smissen
Installation design: Studio Nomad
Graphic design: Nagy Orsolya Cecília – Umlauf Adrienn


Krisztina Erdei performed the 1913 opera Victory over the Sun for a flock of sheep while working as a shepherd in Turkey in 2009. The performance and installation set up a collision between two types of social experiment: the Russian avant-garde utopia of a future without a past, and a contemporary eco-village project. Through her own personal experience, Erdei explores various notions of work, utility, and purpose.

The opera was written in the spirit of passion for technology, and combined the ideas of its creators [Aleksei Kruchonykh, Velimir Khlebnikov, Mikhail Matyushin, and Kazimir Malevich] on the interconnection of space and time, the fourth dimension, and radical transformation of the political system. At the heart of the plot was the victory over the sun, which symbolised nature and the old world, paving the way for the rise of the ‘new man.’ Every element of the opera sought to express a cosmic vision of the future. Only fragments of Matyushin’s score have remained, while a large part of the libretto was written by Kruchonykh and Khlebnikov in their own ‘Zaum’ language. The composers combined language ‘beyond meaning’ with a futurist vision of the future. By using suggestive sounds, word and sentence fragments, neologisms, and nouns with changed genders, they sought to liberate the mind from traditional thought patterns. While translating the work into Hungarian, Erdei replaced the original novel linguistic phenomena with phrases popularly used online, referred to as a digilect.