The idea for the music pedagogical concept 'Orff-Schulwerk', which is now spread throughout the world, originated in Munich in the twenties of the 20th century. The historical context is formed by the cultural change at the turn of the century 1890-1930, the turn of modernity towards so-called non-European art and the search for a new beginning, combined with the discovery of the Original, Primitive, Elemental. In the rhythm and dance movement I. Duncan, É. Jaques-Dalcroze, R. von Laban, M. Wigman and many others not only worked on new forms of dance expression but also fundamentally dealt with the experience of the bodily experience and the perception of movement.
The Günther School, founded by Dorothee Günther and Carl Orff in 1924, broke new ground. Inspiration came from the leading German expressive dancer Mary Wigman (1886-1973) and the musicologist Curt Sachs (1881-1959), known for his music anthropological publications on musical instruments and dance. Orff's idea of an elemental music was sparked by Wigman's 'Hexentanz' which was accompanied only by percussion instruments:
«She could make music with her body and transform music into corporeality. I felt that her dancing was elemental. I, too, was looking for the elemental, the elemental music.» (Orff 1976).
The percussion orchestra of the Mary Wigman School in Dresden and C. Sachs' music anthropological knowledge of the universal significance of percussion in the music and dance cultures of the world led Orff to a concept of music which, beyond European art music, emphasises the motional and percussive side of musical events and which is close to the intercultural perspective from today's view.
The piano which was common at the gymnastics schools of the time was largely replaced by percussion in the Günther School. Together with recorders and mallet instruments, a unique sound was created. Maja Lex (1906-1986) developed the Elemental Dance from flowing movements, into which also instrumental playing was sometimes integrated. In combination with the compositions of Gunild Keetman (1904-1990), she created an art form that was nationally and internationally renowned at the time. Keetman's 'Ecstatic Dance' (1932) with its minimalist structure still conveys an intense impression of this today.
Abb: 1-3 OZM
The combination of music and movement as well as the principle of improvisation became constitutive for Orff's idea of elemental music from the very beginning and influenced the teaching of Orff and Keetman at the Günther School.
Abb.: Kleines Tanzorchester der Günther-Schule