Manfred Stahnke was born in Kiel, 30 October 1951. In his childhood he began to learn violin, piano, and music theory. In 1966 he started to study piano and violin at “Lübecker Musikakademie”, composition / music theory in Lübeck with the director of the Musikakademie, Prof. Dr. Jens Rohwer.
1970-74 he went to Freiburg to Prof. Wolfgang Fortner, later Prof. Klaus Huber and his then-assistant Brian Ferneyhough. He began a parallel study of musicology with Prof. Dr. Hans-Heinrich Eggebrecht and others. He passed his exam in “composition&music theory” in 1973. From 1974 on he continued his studies in composition and musicology in Hamburg with Prof. György Ligeti and Prof. Dr. Constantin Floros, finishing with the PhD degree at the Hamburg University. The subject of his thesis was the Aesthetics of Pierre Boulez. 1979-80 he went to the U.S.A. to study microtonality and computermusic (first in Urbana/Champaign with Prof. Ben Johnston, Prof. John Melby and then in Stanford in a summer course with Prof. John Chowning).
Besides his work as a composer he worked from 1974 on as a piano teacher for children. Then from 1983 on he was a teacher at Hochschule für Musik und Theater Hamburg, first in music theory, then also in composition, from 1995 on as a full-time professor.
Stahnke’s works have a strong basis on microtonality and pulsative rhythms, also on improvisation. Among them are several operas: “The Fall of the House of Usher”, “Henry the Fourth”, “Orpheus Kristall”, orchestra pieces and concertos: “Trace des sorciers”, “Hinterhofmusick”, “Danzbodnlock, Violin Symphony”, “Scales of Ages, Saxophone Symphony”, and a lot of chamber music.
He wrote numerous essays about many musical questions. He published several books: “Musik, nicht ohne Worte” 2000, “Mikrotöne und mehr – auf György Ligetis Hamburger Pfaden” 2005, “1001 Microtones” 2015 (together with Sarvenaz Safari), “Mein Blick auf Ligeti&Partch” 2017: a collection of his writings.
He was a lecturer and led master classes in many countries worldwide, among them in Chicago, Boston, Wellington (New Zealand), Buenos Aires, and lately Cluj, Romania 2016, Gainesville, Florida 2017, Oslo 2017. Currently he is working with aspects of a new tuning possibility for string players, in Just Intonation as well as in the “Bohlen/Pierce” scale, both as a composer and a viola player. Further he is starting a Just Intonation piano cycle.
Presently (2017) he is the chair of the music department at “Freie Akademie der Künste Hamburg”.