Electroacoustic art music in Germany Outside the institutions

Many byways of electronic music were ignored for a long time by the historiography of the field, which was hegemonially oriented towards the major institutions.

The most important artistic responses of the years after 1968 included the rebellion against the institutionalised studios and their monopolisation of the means of production. In 1970, the founding of the Cologne-based Feedback Studio by pupils of Stockhausen such as Johannes Fritsch, Peter Eötvös and the Calcutta-born composer and programmer Klarenz Barlow triggered a paradigm change that called the legitimacy of the institutions into question and opened the way for independent electronic music, not least thanks to the availability of cheap synthesisers.

Since the 1970s, this tradition has been continued by artists like Heiner Goebbels and Alfred Harth. With their band Cassiber, Goebbels and Harth have used the montage techniques of the audiotape age for agitprop tracks such as Berlin, Q-Damm 12.4.81. The European Live Electronic Centre (EULEC) at Lüneburg also deserves to be mentioned in this context. Helmut Erdmann has been working at EULEC since 1977, achieving advances in areas of music education such as the teaching of electroacoustic techniques and experimenting with historic synthesisers like the EMS Synthi 100 to find new facets of their sounds.

Research projects and multimedia works at the ZKM

Most of the electroacoustic institutions have lost their significance today. Many facilities have closed, including the Siemens laboratory and, most recently, the WDR Studio. One important exception is the Institute for Music and Acoustics at the Center for Art and Media (ZKM) in Karlsruhe, which was founded in 1990 in emulation of IRCAM in Paris as an "institute of unheard tones". The work done there has frequently crossed the line between academic research and art – initially under the leadership of Johannes Goebel and since 2004 under that of Ludger Brümmer. Whereas Freiburg has specialised exclusively in live electronic music for many years, a wide range of research projects are undertaken at Karlsruhe. The subjects include problems of data management like those Franz Martin Olbrisch had to overcome in 1993 in his radio installation FM o99.5, which extended over a number of days.

The composer Mesias Maiguashca, who was born in Ecuador and lives in Freiburg, was able to musically exploit his studies of the ways metal instruments resonate at the ZKM when he elaborated his evening-long cycle Reading Castañeda in 1993. The ZKM provided Nicolas Collins, Kaffe Matthews, Oval, Scanner, Anne Wellmer and Zeitblom with a complex data network for their interactive projects Fiber Jelly and Remix (2000). The Institute for Music and Acoustics cooperates with other parts of the ZKM on multimedia pieces such as the works of Kiyoshi Furukawa, who integrates images and sounds together: as in his "chamber music with images” Small Fish (1999) for computer and musicians and the interactive environment Bubbles (2000) he created with Wolfgang Münch.

Integrating acoustics and aesthetics

Open source applications of the kind used in works by Orm Finnendahl and others have been promoted under the aegis of the annual Linux Audio Conferences held at the ZKM since 2004. Composers such as Goebel, Maiguashca, Brümmer and Finnendahl belong to a new group of still young artists who are equally inspired by an academic ethos and artistic ambitions. The links forged between physical acoustics and musical aesthetics are reflected in an exemplary fashion in the works and writings of Hans Tutschku, who has held the position of Professor of Composition and Director of the Studio for Electroacoustic Composition at Harvard University since September 2004. Tutschku has programmed numerous applications that respond to the intuitive realisation of a score by musicians and incorporate their physical gestures into the generation of sound.

Georg Hajdu, Professor of Multimedia Composition in Hamburg since 2002, has been similarly innovative, experimenting with microtonal scales and working on a networked, interactive real time compositional environment. At the same time, Johannes Goebel has been continuing the activities he began at the ZKM since 2004 at the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (US State of New York), where he has primarily devoted himself to the musical potential and consequences of new media such as the Internet. In addition to this, the tradition of an art based on simple technology and liberated from institutional constraints has considerably influenced electronic music in Germany.

The pioneers of this current include the Hamburg noise musician and composer Asmus Tietchens, who collaborates with the Bochum sound artist Thomas Köner in "Kontakt der Jünglinge", using depth psychology and not a little humour to explore his own musical socialisation in radio transmissions of electronic music.