Electroacoustic art music in Germany Building bridges to techno

During the 1990s, under the influence of techno and "intelligent dance music", Germany saw the growth of an experimental scene on which influences from the visual arts and pop culture often came to fruition and the boundaries between serious and popular music were swept away.

With their cold, clinical design, Carsten Nicolai’s audiovisual works historicise the aesthetic and scientific category of the experiment, partly in imitation of the Croatian physicist Nikola Tesla (1856-1943).

In his series Ehlers plays... (2001-02), Ekkehard Ehlers synthesised the style, sound and techniques of such diverse artists as Cornelius Cardew, John Cassavetes, Hubert Fichte and Albert Ayler as cosmic noise. Oval (alias Marcus Popp) cultivates a sound that is essentially based on the skipping noises of jumping samples and focuses his creativity on the software, not the acoustic pattern that is actually generated. In Cologne, musicians such as Marcus Schmickler (alias Pluramon) and Thomas Lehn have taken up ideas about sound current in the 1950s and 1960s in order to relocate them in the context of free improvisation and minimal techno. The laptop musician Florian Hecker uses new methods of synthesis and modulation for noise compositions that have an effect just as brutal as it is auratic.

Sound artists

In Frankfurt, the conceptual artist Zeitblom concentrates on electroacoustic scenarios, as in his Sophisticated Soirée, at which visitors were cabled together and actively contributed to the generation of sounds derived from their own heartbeats. The genre of sound art that was launched on the world for the first time during the 1960s with installations by Max Neuhaus and Maryanne Amacher in the USA has become increasingly diverse ever since. Today, it encompasses the documentary, location-specific works of Christina Kubisch, the aestheticised surfaces of Hans Peter Kuhn, the machinery of Andreas Oldörp, which exposes how sounds are created, the perceptual tricks of Tilman Künzel, the sculptures of Robert Jacobsen, which raise sound to new levels of playfulness, the interactive performance situations of Daniel Teige and Martin Rumori and the noise studies of the Berlin-based Austrian Peter Ablinger.

The Osnabrück-born Hildegard Westerkamp, occupies a unique niche in electronic music. Since 1968, she has been living in Canada, where she has extended R. Murray Schaeffer’s concept of "acoustic ecology”, isolating fleeting sound qualities and contextualising them in the acoustic biotope of her sound art. In 2003, Gus Van Sant used her piece Beneath The Forest Floor for the soundtrack of his film Elephant.