Changing techno from within, Stefan Goldmann has created his uniquely own version of contemporary art music. Neither constrained by the pitfalls of academicism nor those of electronic club music functionality, his work topics range from micro details of production to macro concepts of exposing terminal points of entire genres or technical formats. His investigation into remixing might serve as an example here, including both, a remix that does not change the score at all while cutting up dozens of recordings (Stravinsky: Le Sacre Du Printemps), and one that replaces every sound bit until the original work is no longer present except for a ghostly structural shadow (Fennesz: Remiksz). In his remix of Santiago Salazar’s Arcade a traditional Japanese ensemble breaks out of the track’s arrangement and takes over in order to remain on its own – the roles of “sample” and “track” being reversed midway.
In an environment where supposedly everything has been done, he keeps capturing positions others overlooked. These positions may be structural or technological (such as “branding” the sound of a piece of gear by excessively exposing its sonic characteristics – think of the Fuzzprobe pedal in The Maze). Intriguingly, this has yielded a string of underground club hits too: Sleepy Hollow, Lunatic Fringe, The Maze. Of course then, is there anything more tired than avant-garde that actually sounds like avant-garde?
The scope of his work seems vast, yet it is all essentially derived from the core parameters of techno: sample, loop, edit, grid rhythm, track. Unified by a sharp focus in defining distinct aesthetic phenomena (as opposed to an “experimental” approach that discovers by chance), seemingly disparate outings form a cohesive, almost hermetic body of work.
For this reason, DJing sets of house music is an activity pursued with the same rigor as scoring for ballet or conceiving performance formats such as Berghain’s Elektroakustischer Salon (a now monthly events series at Berlin’s emblematic music venue). The desire to reach beyond the obvious becomes as important as the need to move on rather than to dwell on the same subject repeatedly.
While being a dedicated agent of change, some recurring lines become visible. A constant in his work is exposing contours – footprints of broader organizational entities of music outside of traditional form or parameters: Recording-process and interpretation differences in Sacre Edit, pitch bend curve extraction in 17:50, the analog-digital divide in Vinylism, DJ mix analysis in Macrospective, digital access and inverted improvisation in Trails – music characteristics never before even considered being possible material of compositional processes are made “visible” in the acoustic image and employed as gateways to new works of music.
Format-specific contours are addressed with Haven’t I Seen You Before, employing the tape cassette as a vehicle for circular composition, as well as with The Grand Hemiola for a 2×12″ vinyl polyrhythmic loop construction kit. This line culminates in the Ghost Hemiola remix of the latter, consisting of a two record set of empty loops – a thoroughly reversed “digitalization”: instead of content getting rid of its physical carrier, the carrier is freed from its content.
Stefan Goldmann’s label Macro, founded in 2007 with Finn Johannsen, built a group of peers rather than gathering artistic followers. For instance, Macro has become the home of Elektro Guzzi, which have emerged as the preeminent act of creating techno through live instruments. Macro has also released music by artists with a long track record and strong standing of their own, such as Patrick Cowley and Peter Kruder. Showcasing the work of individuals covering different areas of a greater whole at benchmark levels is the beauty of Macro’s label policy. Live, these constellations have been presented at label events in Berlin, London, Paris, Washington DC, Vienna and Tokyo. With Macro, Stefan Goldmann has created a context and outlet for his ever moving targets.
Outside the club circuit he has developed works for Nationaltheater Mannheim, the Honen-In Temple in Kyoto, BASF Kulturprogramm, NyMusikk Norway and several other festivals and institutions. In 2012 he was artist in residence at Villa Kamogawa in Kyoto, Japan. Currently, he also writes a bi-monthly column for Berghain’s flyer program.