Changing techno from within, Stefan Goldmann has created his uniquely own version of contemporary art music. Neither constrained by the pitfalls of academism 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 musical 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).
The choice and handling of methods and material often resemble the movements of an occupational force that swiftly takes strategic positions others misevaluated. These positions may be structural (such as specific tonal or rhythmic conceptions) or technological (such as “branding” the sound of a piece of gear by excessively exposing its sonic characteristics in a new context – think of the Fuzzprobe pedal in The Maze). The scope of his work seems vast, yet it is all essentially derived from the aesthetic and technical parameters of techno: sample, loop, edit, grid rhythm, track. Unified by conceptual solidity and laser sharp focus in defining distinct aesthetic phenomena (as opposed to an “experimental” approach that occasionally stumbles upon phenomena by chance), seemingly disparate outings form a cohesive, nearly hermetic body of work.
For this reason DJing sets of house music is an activity pursued with the same rigor as scoring a 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 repetitively.
While being a dedicated agent of change, some recurring lines become visible. A notable constant in his work is the appropriation of musical sources, stretching the meaning of “sample” to its very boundaries. Seemingly independent streams of “found” recordings are set off against the primary musical constructions – huge, unedited chunks such as the choir in Lunatic Fringe rub against independent timelines. Taken to an extreme, in Stefan Goldmann’s 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 for about one third of the total duration – the roles of “sample” and “track” being reversed midway. For his 17:50 album, sampling is reduced to an extrapolation of just the microtonal tunings and pitch bend movements of Chalga music – a pure abstraction with no actual sounds being lifted off the source at all, layering notions of the ready-made and the carefully composed within the very same work.
Another line of work evolves around format-based compositions. Most remarkably realized with Haven’t I Seen You Before, employing the tape cassette as a means for circular composition, as well as The Grand Hemiola for a double vinyl 12” set of locked grooves at different rotation speeds, forming a polyrhythmic loop construction kit as an open work. This line culminates in the Ghost Hemiola remix of the latter, which reverses the whole process of digitalization: instead of content getting rid of its physical carrier, the carrier is freed from its content.
Stefan Goldmann judges concepts by the results they allow. Ideas that read well on paper but don’t create relevant results are bypassed. Similarly, he has avoided covering all areas available. Especially where others already excel, he has been happy to step aside or to act as a catalyst only. This is preeminently true for his label Macro, founded in 2007 with Finn Johannsen, which built a group of peers rather than gathering artistic followers. For instance, Macro has become the home for the recorded output of Elektro Guzzi, which have emerged as the leading act of performing techno with live instruments. Similarly, Macro has 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-setting levels is the beauty of Macro’s label concept. Live, these constellations have been presented at label events in Berlin, London, Paris, Washington DC 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, the Norwegian section of ISCM 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.