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Changing techno from within, Stefan Goldmann has created his uniquely own form of contemporary art music. Neither constrained by the limits of electronic club music functionality nor by those of academicism, his work topics range from micro details of production to macro concepts, exposing terminal points of entire genres, formal characteristics 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’ (source) and ‘track’ (destination) being reversed midway. His own work Input remains deliberately unreleased, but has so far been remixed into scores for ensemble by seven different composers.
In an environment in which supposedly everything has been done he keeps exposing and capturing positions others missed. These may be structural (such as his investigations of tunings, loops or contours) or at the crossroads of technology and culture (such as the preset worlds of the Industry project, or “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 techno hits in the process: Sleepy Hollow, Lunatic Fringe, The Maze …
The scope of his work seems vast, yet it is all derived from the core parameters of techno: grid, loop, sample, edit, carrier, track. Unified by a sharp focus in defining distinct aesthetic phenomena, seemingly disparate outings form a cohesive, almost hermetic body of work: What are the inner workings of electronic music? Which formal devices can be extracted from techno and re-applied to wider contexts, and vice versa? These are the main lines of inquiry Stefan Goldmann has followed decisively.
For this reason, DJing straight-up club sets is an activity pursued with the same rigor as collaboration with ensembles, choreographers, visual artists, film makers and improvisers or conceiving performance formats such as Berghain’s Elektroakustischer Salon (a now regular 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 limited subject repeatedly.
While being a dedicated agent of change, some recurring lines can be identified. A constant in his work is exposing contours – footprints of broader organisational entities of music beyond standard parameters: Recording-process and interpretation differences in Sacre Edit, pitchbend curve extraction and readymade tunings in 17:50, the analog-digital divide in Vinylism, DJ mix analysis in Macrospective, comparative orchestration in Input, digital access and inverted improvisation in Trails – characteristics of music never even considered as possible material of compositional processes before are made “visible” in the auditory field and are subsequently employed as gateways to new works of music.
Format-specific contours are addressed with Haven’t I Seen You Before, using the tape cassette as a vehicle for circular composition or 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 – thoroughly reversed digitisation: instead of content getting rid of its physical carrier, the carrier is freed from its content.
After releasing for labels such as Perlon, Classic, Ovum, Cocoon and Innervisions, 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, the preeminent group 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 KiNK, Patrick Cowley, Peter Kruder and Oliver Ho’s Raudive project, as well as discovering new talent such as KUF, L’estasi Dell’oro and Vladimir Dubyshkin. 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, New York, Tokyo and many other cities. With Macro, Stefan Goldmann has created a context and outlet for his ever moving targets.
Outside the club circuit he has developed commissioned works for MaerzMusik Berlin (Alif, a multi-format music theatre installation, featuring co-composer Samir Odeh-Tamimi, visual artist Chiharu Shiota, director Jeremias Schwarzer, vocal performer Salome Kammer and an ensemble), Nationaltheater Mannheim (The Grand Hemiola, featuring the Kevin O’day dance company), BASF Kulturprogramm, NyMusikk Norway, as well as special performances at Kyoto’s Honen-In Temple, LACMA Los Angeles, the St.Lorenz Church of Nuremberg and others. Extended monographic shows of Stefan Goldmann’s works have been produced at Zollverein Essen and 180° Festival Sofia (featuring members of Ensemble Modern). He also scored Swiss experimental documentary film A1, which was premiered at Schauspielhaus Zürich and won the Swiss Television Award for best documentary.
Stefan Goldmann has held artist residencies at Villa Kamogawa in Kyoto (2012) and at Villa Aurora in LA (2017). His texts on digitisation, the aesthetics of electronic music and the social psychology of music are among the most discussed contributions to these topics in recent years and have been translated into several languages. His first book Presets was published by The Bookworm (London) in 2015 and is currently available in its third edition. He is a co-author of Berghain’s book, Art in the Club (Hatje Cantz, 2015). He has been a guest lecturer at Berlin’s Universität der Künste, DAAD Tokyo, Folkwang University Essen, Siestes Electroniques Toulouse, Hochschule der Künste Bern and for Goethe Institut. He also writes a bi-monthly column for Berghain‘s flyer program.