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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 conceptions, 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 new artistic positions. These may be structural (such as in his investigations of tuning systems, loops or contours) or at the crossroads of technology and culture (such as the preset worlds of the ‘Industry‘ project or his format-specific works for vinyl, analog/digital-conversion or tape). Intriguingly, this process has also yielded a string of underground techno hits along the way: ‘Sleepy Hollow‘, ‘Lunatic Fringe‘, ‘The Maze‘ …
The scope of his work seems vast, yet it all is ultimately derived from the core parameters of techno: grid, loop, sample, edit, track. Unified by a sharp focus in defining distinct aesthetic phenomena, seemingly disparate outings form a cohesive, nearly 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 techno 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 the emblematic Berlin venue) and curating f(t) festival in Berlin. 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 which were never even considered as possible material of compositional processes are made “tangible” 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 double 12″ vinyl polyrhythmic loop construction kit. This line of work culminates in the ‘Ghost Hemiola‘ remix of the latter, consisting of a two record set of empty physical 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, Mule Musiq, Cocoon and Innervisions, Stefan Goldmann founded the Macro label in 2007 with Finn Johannsen, bringing together an outstanding group of formal innovators. The label has released music by artists with a long track record and standing of their own such as KiNK, Patrick Cowley, Peter Kruder and Oliver Ho’s Raudive project, but has gained most profile featuring new artists from scratch such as Elektro Guzzi, KUF, rRoxymore, L’estasi Dell’oro and Vladimir Dubyshkin. Showcasing the work of individuals offering distinctly different viewpoints of a greater whole is the beauty of Macro’s label policy. Live, these constellations have been presented at label events in Berlin, London, Paris, New York and Tokyo. With Macro Stefan Goldmann has created a context and outlet for his ever moving targets.
As a solo artist he has performed at leading festivals such as Mutek, SXSW, Time Warp and Club To Club. He is a regular guest at some of the world’s foremost clubs, including Berghain (Berlin), D-Edge (Sao Paulo), Beam (Bangkok), and audiophile music bar Bonobo in Tokyo. Outside the techno circuit he has developed commissioned works for MaerzMusik Berlin (‘Alif‘, a five hour experimental music theatre work for electronics and ensemble, featuring Samir Odeh-Tamimi, Chiharu Shiota, Jeremias Schwarzer, Salome Kammer), Nationaltheater Mannheim (with the Kevin O’day dance company), BASF Kulturprogramm, NyMusikk Norway, and others. He has staged site-specific performances at iconic venues such as Kyoto’s Honen-In Temple, LACMA Los Angeles, Centro Cultural Kirchner (CCK) in Buenos Aires, and with Ensemble Modern in Frankfurt, among others. Portrait concerts have showcased Stefan Goldmann’s work at Zollverein Essen and at 180° Festival Sofia. He also scored award-winning Swiss experimental documentary film ‘A1‘.
Stefan Goldmann has been a fellow of Villa Kamogawa in Kyoto (2012) and Villa Aurora in Los Angeles (2017), with further artist residencies in Cusco (Peru), Florence (Italy) and Matsudo (Japan). His texts on digitisation and the aesthetics of electronic music are among the most discussed contributions to these topics in recent years. His first book ‘Presets‘ was published by Bookworm (London) in 2015 and is currently available in its fourth edition. He is a co-author of the book ‘Berghain 10: Art in the Club‘ (Hatje Cantz, 2015) and 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 in Japan, Bulgaria, Moldova, Mongolia and Sweden. He also writes a bi-monthly column for Berghain‘s flyer program.