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At first glance,
Heiner Goebbels’ career can be divided in two parts: the first one is the one he
calls ‘his Past in pop music’, with the Sogenanntes Linksradikales Blasorchester,
the Goebbels/Harth duo, Cassiber, Duck & Cover and ‘Cassix’ (Cassiber + Stormy
Six), and the second part is his solo career, as one of today’s most played living
composers in the world, with commissions from some of the most important orchestras
But after a deeper analysis, all of Goebbels’ production
seems connected by a fil rouge. It is
not unusual that past experiences influence later works in everybody’s life,
but in Goebbels’ case, connections are too many to distinguish between his
production in popular music and his works as a ‘serious Composer’. Although his
later works are usually received as ‘art’ music, his productive methods come
from his collaborative experiences with bands.
In his solo career, his role of ‘Composer’ as a central
figure is questioned not only by the fact that he usually writes music
collaborating with musicians (e.g. in Eislermaterial,
Schwarz auf Weiβ), as he did with his
previous bands, but also by his use of pre-existing music in his so-called
staged concerts (e.g. Eislermaterial,
Hashigaraki, Eraritjatitjaka) and his Hörstücke.
Goebbels is composer, director, arranger, editor, re-mixer and collaborator
(sometimes also improvisator) at the same time: from his point of view, these
roles melt – as in Frank Zappa’s case, but with other implications and in
another productive system.
Aim of this paper is discussing Goebbels’ creative method
both in its collaborative and in its ‘empirical’ (a Chris Cutler’s definition)
aspects. Goebbels’ productive methods are those of popular music, but today he
moves in the context of contemporary ‘art’ music. His approach to music derives
from the opportunity of manipulating (mixing and editing) recorded sound,
whether it is written or improvised; in fact, many of his compositions do not
have scores, although they are fully ‘written’, and sometimes scores (when
available) do not represent what a piece might sound like. His musical
sensibility comes directly from methods developed mainly in popular music (he
stated several times that playing in rock bands as a teenager and with the Sogenanntes Linksradikales Blasorchester helped him discover the
importance of creative collaboration).
If he represents a possible coexistence of popular and euro-classical music – and a case of influence from popular music to euro-classical music, and not vice versa –, it raises many questions about the productive and ideological differences between the two fields and methodologies of research in popular music studies and classical musicology.
Jacopo Conti, « Heiner Goebbels: at the crossing between popular and euro-classical music », Musimédiane, n° 11, 2020 (https://www.musimediane.com/11conti/ – consulté le 07/12/2022).