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Aesthetic Distinctions and Musical Lives
Musical Lives: Other Musical Activities
So far, this chapter has concentrated mainly on musicians whose lives were centred
around Improvised Music-making, and yet, as quantitative research revealed, at least a
third of Berlin’s improvisers were also active as composers, and almost all participated
in other forms of art and music (Figure 6.1).42 This section discusses the relationship
between these activities, as well as identifying the various (personal) ideologies which
united each musician’s output and activities.
Jazz, Free Jazz
Sound Art, Field Recording, Electroacoustic Music
Classical Music, Neue Musik (performer or composer)
Noise, Industrial, Drone
Theatre, Dance, Poetry
Rock, Pop, Punk, ‘World’
Uses Electronics
Active as a Composer (any genre)
Figure 6.1: Other practices and interests of Berlin’s improvisers. Categories were not
mutually exclusive.
Of those mentioned already, Axel Dörner had occasional interests in dance, theatre
and electronic music,43 as well as composing for more jazz-based bands such as Die
Enttäuschung 44 and playing in Sven-Åke Johannson’s Cool Quartet. Rudi Mahall and
Christian Lillinger were well-known in the German and international jazz scenes for
their work with the groups Der Rote Bereich and Hyperactive Kid,45 Tristan Honsinger
composed for dance and theatre (at the time of our interview he was writing a piece for
an amateur choir in Italy), and Burkhard Beins was dealing with partially-composed
pieces that bordered on Neue Musik with the group Polwechsel,46 while also presenting
his installations Sekante and Modulation I in Quiet Cue, and composing electroacoustic
Of those interviewed, only Olaf Rupp and Chris Heenan were active purely in the field of Improvised
Music during 2012-13. All the terms used here (‘classical’, ‘pop’, ‘drone’ and so on) are of course
problematic and are employed loosely - in the sense to which they were referred to during interviews and
on musicians’ websites. The term ‘classical music’ was taken as referring to pre-20th Century European
classical music, in order to distinguish it from Neue Musik (20th -21st Century classical music).
Dörner described occasional performances with dancer Takako Suzuki, where he recorded
location-specific sounds before creating a 4-channel electroacoustic piece, which he then improvised to
on trumpet, also moving around on the stage.
Literally, ‘The Disappointment’. Along with pianist Alexander von Schlippenbach, Die Enttäuschung
also recorded and performed the complete compositions of jazz pianist Thelonius Monk, under the title
‘Monk’s Casino’.
Der Rote Bereich (in its longest-running line-up of Mahall, Frank Möbus and John Schröder) was one
of Germany’s most influential modern jazz groups of the mid-1990s and 2000s. Lillinger (of Hyperactive
Kid ) told me, “I played a lot completely free, but I have a ton of bands that play compositions too”, his
own project, Grund, a good example.
Polwechsel was an international ensemble that has existed in various configurations since 1993,
previous members including John Butcher and Radu Malfatti. The group was a great influence on many
Reductionist/Post-Reductionist improvisers interviewed in this thesis, including Beins himself (see p.