Karlheinz Essl



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This is Karlheinz Essl's first CD release with electronic music, performed by himself on his computer-based instrument m@ze°2 and friends, produced between 1999 - 2001. All material has been recorded live without any overdubs. Produced and mastered by Karlheinz Essl except # 7 (Martin Siewert). The CD's data track contains a quicktime movie with video excerpts of a recent live performance.

PRANK, performed by Karlheinz Essl
Kornhaus Bern, 14 Jan 2001

  Karlheinz Essl performs on a laptop computer that he has transformed into a live electronic musical instrument. The result is exciting and musical. You just won't hear these sounds anywhere else. He performs solo and in duets and trios, responding with sensitivity to fellow musicians, producing fascinating sound transformations, creating spontaneous surprises, and moving quickly from loops to cacophony to tiny clips of vocal sounds to all kinds of textures and ideas. He does all this with his m@ze°2 (Modular Algorithmic Zound Environment) performance software. His programming skills are impressive and he is also musically talented, all of which makes this CD a pleasure to hear. (Joel Chadabe, CDeMusic, Januar 2002)


Künstlerhaus Wien
4 Jan 2001: Stille. An die Unaufrichtigkeit
Karlheinz Essl: m@ze°2
Essl Museum Klosterneuburg
3 Nov 2000: jazz.kunst.live
Bertl Mütter: voice & trombone
Karlheinz Essl: m@ze°2
Essl Museum Klosterneuburg
7 Feb 2001: react_chain_
Boris S. Hauf: computer
Karlheinz Essl: m@ze°2
Kornhaus Bern
14 Jan 2001: :digital brainstorming
Karlheinz Essl: m@ze°2
Hyperwerk Basel
16 Jan 2001: :digital brainstorming
Karlheinz Essl: m@ze°2
REplay PLAYer
Center for Performing Arts Gainesville
30 Mar 2001: 10th Annual Florida Electroacoustic Music Festival
Karlheinz Essl: m@ze°2
Essl Museum Klosterneuburg
24 Nov 1999: react_chain_
Boris Sinclair Hauf: saxophone
Martin Siewert: guitar, electronics
Karlheinz Essl: m@ze°2

The following Quicktime movie on the CD's data track requires an Apple or Windows PC with Quicktime installed:

Essl Museum Klosterneuburg
7 Feb 2001
Boris Sinclair Hauf: saxophone, electronics, computer
Margarete Jungen: voice
Karlheinz Essl: m@ze°2


STILLE.MACHT is Essl's contribution to an interdisciplinary discourse which takes place monthly at the Künstlerhaus in Vienna. The series examines the change in Austrian society resulting from the right-wing freedom party's influence in the new coalition government formed on February 4, 2000.

VOICE TRACKING occurred during Essl's first encounter with trombone player and vocalist Bertl Mütter. The meeting happened in a concert organized by the music magazine jazzzeit at Heinz Tesar's museum building for the Essl Collection. This particular evening was recorded and broadcast by the Austrian radio. While the radio intended the event to be a jazz concert, Essl and Mütter adopted the subtle task of delicately combining their current experimental inclinations with jazz and rock idioms that inform part of their own musical backgrounds.

UNCHAINED was the result of a concert at the Essl Collection featuring Boris S. Hauf and Essl. The duo performed together on two Apple Powerbooks, using their own software instruments written in MAX/MSP. Inspired by the strong architecture of the museum, this performance developed in a direction completely unpredicted by the players.

PRANK and GLOTTIS are the result of improvisations that occurred spontaneously during a series of lecture/performances in Bern, Zürich, and Basel, Switzerland. PRANK was recorded at the Kornhaus in Bern during a presentation entitled :digital brainstorming, curated by Dominik Landwehr of Migros Kulturprozent. GLOTTIS emerged from a demonstration given at Hyperwerk in Basel.

REPLAY PLAYER is a solo concert performance at the 10th Florida Electro-Acoustic Music Festival at the University of Florida in Gainesville. The performance is a condensed version of a previous work commissioned by the ORF Kunstradio. It can be perceived as a journey through various sound worlds: an exploration of noise; which coagulates into syllables; then crystallizes into language; then metamorphoses into singing; and finally evolves, with intended irony, into our most dignified and authoritative music--recorded sound.

AT THE EDGE was created at the aforementioned Essl museum's rotunda, a circular space which celebrates the ephemeral: sound and light. Martin Siewert played electric guitar with electronics, Boris S. Hauf played saxophone and Karlheinz Essl played the m@ze°2. The trio oriented themselves physically in the space in order to emphasize intriguing sonic effects caused by reflections of sound waves on the curved walls. These acoustic phenomena strongly influenced the nature of the performance which began as an introverted and introspective exploration, but later transformed into a furious explosion of musical energy. (Karlheinz Essl)

CHAINED is a quicktime movie from the same concert where UNCHAINED was played. Here, the singer Margarete Jungen was joining in.

Reinhard Kager
New improvised music by Karlheinz Essl

Improvisation should be something that is taken for granted - and yet in the course of music's history it has been marginalized. If jazz had not put such heavy emphasis on spontaneity, improvised music might have disappeared entirely. Initially Karlheinz Essl also learned the craft of composition very academically under Friedrich Cerha. It was first through electronics that he rediscovered the talent for improvisation honed in experimental jazz formations as a trained contrabassist. Interactive live electronics have opened up unsuspected possibilities for Essl's exploration of new improvisational terrain.

m@ze°2, derived from the acronym for "Modular Algorithmic Zound Environment," is the name of his new (keyboard) instrument, an individually developed meta-instrument running on an Apple PowerBook and using his own software library written in MAX/MSP. It allows Essl to react spontaneously to fellow musicians or unfold a pyrotechnic spectrum of new sounds in solo performance.

All of the cuts on ©RUDE were produced live, either in solo performances or together with selected musical collaborators like Bertl Mütter, who on VOICE TRACKING contributes not only a sliding trombone but also a howling voice; or Martin Siewert, whose corrosive guitar sounds are heard on AT THE EDGE; or Boris Hauf, who plays short plopping saxophone tones in the aforementioned piece and also proves himself to be a congenial PowerBook partner in UNCHAINED. Quite often these duets and trios, with Essl's contribution of a rich palette of sound structures, get caught up in movements that take on a spiraling form.

In and of themselves, such cyclically appearing rhythms are nothing new. They are also one of the jazz improviser's most important tools. What makes interactive electronic music so exciting is its indispensable element of surprise. The way in which the seemingly harmless loop in the trio AT THE EDGE develops into a dense cacophony that makes even the wildest free jazz improvisation sound like a children's song is hardly imaginable without electronics. Essl's solos are also full of surprising turns: Listen to REplay PLAYer, recorded at the Electroacoustic Music Festival in Florida, a track that tears through deep rhythmic whirlpools and suddenly mixes word particles - mostly unintelligible - into the relentless sound loops. No doubt: With interactive live electronics, not only are previously unheard new sounds making their way into music, spontaneity is also experiencing a triumphant comeback. (Translation: Chris Barber)


The CD can be ordered online:

Musik aktuell CD Club
Musikfabrik NÖ
Wilhelmstraße 29
A-3430 Tulln, Austria
Phone: +43 2272 65052
Mail: musikfabrik.noe@aon.at


Visual art by Markus Bless. Cover notes by Reinhard Kager (translation by Chris Barber) and Karlheinz Essl. Many thanks to Mark Applebaum, Christian Sodl, Ewald Baringer and Markus Bless for their indispensable contributions.

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Updated: 3 Feb 2023