Portrait: Bernhard Lang

Bernhard Lang is an Austrian composer in the experimental scene, writing scores and working with electronics to create a myriad of innovative performances.   He has maintained a steady output of performances and premieres with an eclectic variety of influences and is seen frequently collaborating with electronic musicians, DJs and video artists.  This year commissions and premieres include Monadologie IX, III. Streichquartett for the Arditti String Quartet,  a 60-minute piece commissioned by Donaueschingen, Monadologie X ‘alla turca’ for player piano, an SWR commission, Monadologie XI ‘..for Anton’ 2. Kammersinfonie for chamber orchestra from WDR.  Lang has had many commissions in international festivals including Darmstadter Ferienkurse, Donaueschingen, Moskow Modern Festival, Biennale Hannover, Salzburger Festspiele, Wien Modern.

Bernhard Lang actively pushes the boundaries of notational aesthetics in the field containing electronic derivatives.  His  philosophical interest in repetition was awakened after reading Delueze’s book, Difference and Repetition, influencing him after being a student of Shoenberg’s school-of-sorts, where repetition had been something of an anomaly, so-to-say, he had felt it “banned”.  In addition to this, he also describes one of his main influences the movies of Martin Arnold; they more or less became the trigger for the series of pieces called Difference/Repetition, now comprising some 20 pieces ranging from solo works to full orchestra, including the two hour music theatre “Theatre of Repetition”(2003).

In 2006, in the context of the year of the 250th anniversary of Mozart’s Birth celebrations, Bernhard Lang became well-known for his opera, I Hate Mozart with a libretto by Michael Sturminger.  As Lang explains, this piece exploited a style explosion, with a re-mix, re-structure, a deconstructivist reading of the “Stylez” world.  In his paper titled: style vs stylez: the political economy of aesthetics Lang seeks to openly engage with the idea of artistic authorship in a world which is fast developing toward highly commercial styles.  He believes in the substance of a “concept” to inform a composer’s palette, this idea first expounded by Schoenberg, which opposed itself to a mere stylistic fascination of past music typologies.  In the same year, Wien Modern focussed on Lang as their main composer for the festival.

In 2003 Lang was made associate professor of composition University of Music and Dramatic Arts in Graz, where he had taught music theory, harmony and counterpoint since 1988.  He was born in Linz (1957), finishing his piano studies and high school at the Bruckner Conservatory before moving to Graz to study jazz theory, arranging and classical piano.  Active in various jazz groups as a composer, arranger and pianist, he also studied philosophy, German language and literature studies at Graz University.  After finishing his piano studies he studied counterpoint (Hermann Markus Preßl) and microtonal techniques (Georg Friedrich Haas) at the University for Music and Dramatic Arts in Graz.  He also took private lessons with the Polish composer Andrej Dobrowolsky and Gösta Neuwirth, who became a main influence, instructing him in composition for many years outside of the university context.

Music theater is Lang’s main interest, and since 2003 he has worked intensively on projects involving dance, including collaborators such as Xavier Le Roy, Willi Dorner and Christine Gaigg.  As he draws direct influences out of the turntable culture, one often encounters a tumbling cloud of rhythmic sonorities fighting toward a sustained pulse.  As Lang describes, “thinking about beats is very important to me”.  He developed the Loop-Generator and the Visual Loop Generator with Winfried Ritsch and Thomas Musil at the Institute for Electronic Music Graz and frequently works on projects with Wolfgang Musil, Christian Marczik, Christian Loidl.

“I do not believe in a composer who represents the system, masks the brutality of the empire with musical entertainment and makes it socially acceptable. I do not believe in a composer who only sees history as a museum-like source of material. I do not believe in a composer who believes in himself.”  Bernhard Lang

Tamara Friebel

Bernhard Lang has been invited to:
Moving Sounds Festival New York, September 1 to 5, 2010
Moving Sounds is a 5-day festival of music, visual media and aesthetic dialogue, produced jointly by the Austrian Cultural Forum, the music information center austria (mica), and the Argento New Music Project