Portrait Katharina Klement

Katharina Klement is an Austrian composer, pianist and improviser who has earned her reputation as an active personality in the pulse of the independent new music and experimental scene in Vienna and abroad.  She has a wealth of instrumental and electronic compositions, installations, crossover projects combining music and text, language and video. Her exemplary willingness to push the boundaries of exploration often contain a systematic rigour which precedes the indirect result of her improvisations and compositions, being a true voice in the pursuit of independent art.  Within this, her ability to create an atmosphere of openness for interpretation, where musical creativity can thrive, plays a central role in her creative ethos.  She has numerous awards, grants and commissions and is heavily involved in international performances and concerts, including Festival Kaleidophon Ulrichsberg, “Hörgänge” Wien, Tage für Neue Musik Zürich, Festival Hörgänge Wien, Porgy & Bess Wien, Radiokulturhaus Wien, Festival Inventionen Berlin, Hotel Pupik Schrattenberg, Festival Midi-Alternativa Moskau, Donaufestival Krems, Festival Wien Modern, artoteca Milano, “roulette” New York.

As a composer-performer of both notated and improvised, instrumental and electronic music, Katharina Klement’s creative impulse lies at the heart of the piano, and its potential for manipulation, both mechanically and electronically.  The piano takes on its own universe of sound colours, exclamations and becomes its own percussive instrument under her spell.  From earliest childhood, she loved the piano and grew up with the classical music tradition.  Curiosity compelled her to discover different sound worlds, eventually through Jazz terrains and a preoccupation with the radical revolution of new music of the mid to late 20th century.  She is devoted to the artistic forms of expression such as Dance, Video and Voice/Language and since 1989 has worked with electronics: numerous tape works, specifically multi-channel compositions in combination with instrument(s) and /or vocals, several works for mechanical and electronically customised piano, sound installations, ensembles for improvised music: USE, Soundog, Los Autodisparadores, Subshrubs.  Her titles are full of cryptic, associative wordplays, linguistics playing a significant role to bind her networking, draping of sounds, tones and noise.

Klement was born in Graz but has lived in Vienna since her early days as a student. From 2006 she has taught electronic media and computer music in the Institute for composition and electronics at the University of Music and Dramatic Arts in Vienna.  Her own studies, at the same university, in electroacoustics and experimental music and composition were with Dieter Kaufmann, Günther Rabl and Tamas Ungvary and her piano studies with Manfred Artzt-Wagner and Ursula Kneihs, and as a guest at the University of York in the U.K.  Her earlier intense preoccupation with  sculpture and space came out of her first private studies in dance improvisation in Graz and sculpture in Vienna.  For many years she was active in education as a piano teacher at music schools and as a collaborator in Austrian schools project “klangnetze” (sound networks) workshops in the field of elementary composition and improvisation.  She has been a guest teacher together with author Karin Spielhofer at the Vienna Institute of Music Sciences on “Language & Music”.

Katharina Klement identifies herself as a structural improviser, where her preference is to work with textures, organised/classified formations of different layers to create the parameters for her work.  She has a determination to create rigid structures in order to unleash the creativity within these bounds. The ripe field of tension lies somewhere between the worlds of composition and improvisation:  “The range of my works goes from precisely written pieces to concept pieces with verbal  or graphical instructions. I perform with the piano, clavichord or electronics, mostly in the context of improvisation. The poles composition and improvisation play a big role for me, they are in a certain way „communicating vessels“.”

Katharina Klement describes, in her own words, a recent performance of her composition: “Hecke”, the German word for hedge, for solo subbass recorder, performed by Pia Palme.  This description would hold true for many of her artistic endeavours:  “The title of the composition mirrors the idea of the piece: on the surface of a hedge (I thought about a blackberry hedge) you can see the softness of the shape, but inside there is such a complexity of growing and also thousands of thorns in thousands of directions – a kind of chaotic cosmos.”

Tamara Friebel