an interview by Carlos M. Pozo
issue # 3, fall 1998
My first group, before KLUSTER was called GERÄUSCHE (=NOISES). If
lots of people make noises, it becomes an orchestra... If you do it alone
- for example the sound of a stone on linoleum - that's a solo-track.
If you play these sounds and record them onto different tracks, it becomes
a composition... Make horrible noises with instruments and microphones
and echo-machines. Just do it and produce as much noise as you want. If
you organize this noise it's not just pure chaos... it can grow into music.
(CONRAD SCHNITZLER "I hate titles" Sound Projector #2, UK, July,
Conrad Schnitzler is an artist and musician who has been organizing sounds
into musical works that have consistently blown minds all across the world
since the late sixties.
Saying that he was a precursor to the industrial explosion of the 70s,
the home-made electroacoustic and post-punk experiments of the 80s, and
the techno, electronica and post-whatever experiments of today is, beyond
being factually true, missing the point entirely. Schitzler has always
been playing with abstract electronics - it is the ebb and
flow of the music underground's interest in these sounds that periodically
overlaps with his oeuvre. When the current infatuation with electronics
fades away Schnitzler will still be soldiering on in his studio, responding
to whatever is current through collaborations and interviews, and not
necessarily awaiting the next rediscovery of his ground-breaking
1. The Cassette (or now CD) Concerts - do you still perform these regularly?
Could you tell me the date and place of yout most recent performance and
describe what was involved in the performance and the audience reaction?
Do you get paid to perform or are these free shows?
The recent state of my cassette-recorder-concerts is that the last of
these concerts have been done by Ken Montgomery in the late 80's. Now
there are no cassette-recorder-concerts anymore, but CD-player-concerts.
In the "simple" form, there are four cassettes/tapes, CD's with
informations used, that are started at about the same time and in that
case the different volume of these single cassettes makes the mix. It
made a big difference, if Serge Leroy did these mixes, like on "Constellations"
or if I do this. I'm very democratic with these mixes: I give every cassette
the same chance in turning up the volume on the same level. Of course
these concerts can be done with a lot more single-track CD's, it depends
on the performers intention as well as the capacity of the mixing-desk.
It's no problem to work with 12 or 14 CD-players if you're used to it.
Often I did these
performances in connection with a kind of lightshow, with videos or effects.
But usually there's only the performer, his CD-players and the mixing-desk
on a nearly dark stage - nothing more. I'm not going to perform any of
these CD-player-concerts in the future, as I don't have the power for
this anymore. It's not only that you need your imagination to
perform these concerts, but especially that you have to travel with all
the equipment and all the other problems that there are, while touring.
Norbert Schilling is going to continue these CD-player-concerts for me.
He has done a concert recently in Berlin with 14 CD-players and I was
very satisfied with the result of it. Concerning the payment: I have been
paid for these concerts as well as I did concerts for free.
2. I'm always curious about how artists make a living - have you always
supported yourself through art activities? Do you own all your studio
This question is surely the most existential question for an artist.
John Cage for example, did suffer for a long time from having only very
little money. Ok, that changed later, but he needed the support of friends
and other artists. Later, when he had money, he gave a lot of it back
in supporting artists that were in the same situation like he has been
some years before. If an artist earns money with his art immediately,
this is a
reason to be suspicious. If a lot of people like one kind of "merchandise",
then it's mostly very average or mainstream. And this is deadly for "the
art", as art should provoke or offer something new. For the artist
himself it's of course not bad, as everyone has the right to work as an
artist, but if "art" is only a reason to make money, than that's
On the other hand there's this statement "only a poor artist is a
good artist", which I rate nonsense. Of course it helps, if someone
paints huge pictures and he has a "fan" that buys one picture
every month - for 3000 Deutschmarks. I have done lots of jobs, which helped
me to make a living, but without the help of my wife, I wouldn't be able
to do music today; I wouldn't have my own small studio equipment, I'd
probably have nothing! And then there are others, that have got a lot
of money from their fathers or their mothers who support their children.
I would do the same with my children, if I'd have enough money. Normally
it should be possible for the artist, who creates something, to live from
his art, as well as for the label which sells and distributes his records.
But I don't need to tell you, how difficult this is... On the other side,
if I had made money with my music, I'm not sure, if I would do the kind
of music I do today, as the music I do has
always been music for a small audience. If you realize the fact, that
my records are bought by between 500 to 1500 people, than this is nothing
compared to the sales of well-known artists. But this should keep no one
from doing his kind of art; it's no shame to go to work, if you can't
live from your art. To mention only two names: think of Franz Kafka, who
had a normal dayjob; or Vincent van Gogh - he didn't sell one single painting
in his whole life. If his brother Theo hadn't supported him, he wouldn't
have been able to paint all these masterpieces, which are amongst the
most expensive artworks of the world today. Of course there are a lot
of artists supported by the government or by institutions, but that is
a too quiet pillow. It's not enough that an artist creates some nice art,
but an artist should create his own individual mythology - the way he
lives and the art he creates should be a unity and something unique.
3. There is a note in the Art Gallery CDs asking for classically trained
musicians to perform your works - has this resulted in any upcoming recorded
works? What would be the working process for having these musicians play
The original intention was not to perform any of my recorded works, but
work with classically trained musicians in a more spontaneous way. It
was planned to use single-track recordings, that included simple electronically
recorded sounds like a rattle of a chain, the sound of stones, scratching
on glass etc., as a soundsource for a trained musician, who should be
able to "translate" these sounds to play them on his instrument.
The musicians should use very light headphones that would give them the
informations to translate them for the use of their instrument, but also
to listen to the other instruments of the orchestra. Let's say we have
four players, each one stands in a corner of a room so that they can see
each other: a trumpetplayer, a violinist, a cellist and a percussionist.
So all of the players get the electronic sounds from their headphones,
they hear their own translation of these sounds and how the other players
translate these sounds. An alternative would be, to record only the single
sounds of each instrumentalist and mix the results later. Of course a
live erformance would be much more interesting, as there's much more spontaneity.
Before the Berlin wall fell, it was extremely cheap to rent a complete
orchestra for a day, so even I would have been able to rent an orchestra.
But I didn't expected the Berlin wall fell that soon, so I didn't continued
this work, when I realized that I would never been able to pay for the
orchestra, as after the fall of the wall the price for such an orchestra
went up rapidly. I had the idea to let the orchestra do for about 30 minutes
only the sounds they make before they start to perform a composition.
This would be like a warm up for the second part of the concert, where
each player would get a short but detailled instruction what to play,
but should have enough space for his own ideas and the correspondence
with the other musicians. After I had given every musician his instruction,
I would conduct the volume and the dynamics of the orchestra - this has
always been a dream of me from my early childhood on. No matter if you
like Karajan or not, but if you ever had the chance to see and hear him
conduct an orchestra, where all had something to do at the same time,
and how he managed to conduct this orchestra from the finest pianissimo"
to the loudest "forte" that it sounded like a fade-in or a fade-out
as done on an electronic mixing-desk, that was something very fascinating
4. So far, you've employed every type of musical language imaginable,
from cassettes to synthesizers, to classical instruments and computers
- is there anything you have not done that you are looking forward to
doing (musically and non-musically)?
This is surely the most difficult question to answer. Of course, there
are always plans or imaginations, no matter if they're gigantic or very
simple. Personally I can only dream of those things that are feasible.
But of course I could imagine the following concert: we dig a big pit,
but I feel it has to be a very big pit, and into this pit we would throw
all arms of this world - and the sound, the sound of this action would
be my final concert - the rattle of the arms that are thrown into this
pit. This would probably be a gigantic, big concert. Apart from that I've
become very modest, I don't have any big wishes; time is running away,
so I'm glad I've time enough to do the small things of life, means to
get up, drink coffee and do my things, to have still a few hours left
to work on new compositions. To be true: I don't have big dreams anymore.
You wake up one morning out of your dreams and say, ok, let's start, and
you start to work and if it works the way I want, I'm satisfied. I don't
have any wishes, except to stay healthy. I have enough to do, so I don't
think that I'll get bored.
© Carlos M. Pozo | 1998
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