Photo: © 2013 by Julia Wesely
Born in Vienna, 15 Aug 1960. Austrian composer, performer, improviser, media artist and composition teacher.
Karlheinz Essl attended the Vienna Musikhochschule (1981-87), where he studied composition with Friedrich Cerha and electro-acoustic music with Dieter Kaufmann. From 1979, he also studied musicology and art history at the University of Vienna (doctorate 1989 with his thesis ). Active as a double bassist until 1984, he played in chamber and experimental jazz ensembles. As a composer he has contributed to the Das Synthese-Denken bei Anton Webern Projekt 3 composition programming environment of Gottfried Michael Koenig at Utrecht and Arnheim (1988-89) which later transformed into his own Real Time Composition Library (RTC-lib) for Max/MSP/Jitter.
Essl also served as composer-in-residence at the Darmstadt summer courses (1990-94) and at IRCAM (Paris, 1992-1993). Between 1995-2006 he taught Algorithmic Composition at the Studio for Advanced Music & Media Technology at the Bruckner University, Linz. Since 2007, he is professor of composition for electro-acoustic and experimental music at the Vienna University of Music and Performing Arts. Between 1992 and 2016, he acted as the music curator of the Essl Museum in Klosterneuburg / Vienna.
His work with computers (with emphasis on Algorithmic Composition and generative art) and a prolonged occupation with the poetics of serial music have been a formative influence on his compositional thinking. He has frequently sought to combine music with other genres and has collaborated with the graffiti artist Harald Naegeli ( , 1991), the writer Andreas Okopenko and the artists' group "Libraries of the Mind" ( Partikel-Bewegungen Lexikon-Sonate, 1992--8), the architect Carmen Wiederin ( , 1992-95), the video artist Vibeke Sorensen ( Klanglabyrinth , 1996, a multimedia installation for the Internet) and the artist Jonathan Meese (generative video and sound environment MindShipMind , 2007). Since 2018 he is collaborating with the choreographer FRÄULEIN ATLANTIS Andrea Nagl and the author Erwin Uhrmann.
During the 1990s Karlheinz Essl carried out various projects for the Internet and became increasingly involved with improvisation. At the festival WIEN MODERN 1989 he presented as an emerging composer, and in 1997 he was featured at the Salzburg Festival with portrait concerts and sound installations. In 2003, he was artist-in-residence of the festival musik aktuell, and in 2004 he was presented with a series of portrait concerts at the Brucknerhaus Linz. In 2004, Karlheinz Essl received the cultural prize for music of the state Lower Austria. Since 2020 he is member of Künstlerhaus Vienna.
Besides writing instrumental music, Karlheinz Essl also works in the field of electronic music, interactive realtime compositions and sound installations. He develops software environments for algorithmic composition and acts as a performer and improviser, utilzing his own computer-based real time composition environment and also instruments like m@ze°2 electric guitar, toy piano, music boxes and analog synthesizers.
Karlheinz Essl: Becoming a Composer
Interview at Studio kHz (Klosterneuburg, 21 Aug 2014)
for the oral history project by Peter Shea The Bat of Minerva
Anton Bruckner Privatuniversität Linz (1995-2006): teacher of "Algorithmic Composition" at the Studio of Advanced Music and Media Technology (SAMT)
University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna (2007 ff.): professor of composition for electro-acoustic and experimental music
Queensland Conservatorium / Griffith University (Brisbane 2016): Visiting Research Fellow
Guest lecturer at the music/art universities of Berlin, Toronto, Ottawa, Copenhagen, Groningen, Guadalajara, Düsseldorf, Essen, Cologne, Stuttgart, Osnabrück, Basel, Mainz, Oaxaca, Antwerp, Boston, Valencia, Würzburg, Taipei, Nottingham, Brisbane, Helsinki, Kiev, Riga, Budapest, Bremen, Parma, Oslo...
CEM-Studio (Arnhem/NL, 1988-89): collaboration with Gottfried Michael Koenig, Gerhard Eckel and Ramón González-Arroyo et.al. in designing "Project 3", a computer program for musical composition.
CAGE-Project (Konzerthaus Vienna, 1989): in collaboration with Christian Ofenbauer and Christian Schedlmayer and musicians - various performances of Cage's Piano Concert (1957-58).
Darmstädter Ferienkurse für Neue Musik (1990-94): "composer in residence".
Essl Museum Klosterneuburg (1992 - 2016): musical curator.
ton - Austrian magazine for contemporary music (1991-93): editor.
Partikel-Bewegungen (1992-93): performance project with Harald Naegeli (the "Sprayer of Zürich") in Vienna, Darmstadt, Düsseldorf and Zürich.
IRCAM (Paris, 1992-93): working on (1991-93), a commission for ensemble and live-electronics. Development of the Entsagung for MAX. Real Time Composition Library
Libraries of the Mind (1992-95): member of the interdisciplinary artist's group for multimedia projects. Creation of the Realtime Composition for the HyperMedia-version of Andreas Okopenko's Lexikon-Sonate "Lexikon-Roman".
Studio for Advanced Music & Media Technology (SAMT) at the Bruckner-Conservatory in Linz (1995 - 2006): teacher for Computer Aided Composition.
Institut für Elektronische Musik (IEM) at the University of Music Graz (1995): lectures and workshops on Structure Generators in Computer Music - part of lecture series "Die Klangwelt am Rand der Datenautobahn".
Mindship - Third Culture Symposion (Copenhagen 1996): selected for participation at an interdisciplinary workshop of international artists and scientists dedicated to the topics "Order, Complexity and Beauty".
Salzburg Festival (Salzburg 1997): portrait concerts and sound installations within the program "Next Generation".
Copenhagen (1997): guest lectures and workshops (Royal Academy of Music & University of Copenhagen, Department of Music)
Sixth Composers and Choreographers Exchange (London 1998): chosen for participation in a one-week workshop at the Royal Festival Hall - Hayward Gallery
fLOW (1998-99): site-specific multimedia work-in-progress - various realisation in different locations with changing musicians from various fields.
Chicago Cultural Center (1999): portrait concert within the series "New Music - New Millennium"
WIEN MODERN (1999): featured composer with several compositions written between 1987 and 1998.
: digital brainstorming (2001): lectures and performances on "Realtime Composition / Composing in Cyberspace" in Zurich, Bern and Basel (Switzerland)
Kunsthochschule für Medien Köln (2002): workshops on Realtime Composition mit MAX/MSP
Musikhochschule Stuttgart (2002): lectures, workshops and concerts on Structure Generators in Computer Music
Landesmusikrat Hamburg (2002): workshop with pupils on computer-controlled sound improvisation within the framework of the series "Eine Reise in die Musik des 21. Jahrhunderts"
Avantgarde Schwaz (2002): composer-in-residence (together with Paul Panhuysen, Mike Svoboda, Marcus Weiss and Boguslaw Schaeffer
musik aktuell (2003): as an composer-in-residence, Karlheinz Essl is curating the music program of this festival with a focus on spatial concepts, sound art, electronic music and improvisation
AKZENTE 2004: artist-in-residence and curator of a New Music series at the Brucknerhaus in Linz, Austria.
Mexico-Journey (2005): sound installation, performances and lectures in Querétaro and Guadalajara (Mexico).
University of Toronto (2005): lectures and concerts at the Faculty of Music.
KLANG.RÄUME (2006): portrait concert at the Parlament of Vienna
Aerodynamischer Park, Berlin (2006): permanent sound installation in collaboration with the artist Stefan Krüskemper
Von Hirschen und Röhren (2006): eine tönende Rauminstallation in Zusammenarbeit mit dem Künstler Beat Zoderer
Portrait Concert Weimar (2006): works for instruments and live-electronics
Portraitkonzert ÖNB (2006): works for saxophone ensemble and electronics
realisation of the missing electronic part of Friedrich Cerha's orchester piece Spiegel III of 1961 (2007)
Fräulein Atlantis (2007): collaboration with the German artist Jonathan Meese in creating a sound and video environment for an installation
Sequitur (2008): a series of compositions for solo instrument and live-electronics
expanded voice (Mainz 2008): workshop for voice and live-electronics
Champ d'Action (Antwerp 2008/2009): composer-in-residence, featured with concerts / commission / workshop
ensemble on_line (Vienna 2009): composer-in-residence for a concert tour through the USA
OUT OF THE BLUE (2009 ff.): free improvisation duo with singer Agnes Heginger
Portrait Concert Münster (2010): compositions for percussions, music box, electric guitar and live-electronics
Lectures/Performances in Boston (2010): at Harvard University, Northeastern University, New England Conservatory of Music and the Goethe Institute Boston.
Composer-in-residence (Pomona College 2011): featured composer at the 19th Annual Ussachevsky Festival
Música y Escena (Mexico City 2011): cross-media performance LABoratorio
Concordia University (Montréal 2011): composer-in-residence / distiguished speaker
Sterbebett mit Pappendeckeln (Vienna 2011): electronic live-music for the posthumous premier of a theater piece by Andreas Okopenko
DublinSoundLab (Dublin 2011): portrait concert / workshop
composer-in-residence (Montréal & Toronto 2012)
LOISIARTE (Langenlois 2012): composer-in-residence
INTER/actions Symposium on Interactive Electronic Music (Bangor 2012): keynote speaker and composer-in-residence
(Valencia 2012): composer-in-residence Universitat Politécnica de Valencia
7th Conference of the European Research Network Sociology of the Arts (Vienna 2012): keynote speaker
Klangspuren (Schwaz 2012): portrait concert
Toy Piano World Summit (Luxembourg 2012): composer-in-residence
Saxfest (Vienna 2013): composer-in-residence
Taiwan Tour (Hsinchu, Taipei 2013): lectures, workshops, performances
ESSL_SEQUITUR (Vienna 2013): lectures, workshops, concerts with Karlheinz Essl's Sequitur compositions
whatever shall be (2013): CD with compositions for toy instruments and electronics, performed by Isabel Ettenauer
Atelier Klangforschung (Würzburg 2014): composer-in-residence
TRANSfigure_Mozart (Vienna 2015): collaboration with Tanz Atelier Wien
SCORES // PHILOSOPHY ON STAGE (Vienna 2015): art-based research project
Queensland Conservatorium / Griffith University (Brisbane 2016): Visiting Research Fellow
Ganymed Nature (Vienna 2018): music for a theater project at Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna
LICHT.STÜCK.BAD.FABRIK (Viertelfestival NÖ 2018): generative sound environment for a media exhibition by Markus Wintersberger and Andrea Nagl
H.E.A.D. (2018 ff.): binaural soundscape compositions (work-in-progress)
Forms of Life (2019-2021): dance/sound/performance with Andrea Nagl and Markus Wintersberger
Gold.Berg.Werk (2019-2021): a radical re-interpretation of JS Bach's Goldberg Variations for piano and electronics, a CD production in collaboration with Xenia Pestova Bennett
K.O.P.F. (2018-2021): radiophones Kunstkopf-Hörspiel und Buch in Zusammenarbeit mit Erwin Uhrmann
TAU - Zeichen des Umbruchs (2020/2021): collaborative ensemble composition with Tanja Elisa Glinsner, Jakob Gruchmann-Bernau, and Till Alexander Körber, based on paintings by Valentin Oman
Konzerthaus Vienna, Musikprotokoll (Graz), Kunstradio, IRCAM (Paris), Ensemble (Vienna), Radio Symphony Orchestra Vienna, Klangforum Ensemble (Australia), Elision Salzburg Festival, Ensemble (Belgium), Austrian National Library, Ensemble Champ d'Action (Vienna), die reihe trio accanto (Freiburg), festival WIEN MODERN, EOS Quartet (Vienna), Studio Percussion , graz Austrian Cultural Forum (New York), Staatstheater Stuttgart, DIAGONALE - Forum österreichischer Film, musik aktuell 2003, Ensemble Wiener Collage, Donaufestival, Wiener Saxophonquartett, Stanser Musiktage, Linz 2009 - European Capitol of Europe, Música y Escena (Mexico City, 2011), junctQín keyboard collective (Toronto 2012), Klangspuren (Schwaz 2012), Philharmonie Luxembourg (Luxembourg 2012), Museum Gugging (Gugging 2013), Universität Wien (Vienna 2015)
Performances at important music festivals, such as
WIEN MODERN (Vienna 1989, 1993, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2007, 2011, 2020), Hörgänge (Vienna 1992, 1994, 1998, 2002), Musikprotokoll (Graz 1990, 1991, 2021), Schoenberg-Festival (Duisburg 1992), Présences (Paris 1992, 2000), Ars Musica (Bruxelles 1993, 2003, 2009), Biennale (Zagreb 1994, 2003), Time of Music (Viitasaari, Finland 1994), Convergence (Connecticut College, New London 1995, 1997), Sonar (Barcelona 1995), ISCM-Festival (Sofia 1995), Sound of Multimedia (Worcester, MA 1996), NEMO 96 (Chicago 1996), Musica Presente - Musica in Europe (Milano 1996), Salzburg Festival - Next Generation (Salzburg 1997, 2002), ISEA '97 (Chicago), IVth Brazilian Symposion for Computer Music (Brasilia 1997), überGrenzen '97: Österreich - Berlin (Berlin 1997), Architecture and Music Symposion (Linz 1997), ULTRASCHALL (SFB Berlin 1999, 2000), KlangArt 99 (Osnabrück), ISCM World Music Days (Romania 1999), First Iteration - Generative Systems in the Electronic Arts (Monash University, Melbourne, Australia), Fuori di qui (Rome 2000, curated by Cecilia Casorati), Bludenzer Tage für zeitgemäße Musik (Bludenz 2000, 2004), Florida Electroacoustic Festival (Gainesville, Florida 2001), Electronic Music Convention of Switzerland (Bern 2001), Kalvos & Damian Ought-One Festival (Plainfield, Vermont 2001), New Zealand Festival (Wellington 2002), musik aktuell (2003), DIAGONALE (Graz 2003) TRAIETTORIE (Parma 1991, 2003), AKZENTE (Linz 2004), Résonances (Paris 2004), Festival d'Automne (Paris 2004), Art meets Media: Adventures in Perception (Tokyo 2005), HAPPENING - New Music Festival (Calgary 2005), LA Sonic Odyssey (Los Angeles 2005), generator (Vienna 2005), Festival de Música Electroacústica (Querétaro, Mexico 2005), 8° Festival Cultural de Mayo (Guadalajara, Mexico 2005), Komponistenforum Mittersill (2005), TRANSIT (Leuven, Belgium 2005), The New Austrian Sound of Music (Berlin 2005), Extensible Toy Piano Project (Clark University 2005), Sound Ways (St. Petersburg 2005), Österreich tanzt (St. Pölten 2006), Schreyahner Herbst (2006), 19. Tage für Neue Musik (Weimar 2006), Musica Sacra (St. Pölten 2006), Perform.Media (Indiana University 2006), Music in the Global Village (Budapest 2007), Colourscape Music Festival (London 2007), Musica Viva (Porto 2007), International Contemporary Music Festival (Kaunas 2007), The Extensible Electric Guitar (Clark University 2008), NUIT BLANCHE (Toronto, 2008), Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (2008), Musica Electronica Nova (Wrocław 2009), Linz 2009 - European Capitol of Europe (2009), 12th GlobART Academy (2009), Open Music (Graz 2010), KLANGZEIT (Münster 2010), LOOK & LISTEN Festival (New York, 2010), RAFLOST - Icelandic Festival of Electronic Arts (Reykjavik, 2010), Música y Escena (Mexico City, 2011), LOISIARTE 2012, blurred edges (Hamburg, 2012), Klangspuren (Schwaz 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015), Rainy Days: Toy Piano World Summit (Luxembourg 2012), Saxfest Vienna (2013), ISCM World Music Days (Wrocław 2014), UnCaged Toy Piano Festival (New York 2015), Archipel - Musiques d'aujourd'hui (Genève 2016), Vienna International Saxfest (Vienna 2016), PORTO FRANKO GogolFEST (Ivano-Frankivsk, 2016 & 2018), NIME Conference (Brisbane 2016), Florida International Toy Piano Festival (St. Petersburg 2017), Miami International GuitART Festival (Miami 2017), TENOR 2018 (Montreál 2018), Montreal/New Musics 9th edition (Montreál 2019), Toy Music Festival (Seoul 2019 and 2021), ARTESCIENZA (Rome, 2020), Internationale Ensemble Modern Akademie (Frankfurt, 2021), 8th Saint Petersburg International New Music Festival
Ensembles: Arditti Quartet (London), Ensemble Modern (Frankfurt), Het Nieuw Ensemble (Amsterdam), XASAX (Paris), Ensemble InterContemporain (Paris), Court-Circuit (Paris), Klangforum (Vienna), ensemble xx. jahrhundert (Vienna), Radio Symphony Orchestra Vienna, Elision Ensemble (Australia), Schlagquartett Köln, ensemble recherche (Freiburg), Ensemble Köln, Ensemble Noamnesia (Chicago), Wiener Saxophonquartett, 2e2m (Paris), Ensemble United Berlin, Ensemble (Antwerp, Belgium), Champ d'Action ensemble für neue musik zürich (Switzerland), Orpheus Trio (Vienna), Ensemble Kontrapunkte (Vienna), Studio Percussion , EOS Quartett (Vienna), Kammerensemblen Stockholm, graz STROMA Ensemble (Wellington, New Zealand), Ensemble Intégrales (Hamburg), ZWERM - electric guitar quartet (Gent), ensemble reconsil (Vienna), Transmission Ensemble (Montréal), Hugo Wolf Quartett (Vienna), Ensemble 306 (Eindhoven), Trombone Attraction (Vienna) et. al.
Soloists: Elisabeth Flunger (Vienna), Jeffrey Krieger (Manchester, CT), Irvine Arditti (London), Ernst Kovacic (Vienna), Mary Oliver (Amsterdam), Richard Barrett (London), Christian Fennesz (Vienna), Mike Svoboda (Tübingen), Garth Knox (Paris), Martin Siewert (Vienna), Didi Bruckmayr (Linz), Arne Deforce (Gent), Anne LaBerge (Amsterdam), Franz Hautzinger (Vienna), Anton Lukoszevieze (London), Klaus Burger (Baden-Baden), Isabel Ettenauer (St. Pölten) Seth Josel (Berlin), Phyllis Chen (New York), Lars Mlekusch (Vienna), Barbara Lüneburg (Amsterdam), Goska Isphording (Eindhoven), Alexander Bruck (Mexico City), Christian Altenburger (Wien), Martin Mallaun (St. Johann/Tirol), Agnes Heginger (Vienna), Wolfgang Kogert (Vienna), Pier Damiano Peretti (Vienna), Xenia Pestova Bennett (Bangor)
Artists: Harald Naegeli (sprayer), Carmen Wiederin (architect), Andreas Okopenko (writer), Vibeke Sorensen (video artist), Hannes Mlenek (painter), Fabrizio Plessi (installation artist), Michaela Grill (video artist), Sabine Scholl (writer), Bernd R. Bienert (choreographer), Liz Lea (dancer), Martin Kaar (light artist), Nika Radic (sculpturer), Hermann Nitsch (painter, actionist), Rainer Gottemeier (land artist), Stefan Krüskemper (architectural artist), Beat Zoderer (installation artist), Jürgen Messensee (painter), Johanes Zechner (artist), Sabina Holzer (dancer), Jack Hauser (ex-filmmaker), Jonathan Meese (artist), Guido Kucsko (artist), Xenia Hausner (artist), Hannes Mlenek (painter), Georg Riha (filmmaker), Andrea Nagl (choreographer), Jacqueline Kornmüller (director), Helmut Wimmer (photographer), Erwin Uhrmann (writer)
Updated: 1 Oct 2022