Karlheinz Essl & Martin Mallaun


free improvisations for zither and electronics
Nachtstück Records 2014

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Album RUDERALS by Karlheinz Essl & Martin Mallaun

Released: 5 Jan 2014

Recorded live at Die Bäckerei, Innsbruck (Tyrol) on May 18th, 2011
Mixed and edited by Karlheinz Essl at Studio kHz, Dec 2013
Mastered by Tiago Morais Morgado

Artwork by mart

Liner Notes


Dumps, waysides, industrial waste lands — lush vegetation issues forth everywhere in the wake of human retreat. Plants come in with the wind, with the birds, creep out of the earth itself. The emerging landscape is haphazard, rich in species, in constant flux. Spontaneous structures come and go. Planning is not necessary for this unfolding of events, the protagonists themselves determine the outcome.

ruderals [wild vegetation] is a product of the first musical encounter between two singular musicians — Karlheinz Essl, prominent exponent of the European improvisational scene, with his self-developed computer instrument m@ze°2, and Martin Mallaun, eminent sound researcher and innovator on the zither, a traditional instrument of the Alps. Far from the well-trodden paths of computer and zither "music" they break new ground, gaining unaccustomed musical perspectives, yielding a surprisingly rich world of sounds.

Martin Mallaun, December 2013
Translation: Joan Marie Bloderer


Schuttplätze, Wegränder, Industriebrachen – wo immer sich der Mensch zurückzieht, dringt mit Macht eine üppige Vegetation vor. Pflanzen kommen mit dem Wind, mit den Vögeln, aus der Erde selbst. Alles ist unvorhersehbar, artenreich, in ständigem Fluss. Strukturen entstehen spontan und werden von neuen abgelöst. Niemand plant den Verlauf des Ganzen, dieser ergibt sich aus dem Zusammenspiel der Akteure.

Für das Projekt ruderals trafen im Mai 2011 zwei Musiker aufeinander, die sich mit ihren Instrumenten eine ureigene Sprache erschaffen haben: Karlheinz Essl, einer der bedeutendsten Protagonisten in der europäischen Improvisationsszene mit seinem computer-environment m@ze°2. Und Martin Mallaun, unermüdlicher Klangforscher und Innovator auf der Zither, einem traditionellen Instrument der Alpen. Die Beiden verzichteten bei ihrem Zusammentreffen auf vorgefasste Konzepte. Vielmehr schufen sie eine Brachfläche, Raum für Kontingenz. Befreit vom Idiom gängiger Computer – oder gar Zithermusik entstand so die unvorhergesehene, reiche Klangwelt von ruderals.

Martin Mallaun, Dezember 2013

Martin Mallaun (zither) and Karlheinz Essl (m@ze°2): Datura stromonium
Live at Die Bäckerei (Innsbruck, Tyrol) on May 18th, 2011


Karlheinz Essl - born 1960 in Vienna, Austria


Austrian composer, performer, improviser, media artist and composition teacher. He studied composition in Vienna with Friedrich Cerha and completed his studies in musicology with a doctoral thesis on Anton Webern. As a double bassist, he played in chamber ensembles and experimental jazz bands.

Essl was composer-in-residence at the Darmstadt Summer School (1990-94) and at IRCAM in Paris (1991-93). Between 1995-2006 he taught Algorithmic Composition at the Bruckner University in Linz. Since 2007, he has been professor of composition and electro-acoustic music at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna.

His work with computers and a long-term preoccupation with the poetics of serial music have been formative influences on his compositional thinking. During the 1990s he carried out various projects for the Internet and became increasingly involved with improvisation. In 1997, Karlheinz Essl was a featured composer at the Salzburg Festival. His compositions are now played all over the world.

Besides writing instrumental music, Karlheinz Essl also works in the areas of electronic music, interactive real-time compositions and sound installations. He develops software environments for algorithmic composition and live electronics. As a performer and improviser, he plays his own computer-based real-time composition environment m@ze°2 and also instruments such as electric guitar, toy piano and music box.

Martin Mallaun - born 1975 in Kitzbühel, Austria


Martin Mallaun studied zither and botany in Innsbruck. Currently he works as a freelance musician and botanist and as a music teacher. He addresses a wide spectrum of musical genres – “whether dealing with improvisation, electronics, baroque lute music, alpine folk music or contemporary new music, the native Tyrolean is always looking for new tonal and stylistic forms of expression with the zither. In doing so, he strolls unperturbed along the edges of the aesthetic intersections of various musical genres” (Music Information Center Austria, www.mica.at).

For his solo debut, “zwischen steinen”, Martin Mallaun was awarded the “Pasticcio-Preis” by the radio station Ö1. For 2012/2013, he holds a scholarship from the Austrian Foreign Ministry’s NASOM (New Austrian Sound of Music) programme.

He gives concerts in countless countries from France to Israel and as far as Japan, and has been guest artist at international festivals (including the Edinburgh International Festival/United Kingdom, the Munich Biennale in Germany and the Klangspuren in Austria). In addition, he is a member of the research project GLORIA, which investigates the effects of climate change on the vegetation of the Alpine ecological systems (www.gloria.ac.at).

Martin Mallaun (zither) and Karlheinz Essl (m@ze°2): Ballota Nigra
Live at Die Bäckerei (Innsbruck, Tyrol) on May 18th, 2011


Recording, editing and mixing: Karlheinz Essl
Mastering: Tiago Morais Morgado
Graphic design: mart
Liner notes: Martin Mallaun Translation: Joan Marie Bloderer


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Updated: 9 Jul 2014