Alexander Schubert : combining different musical styles with contemporary classical concepts

alexander schubert

Alexander Schubert (1979) studied bioinformatics and composition.

Schubert’s interest explores cross-genre interfaces between acoustic and electronic music, combining different musical styles (like hardcore, free jazz, popular electronic music, techno) with contemporary classical concepts. Schubert has participated in his youth and early career in the above-mentioned genres both in groups and as a solo artist.

Furthermore performance pieces are a major focus in his work. The use of the body in electronic music and the transportation of additional content through gestures are key features in his pieces, which aim at empowering the performer and at achieving a maximum of energy. This is done both through the use of sensors and visual media.

Apart from working as a composer and solo musician Schubert is also a founding member of ensembles such as Decoder.  Since 2011 he teaches live-electronics at the conservatory in Lübeck.

His works have been performed more than 400 times in the last few years by numerous ensembles in over 25 countries.

THE QUESTIONS

What is your earliest musical memory that, in looking back, has proved to be significant regarding your career as a composer?

Recording birds out of my window as a small child.

Are there composers who have been influential or relevant regarding your own work?  Has this changed over time?

There are obviously a lot of different musicians and composers that I feel influenced by. I would not say that it has changed very much but rather that the pool of artists that inspired me has grown continuously.

How do you approach the question of “form” especially for longer works?

I think every work and setting calls for its own strategy of form. 

I feel that even though my use of material is fairly unclassical that the way I shape form and motives still often uses traditional approaches of development. I would say that I expand these concepts on other media and visual content as well. I realized that my way of working and structuring in time is always heavily influenced by my musical thinking and background – even though when working in setups that are almost nonmusical or purely visual.

Would you mind speaking a little concerning your working process, i.e., do you have a regular schedule for writing; do you use a computer for composing (either for creating pre-composition materials or notation), if so, do you find that it inhibits your process?  What other technology, if any, do you use?

I am both the very digital composer and a pretty pragmatic real world composer on the other side. In the computer I combine and bring to together all materials that I am working on. This includes video, programming, composition, sample recording, set-up-plans, photos and text. In the process of writing I am considering all different kinds of materials at the same time and with equal rights. This means that I am working on choreography in parallel to composing – and not after the music. Sometimes one aspect follows the other and sometimes it’s the other way around.

My writing process normally starts with creating a setting or scenery as I’d like to call it. This means that I create the foundation for the piece which can be the theoretical content, a technical approach, a light design, an experience or simply a musical idea. By then like to try out this setting as good as I can and see which elements are working well. At this stage I create a pool of material, that I then use in the composition process. This pool consists of gestures, light patterns, stage plans, computer patches, musical motives and so on. 

Please describe a recent work.

A fairly recent piece I have done is called Black Mirror. It is an installation in an empty hotel building and the garden surrounding it. The audience arrives at night and is wearing cat masks and black capes – by this everybody looks the same. This piece is typical for my work as it creates a scenery, an immersive setting, and combines theatrical and musical elements. The center of attention is the perception of the visitor. Technology is used to create a dreamlike and narrative form.

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