biography | construction of instruments
| noise | sound | composition
| sculpture | timeline
catalog 'Urban Rituals,
The Sound Artist Christof Schläger'
"European music is based on an artificial construct
of tones and scales, it embodies the antithesis of counter pole to the raw, objective sounding of the world."
Around the middle of the twentieth century, however, even the raw sound of the world became music-capable
material. A significant portion was accounted to the emergence of electronic music, the concept of the
musique concrète, the development of noise-generating play techniques on classical instruments, and
compositional theories and concepts, including for example John Cage's postulation that all sound regardless
of its provenance is music.
The decisive difference between both the tones that escape from highly cultivated instruments and
the disharmonious, often unwanted and disturbing everyday noises is their ability to be systematized.
The musical tradition formulates tonal systems, in which each tone or each tonal pitch has been
designated a precisely defined place with a specific meaning, regardless of the instrument and
eventually independent of the concrete sound. In this sense, musical meaning is defined by abstract
melodic (horizontal) and harmonious (vertical) relationships of tonal pitches. The parameter of tonal
color plays only a subordinate role in occidental music. On the other hand, it dominates the essence
of noise, for it is predominantly defined by its sound characteristic. While tonal systems like the
twelve-tone tempered scale can be systematically described through their interval relationships, this
is impossible with the sound values of noises. In the Traité des objets musicaux published in 1966,
the French composer and founder of the musique concrète, Pierre Schaeffer, had tried to classify
noises according to their characteristics. But each noise as similar as it may be to others remains
a unique phenomenon, an always singular, unique sound occurrence. That is contradictory to the
formulation of a musical system and is based on the infinitude and freedom that Christof Schläger
claims for his work.
Entwürfe v.l.n.r.: Chromix,
Typedrum, Knackdosen, Hopper, Klapperrappel und Sirenen
Contrary to other instrument builders, Schläger is not interested in developing a musical system.
The construction of his sound machines and their sound worlds therefore does not follow any system.
He follows his intuition. He concentrates on materials and their sound characteristics, he lets the
results be a surprise letting them unfold in the concrete artisanal work to a detailed, precisely
The artist is inspired by the sounds and noises that he encounters in his living environment. He can
recount an experience about each of his individual sound machines whose varied construction is informed
by this inspiration and the sound world that is evoked includes metallic sounds, buzzing, whizzing and
whistling noises, clicking sounds, rattling and ringing in addition to tonal signals. In the sculpture
Schwirrer for example, the noise part is subsumed into the tonal pitch. This sound- and noise characteristic
is a result of the technical construction of the sound machines, but does not include any intention on the
part of the artist to use these devices to imitate technical noises. Their technical impression establishes
rather a symbolic, even allegoric dimension of the sound world, in that it refers to the world in which we
live. Above all, it opens up an experiential space that underlines the intrinsic value of these sounds and
their beauty. The technical instruments and sounds mutate in Christof Schläger's compositions into creations
of fantasy, which allows the emergence of something completely new.
Source: Urban Rituals, The Sound Artist Christof
Schläger. Verlag Hanno Ehrler, 2016