biography | construction of instruments | noise | sound | composition | sculpture | timeline

catalog 'Urban Rituals, The Sound Artist Christof Schläger'
III. Sound

"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 formulated gestalt.

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