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robert henke (ableton live) – the art of engineering art

  • Norges Musikkhøgskole Slemdalsveien 11 Oslo Norway (map)

“One could say that Henke has had more influence over the last ten years on the way millions of people create and perform their music globally than any bigger-selling musicians or producers, simply because he helped build the instruments we’re all using to bring our ideas to life.” This is how Troy Micheau, from REDEFINE magazine describes Robert Henke, an artist, sound engineer and developer of Ableton Live.

Can a software shape compositional thought and processes? In this lecture, Henke reflects upon the musical considerations at the very base of the design of Ableton Live, one of today´s most popular commercial softwares for performance-oriented music production.

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Robert Henke, born in Munich, Germany, builds and operates machines to produce art. Amazed and inspired by the constantly expanding possibilities of applied computer science and technology, Henke explores new territories between musical composition, performance and installation. Alongside diving deeply into aesthetic concepts, the creation of his own instruments and tools is an important and integral part of his artistic process.His works are concerned with volume, power and impact, the tension between silence and noise, darkness and light, and about the exploration and manipulation of real and virtual spaces. They expose carefully shaped details and gradual changes of repeating structures in different time scales.

Henke is a pioneer of multichannel sound, using methods and systems like wave field synthesis and ambisonics to create situations of total immersion, expanding the sonic experience of his performances beyond of what can be reproduced at home. During the last decade, Henke's artistic explorations more and more expanded from his initial focus on music towards the field of installation, both sound based and audio-visual. His installations, internet based audiovisual performances and concerts have been presented at Tate Modern London, the Centre Pompidou Paris, Le Lieu Unique Nantes, PS-1 New York, MUDAM Luxembourg, MAK Vienna and on countless festivals.

Henke’s interest in the combination of art and technology is also evident in his contributions to the development of the music software 'Ableton Live'. Since Ableton’s founding in 1999, he has been central to the development of Live, which became the standard tool for electronic music production and completely redefined the performance practice of electronic music.He writes and lectures about sound and the creative use of computers, and holds a professorship in sound design at the Berlin University of Arts.

For 2013 he has been selected as Mohr Visiting Artist at the music department of Stanford University, where he will be teaching a class in computer music composition and performance.