Merging elements of techno, conceptualism and electroacoustic composition, Stefan Goldmann has created his uniquely own variety of contemporary art music. Neither constrained by the pitfalls of academism nor those of electronic club music functionality, his work topics range from micro details (such as re-shaping the way an electronic hi-hat may be programmed – as incorporated in Sleepy Hollow or The Maze) to macro concepts of exposing terminal points of entire musical genres or technical formats. His investigation into remixing might serve as an example here, including both, a remix that does not change the score at all while cutting up dozens of recordings (Stravinsky: Le Sacre Du Printemps), and one that replaces every sound bit until the original work is no longer present except for a ghostly structural shadow (Fennesz: Remiksz).
The choice and handling of topics, methods and material are often reminiscent of the movements of an occupational force that takes strategic positions others misevaluated or missed to capture. These positions may be structural (such as specific rhythmic concepts) or technological (such as “branding” the sound of a piece of gear by excessively exposing its specific qualities in an unusual context – think of the Fuzzprobe pedal in The Maze). The unifying features are relevance and idiosyncrasy, so that seemingly disparate outings end up forming a cohesive body of work.
For this reason DJing sets of house music is an activity pursued with the same rigor as scoring a ballet or conceiving performance formats such as Berghain’s Elektroakustischer Salon (a now monthly events series at Berlin’s emblematic music venue). The desire to reach beyond the obvious becomes as important as the need to move on rather than to dwell on the same subject repetitively.
While being a dedicated agent of change, some recurring lines still become visible. A notable constant in his work is the appropriation of musical sources. Seemingly independent streams of “found” recordings are set off against the primary musical constructions – huge, unedited chunks such as the choir in Lunatic Fringe or the orchestral recording in The Grand Hemiola rub against independent timelines. Taken to an extreme, in Goldmann’s remix for Santiago Salazar’s Arcade a traditional Japanese ensemble breaks out of the track’s arrangement and takes over in order to remain on its own for about one third of the total duration – the roles of “sample” and “track” being reversed midway. Another line of work evolves around format-conscious compositions. Most remarkably realized with Haven’t I Seen You Before, employing the tape cassette as a means for circular composition, as well as The Grand Hemiola for a double vinyl 12” set of locked grooves at different rotation speeds, forming a polyrhythmic loop construction kit.
While in conceptual art usually the result is a mere byproduct of the concept, Goldmann judges work concepts on the results they allow. Ideas that read well on paper but don’t create musically relevant results are bypassed. Similarly, he has avoided covering all areas available. Especially where others already excel, he has been happy to step aside or to act as a catalyst only. This is preeminently true for his label Macro, founded in 2007 with Finn Johannsen, which built a group of peers rather than gathering artistic followers. For instance, Macro has become the home for the recorded output of Elektro Guzzi, which have emerged to become the leading act of performing techno with live instruments. Similarly, Macro has released music by artists with a long track record and strong standing of their own, such as Patrick Cowley and Peter Kruder. Showcasing the work of individuals covering different areas of a greater whole at benchmark levels is the beauty of Macro’s label concept. Live, these constellations have been presented at label events in Berlin, London, Paris, Washington DC and Tokyo. With Macro, Stefan Goldmann has created a context and outlet for his ever moving targets