Asmus Tietchens

Asmus Tietchens

The aesthetic of abstraction

interview by Matteo Meda
My first question is born from a curiosity. Before I started writing down the questions, I had a round in your Discogs page to have a quick visual update on your immense discography. I found out this definition on your page: "a German electronic musician who has pursued "absolute music" through an almost mathematical process of rigid formal exercises.". Well, do you agree with it?
No, do not really agree with that. The "formal exercises" mean that I try to achieve more or less variations based on one initial idea. E.g. 'Teilmenge 40A - D" means that these are four variations of either formal possibiities, or different mixes. In any case I rely on my ears (!) and not (!) on algorithms or mathematics.

The truth is that I have always found a logic thread in everything you've been doing. I've never felt the sensation you were doing something just to see how it could work. There is always a great research behind every single sounds you produce. But I think this is really far from the definition of "rigid formal exercises". So, what's your opinion about the relationship between logic, mathematics (in a certain sense) and sound research in your art?
As I said above I rely on my ears. In addition I have of course a very distinct esthetic regarding sound, proportions of volumes and durations, and - very important - due to nearly 50 years of practical knowledge I'm quite experienced. Logic? No, maybe my music has an inner logic. I'm interested in creating structures and sounds which fit with my aforementioned esthetic. To my not ending surprise I still explore such structures and sounds in nearly every recording session. But you are right: It is hard research work and it needs time, time and time again. Here and then I need more than a week to create a piece of - let's say - three minutes duration. I am and always was a very slow worker.

This meticulous research is something I've found out in your next release too. I didn't manage to find out any description about it: everything is written in German and unfortunately I don't speak it. So, what's the idea you traslated into sound? And what about the "sonic language" you've evolved to have it translated?
You cannot find any details or descriptions of my methods in the credits of the CD sleeves - just a quotation of E.M. Cioran. But I can describe my approach (sonic language?) very easily. My main question is: How do the myrads of sonic details fit with the meta-structure of the piece I'm just creating? This simple question keeps me in suspense since decades and still does. You see, it is a kind of complex puzzle with countless constituent parts. My task is to choose and to organze the chosen particles to a new piece of music. Again: That needs time.

Do you think there is any link with your previous release on Line imprint, it's say the second half of your "Menge" series?
Yes, there is. I continously develope my idea of 'multiplicity in smallest perceptible sections of time and/or space'. The early experiments in this direction are dated back to the year 2000 when the German label 'Mille Plateaux/Ritornell' released my album "Alpha Menge". Five years later Line released "Epsilon Menge". The second part in the title of the recent CD "Ornamente" is in English "between Zero and One". I f (!!!) I would apply mathematical methods I w o u l d (!!!) use the infinitesimal calculus. But I'm a musician/composer and thus I discuss the ficticious difference betwenn Makro and Mikro in a sonic way. To reduce means not to minimize - I always try to avoid this misunderstanding. Much more I will show the immens richness and ultimately the certain beauty of micro structures which are in no way inferior to macro structures.

It seems these 5 immersions are still evolving an idea of abstraction, a sort of "purification" from images, evocations, and everything that can distract a listener from sound's purity. Sound is the only subject and the only object of the "ornaments", and they are built on sound, for sound. This focus on sound in its pure essence is something I've ever found in your works. Is this sensation something you've really worked on, or it is just a consequence of your approach to composition?
Abstraction - yes. Sound - also yes. Of course I try to avoid 'picture music' ('Programmusik) as it was fashionable in the 19th century. Images, evocations and - yes - also moods have no business in my music. But a very important third component is time.The sonic part of every piece of music needs time to appear. As a composer/musician I must decide for each piece - amongst other decisions - how to arrange all the elements in a time line. That's a question of proportion. Also a question of proportion are the dynamics: The gradient between very low volume and very high volume is of high interest for me. And what about absolute silence? Everybody knows that silence (digital zero) can be a convenient feature. That's not new under the sun. In other words: A combination of abstraction, sound, time arrangement and volume control toether with - here and then - silence are my most important topics.

During your long career, you've always evolved parallel sound paths, without any stilistic border. Is it part of your approach to sound? Do you think borders and definitions are still making sense?
No, borders in any kind of art do not make any sense. I never cared about such limitations. They are no more than Procustean beds which mutilate the artist who feels comfortable to lie down in such a rack.

You're one of the few musicians from your generation that has never stopped updating his sound. I mean: you raised from the late kraut-rock scene, but then you passed through 80's industrial, 90's glitch, noise experiences, ambient-oriented projects, till '00 sound art and contemporary researches - I am using these labels only to explain what I mean. Do you think this has been the best way to mantain your art "young"?
It is not a question of keeping my art young. Kraut, Industrial (even Punk), Glitch, Noise and all the other movements of the past and present are permanent efforts to liberate esthetics. My role in this continous upheaval is not the one of a big inventor but much more the one of a composer who can walk on his own way at the edges of all this fantastic developments.

What about instrument and techniques? Have you evolved them in parallel to your sound or have you tried to mantain a common approach to sound composition?
When I realised my first tape music in 1965 I just had an amateurish 2-track tape machine. Nothing else. But I had so much in my head which I could not realise with that limited equipment. So I had to assemble the equipment continously. When I had new ideas about sound and structures which I could not realise with the recent devices I simply had to purchase the ones I needed. Since appr. 10 years I feel so well equipped that I have not to buy new stuff. Okay, software updates, a new computer, tiny plug ins which make the work in the studio easier - but basically no new tools. With one exception: Some years ago I got the whole bundle of GRM tools, which are very helpul. By the way: I never used Max/msp.

How important has been for you to have started moving your steps in Krautrock's Germany? And what were your main references at the time?
Kraut was a movement (after Rock 'n Roll, Beatles and Psychedelia) in Popmusic which blasted away nearly all rules. Great! But it did not really touched my own music, because I was much more (in a way) fascinated by the so called Serious Music á la Pierre Schaeffer, the electronic music of the Cologn School and ideas of Joseph Beuys. Some of the Kraut music deeply impressed me (Cluster, the first (!!!) two albums of Kraftwerk). But this music did influence me no more than the fascinating music of e.g. Olivier Messiaen and Carl Orff. To name only a few of my "Gods".

Recently I've worked on reviews and features for some of your old albums that Bureau B re-pressed 2 years ago - "Litia" and "In The Nacht". Have you been involved in this re-mastering process?
Do you still feel those krautrock-sounding works close to your contemporary aesthetic? The very brief but amusing SKY period took no more then three years. It was a good experience for me to try some rhythmic-harmonic music. But soon I lost interest in it because I clearly saw my limited skills in that genre. Aleady in 1982 I began to plagiarize myself. Urrrgh ... High time to quit that job. Yes, I was involved in the rerelease series of Bureau B. I've remastered the old analog tapes by myself and made the recordings available to them. The SKY pieces have no connection to my contemporary music. The temporal and esthetic distances are lightyears.

And what about the "amarcord" with Dieter Moebius in 2012? You made an album on Bureau B, just called "Moebius + Tietchens". But it didn't seem a real coming back to old times, even if you share more or less the same 70's krautrock background. How was that project born?
After the recording session of "Liliental" in 1976 (in which five musicians participated) Moebius and I made the appointment to record a Moebius-Tietchens-album sometime in the future. Well, it took nearly 35 years to redeem that promise. To return to the 70s roots seemed to be a silly idea, so we deided to try something which fits more with contemporary music.

The last one: there is a particular relationship between your art and Emil Cioran's philosophy. We can find it mainly in your album's title. Do you think your music could also have some reflections from Cioran's thought? I'm mainly thinking to the concept of the absurd, but also to that famous sentence that said "You have to look for everything inside yourself, and if you don't find anything, you must let it die". You've always researched inside sound, without trying to lean on anything different. Do you agree? 
Since 1985 I attach a Cioran quotation to my releases. If music, especially music without words could be sceptical I would do without with the quotations. But music cannot be sceptical. In no case Cioran was an absurdist, he was a - sceptic. I'm, too, a sceptic and thus remain sceptical against Cioran. Yes - to quote good old Emil -: "To be means being in a tight spot".
Discografia
 

ASMUS TIETCHENS

  
 CD & LP
  
 Nachtstücke (Expressions Et Perspectives Sonores Intemporelles) (Egg, 1980 / Die Stadt, 2003 / Bureau B, 2014)
 Biotop (Sky, 1981 / Die Stadt, 2003 / Bureau B, 2013)
 Spät-Europa (Sky, 1982 / Die Stadt, 2003 / Bureau B, 2013)
In Die Nacht (Sky, 1982 / Die Sdadt, 2003 / Bureau B, 2013)
Litia (Sky, 1982 / Die Stadt, 2003 / Bureau B, 2013)
 Formen Letzer Hausmusik (LP, United Diaries, 1984 / CD, Die Stadt, 2005)
Seuchengebiete (LP, A-Mission, 1985 / CD, Die Stadt, 2005)
 Geboren, Um Zu Dienen (LP, Discos Esplendor Geometrico, 1986 / CD, Die Stadt, 2006)
 Notturno (LP, Discos Esplendor Geometrico, 1986 / CD, Barooni, 1992 / CD, Die Stadt, 2007)
 Zwingburgen Des Hedonismus (LP, Multimood, 1987)
 Aus Freude Am Elend (LP. Dom America, 1988 / CD, Die Stadt, 2008)
Marches Funèbres  (LP, Multimood, 1989 / CD, Multimood, 1994 / CD, Die Stadt, 2010)
 Abfleischung (LP, Hamster, 1989 / CD, Die Stadt, 2008)
 Stupor Mundi (LP, Discos Esplendor Geometrico, 1990 / CD, Die Stadt, 2013)
 Seuchengebiete 2 (Syrenia, 1991)
 Sinkende Schwimmer (Barooni, 1991)
 Daseinsverfehlung (Stille Andacht, 1992)
 Das Fest Ist Zu Ende. Aus. (Barooni, 1993)
 Die Nacht Aus Blei (ltd, Walter Ulbricht Schallfolien, 1994)
Eisgang (ltd, LP, Korm Plastics, 1995 / 2xCD with "Dämmerattacke", Submergence, 2002)
 Das Vieh Und Sein Vater  - Achtzehn Beiträge für Kassetten und LP-Zusammenstellungen 1981-1995 (raccolta, Realization, 1996)
 Ptomaine (ltd, 3xLP, RRRecords, 1996)
Dämmerattacke (ltd, LP, Korm Plastics, 1997 / 2xCD with "Eisgang", Submergence, 2002)
Seuchengebiete 3 (ltd, Artware, 1997)
 Glimmen (E(r)ostrate, 1999)
α-Menge (Menge Series: 1 | Ritornell, 2000)
β-Menge (Menge Series: 2 | Ritornell, 2001)
γ-Menge (Menge Series: 4 | Ritornell, 2002)
 FT+ (Crouton, 2003)
δ-Menge (Menge Series: 5 | Ritornell, 2003)
ε-Menge (Menge Series: 8 | ltd, Line, 2005)
 Verstreutes 2 (raccolta, Auf Aubwegen, 2006)
ζ-Menge (Menge Series: 9 | ltd, Line, 2006)
 Zwingburgen Des Hedonismus - Mysterien Des Hafens (raccolta, Die Stadt, 2006)
 4K7 (raccolta, 4xLP, Vinyl-on-demand, 2007)
η-Menge (Menge Series: 10 | ltd, Line, 2008)
 Teils Teils (LP, Swill Radio, 2008)
 Flächen Mit Figuren (ltd, Non Visual Objects, 2009)
 Eine Menge Papier (Menge Series: 11 | ltd, raccolta, Auf Aubwegen, 2009)
Abraum (ltd, 1000füssler, 2010)
Soirée (ltd, Line, 2011)
 Tarpenbek (ltd, CD+Box, Auf Aubwegen, 2012)
 Fast Ohne Titel, Korrosion (Black Rose, 2013)
 Humoresken Und Vektoren (Auf Aubwegen, 2014)
 Der Fünfte Himmel (raccolta, Bureau B, 2014)
 Ornamente (Zwischen Null Und Eins)‬ (ltd, Line, 2015)
  
 Cassette
  
 Musik Aus Der Grauzone (YHR Tapes, 1981 / Auricle, 1987)
 Musik Im Schatten (Aeon, 1982 / Auricle, 1987)
 Musik An Der Grenze (YHR Tapes, 1982 / Auricle, 1988)
 Musik Unter Tage (Aeon, 1983 / Vinyl-on-demand, 2007)
 Große Statik (as Club Of Rome, ADN, 1985)
 Linea (Korm Plastics, 1988 / CDr, Korm Plastics, 1999)
 Raum 318 (E'ostrate, 1991)
  
 EP, CDr, MiniCD, MiniCDr, 10", 7"
  
 

Rattenheu (10", The Bog, 1996)

 

Papier Ist Geduldig (ltd, 7", Syntactic, 1996)

 

Was Bleibt (7", Bad Alchemy, 1999)

 

Von Mund Zu Mund 1 (7", Die Stadt, 1999)

 

Phosphor (ltd, MiniCD, Auf Aubwegen, 1999)

 

6.9.98 7 Uhr / 8 Uhr (ltd, 7", Klanggalerie, 1999)

 

Von Mund Zu Mund 2 (7", Die Stadt, 2000)

 

Von Mund Zu Mund 3 (7", Die Stadt, 2000)

 

Kappotte Muziek - by Asmus Tietchens (ltd, 7", Korm Plastics, 2000)

 

Leuchtidioten (Menge Series: 3 | ltd, 10", Die Stadt, 2001)

 

Kuttelbruch (MP3, Experimental.com, 2003)

 

Sechs Heidelberger Studien (ltd, MAXI-single, Material-Verlag HFBK Hamburg, 2003)

Eine Ganze Menge (Menge Series: 6 | MiniCD, 1000füssler, 2004)

 

Teilmenge 35c (Menge Series: 7 | MP3, plakatif, 2004)

 

Zwei Stücke (MiniCDr, Auf Abwegen, 2006)

Fahl (EP, ltd, Farmacia901, 2014)

  
  
 ASMUS TIETCHENS & TERRY BURROWS
  
 Watching The Burning Bride (LP, Hamster, 1986)
 Burning The Watching Bride (LP, Disaster Area, 1998)
  
  
 ASMUS TIETCHENS & OKKO BEKKER
  
E (LP, Dom, 1988 / Auf Aubwegen/Die Stadt, 2015)
 U (ltd, 7", Dom, 1988)
 Stockholmer Totentanz (ldt, Artware, 1999)
  
  
 ASMUS TIETCHENS & ARCANE DEVICE
  
 DBL_FDBK (with Arcane Device, Stille Andacht, 1993)
 Speiseleitung (with Arcane Device, Raum 312, 1996)
  
  
 ASMUS TIETCHENS & VIDNA OBMANA
  
Asmus Tietchens. Vidna Obmana. (Syrenia, 1995)
Motives For Recycling (2xCD, Soleilmoon, 1999)
 The Shifts Recycling (2xCD, Soleilmoon, 2002)
  
  
 ASMUS TIETCHENS & DAVID LEE MYERS
  
 Flussdichte (Disco Bruit, 2001)
 60:00 (ldt, Line, 2004)
  
  
 ASMUS TIETCHENS & JON MUELLER
  
 7 Stücke (ltd, Auf Aubwegen, 2003)
 Acht Stücke (ldt, Auf Aubwegen 2007)
  
  
 ASMUS TIETCHENS & RICHARD CHARTIER
  
Fabrication (Die Stadt, 2007)
Fabrication 2 (2xCD, Auf Aubwegen, 2010)
  
  
 ASMUS TIETCHENS & DIETER MOEBIUS
  
Moebius + Tiechens (Bureau B, 2012)
 Mr. Mercator / Herrlickheit (Ken Charlton) / Tiefland (with Junior Electronics, ltd, 12", Bureau B, 2013)
  
  
 KONTAKT DER JÜNGLINGE
(Asmus Tietchens & Thomas Köner)
  
Kontakt Der Jünglinge 0 (Die Stadt, 2001)
 Kontakt Der Jünglinge 1 (Die Stadt, 2001)
 Kontakt Der Jünglinge -1 (Die Stadt, 2002)
 Kontakt Der Jünglinge n (Die Stadt, 2003)
 Untitled (with John Duncan & C.M. Von Hausswolff, Die Stadt, 2007)
 Makrophonie 1 (Die Stadt, 2014)
  
  
 ALTRE COLLABORAZIONI
  
Liliental (with Conny Plank, Dieter Moebius, Okko Bekker, Helmut Hattler & Johannes Pappert as Liliental, LP, Brain, 1978 / Brain, 2007)
 Face To Face Vol. 1 (ltd, split with Die Form, Odd Size, 1988)
 Monoposto (with Liquidsky, LP, Dradomel, 1991)
Grav (with Merzbow & PGR, Silent, 1991)
 Five Manifestoes (with PBK, Realization, 1992)
 Das Digitale Vertrauen (with Edward Ka-Spel & Jetzmann/L.Ski, raccolta, 2xCD, Soleilmoon/The Bog, 1997)
Repetetive Movement (with Achim Wollscheid, Staalplaat, 1998)
 Schritt Um Schritt / Buzz Off (split with Robert Rutman, ltd, 7", Die Stadt, 1999)
 The Scorpions Studio Outtakes 1-6, 7-15 (with Felix Knoth & Tim Buhre as Spiders On Phasing, LP, Gagarin, 2000)
 Untitled (with Thomas Köner, Illusion Of Safety, Ditterich von Euler-Donnersperg, ltd, 2x7", Die Stadt, 2001)
 Hunde I (with Xyramat & TBC, cassette, Wachsender Prozess, 2003)
 Hunde II (with Jetzmann & TBC, CDr & cassette, Wachsender Prozess, 2003)
 YAK (with Y-Ton-G, ltd, Monochrome Vision, 2007)
 3 Wishes (with Stefanie Ressin, 7", Meeuw Muzak, 2009)
 Asmus Tietchens / Kouhei Matsounaga (split with Kouhei Matsounaga, ltd, 12", Important, 2011)
 Untitled (with Thomas Köner & Ditterich von Euler-Donnersperg, ltd, Ep, Die Stadt, 2012)
Liquified Sky (DVD, with Evelina Domnitch, Dmitry Gelfand, CoH, Paul Prudence & Francisco López, LINE, 2013)
 Harvestehude (with M Peinemann, 2xCD, Auf Aubwegen, 2015)
  
  
 HEMATIC SUNSETS
(Asmus Tietchens)
  
 Musik Aus Des Aroma Club (LP, Klang Der Festung, 1998)
 Rendezvous Im Aroma Club (LP, Klang Der Festung, 1999)
 Zu Gast Im Aroma Club (LP, Klang Der Festung, 2004)
 Weihnachten Im Aroma Club (7", with Okko Bekker, Klang Der Festung, 2004)
 Aroma Club Paradox (LP, Dekorder, 2009)
  
  
 DOC WöR MIRRAN
  
 The Music Of Blood (cass, autoprodotto, 1989 / ltd, Cheeses International, 1994)
 Labyrinth: Birth → Death (LP, Musical Tragedies, 1989)
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