Stephan Mathieu (born 11 October 1967) is a German musician and sound artist whose work is based on digital and analog processing techniques. He currently lives and works in Bonn, Germany.
Stephan Mathieu is a self-taught composer and performer of his own music, working in the fields of electroacoustics and abstract digitala. His sound is largely based on early instruments, environmental sound and obsolete media, which are recorded and transformed by means of experimental microphony, re-editing techniques and software processes involving spectral analysis and convolution; it has been compared to the landscape paintings of Caspar David Friedrich, the work of Painters Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman and Ellsworth Kelly.
During the last decade Stephan’s music has been released on over 50 vinyl records CDs and digital editions, both solo and in collaboration with Akira Rabelais, Taylor Deupree, Robert Hampson, Sylvain Chauveau, David Sylvian and others on electronic music labels worldwide.
Since 1992 he performed his music live in solo shows and on festivals all over Europe, Scandinavia, North- and South America, Japan and created various audio installations for galleries and museums, a glass-blowing factory, a 17th-century garden, Berlin Mitte, a 19th-century steel plant, parks, an arrangement of 30 Peugeots, a late antique throne hall and various other places.
Between 2000 and 2005 Mathieu has taught Digital Arts and Theory at the HBKSaar University of Art and Design in Saarbrücken and as a guest lecturer at the Royal Academy of Arts in Göteborg, the Bauhaus University Weimar and the Merz-Akademie in Stuttgart.
His solo CD Radioland was voted genre-spanning one of the best albums of 2008 by music critics worldwide.
- "Mathieu shows that that most functional and impersonal of musical instruments, the laptop, is capable of producing work not only of great beauty, but of mysterious and powerful emotion.”
Stephan Mathieu was born October 1967 in Saarbrücken, Germany. At 10 he started to play drums. In 1984 he quit school to study hair design with Vidal Sassoon, a profession he followed until 1989, when he decided to focus entirely on making music.
In 1990 Mathieu moved to Berlin, where he joined a new generation of improvising musicians and worked regularly in several groups with Axel Dörner, Andrea Neumann, Toshimaru Nakamura, Rudi Mahall, Harri Sjöström and played in Wolfgang Fuchs' workshop group and the large conduction ensemble Berlin Skyscraper by New York-based composer Butch Morris.
One constant factor in Mathieu's work as a drummer during the 1990s was the duo Stol with guitarist Olaf Rupp. Stol moved freely between improvisation, noise and minimal rock, collaborated with various guest musicians and Butoh dancers and recorded a miniCD (Semi Prima Vista in 1994), and a 12-inch EP (001.010.011.100 in 1995) which was released on Kitty-Yo, Berlin in 1998. The same year he returned to his hometown Saarbrücken to found a family and made a radical shift towards composing and performing music with computers.
In 1999 music label Orthlorng Musork released his Full Swing EP, a 12-inch record with two pieces made from "homeopathic vibrations", microscopic snippets from recordings of Stephan's drum kit which were processed by DSP software in realtime. He applied this working method to recordings of his own piano and guitar playing as well as material by other musicians until 2001, when he changed his approach towards sound from micro to macro, from working with tiny sound fragments towards extensive live recordings of acoustic instruments, which were now transformed by means of experimental microphony, re-editing techniques and software processes involving spectral analysis and convolution, culminating in his The Sad Mac CD, released on the Tokyo-based Headz label in 2004.
From 2005 to 2007 Mathieu worked exclusively with realtime processed shortwave radio signals and performed Radioland, an audio-visual surround sound piece, live.
Mathieu is a collector of 78 rpm records from the golden age of audio recording, his archive mainly embraces raw gospel, jubilee groups, hillbilly, hawaiian steel guitar duets and early recordings of early music from 1900-1930.
In 2008 he launched Virginals, a recital concept which pays tribute to some of the great contemporary composers of minimal, experimental and electroaucoustic music. Interpretations of pieces by Phill Niblock, Alvin Lucier, Walter Marchetti, Charlemagne Palestine and Francisco Lopez are performed by Mathieu on the Virginals, a Renaissance keyboard instrument, mechanical gramophones, electronic organs and other obsolete media. In 2010 Mathieu started to work with several composers on commissioned pieces for Virginals, Revenant by Tashi Wada, being the first result in this series, was premiered in June 2011 at Collège des Bernardins, Paris.
Between 2009 and 2010 the audiovisual installations Process and Constellations were premiered and performed in Croatia, Spain and Belgium. Both pieces are closely linked to Virginals in their mechanical-acoustic nature.
Process, commissioned by the 25th Music Biennale Zagreb, is based on Orson Welles' film adaption of Franz Kafka's unfinished novel The Trial. The piece is presented by an ensemble of historical media artefacts comprising four mechanical gramophones which play back a pre-recorded consort of viols, the Virginals played with five electromagnets, and two vintage 16mm film projectors connected by a 24 meters long film loop. Both, the audio and visual parts of Process are based on a text fragment of Kafka's novel, which is translated to a string of binary code.
Constellations is a collaborative work with Buenos Aires based media artist Caro Mikalef and was commissioned by the Sónar 2010 Festival in Barcelona for three performances in the planetarium of the CosmoCaixa Barcelona New Science Museum. Conceived as an audiovisual piece dedicated to the iberian Renaissance composer Antonio de Cabezón, whose 500th anniversairy was celebrated in 2010, Constellations is performed by Mathieu and Mikalef on the Virginals, augmented by harpsichordist Carles Budo Costa from Valencia. For the visual part of the composition a large mobile sculpture was built from optical lenses by Carl Zeiss, mirrors and color filters, which are spotlighted by 12 HMI lamps to create spectral light reflections in the planetariums projection dome.
During Stephan Mathieu's aforementioned excursions within the fields of mechanical-acoustics and media composition, the computer made a comeback for some live projects in 2010, namely his Music for Columbia Phonoharp, a project dedicated to the US American pre-war gospel preacher Washington Phillips, which was performed in several concerts in Europe, North- and South America.
In 2011 Mathieu has started live and studio collaborations with Sylvain Chauveau, Hans-Joachim Roedelius, Taylor Deupree, Jozef van Wissem and Donal Lunny, as well as relaunching Robert Hampson's classic Main project.
In 2013 Mathieu focused on The Kilowatt Hour, a collaborative project with Christian Fennesz and David Sylvian. The trio performed a piece based on poems by Pulitzer Prize–winning writer Franz Wright during various shows in Norway and Italy.
- Radiance Vol. XII: Pacific | 24-Bit Digital | Schwebung 2017
- Radiance Vol. XI: Music with magnetic strings | 24-Bit Digital | Schwebung 2017
- Radiance Vol. X: Her dark gaze drowned in light | 24-Bit Digital | Schwebung 2017
- Radiance Vol. IX: Feldman | 24-Bit Digital | Schwebung 2017
- Radiance Vol. VIII: To have elements exist in space | 24-Bit Digital | Schwebung 2017
- Radiance Vol. VII: Process | 24-Bit Digital | Schwebung 2017
- Radiance Vol. VI: Kepler | 24-Bit Digital | Schwebung 2016
- Radiance Vol. V: For Franz Wright | 24-Bit Digital | Schwebung 2016
- Radiance Vol. IV: A Rainbow of Moonlight | 24-Bit Digital | Schwebung 2016
- Radiance Vol. III: Black Square for Robert Fludd | 24-Bit Digital | Schwebung 2016
- Radiance Vol. II: Music for The Answer | 24-Bit Digital | Schwebung 2016
- Radiance Vol. I: Alap for Steel Needle, Record and Theorbe | 24-Bit Digital | Schwebung 2016
- Before Nostromo | 24-Bit Digital | Schwebung 2015
- Nachtstücke | 24-Bit Digital | Schwebung 2014
- Sacred Ground | 24-Bit Digital | Schwebung 2014
- The Falling Rocket | 2LP | Dekorder, Hamburg 2013
- w/ David Sylvian: Wandermüde | CD | Samadhisound, London 2013
- w/ Main: Ablation | LP + CD | Editions Mego, Vienna 2013
- Un Cœur Simple | CD | Baskaru, Clichy 2013
- Coda (For WK) | CD | 12k, New York 2012
- w/ Sylvain Chauveau: Palimpsest | LP + 24-Bit Digital | Schwebung, Eschringen 2012
- A Static Place | 2LP (reissue) | Minority Records, Prague 2012
- w/ David Maranha: Strings | LP (single-sided) | Crónica / Fundação Serralves, Porto 2012
- w/ Caro Mikalef: Radioland (Panorámica) | CD | Line, Washington 2012
- Flags | C-20 Cassette | The Tapeworm, Berlin/London 2011
- To Describe George Washington Bridge | 10 inch record | Dekorder, Hamburg 2011
- A Static Place | CD | 12k, New York 2011
- Remain | CD | Line, Washington 2011
- w/ Taylor Deupree: Transcriptions | CD | Spekk, Tokyo 2009
- The Key to the Kingdom (For Washington Phillips) | 10 inch record | Dekorder, Hamburg 2009
- Radioland | CD | Die Schachtel, Milano 2008
- w/ Janek Schaefer: Hidden Name | CD | Crónica, Porto 2006
- w/ Akira Rabelais: “Perineum” | DVD | CONV, Madrid 2006
- The Sad Mac | CD | HEADZ, Tokyo 2004
- On Tape | CD | Häpna, Stockholm 2004
- w/ John Hudak: Pieces of Winter by John Hudak and Stephan Mathieu | CD | Sirr, Lissabon 2004
- w/ Douglas Benford: Reciprocess 02 “und. and“ | CD | Bip-Hop/Fällt, Marseille/Belfast 2003
- Kapotte Muziek by Stephan Mathieu | CD | Korm Plastics, Nijmegen 2003
- w/ Ekkehard Ehlers and Various Artists: Heroin | 2CD/2LP | Orthlorng Musork, San Francisco 2003
- Die Entdeckung des Wetters | CD | Lucky Kitchen, La Rioja 2002
- Full Swing Edits | 5 x 10 inch EP/CD | Orthlorng Musork, San Francisco 2001/2002
- Gigue | CD | Fällt Publishing, Belfast 2002
- frequencyLib | CD/LP | Ritornell, Frankfurt aM 2001
- Wurmloch Variationen | CD | Ritornell, Frankfurt aM 2000
- w/ Stol: 001.010.011.100 | 12 inch EP | Kitty-Yo, Berlin 1998
- w/ Butch Morris: Conductions '95 | DCD | Free Music Production (FMP), Berlin 1997
- w/ Stol: Semi Prima Vista | CD | Algen, Berlin 1994
Selected Sound Installations
- Before Nostromo | The Morning Line, ZKM Karlsruhe 2015
- Equinox | San Bernardo Monastery, Florence 2014
- Nocturne | Piscine Saint-Georges, Rennes 2013
- Quintet | La Centrifugeuse, Pau 2012
- Untitled String Quartet | La Gâité Lyrique, Paris 2011
- Revenant | Collège des Bernardins, Paris 2011
- Constellations | CosmoCaixa Science Museum Barcelona 2010
- Horatio Oratorio | Fundaçao de Serralves, Porto 2008
- „Die Sonne toent nach alter Weise“ / Play! | Two soundscapes for the MUNLAB Ecomuseo, Gambiano 2006
- Strahlungsdichte | Autogenerative soundscape for the Aula Palatina, Trier 2005
- 8Bit Symphony | UNESCO Cultural Heritage Völklinger Hütte 2004
- Heller Raum | Soundscape for the Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz, Berlin 2003
- Un oceano di milione di partecelle | Soundscape for a major Leonardo da Vinci Exhibition,
- UNESCO Cultural Heritage Völklinger Hütte 2002
- Vor „Vor der Stille“ | Audiovisual piece for Museutopia, Karl-Ernst Osthaus Museum Hagen 2002
- 1745 | Soundscape for the Impakt Festival, Utrecht 2002
- Die Entdeckung des Wetters | UNESCO Cultural Heritage Völklinger Hütte 2001 (permanent installation)
- Cars | Audiovisual sculpture for 30 Peugeot 206 and sinetones, Saarland Galerie, Saarbrücken, 2001
- Touch | Soundscape for a glass exhibition, Berlin Townhall, 2001
- Betrieb | UNESCO Cultural Heritage Völklinger Hütte 2000 (permanent installation)
- Aussen | Soundscape for the City area of Saarbrücken 1998