Alexander Frangenheim has long been a motor for the independent music scene and beyond, as a bass player with a clearly distinguishable voice and as an organizing musician with an unstoppable intensity.
BEGINNINGS & STUTTGART
Frangenheim played classical and electric guitar in his youth. Under the influence of some early ECM records – Ralph Towner’s trios/solos and the astonishing duo LP Bailey / Holland – and the recitals of Siegfried Palm and Leo Brouwer released on the DG label, he started composing.
He studied sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Stuttgart. His work focused on objects and assemblages, or what he calls “open material situations”. At the same time he studied classical double bass with Reinald Schwarz, soloist of the Stuttgart Philharmonic, and for a period with Wolfgang Güttler, a former member of the Berlin Philharmonic. Besides some orchestra playing he was a member of the ensemble of composer Prof. Klaus Fessmann for a number of years, interpreting graphic notations of this composer. With Fessmann he also studied music analysis.
His decision to devote himself to improvisation only was born after a very concise performance by Peter Kowald and Kazuo Ono and hearing a Vario project by Günter Christmann at Rote Fabrik Zurich. Christmann’s specific musical language felt instantly familiar from his earlier musical experiences. His participation in the Cecil Taylor Workshop Group by FMP in 1988 and a follow up with Taylor in 1990 was also of importance.
His early years of improvising created many occasions for one-off meetings with musicians like Malcolm Goldstein, Fred Frith, Vinko Globokar, Barry Guy, Radu Malfatti, Sven-Ake Johannson, LaDonna Smith Evan Parker, Dietmar Diesner, Mike Svoboda, Manos Tsangaris as well as many others. He organized tours with Paul Lovens and dancer Ulrike Digel, with Phil Minton, Derek Bailey, Johannes Bauer and David Moss. He played in a string players’ quartet with Alex Kolkowski, Helmut Bieler-Wendt and Alfred Zimmerlin.
COLLABORATION WITH CHRISTMANN
Since the end of the 1980s a constant partnership evolved between Frangenheim and trombonist/cellist Günter Christmann. They played together in a number of groups, including a quartet with Elke Schipper und Michael Griener, the sextet Vario34 (Christmann/Frangenheim/Gustafsson/Lehn/Lovens/Munthe), performances with painter KRH Sonderborg, on many occasions during festivals and single events presented by concepts of doing, in Christmann’s multi arts project „con moto“ (1999-2009 including music, dance, sound poetry, film with David Zambrano, Elke Schipper, Urs Leimgruber, Fine Kwiatkofski, documented on DVD) and finally in the trio CORE together with vocalist Elke Schipper. Several CDs document their collaboration.
In the mid-1990s Frangenheim received a grant from the South-German Arts Foundation, which enabled him to live for about 12 months in London. Here he finally was able to explode into a most intense period of sessions, collaborations, concerts and recordings, this all with help from John Russell, Chris Burn and John Butcher. During this period he played with any musician involved in improvisation in Britain. He also organized a concert series and a 4-day festival with British musicians.
During this London time and later, he played with the following groups: a trio with Jim Denley and Steve Noble; a duo with Phil Durrant (CD); a quintet with Evan Parker, Phil Wachsman, Thomas Lehn, Roger Turner; a trio with Chris Burn and Axel Dörner; a quartet with John Russell, Phil Minton and John Butcher; and a quartet with Phil Wachsmann, Pat Thomas, Roger Turner (CDs).
Reviews from this period: „mikrotonale Edelsteine“ (“microtonal jewels”) (Markus Müller, Jazzthetik), „deliciously subversive“ (Cadence), „music straight from the dynamo“ (The Wire), „Frangenheim uses extended string techniques Gidon Kremer supplied for Luigi Nono“ (The Wire).
TEACHING EXPERIMENTAL MUSIC
From 1995 to 2005 Frangenheim taught experimental music at the Academy of Fine Arts Stuttgart. With a specific approach in questioning material and action, he opened up the students’ view towards an experimental will and open understanding. In collaboration they extensively researched space and sound, structures and options, objects, action and related meanings, creating a number of performances for largerfields of action or for as small as a kitchen towel.
CONCEPTS OF DOING
1992 Frangenheim organized the first „concepts of doing“ festival, thereby creating his label for festivals, events and a CD label.
Until 1996 concepts of doing was a „straight“ festival for improvised music, inviting musicians from the international scene to Stuttgart. From 1997-2003 he changed the focus of the festival, now entitled „concepts of doing – Interaktion Tanz Musik“. Especially during this period, the festival became extremely successful and was an important European platform for exchange between the arts, inviting many notable dancers, musicians and visual artists for free collaborations. The program for the Festival 2005 shows what one might call a super-culmination of this development and was planned in collaboration with theaters in Budapest and Paris. However, the application got turned down by the jury in Stuttgart and Frangenheim decided to leave town. The main venues for the festivals in Stuttgart were Theaterhaus Stuttgart and Württembergischer Kunstverein in the center of the city.
The Festival continued in Berlin from 2012 on in a new space Frangenheim had created, studioboerne45. Under the title “concepts of doing – Festival Zeitgenössische Musik“ the focus was on the presentation of composed and improvised music in equal parts. With successful programs, the festival received an enthusiastic resonance in Berlin and beyond.
DANCE & INTERACTION
In preparation of concepts of doing – Interaktion Tanz Musik 1997, he embarked upon an intense trip through many European countries, meeting 70 dancers for free improvisations: Julyen Hamilton, Benoit Lachambre, Nigel Charnock, Josè Luis Sultàn, Mark Tompkins, Junko Wada, Fine Kwiatkofski, Henry Montes, Fin Walker, Frederic Werle, Francesca Harper, Regina Baumgart, David Zambrano, Joachim Schlömer, Thomas McManus, Ingo Reulecke, Xavier Le Roy, Frans Poelstra, Virpi Pakhinen, Russell Maliphant, Anzu Furukawa, Pal Frenak, Anna Huber, Andreas Müller, Astrid Endruweit, Jennifer Lacey, Lin Yuang Shang, Isabell Fünfhausen, Emily Burns, as well as dancers from Amanda Miller’s Pretty Ugly dance company and Forsythe’s Frankfurt Ballet and many more.
Performances followed with Julyen Hamilton, Benoit Lachambre, Jose Luis Sultan, Vera Mantero, Junko Wada, Mark Tomkins and others
In 1997 he received an invitation to the 5th Composers Choreographers Exchange (Southbank Center London) and in the same year a 6-month grant for Paris. This gave him the opportunity to explore the French dance scene, and he became involved in an unexpected number of performances in Paris and French theaters and performance spaces. Of central meaning for all this were Sophie Lessard’s activities.
Between 1998 and 2001 he was a founding member and driving force for the Production Center for Dance and Performance Stuttgart (Produktionszentrum Tanz und Performance Stuttgart). After intense work and ongoing contacts with politicians and press, the production center finally was able to get started after securing remarkable funding from an international IT company, which also was able to put pressure on the mayor of Stuttgart to ensure ongoing support for the following years. The center has been working ever since.
Frangenheim was the head of this association for three years until 2003.
From 1997 to 2004 he was member of Ensemble Zeitkratzer. In this period the ensemble was building up its face and reputation with a repertoire interpreting or working together with composers like Phill Niblock, Mario Bertoncini, Daniel Ott, Yungkyung Lee, Nicolas Collins, Nico Richter-De Vroe, Elliott Sharp, Keith Rowe, Laurie Schwartz, Radu Malfatti, Ulrich Krieger, Maerzbow a.k.a. Masami Akita, Dror Feiler, Zbigniew Karkowski, John Duncan, Bernhard Guenter, Terre Thaemlitz, Column One, Burkhard Schlothauer, Hans-Joachim Hespos, Lee Ranaldo, John Cage, Deicide, Throbbing Gristle, Kunsu Shim and Lou Reed, whose Metal Machine Music surely was one of the highlights in the ensemble’s activities.
Frangenheim can be heard on 10 of Zeitkratzer’s CDs.
BERLIN SINCE 2005
RESTART & RELEASES
After setting up a place for himself in Berlin, Frangenheim recorded his first solo CD, ”The Knife Again“, in 2006. The music on the CD derives from a very personal place, but is detailed and distinguished and rich in sound, and received very good reviews.
In 2009 Frangenheim started building up studioboerne45, which has become his new base for many activities: sessions, recordings, concerts and the festivals concepts of doing and Interaktion Tanz Musik.
2010 finally saw the first releases since 2000 for which he was responsible. From then on he continued to release CDs on a regular basis.
From 2007 on he started several groups: together with Günter Christmann und Elke Schipper the trio CORE, which is among his definite favorites, and a quartet with Le Quan Ninh, Frederic Blondy und Thomas Lehn. He also restarted two groups from his London period: the trio with Chris Burn and Axel Dörner, and the quartet WTTF, which is well respected by critics after its two releases. He also shares intense collaborations with trombonist Patrick Crossland and the trio with Roger Turner and Isabelle Duthoit, which started in 2013. In the field of collaboration with dance, he has performed together with Ingo since 2005.
Since 2005 he runs the performance group “streugut“ together with dancers Ingo Reulecke and Zufit Simon and actors Martin Clausen and Sten Rudstrom.
Frangenheim created the music for three experimental films by filmmaker Sabine Schöbel: in 2007 for the film “Lupinen löschen“, which was shown at the Berlinale’s Forum Expanded in the same year. In 2010 he contributed the music for the film “Heinrich“ and in 2014 for “EZB 2011-2012“, a film on the European Central Bank. The film was nominated in 2015 for the German Film Award in the category Experimental Films. All three films were also shown at numerous festivals internationally.
RECENT & NEW
In 2015 some new collaborations with Berlin musicians began:
Trios with Nikolaus Neuser and Richard Scott and with Biliana Voutschkova and Antonis Anissegos, a quartet with Tomomi Adachi, Tony Buck and Frank Gratkofski. A trio with Conny Bauer and Lucia Martinez will have a first Berlin concert in April 2016.
Further ongoing and frequent collaborations in duo or different constellations include Michael Griener, Elena Kakaliagou, Ignaz Schick, Till Künkler, Joachim Zoepf, Ariel Shibolet.