Christian Kesten is a composer, sound and intermedia artist, vocalist and performer. His work explores the relation between sound and space by focusing on the physical activity of creating the sound and the physicality of the sound itself. His compositions include instrumental, vocal, site-specific works and composed theatre.
Kesten studied music, with a concentration in experimental music, at UdK Berlin. He has been commissioned by ensembles such as Object Collection New York, Rue du Nord Lausanne, Solistenensemble Kaleidoskop Berlin, We Spoke London a. o. and realized full-evening’s pieces in spaces such as Radialsystem V Berlin, Schauspielhaus Wuppertal, Théâtre 2.21 Lausanne and Ontological Experimental Series New York, among others. He has also created site-specific works at Museum for Modern Art MUMOK Vienna and delivered solo performances in Europe, North America, and Japan. Kesten has received awards and grants by the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, the Berlin Cultural Senate, Ernst-von-Siemens-Musikstiftung, International Society of New Music, Kuenstlerhaus Lukas Ahrenshoop, Villa Aurora Los Angeles.
Kesten is a member of the ensemble Maulwerker and artistic director of the series ‘maulwerker performing music’. He co-curates the concert series ‘Labor Sonor’, and the LABOR SONOR festivals, in 2016 ‘LABOR SONOR : MOVING MUSIC. Choreographers compose for musicians.’ Teaching positions and guest lectures in Europe, Israel, North and South America.
GRANTS and AWARDS
2016 – Civitella Ranieri Music Fellowship, Umbria/ Italy
2015 – Arbeitsstipendium [Working Grant] of the Berlin Cultural Senate.
2014 – One-month residency at Künstlerhaus Lukas Ahrenshoop.
2012 – Commission by Ernst-von-Siemens-Musikstiftung for Untitled #5 for five voices, 16', premiered by ensemble Maulwerker at festival Randfestspiele Zepernick.
2011 – Commission by IGNM, WIM and Dampfzentrale Berne, Switzerland for untitled (placing in space) for violin, soprano saxophone, accordion, 45’, Festival MIKROTON, Dampfzentrale Berne, October 2011.
2010 – Commission by Association Rue du Nord Lausanne for des champs sans noms for clarinet, clarinet/ bass clarinet, pocket trumpet/ banjo/ electronics, accordion, percussion, turntable/ violin, contrabass/ walkie-talkies, 75’, ensemble Rue du Nord, Théâtre 2.21, Lausanne, October 2010.
2008 – First prize of Zeitgenössische Oper Berlin's interdisciplinary competition operare08 (funded by Kulturstiftung des Bundes) with the artists group antenne pernot to realize WÜSTE WÜSTE.
2008 – Commission by Ontological-Hysteric Theatre New York for THE ROOM, ensemble Object Collection, March 2008.
2007 – Guest grant for a one-month residency at Villa Aurora Los Angeles.
2002 – Residency with the production collective FERNWÄRME at Schloss Bröllin.
2000 – Grant of Stiftung Kulturfonds for a one-month residency at Künstlerhaus Lukas Ahrenshoop.
1997/98 – Commission by the Berlin Cultural Senate for parochial.
1990 – Three-month residency at 'Ateliers im Alten Schlachthof' Sigmaringen.
Since 1990 his COMPOSITIONS have been performed at (selection):
maulwerker performing music VOKALE RÄUME, Ballhaus Ost Berlin, 2018
maulwerker performing music AUGENLIEDER, Ballhaus Ost Berlin, 2017
Choir Festival Meissen, 2017
KONTRA KLANG, Heimathafen Neukölln, Berlin, 2016
KONZERT MINIMAL, Sopienkirche Berlin, 2016
Micro Worlds, Goethe Institute Boston, 2016
Kammer Klang, Cafe Oto, London, 2014
zoom in festival, Berne, Switzerland, 2013
Kleines Schauspielhaus Wuppertal, 2013
Radialsystem V, Berlin, 2012
Operadagen Rotterdam / De Player / Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam, 2012
Festival MIKROTON, Dampfzentrale Bern, 2011
Unerhörte Musik, BKA, Ensemble Tangible Bathtub, Berlin, 2011
Association and Ensemble Rue du Nord, Théâtre 2.21, Lausanne, Switzerland, 2010
maulwerker performing music: SPEAKERS, Ensemble Maulwerker, Berlin, 2010
Concert de Noel, Ensemble CERCLES, La Chaux-de-Fonds/ Lausanne/ Bienne, Switzerland, 2009
Galerienrundgang kulturradio RBB, Berlin 2009
Festival SPIEL09, Andorf, Austria, 2009
Festival Les Amplitudes, La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland, 2009
Experimental Ontological Series, Ontological Theatre, New York, 2008
Bowerbird, Philadelphia, 2008
Experimental Intermedia, New York, 2008
Goethe Institute, Montreal, 2008
Perte de Signal, Montreal, 2008
New Music Concerts, Toronto, 2008
The Red Room, Baltimore, 2008
Theater Mannheim, 2007
Q-O2 Brussels 2007,
Dangerous Curve Los Angeles 2007,
California Institute of the Arts 2007,
Diapason Soundart Gallery New York 2007 and 2008,
TESLA Berlin 2006,
KKL Lucerne, Switzerland 2006,
Museum Moderner Kunst MUMOK Vienna/Austria 2005,
Klangwerkstatt Berlin 2005,
Galerie complice Berlin 2005,
staatsbank Berlin 2003,
Museo Vostell Malpartida/Spain 2001,
Festival "moments musicaux" in Aarau/Switzerland 2000,
Zionskirche Berlin 1999,
Festival "ESCUTA!" Rio de Janeiro 1998,
"Unerhörte Musik" Theater Magdeburg, Germany 1998,
Parochialkirche Berlin 1998,
Festival "CLUSTER - Forum Neue Musik Thüringen" Weimar, Germany 1997,
Center for Contemporary Arts Glasgow 1996,
Festival "grenzenlos. Berlin in Moskau" Mossovet-Theater Moscow 1996.
His works have been broadcasted by radio stations in Germany, the Netherlands, the U.S.A. and Canada.
• another field. works by christian kesten, with the works: Untitled #5, nichts weiter, LAUGH 1 | 2 | 3, untitled (another field), performed by: Maulwerker, Ensemble CERCLES, Antonia Baehr, Lucio Capece, Diego Chamy, Axel Dörner, Christian Kesten, Andrea Neumann. L’Innomable, Slovenia, 2017
• untitled (solo for accordion), on: Jonas Kocher plays Christian Kesten and Stefan Tuth, BRUIT 2016
• Christian Kesten & Mark Trayle: F23M-12: Field with Figures No. 1-4, another timbre, UK, 2014
• Christian Kesten: zonder titel (schuif en ruis), on: wedding ceremony, with: Lucio Capece (bcl, sax), Julia Eckhardt (vla), Christian Kesten (voc), Radu Malfatti (trb), Toshimaru Nakamura (no input mixing board), Taku Sugimoto (g), Cathnor Recordings, UK, 2009
• Performance Saga: Alison Knowles & Maulwerker, Alison Knowles: Silk Thread Song, Christian Kesten: zunge lösen, a.o. Festival BONE 11, Berne 2008, liveartwork editions 2011
Scores / Catalogues
• „Variationen für Kontrabass. Hommage à Benjamin Patterson“, in: Benjamin Patterson SNEAK REVIEW. Catalogue, ed. by Petra Stegmann, Berlin/Potsdam 2014.
• „G is for Guam Flying Fox“, in: ABECEDARIUM BESTIARIUM. Antonia Baehr & friends, hg. von far° festival des arts vivants, Nyon, Switzerland, 2013
• „der raum dazwischen. duett für einen singenden flötisten“ for slide flute, the experimental music yearbook, issue 2012/2013
• „unter umständen verabschieden wir uns behalten etwas in erinnerung was wesentlicher erscheint als das gegenwärtige fragen aber nicht mehr“, in: Tools of the Mind, ed. by Matt Marble, Oregon 2007. – in connection by the exhibition „Usufruct“, curated by Seth Nehil, 7-30 November, 2007, Linfield College, McMinneville, Oregon, in which the score of the piece was exhibited.
• „ja es ist plötzlich wärmer geworden“, in: Steffi Weismann. VIS-A-VIS, Nürnberg 2007
Texts in english
• „Fields Spaces Layers“, in: echtzeitmusik. selbstbestimmung einer szene, ed. by Burkhard Beins / Christian Kesten / Gisela Nauck / Andrea Neumann, Hofheim 2011
He studied at the Universität der Künste Berlin (music: guitar, piano, voice; counterpoint/twelvetone-technique with H.Fladt; musicological thesis on 'Silence in the work of John Cage and Morton Feldman'; Experimental music and music-theatre with Dieter Schnebel; Performance art; Projects with the stage design class of Achim Freyer) and TU Berlin (German literature and linguistics). Studied 'Zen-Arts' (overtone singing, vocal improvisation, calligraphy/notation etc.) with Michael Vetter. Movement studies with various teachers.
is about to being updated
His interest lies in the "space in-between": between music and theatre, music and language, between music and the visual arts.
For example: ja es ist plötzlich wärmer geworden (2003), music theatre, a collaboration with Steffi Weismann.
His pieces work with the space which opens up between the sound of language and the parallel, non-illustrative action (-cycling 1990; des Kleinen Übergewicht 1995, 45 seconds 2006).
They make use of everyday spaces and their sounds, including works made for train stations, in which minimal sounds of winds and brass are spread over the station and mixed with sounds of trains and passers-by (nordbahnhof 1996, bahnhof westend 1996, bahnhof zoo 1997). willkommen zu hause / welcome home is written for the squeaking doors of the Nordbahnhof station in Berlin and two violins which mirror the door sounds: the passers-by experience the music while on the move.
In (o.T.) für klarinette in einem raum mit langem nachhall 1 (1999) and (o.T.) … 2 (2000) [(without title) for clarinet in a space with a long echo] the clarinet plays to its own echo as a second voice, microtonally, and thus refers to the presence of space.
parochial (1998) – for the group "Die Maulwerker" (4 female voices, trumpet/voice, clarinet/voice, alto saxophone + additional instruments) – was written especially for the Parochialkirche Berlin: sculptural shaped sounds are moved in space, while trumpet, clarinet and sax move mostly outside the space and so extending acoustic perception beyond the walls of the church.
zunge lösen [releasing tongue] (solo version 1999/ ensemble version 2001/ trio version 2002) - for tongue and breath - works with the root of articulation and is both a work for voice and a scenic composition, music-theatre in a compact form.
His recent works unter umständen verabschieden wir uns behalten etwas in erinnerung was wesentlicher erscheint als das gegenwärtige fragen aber nicht mehr [possibly we take leave keep remembering something which seems more essential than the present but don't ask anymore] (2004) for water, paper, voice; tongue, breath, larynx; trumpet (trio) and o.T. (atem, zunge, etwas kehlkopf) [without title (breath, tongue, some larynx)] (2005) for voice solo analyze the vocal production and understand breath, tongue and larynx as separate layers in 'counterpoint'.