Musical theatre – performance – installation – concert: Heiner Goebbels himself describes his work as “pieces with composed language, located between opera and drama”. For the purposes of this description, he expands musical composition beyond the realm of sound towards a theatricalisation of music. As a composer, he treats all dimensions involved in the production – text and bodies, lighting, stage, noises, music, space and movement – as equally important, bringing them into a poised, equivalent relationship with each other.
Heiner Goebbels was born in Neustadt/Weinstraße in 1953. He studied sociology and music in Freiburg and Frankfurt. From 1976 to 1981, he was part of Sogenanntes Linksradikales Blasorchester (So-called Left-Wing Radical Brass Band), which he had co-founded with other members of Frankfurt’s Sponti-scene. Together with saxophonist Alfred Harth, he formed the duo Goebbels/Harth (1976 – 1988), an avant-garde duo that took jazz as its point of departure and combined tape loops, field recordings and objéts trouvés. Goebbels founded the art-rock band Cassiber (1982 – 1992) together with Christoph Anders, Alfred Harth and Chris Cutler. At this time, he was already writing music for the theatre (for directors including Hans Neuenfels, Claus Peymann, Matthias Langhoff and Ruth Berghaus), film scores (for Helke Sander, Brothers Dubini and many others) as well as ballet music.
During the mid-1980s, he began to compose and direct his own audio plays, most of them based on texts by Heiner Müller (“Verkommenes Ufer”, “Die Befreiung des Prometheus”, “Wolokolamsker Chaussee I-V”, “Schliemanns Radio”, “Der Horatier”). These were followed by staged concerts (for example “Der Mann im Fahrstuhl”) and musical theatre works like “Newtons Casino” and “Römische Hunde”, which he produced at the TAT Frankfurt together with Michael Simon. Since 1988, Heiner Goebbels has been composing music for ensembles and orchestras like “Surrogate Cities” (1994), “Industry & Idleness” (1996), “Walden” (1998) or, most recently, “Under Construction” (2018), to name but a few. As a composer, he has worked with the most important ensembles and orchestras (Ensemble Modern, London Sinfonietta, Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, Berliner Philharmoniker) and conductors (Lothar Zagrosek, Sir Simon Rattle, Peter Rundel, Peter Eötvös and many others).
Since the early 1990s, Heiner Goebbels has been composing and staging his own, internationally celebrated musical theatre pieces like “Schwarz auf Weiß” (1996), “Eislermaterial” (1998), “Hashirigaki” (2000), “Landschaft mit entfernten Verwandten” (2002), “Eraritjaritjaka” (2004), “Stifters Dinge” (2007), “Songs of Wars I Have Seen“ (2007), “I Went to the House but Did not Enter” (2008) and many more. Some of these musical theatre works were produced by Ensemble Modern Frankfurt, others by Théâtre Vidy in Lausanne; they were invited to the most eminent international theatre and music festivals in Europe, the USA, South America, Australia and Asia. His large-scale performance “Everything that Happened and Would Happen” (2018), which featured ten dancers and five musicians was presented in Manchester, New York, Bochum and St Petersburg. He created sound and video installations for documenta (1987/88), Centre Pompidou Paris (2000), Musée d‘ Art Contemporain Lyon, Albertinum Dresden (2014), New Space Moscow (2017), Museo de Arte, Bogota (2019) and many others.
From 1999 to 2018, Heiner Goebbles was a professor (and from 2003 to 2011 also Managing Director) at the Institute for Applied Theatre Studies at Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen. As a co-founder of the Hessian Theatre Academy, the Hessian Film and Media Academy, tanzlabor 21 and Frankfurt LAB, in his function of President of the Hessian Theatre Academy and in numerous talks and lectures, Heiner Goebbels has been campaigning for the improvement and stabilization of the conditions and structures for education in the performing arts and for advanced contemporary musical theatre. His anthology “Aesthetik der Abwesenheit (Aesthetics of Absence)” has been translated into several languages. Between 2012 and 2014, he was Artistic Director of Ruhrtriennale – International Festival of the Arts, where he staged “Europeras 1 & 2” by John Cage, “Delusion of the Fury” by Harry Partch and Louis Andriessen’s opera “De Materie”.
Heiner Goebbels has received numerous awards for his achievements. In 2018, he was appointed the first holder of the Georg Büchner Professorship by the president of the Justus-Liebig-University Gießen.
As of November 2019