Film & Artists’ Talk

Tastenarbeiter – Alexander von Schlippenbach

A film by Tilman Urbach
World premiere
2023, 106 min

Two hands lie on a piano

Tastenarbeiter – Alexander von Schlippenbach © Berliner Festspiele / Jazzfest Berlin

He is one of the founding fathers of European free jazz: for decades Alexander von Schlippenbach has gone his own way, playing the piano, composing and leading bands. The new film “Tastenarbeiter – Alexander von Schlippenbach” presents a highly personal portrait that shows individual failures but also new beginnings. It reconstructs how he came to be part of the now legendary “Free Music Production” (FMP) musicians’ collective, for whom free jazz meant liberation from the establishment, not just in musical terms, but also in a political sense.

Followed by a talk with Alexander von Schlippenbach and Tilman Urbach, moderated by Harald Kisiedu

Free jazz, this film makes clear, was seen by many as the musical incarnation of the 1968 movement. A model of democracy in sonic form, where every voice carries equal weight – a principle that Schlippenbach took to extremes with his Globe Unity Orchestra, even though he always thought of himself as a musician rather than a political activist. In the film the pianist meets old collaborators like the trumpeter Manfred Schoof. Schlippenbach jams in Dresden with the percussionist Günter “Baby” Sommer and talks to him about the concerts they played together in the GDR, where free jazz musicians were treated like pop stars.

The camera also follows Alexander von Schlippenbach home, where he lives with his wife, the jazz pianist Aki Takase in a remarkable personal and professional partnership. Seeing them together proves once again that free jazz is above all an unconditional expression of radicalism, individualism and freedom. This is a spirit that Schlippenbach continues to uphold to this day, regarding music as both an attitude and a statement.

A production by Modofilm, isar film in cooperation with Salzgeber