Alexander Schubert: Codec Error

(Submitted by ISCM – GERMAN SECTION)

Alexander Schubert (born 1979 in Bremen) studied bioinformatics in Leipzig and Multimedia Composition with Georg Hajdu and Manfred Stahnke in Hamburg. During his studies he has worked as a musician and composer in a variety of different environments. In addition, Schubert worked at the ZKM (Centre for Art and Media) in Karlsruhe for one year. 
He’s a professor at the Musikhochschule Hamburg and the artistic head of the electronic studio at the conservatory in Lübeck and was a guest professor at Folkwang University in 2016. Mainly he’s working as a freelance composer. 

Schubert’s interest explores cross-genre interfaces between acoustic and electronic music. The most characteristic feature of his work is the combination of different musical styles (like hardcore, free jazz, popular electronic music, techno) with contemporary classical concepts. He incorporates these influences based on his personal experience rather than theoretically approaching the topic. Performance pieces are a major focus in his work. The use of the body in electronic music and the transportation of additional content through gestures are key features in his pieces, which aim at empowering the performer and at achieving a maximum of energy. 

Codec Error is a composition including music, light and choreography. It examines the body of the performer and its representation in the digital age. The use of strobe lights and highly synchronized light patterns visualizes the performer on stage in a videoclip-like way. This means that only short passages of movement are visible for the audience which results in an almost static and therefore mechanical appearance. This puppet-like display is the attempt to look at a human being on stage as if looking at a digital representation. The continuity and presence of the players is subject to alterations and error-like manipulations that we know from a crashed computer program – digital mistakes. While these faulty glitches are commonly experienced on a computer screen the attempt of this work is to bring this perception on stage to the actual persons and through that turn the musicians into their malfunctioning avatar in real life.


The theme of the composition picks up a trend of our times, in which body images, appearances become increasingly artificial and constructed. Everything is manipulated, virtual and edited all the time. And everything is clip-based, handed out in snippets, sections, cuts. We encounter an ambiguity here which opens fields of interesting aesthetics and media compositions on the one hand and a playground for depersonalized discontinuity, fake appearances and deception on the other. This work is not trying to make a statement in either direction but tries to put the finger in the wound and by bringing the topic on the stage, to the performer, to the actual person and through this making it perceivable and obvious. The body is subject to digital manipulation, the entity is infringed.

Alexander Schubert: Codec Error (2017)
Samuel Favre and Victor Hanna (percussion), Nicolas Crosse (double bass),
Xavier Baron (light), Benoit Meudic (sound)
Ensemble Intercontemporain at the 2017 Donaueschinger Musiktage

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The International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM) is a premier forum for the advancement, dissemination and interchange of new music from around the world. Through ISCM, our members promote contemporary music in all its varied forms, strengthening musical life in their local contexts and making their music and its creators known to world.