Johannes Goebel

Director of EMPAC and Professor, Arts

Johannes Goebel joined Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute as Founding Director of the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) in July 2002. He holds a tenured position as Professor in the Arts Department and in the School of Architecture.

Between 1990 and 2002, Goebel was the Founding Director of the Institute for Music and Acoustics at the Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie (ZKM) in Karlsruhe, Germany. With its studios, artist-in-residence program, productions, commissions and festivals, he established the Institute as one of the leading production environments worldwide for "music and technology". For ZKM's new building, which opened in 1996 and comprises two museums, two research and production institutes, studios and performance venues, Goebel coordinated the overall demands for the ZKM building and specified the requirements and infrastructure of ZKM's performance spaces and the Institute for Music and Acoustics. Under his directorship, more than 90 international artists produced roughly two-hundred works at the Institute, ranging from compositions with live and interactive electronics to pure sound synthesis, interactive operas and radio plays, sound installations, ballet music and music films with live orchestras. A continuous performance program and co-productions with other festivals established the Institute as a center for new practices in music. During his tenure at ZKM, Goebel lectured and published internationally on aesthetics, technology and music, co-directed 1996 Stanford University's Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA), taught a summer course at the Catholic University Porto, Portugal in 2000, and was a guest professor at the Music Academy Graz, Austria, in 1992.

Two key research projects at ZKM during Goebel's leadership include the establishment of the International Digital Electro-Acoustic Music Archive (IDEAMA). This endeavor was also led by Max Mathews, the "father of music compilers," and Patte Wood from Stanford University. After an extended collaboration between Stanford and ZKM, the first digital archive of electronic music up to the 1970s was complete and became a major resource of early electronic music. The archive holds nearly 550 works and is currently available in 23 libraries and music institutes around the world. The next key project Goebel conducted, as principal investigator with a team of experts, developed and applied hardware and software to record and transcribe the music for the Balinese shadow play, Gender Wayang

In 1975, he began his work as a curator by establishing the Hohe-Ufer-Konzerte in Hannover, Germany. At that time, it was a major initiative to establish a platform for a program that crossed and integrated composition, improvisation, literature, theater, dance and visual arts. He collaborated with Gunter Lege and Guenther Christmann. Goebel has since been active in programming and collaborating with festivals and institutions. In 1989, he was Founding Curator of ZKM's media-festival MultiMediale, initiating ZKM's artistic activities. As a composer, Goebel wrote pieces for traditional instruments, his own instruments, computer synthesis and the live and electronic environment of the experimental studio at the Strobel-Stiftung Freiburg. He collaborated in numerous intermedia projects and interdisciplinary performances with dancers, actors, architects, performance and visual artists.

Between 1977 and 1990, Goebel's activities stretched between the United States and Europe. In 1977, he started in the field of computer music at Stanford University's Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA) with a two year grant from the German Academic Exchange Service DAAD. As a visiting composer, he was a regular guest at CCRMA until 1990 and he initiated several major projects. In Europe, he worked as composer, teacher, instrument designer, curator and musician. In the 1970s, Germany was the only country of the western industrialized nations that did not have a center or studio for music with computers. This slowly changed in the 1980s. Johannes Goebel was at that time the only composer moving continuously between the Silicon Valley and Germany trying to create a bridge between technical advances and the German contemporary music attitudes. In 1983, he conducted the first workshop for German composers at CCRMA, Stanford University. His lectures on the topic of computer music were slowly accepted and he continuously strived to establish a German artistically based approach to computer and music application. ZKM provided the basis for establishing a studio with international relevance.  

While composing music with computers in the USA, Goebel designed and constructed wood and metal instruments in Europe including mallets with non-traditional tuning systems, a huge walk-in organ pipe etc. Between 1970 and 1990, he was very active in the field of free improvisation with non-traditional instruments. As member of a group including his mentor Gunter Lege, Goebel conducted more than 450 free improvisation workshops for students ranging from kindergarten to university age. Goebel began teaching music at public schools and colleges at the age of 21. Until his position at ZKM in 1990 required from him to stop continuous teaching, he taught in very diverse environments. He taught computer music to professionals, free improvisation to children starting at the age of 3, adults up to 60+ and conservatory students. He also taught music theory, conducting and interdisciplinary artistic production as Professor at the University Hildesheim and worked intensively with physically and mentally handicapped children.

As consultant to Schott Musik International, one of the largest music publishing houses worldwide, Goebel conducted the overall changeover from traditional music engraving to electronic music printing in 1988 through 1990. In cooperation with the German avant-garde record label Wergo, Goebel initialized the first Audio-CD series utilizing this new digital medium for Digital Music Digital in 1986. As producer, coordinator, digital audio editor and editor-in-chief, he published in collaboration with Max Mathews and CCRMA Computer Music Currents, a 13-volume CD series focused mainly on computer music of the 1980s. The final volume, The Historical CD of Digital Sound Synthesis, is a collection of the very first computer-synthesized pieces from the late 1950s and early 1960s. Goebel also established the music devision of edition zkm during his time at ZKM. This series serves as a forum for works produced at the Institute for Music and Acoustics. The Audio-CD and DVD series is published by Wergo, the books by Schott Musik International. 

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