Heiner Goebbels:
at the crossing between popular and euro-classical music

Jacopo Conti

Heiner Goebbels is one of the most important exponents of the contemporary music and theatre scene. His compositions for ensemble and big orchestra, his music theatre works and staged concerts are currently performed worldwide, and are in the repertoires of Théâtre Vidy, the Ensemble Modern, The London Sinfonietta and the Dutch Ensemble Klang. He is professor at the Institute for Applied Theatre Studies of the Justus Liebig University in Giessen (Germany) and is President of the Theatre Academy Hessen. Moreover, since 2012 up to the end of 2014 he was the artistic director of the International Festival of the Arts RUHRTRIENNALE.

This brief resume, a paraphrase of what you can read in his website, describes what is likely to be a 'high-art' Euro-classical composer. But another side of his life and work tells us another story: that of a musician belonging to the popular music sphere, playing in the Goebbels-Harth duo, with bands such as Cassiber, Duck and Cover, Cassix, and the Sogenanntes Linksradikales Blasorchester. And the more we look at his production, the more we understand that his 'Euro-classical' and his 'popular' works are complementary to each other. He seems to overcome the popular versus Euro-classical dichotomy: there is not a dividing line in his work, it is impossible to distinguish, quoting a 2003 Radiohead song, 'Where I End and You Begin' – at least, not from an emic perspective. And this is exactly the main focus of this paper.