“I build machines. Then I step back and watch and listen to what unfolds.”

Robert Henke builds and operates machines that create sounds, shapes and structures. His long term musical project, Monolake, founded in 1995, became one of the key icons of a new electronic club music culture emerging in Berlin after the fall of the German wall.

Coming from a strong engineering background, Henke is fascinated by the beauty of technical objects, and developing his own instruments and algorithms is an integral part of his creative process. The results include music on the edge of contemporary club culture, surround sound concerts, compositions in the tradition of academic computer music, audiovisual installations, site-specific sound art and publicly available software.

“I consider building beautiful and elegant tools an art form, that is inspired by other art forms, and reflects back on the art which is created with them.”

Robert Henke is also one of the main creators of the music software ‘Ableton Live’, which since its invention in 1999 became the standard tool for electronic music production and completely redefined the performance practice of electronic music.

I’ve been lucky enough to catch Monolake live a couple of times here in Tokyo, and his performances are nothing short of spectacular. Here’s what he has to say about his live performances – as well as 10 YouTube links that showcase some of his likes, influences and interests. I’d like to thank Robert for taking part in this series – and you can find out more about his technical wizardry over on his main site here.

“I provide the audience with an experience it cannot get at home by using multiple channels of audio which places the listener in a field of sound that is much bigger than the physical room defined by the speakers and the walls. I develop my own tools for performance, such as the Monodeck II or self-written software which enables me to react to the audience, and to shape and actually play the music in a concert situation. I explore acousmatic concepts, ambisonics, and wave field synthesis for diffusion of sound in space and I create audiovisual performances that combine sound and vision in new ways.”

1. The IT Crowd – The Internet

There is absolutely nothing to add here. Because this is the internet.”

2. Eddie Izzard – Death Star Canteen

This documentary movie reminds me of many of my own cafeteria experiences.”

3. Jean Michel Jarre – Oxygene part 4 

This piece of music once was responsible for my decision to make electronic music.”

4. Cray-2 Supercomputer

When I was a little boy I once sat on the bench of a Cray XMP and was super excited. I felt I was able to touch the future.”

5. Carlos Moog Bach – Sinfonia 35

Wendy Carlos and Johann Sebastian Bach, a combination even my conservative music teacher could agree on, but she could not get over the fact that Wendy was not Carlos anymore.”

6. CERN Experiment

I love science and that video explains the large hadron collider in a super clear way.”

7. Icarus Demonstration 1979

That video has less than 3000 views, because no one who’s using computers today gets how essential ICARUS for their development was. ICARUS was a revolutionary tool for designing integrated circuits running on a equally  revolutionary computer system.”

8. John Cage’s 4’33”

“Everything we do is music.”

9. Brother – Takeshi Kitano

I love the pace and the details and the humor. My favorite Kitano movie.”

10. Robert Henke Live on Synthi-A

Very good friends with a very cool synthesizer. Afterwards I understood why that machine is so famous.”










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