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Ulf Langheinrich - Degrees Of Amnesia

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Ulf Langheinrich

Ulf Langheinrich

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The career of Ulf Langheinrich is best known for his internationally acclaimed work in the two-man group, Granular Synthesis. The project, which began in 1991 with these two self-proclaimed "media terrorists", does more in the way of a performance than it does to define the men involved. On the eve of his first solo release, Degrees of Amnesia, Langheinrich has an understanding of his work and the life that brought him to it, that is unparalleled.

Having grown up in an industrial region of East Germany, Langheinrich's early life was filled with artificial and sterile imagery and sounds. He was born in Wolfen in 1960, and spent his first year in hospital with a life-threatening ear disease (it was actually six years before his hearing returned to normal), which certainly did much in shaping what he would hear throughout his life and the manner in which he would listen. Langheinrich grew to understand and appreciate life, and his ability to experience it through his senses, in a way which few people ever do. Growing up with nearly every liberty removed from his existence, save that of his sensual freedom, Langheinrich came to respect the most basic human experience. Longing and despair, the plight of the human soul in an altered state of reality, are the components of art according to Langheinrich. It is pain that is most feared, and thus a constant theme. Certainly passing the first six years of his life with a hearing disability, made sound and music essential to him as an artist. Ironically, the majority of his education in the arts was spent drawing and painting.

At the age of 15 Langheinrich discovered the ability to store sound through the use of a small mono cassette recorder. From then on he was fascinated by the use of electronic devices in the making of music because through the possibility of storage, he discovered the ability to layer. The significance of storage for him was that the approach and overall vision of the artist now had the potential to be, as it should be, more important than his individual skill; composition versus performance, perhaps ultimately the biggest difference between Degrees of Amnesia and his work with Granular Synthesis. While Granular Synthesis was designed to be a live experience, a performance -- Degrees of Amnesia is a work composed to retain intense psychological power over time, it\'s density being the key element.

Every sound, particularly those that are formed in repetitious patterns (from the sound of breath, to drops of water, to the pounding of industrial machinery) became influential and important in Langheinrich's early life. Not only because this repetition was a constant reminder of the opression he lived with, but because it is the sonic quality of such repetition he believes, that brings one to a state of semi-consciousness; an altered state of reality. In describing Degrees of Amnesia he refers to his work as a painter; "In painting I just added very thin coats of paint until the square was almost gray, huge paintings of insistent noise, not made with simple mixed paint but with layers of colour, very rich, very purist, very monotonous in the end." It is the power of layers, the sensual experience, that concerns Langheinrich more so than any conceptual agenda. It was these same paintings which he would later sell to buy sythesizers.

Although Langheinrich discovered the ability to store sounds and then layer them at such an early age, it was not until his departure from East Germany in 1984 that he gained access to any electronic equipment, apart from minimal tape recording devices. He spent much of his time prior to 1984, experimenting with the sonic qualities of various instruments. Langheinrich was more concerned with non-traditional methods of creating sound, than he was with mastering any given instrument. Rather than play an organs keys, Langheinrich fixed them and maneuvered it's pipes, he played a cello with an electric shaver -- all in the effort to achieve the richest most dense sounds possible. This search for sound, which began so long before he even had the advantage of electronic equipment, has only now come to fruition with the release of Degrees of Amnesia. Although this album contains work from as far back as 1989 (most of it was conceived between 1994 and 1996) the development of Langheinrich's artistic purpose clearly began in childhood.

In addition to Langheinrich's work as a musician and painter, he also spent some time studying photography, and has composed the soundtrack for several Austrian films.