Bernhard Living (b. 1948) is an experimental music composer, curator and former multi-instrumentalist (playing alto saxophone, bass clarinet snd flute). He was born in Ely, Cambridgeshire, England – and lives and works in London and Southampton, England. He studied composition with the South African-born composer professor Stanley Glasser at Goldsmiths College, University of London, and philosophy under professors Jonathan Reé and Peter Dews at Middlesex University, London.
As an international musician (1966 – 1992), Living performed with a number of leading composers and musical innovators, including; Karlheinz Stockhausen, Cornelius Cardew, Hugh Davies, Barry Guy and Mike Westbrook. He is a featured soloist on a number of classic jazz, punk and rock albums, including; Mike Westbrook’s Celebration (1967), Release (1968), and Marching Song (1969); Manfred Mann’s Chapter Three (1969) and Chapter Three Volume Two (1970); Barry Guy’s Ode (1972); and Linder Stirling’s Ludus project (1982). The Sunday Times music critic Derek Jewell described Living’s performance style and technique as ‘revolutionary’. He has also given public performances of compositions from the twentieth-century flute repertoire, including; Luciano Berio “Sequenza”, Pierre Boulez “Sonatine for Flute”, John Cage flute-only versions of “Concert for Piano and Orchestra”, “Atlas Eclipticalis”, “Variations I, II, III, IV, V”, Karlheinz Stockhausen “Aus den Sieben Tagen”, “Musik für Flöte”, “In Freundschaft”; and Edgard Varèse “Density 21.5”.
In the role of curator (1993 – 2000), Living was influential in setting up the BN1 project, a Brighton-based autonomous arts organisation. Described as a ‘museum without walls’, BN1 commissioned leading digital and installation artists, including Susan Collins, Tessa Elliott, Anna Heinrich & Leon Palmer, Thomas Köner, Simon Poulter, Michael Petry and Paul Sermon, to produce artworks for both traditional exhibition spaces and for the pubic domain. He has been an active advocate of digital technology, and within this role he has sat on a number of advisory boards, including the Arts Council of England and South East Arts, to help shape policy within the arts and their relationship to new media.
Corpora Aliena (2017 – )
In 2017, Living established a new curatorial project, Corpora Aliena. The aims of the projects are to; to present live experimental music events, film screenings and gallery-based projects; to work with artists from the international community – and to develop ‘creative conduits’ between London and other European cities; to create opportunities for young and emerging composers, musicians, artists and experimental film makers; and to ensure that there is a positive gender balance – and to have a high proportion of female composers and musicians taking part in all of Corpora Aliena’s events.
Bernhard Living’s digitally-based compositions have taken minimalistic compositional techniques to what he considers to be their logical conclusion, with his music being characterised by sparse textures, long periods of silence, maximal repetition and minimal variation. The compositions are often devoid of musical elements such as melody, harmony and rhythm, and as an alternative they explore the use of sound colour and sonic textures.
Influences for Living’s work range from the historical avant-garde, including John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Edgard Varèse; the Russian avant-garde, Kazimir Malevich, Olga Rozanova and Liubov Popova; American jazz; John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, Ornette Coleman and Albert Ayler; American abstract expression and colour-field painting, Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman and Morris Louis; American minimal art, Agnes Martin, Donald Judd and Carl Andre; to contemporary loop-based dance music, particularly techno. In many ways, his music could be considered as an evolved non-dance form of techno, but one that exists within a different cultural context and along a different time continuum.
‘Violin Stories’ and ‘Pure Presence’, Poetronica, Moscow 20.04 and 21.04.2018
‘The Mysteries of Concrete’ Iklectik, London 24.03.2018
‘Black T-Shirt’ Iklectik, London 22.10.2017