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Irmin Schmidt

While Irmin Schmidt is best known as a founding member of German experimental rock legends Can, he's composed music for dozens of films and television programs throughout his lengthy career, additionally releasing solo and collaborative works spanning several genres, including art rock, electronic music, and modern composition. The restlessly productive artist has always maintained an interest in bringing elements from the entire history of music together in order to create something new. His numerous Filmmusik releases have drifted between jazz, ambient, and pop, while his striking 2000 opera Gormenghast incorporated techno and drum'n'bass rhythms. He returned to his avant-garde classical roots with later releases such as 2018's 5 Klavierstücke. German-born musician Irmin Schmidt began his musical career studying under modern composers Karlheinz Stockhausen, György Ligeti, and John Cage. He founded the Dortmund Ensemble for New Music in 1962, and conducted several orchestral concerts throughout the decade. Uniting rock, jazz, and new music, he co-founded the revolutionary experimental act Can in 1968. Schmidt served as keyboardist, organist, and synth player for the band and remained with them until their dissolution in 1979. To make a living after Can, he composed and recorded music for film and television, often aided by other ex-Can players and usually releasing his own music on the Spoon label (in association with Mute Records). Several volumes of the Filmmusik series were released throughout the '80s, as well as 1981's playful, proto-techno Toy Planet (in collaboration with Bruno Spoerri) and 1987's loungey Musk at Dusk. In 1986, Schmidt reunited with the other members of his former band for the album Rite Time (which was released in 1989), as well as participating in a second reunion in 1991 to record a track for the Wim Wenders film Until the End of the World. Impossible Holidays, Schmidt's second non-soundtrack solo album, was also released in 1991. Throughout the '90s and 2000s, he focused on scoring for television and film and was commissioned to compose a three-act opera based on Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast book trilogy. Schmidt released Masters of Confusion, a drum'n'bass-leaning album with producer Kumo (Jono Podmore), in 2001; the two collaborated for a further album, Axolotl Eyes, in 2008. He relocated to Southern France the same year. In 2013, Villa Wunderbar, a lengthy compilation of Schmidt's music, was released on Spoon. Two years later, the label issued Electro Violet, a comprehensive 12-CD box set of Schmidt's solo and collaborative albums, including six volumes of Filmmusik Anthology. Schmidt was knighted by the French Ministry of Culture for his contributions to art and music. All Gates Open: The Story of Can was published in May of 2018; the first part of the book is a biography of the group, written by Rob Young, and the second part is a collection of interviews and diary entries collated by Schmidt. Later in the year, he released 5 Klavierstücke, an album of five spontaneously recorded solo piano pieces influenced by Schubert, Cage, and Japanese gagaku music. Nocturne: Live at the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, a recording of Schmidt's first U.K. solo piano concert, was released in 2020, coinciding with his 83rd birthday.
© Fred Thomas & Paul Simpson /TiVo


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