Trio of music, film and paintings

Richters Patterns

opening Holland Festival 2018

Morton Feldman, Marcus Schmickler, Corinna Belz, Ensemble Musikfabrik, Cappella Amsterdam

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Ensemble Musikfabrik makes it possible to hear Gerhard Richter’s beautiful pieces, and watch Marcus Schmickler’s music. Richters Patterns is a collaboration between music, film and paintings. Gerhard Richter is one of the world’s greatest contemporary painters, known for his abstract canvases with often intense colors. Director Corinna Belz created a film out of photographs of fragments of the canvases. Marcus Schmickler composed the music, which just like the film uses a method devised by Richter: mirror, divide, repeat. In this performance at the Gashouder, image and sound together influence the perception of the viewer, and create a completely new experience. Ensemble Musikfabrik will first perform Morton Feldman’s Rothko Chapel (1971) together with Cappella Amsterdam. Feldman is one of Gerhard Richter’s favourite composers. The serene sounding Rothko Chapel is based on works of the painter Mark Rothko.


Rothko Chapel (1971)
Morton Feldman (1926-1987)

Richters Patterns (2016)
Marcus Schmickler (1968) / Corinna Belz (1955)
musical installation for 18 musicians, electronics and film

background information

Ensemble Musikfabrik thrives on venturing beyond fixed musical boundaries. These modern-music specialists from Cologne have translated their words into deeds with the work entitled Richters 

Patterns (without an apostrophe), which isan extraordinary collaboration between painter Gerhard Richter, director Corinna Belz and composer Marcus Schmickler. 

Gerhard Richter has spent years dreaming of a synthesis between visual art and modern music. With that in mind, he took photographs of segments of a new series of works, which were first exhibited in May 2016 in New York. Director Corinna Belz, known for her 2011 documentary, Gerhard Richter Painting, used these images to create a movie that wasn't filmed with a camera but generated by a computer algorithm programmed for the project. The film, which lasts 32 minutes, consists of more than 60,000 individual frames that were produced, processed and then edited by cinematographer Rudi Heinen to create moving images. 

‘The film is compiled from numerous ornamental patterns', explains Corinna Belz. 'The structures gradually become more refined, culminating in a rapid movement of horizontal stripes, reminiscent of Richter's Streifenbilder (Stripe Paintings). The strong visual rhythm in Richter's art is a frequent talking point, making it a logical step to add a layer of music to this cinematographic take on his work. You could even say that Marcus Schmickler's music makes the optical pulse, arising from the animation of the images, audible.’ 

German composer Marcus Schmickler (co-founder of the DJ collective Brüsseler-Platz-10a-Musik and also a post-rock producer under the pseudonym Pluramon), wrote the music for Richters Patterns (2016) parallel with the film’s creation. The film and composition follow their own independent logic, at times creating intentional friction between images and sound, although Schmickler did turn to Richter's Streifenbilder for inspiration. In that series, the painter sliced extremely thin strips from reproductions of his abstract paintings and turned them into new works with a distinctive striped pattern. ‘I wanted to “extend” that technique into the fields of sound and time’, says Schmickler. 'Moreover, the music develops at an extremely slow tempo, so the impression of a linear passage of time recedes into the background. Listeners experience these sounds as if they are looking at a painting.

The relationship between painting and music was also a significant theme in music from the previous century. Take for instance the work of the American composer Morton Feldman, who was a great admirer of such abstract-expressionist painters as Jackson Pollock, Philip Guston and Mark Rothko. Feldman composed his Rothko Chapel in 1971 in memory of Rothko and inspired by the fourteen black canvases hanging in the Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas.Feldman's music is reminiscent of a painting unfolding in time, with its soft-focus sound, monochrome textures and its progression that seems frozen in time. His work resists linguistic comparisons, has no narrative, no dramatic development of themes and is more spatial than linear. Listening to Feldman is like letting your gaze glide over a painting.



Marcus Schmickler (Cologne, 1968) came into contact with the music of Karlheinz Stockhausen at an early age, when his parents moved to Kürten, the village where Stockhausen lived. Schmickler 

subsequently studied electronic music with Hans Ulrich Humpert and composition with Johannes Fritsch at the Hochschule für Musik und Tanz in Cologne. His first solo release appeared on the French label Odd Size in 1992. In 1995, Schmickler co-founded the DJ collective Brüsseler-Platz-10a-Musik, and in 1996 he produced the first entirely digital post-rock album, Pickup Canyon, under the pseudonym Pluramon. Since the mid-1990s, Schmickler has emerged as a prolific and versatile composer of music for film, theatre and radio plays. He often collaborates with the Berlin playwright Felix Ensslin and has composed music for electronics, chorus, chamber music ensemble and orchestra. In 2009, as part of the International Year of Astronomy, Schmickler created a large-scale work based on astronomical data, entitled Bonner Durchmusterung, for electronics and projected images. 

Corinna Belz (Marburg, 1955) is a filmmaker, scriptwriter and actor. Belz studied philosophy, art history, and film, theatre, and television sciences in Cologne, Berlin and Zürich, and is today seen as one of Germany's leading documentary makers. Her breakthrough came in 2002 with the documentary Ein anderes Amerika (A Different America), which won the German Bar Association’s film prize. It portrayed the United States following the World Trade Centre attacks. For her film Gerhard Richter Painting (2011), shown in the Netherlands by VPRO Cinema among others, she spent three years in the German painter's atelier. The film won the 2012 Deutsche Filmpreis (Lola Award) in the best documentary category. Belz' film Peter Handke. Bin im Wald. Kann sein, daß ich mich verspäte had its cinematic release in 2016. 

Morton Feldman (1926-1987) was a leading American composer, who is regarded as one of the most important composers of the twentieth century. Feldman studied composition with Schönberg disciple Wallingford Riegger and former Webern student Stefan Wolpe; but the decisive encounter in his musical life was with John Cage, who encouraged him to break away from old compositional models, such as traditional harmony and serial techniques. Feldman is often associated with the experimental New York School, along with Cage, Christian Wolff and Earle Brown. In the 1950’s Feldman experimented with graphic notation and freedoms for the performers. From the 1970’s he used conventional notation. Through Cage, Feldman met various other prominent figures from the New York art scene, including visual artists Jackson Pollock, Philip Guston and Robert Rauschenberg, the composers Henry Cowell, Virgil Thomson and George Antheil and the writer Frank O’Hara. Feldman was especially inspired by the works of the abstractexpressionist painters. He expressed his indebtedness with titles such as Rothko Chapel (1971) and For Frank O’Hara (1973). In 1977 he wrote the opera Neither, set to a text by Samuel Beckett. Until 1973 Feldman worked as a composer as well as holding a full time job in his family’s textile business. That year he started lecturing in composition at the State University of New York in Buffalo, a position he held until his death. Especially his later chamber music, from 1977, tends to be soft, slow and intimate. These works are often extremely long. For Philip Guston (1984), for instance, is 4 hours long; his Second String Quartet (1983) measures 6 hours. Shortly after his marriage to the Canadian composer Barbara Monk, Feldman died of pancreatic cancer. 

Ensemble Musikfabrik is a contemporary music ensemble based in Cologne and has earned a reputation as one of the leading groups in its field. Musikfabrik was founded in 1990, and made its debut in 1991 at the Wittener Tage für neue Kammermusik under the name Ensemble Neue Musik Nordrhein-Westfalen. Ensemble Musikfabrik dedicates itself to performing new and unfamiliar compositions, many commissioned by the ensemble. Musikfabrik has built a close collaborative connection with guest artists including Louis Andriessen, Stefan Asbury, Richard Ayres, Harrison Birtwistle, Peter Eötvös, Vinko Globokar, Heiner Goebbels, Toshio Hosokawa, Nicolaus A. Huber, Mauricio Kagel, Helmut Lachenmann, Wolfgang Rihm, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Sasha Waltz and Hans Zender. The ensemble performs approximately eighty concerts a year in Germany and internationally, and presents a unique series of world premieres at the WDR in Cologne. Interdisciplinary projects with live electronics, dance, theatre, film, literature and the visual arts also serve to broaden the familiar conventions surrounding conducted ensemble concerts, as do chamber music concerts, debate concerts and improvisation. Last year they played with electronic artists Mouse on Mars, conductor André de Ridder and a group of percussion robots in the program Robots/Non/Robots

Chamber choir Cappella Amsterdam was founded in 1970 by Jan Boeke and has been under the artistic leadership of chief conductor Daniel Reuss since 1990. The choir excels in both early and modern music and devotes particular attention to the works of Dutch composers ranging from Sweelinck to Louis Andriessen and Ton de Leeuw. Such composers as Robert Heppener and Jan van Vlijmen have written works especially for the choir. Cappella Amsterdam often participates in opera productions such as Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Sonntag aus Licht at the Cologne Opera (2011), and Wolfgang Rihm's Dionysos, presented during the 2010 Holland Festival. During the 2014 Holland Festival, Cappella Amsterdam also contributed significantly to the Nono trilogy. In addition to collaborating with such prominent Dutch ensembles as the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and ASKO|Schönberg, Cappella Amsterdam regularly works with renowned international organisations including the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, the RIAS Kammerchor, Ensemble Musikfabrik, Il Gardellino and the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir. The choir was nominated in 2010 for the Amsterdam Arts Prize and an Edison Classical Listening Audience Award. Their 2010 recording of Frank Martin's Golgotha was nominated for a Grammy. A CD from 2012 containing choral works by Leoš Janáček and their highly praised recording (2016) of Arvo Pärt's Kanon Pokajanen both received an Edison Classical Award.



Morton Feldman,
Marcus Schmickler
conductor Rothko Chapel
Daniel Reuss
Corinna Belz
after an idea of
Gerhard Richter
performed by
Ensemble Musikfabrik, Cappella Amsterdam
musicians Rothko Chapel
Ulrich Löffler, piano
Dirk Rothbrust, percussion
Axel Porath, viola
live electronics
Marcus Schmickler
sound direction
Paul Jeukendrup
Ensemble Musikfabrik
with support of
Kunststiftung NRW at Campus Musikfabrik

This performance was made possible with support by