Photograph copyright Matthias Creutziger.
Born 1942; trombone, cello, film.
Günter Christmann has been working since 1968 as a free-lance musician specialising in improvised musics - particularly free improvisation - and their links with other art forms. In the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s, he was primarily known for his trombone (and less frequent double bass) playing in a variety of groupings: Rüdiger Carl group (1969-1972); Peter Kowald Quintett (1972-1974); a duo with Detlef Schönenberg (1972-1982) which itself included many collaborations - for example with the electronics player Harald Bojé - as a member of the Globe Unity Orchestra from 1973 onwards; and in duo with Tristan Honsinger (1978-1981). In the mid-1970s Christmann also began exploring the possibilities of solo playing, sometimes including electro-acoustic manipulations and montage techniques. Since 1980 Günter Christmann has played regularly with Paul Lovens - for example, in the excellent (and recorded) trio with Maarten Altena, in duo, and in trio with Mats Gustafsson - in duo with bass player Torsten Müller (generally under the name of their recording, Carte blanche, as a member of King Übü Orchestrü (1987-1994), and in duo with Alexander Frangenheim. He also started to feature cello in his playing, not as a second instrument to trombone but as an equal.
From 1979 Günter Christmann has been interested in working with different combinations of improvisers from an international pool, often combining musicians with dancers, actors and acrobats. These groupings have gone under the generic name of VARIO (now up to VARIO 35), with many combinations having been documented on LP and CD (see list below). VARIO concerts have included: Langenhagen Jazz 1979/1981/1983; Moers 1981/1983; Actual London 1981; Pisa 1982; Osnabrück 1982; Utrecht 1982; a tour of South and Central America in 1983 (Mexico, Columbia, Dominican Republic, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil); Zürich 1984; Hannover 1985; Bremen 1985; Paris 1992; Hannover 1993; Den Haag 1994; Stuttgart 1995; Nickelsdorff 1998; Hannover 1998. Artists who have participated in VARIO formations include: Maarten Altena; Regina Baumgart (dancer); Steve Beresford; Udo Blickensdorf (acrobat); Lindsay Cooper; Axel Dörner; Katie Duck; Alexander Frangenheim; Wolfgang Fuchs; Mats Gustafsson; Andy Geer (pantomime); Gerd Gläsmer (drums); Michael Griener (percussion); Ulrich Gumpert; Bernd Halleck (actor); Shelley Hirsch; Tristan Honsinger; Guus Janssen; Sven-Åke Johannson; Theo Joling (clown); Peter Kowald; Gyde Knebusch (harp); Thomas Lehn; Paul Lovens; Rudi Mahall (bass clarinet); Radu Malfatti; Phil Minton; Torsten Müller; Christian Munthe; Maggie Nicols; Evan Parker; Melvyn Poore; Jon Rose; John Russell; Jo Sachse; Wolfgang Schliemdun (percussion); Detlef Schönenberg; Irène Schweizer; Günter Sommer; LaDonna Smith; Mariano Suarez (trumpet); Martin Theurer; Roger Turner; Peter van Bergen; Davey Williams; Stephan Wittwer.
Even outside VARIO, Christmann has longstanding interests in bringing together similar-minded artists from a variety of disciplines. This started in 1974 through a collaboration with dancer/choreographer Pina Bausch and was later continued with Elisabeth Clark and Regina Baumgart. These early experiments led to his interest in film, particularly the relationship between improvising musicians and experimental film-makers; his current work in this area goes under the banner Deja-vu, being a sequence of music-theatre scenes in which live music, acting, films and sound collage are brought together. At its centre is the playing musician who works both with and against the film and whose relationship with the situation on stage in constantly changing. Advantages are taken of the ability of film to snatch up, to double and enlarge, and to fragment what would otherwise be a traditional relationship between action, scenery and person. This results in an interchange and transformation of themes, properties and associations, and movement between illusion and reality. The films are by Günter Christmann, music is provided by Christmann and Michael Griener, and technical assistance is provided by Elke Schipper. Deja-vu has included the following projects:
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