Saturday, May 01, 2010
News comes that the composer Johannes Fritsch has died at 68 after a long illness. His name is probably most familiar for his days as a member, usually playing viola, of Stockhausen's touring ensemble, but should be better known for his work as a composer, publisher, and teacher, succeeding Stockhausen at the Musikhochschule in Cologne and serving for decades, with his students including Volker Staub and Caspar Johannes Walter, two very good composers. Fritsch was the founder of the Feedback Studio and Verlag, always billed as a cooperative but basically a one-man-show. Initially focused on sharing resources for making electronic music (very much in the spirit of Ann Arbor's Cooperative Studio or the San Francisco Tape Music Center) and some concert presenting, the focus became publishing, both of performance materials and of a journal, the Feedback Papers, all produced in a cheerfully informal manner. Fritsch focused on issues of acoustics and tuning (via Kayser and Partch) in his music, with his work in live-electronics and improvisation representing a gentler and more pragmatic approach to that he had experienced with his work with Stockhausen. (Although he often got lumped into the category of Stockhausen's students, his own composition teachers were Bernd Alois Zimmermann and Gottfried Michael Koenig; Fritsch's ability to balance distance and respect in his relationship with Stockhausen was, as far as I know, unique.) I did not know Fritsch well, but each time we met it was clear that his reputation as a kind, supportive, smart and elegant guy with open ears was spot-on.