Well known for the peerless, timeless Monolake
releases on Chain Reaction and his own imprint Imbalance Computer Music, Robert Henke also produces music under his own name, and has done since the early 90s. As Monolake became more dancefloor oriented, he was releasing drone-based sound environments, explorations of sound and structure in the context of interactions between a sonic event and the space in which it happens.
Born in 1969 in Munich, Henke’s first defining record was Oxygene
by Jean Michel Jarre. As a teenager he got part-time jobs to save up and buy a Roland Juno-6, allowing him to create electronic sound collages (and played in a gothic band). In 1990, Henke moved to Berlin and began studying computer music at Elektronische Studio der Technischen Universität.
Drawing inspiration from the opposing poles of techno and academic computer music, Henke and Gerhard Behles founded Monolake in 1995, as Henke went on to study sound engineering at the Hochschule für Film und Fernsehen in Potsdam Babelsberg. After finishing his studies, he began working as a mastering and cutting engineer at Dubplates & Mastering where he cut many of the early Monolake releases.
Monolake, from its inception, placed great value on live performance, which often incorporates video or illumination elements provided by the Berlin-based video artist Alexej Paryla
. Monolake has had releases on the DIN and Chain Reaction labels, and since 1997 on Henke’s own imprint Imbalance Computer Music. In 1999, Gerhard Behles founded the music software company Ableton, producers of the software that fundamentally changed live digital performance, where both he and Henke work as developers. Henke continued the Monolake
project solo until fall 2004 when he was joined by T++ (Torsten Pröfrock, DIN label head and long time Henke collaborator). Henke also released the (12") Index
on Chain Reaction under the moniker Helical Scan.
To date he has released four albums under his own name. They are ambient, experimental soundscapes, each featuring material developed from or intended for an installation or performance in a particular space. The works have the clean, shining sound that Henke is renowned for, but also an intimacy in their slow pace and subtlety. Piercing Music, first released in 1994, is an edited and re-composed version of a multi-channel installation, developed while studying at study sound engineering at the Hochschule für Film und Fernsehen.
The 2004 release, Signal to Noise
, contains Studies for Thunder
, a piece that Henke later developed into a four-channel version, which premiered at MUTEK MEXICO in April 2004, performed at a volcanic, open-air space. It was further refined at the Technical University Berlin into the current, spectacular, eight channel version, which had its premier at MUTEK Montreal in summer 2005 and was also performed at Tesla’s Kubus in 2006.
Also in 2006 Henke released Layering Buddha
(Imbalance), a vastly deep, rich collage built-up from sampled loops of FM3
’s Buddha Machine
. The static of the low-fi loops remain even as Henke, with undoubtedly hi-fi equipment, coaxes texture from them, teasing layers apart, developing a complex ambience from the dissection. In 2007 Layering Buddha
received an honorary mention at the Prix Ars Electronica.
Robert Henkes's performances and interactive installations have been shown at places like the Tate Modern in London, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, MUDAM in Luxembourg, and the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney. Robert Henke teaches as professor for sound design at the University of Arts in Berlin.
His realtime performance piece "Tau" was originally written for the INA/GRM Acousmonium
and adapted for WFS
in 2011. Based on a previous piece "Studies for Thunder" (2005), a virtual closed world was created to imply an immersive sensation of a macroscopic world in which microscopic events are embedded. During the performance, individual layers are filtered, mixed and distributed in space. Real time parameters control the movements of the sounds fed to the WFS system.
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