Matthias Krüger is a composer for contemporary music. He was born in Ulm and grew up in Brussels and Trier. He studied music composition at Cologne’s Hochschule für Musik und Tanz, at Columbia University in New York City, as well as French language in Cologne and Sorbonne University in Paris. In 2021/22 he participated in the Cursus for Composition and Computer Music at IRCAM in Paris. Currently he is a doctoral candidate at Hamburg's University of Music and Theatre, researching on hybrid composition between music, dance and theatre. Between September 2023 and April 2024 he is composer in residence at Goethe-Institut of Montreal (in collaboration with Le Vivier–Carrefour des Musiques Nouvelles) as well as a Graduate Researcher at McGill University Montreal. His principal composition teachers include Krzysztof Meyer, Fabien Lévy and Johannes Schöllhorn. He attended festivals such as the Darmstadt International Summer Courses for New Music 2010 and impuls Academy 2011 in Graz and drawn inspiration from master classes and personal encounters with composers like Hans Abrahamsen, Mark André, Georges Aperghis, Chaya Czernowin, Georg Friedrich Haas, Pierre Jodlowski, Sarah Nemtsov, José-María Sánchez-Verdú and Vladimir Tarnopolski as well as the Composition Seminar of New York University with Nils Vigeland.
He has received numerous awards and scholarships, including from DAAD, the German National Academic Foundation, Berlin’s Mendelssohn competition in 2013, Cologne's B.A. Zimmermann award in 2015, the Chevillion-Bonnaud composition prize of the 12th Orléans International Piano Competition in 2016 as well as a nomination for the 2018 Gaudeamus Award (Utrecht, NL) and repeated nominations for the Young Artists' Promotion Award of Northrhine-Westphalia (D). Supported by the Arts Foundation of Northrhine-Westphalia he spent the Fall of 2015 as an Artist-in-Residence in Istanbul/Turkey and travelled to Aotearoa-New Zealand in 2018 on a two-month research grant to gain a deeper insight into kaupapa Māori, kapa haka and taonga puoro. Between 2014 and 2018 he worked part-time at the Institute of Musicology of Bonn University (D). Among other residencies, he spent the summer of 2020 at a three-months residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris.
His musical interests revolve primarily around the in-between of the abstract magic of sonic structures and the concrete confrontation with one’s own body, yearnings and obsessions; it focuses on the musician as a human being who is confronted with their personal limits and uncertainties, working their way through them in constant, not least physical agitation in an ever-lasting quest for identity and redemption.
He received commissions from WDR (Musik der Zeit), Westfalen Classics 2017, NewTalents Biennale Cologne 2014, and Young Euro Classic Berlin 2013, among others, as well as from soloists Xavier Larsson Paez (saxophone), Claudia Chan (piano) and Krisztián Palágyi (accordion). Matthias' music has been performed by the Klangforum Wien, the WDR Symphony Orchestra, ensemble Recherche, ensemble Aventure (Freiburg both), ensemble ascolta (Stuttgart), ensemble inverspace (Basel, CH), Ma'alot wind quintet, ensemble hand werk, mam.manufaktur für aktuelle musik, Ensemble BRuCH , Fukio Ensemble (all Cologne), IEMA ensemble (Frankfurt), Slagwerk Den Haag and Oerknal (both The Hague), PluralEnsemble (Madrid), and Meitar Ensemble (Tel Aviv), as well as soloists like Werner Dickel, Neus Estarellas Calderón, Patrick Stadler and Imri Talgam, among others, in Austria, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the US, Canada, China and Japan, as part of festivals such as ECLAT Stuttgart, Donaueschinger Musiktage, Warsaw Autumn, Gaudeamus Muziekweek (Utrecht), Festival de Royaumont, Nuova Consonanza (Rome), Shanghai New Music Week, Kasseler Musiktage, Northwestern University New Music Conference, and Mallorca Saxophone Festival, and in venues such as Konzerthaus Berlin, WDR Funkhaus Cologne, Palau de la Música Catalana Barcelona, Centre Pompidou Paris and Carnegie Hall New York.
Furthermore his music has been featured on German radio stations such as Deutschlandfunk, Deutschlandradio Kultur, Deutschlandradio Kultur, HR 2, SWR 2, WDR 3 and KölnCampus. In June 2018 Deutschlandfunk has dedicated a portrait feature about his music.
In January 2017 his composition LAL (First Draft) has been released on ensemble hand werk's first album "Kurzwelle".
In October 2021 the CD label WERGO released his portrait CD ᴀɪɴ·ᴛ ɴᴜᴛʜɪɴ· ʙᴜᴛ ғᴀɪʀʏ ᴅᴜsᴛ as part of the series "Edition Zeitgenössische Musik/Podium Gegenwart". The CD was longlisted in January 2022 for the German Record Critics' Award.
His scores are available through Babelscores Paris.
He is currently based between Cologne and Paris where he works as a composer.
— Recordings and scores for the pieces are available following the icons underneath the respective paragraph. In some instances, scores can be obtained from the composer. —
„The title rosebud by German composer Matthias Krüger says nothing of the power that emanates from Victor Virnot's gestural work in this piece for dancer, sensors and electronics. Magnificent in his performance on the floor, Victor Virnot is both dancer and instrumentalist, generating, via the sensors, a sound dramaturgy concomitant to his choreography, "even if the gestural tension remains linked to the compositional tension", as the composer states. In the last minutes of rosebud, the processed voice heard in the loudspeakers provokes a sonic joust with the dancer/performer, a final spectacular twist between gesture and sound." (Michèle Tosi on ResMusica.com September 26, 2022 – for the French original, please click here. Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version))
"Krüger declares that he is most concerned with the search for truth. In fact, most of the compositions of the artist, endowed with a rich imagination, are quite literal.
Cologne-based composer Matthias Krüger uses the world and his travels. From the latter he brings back inspiration for his compositions. He is a keen observer, who presents the cultures he finds in a language that is not easy, but which clearly appeals to the imagination. Usually stories about other people's journeys bore me very quickly, but I listened to this one with interest and... I could listen to more.
Krüger declares that what he cares about most is the search for truth. In fact, most of the compositions by this imaginative artist are quite literal. He writes in such a way that the network of associations he creates transforms into a realistic image. I would venture to say, that the title "fairy dust" is sprinkled on his individual sound ideas rather than the works as a whole. The stories collected on the album are firmly rooted in the realities of Prague, Istanbul and New Zealand. Explicit connections between them are in vain; fortunately, each one is engaging in its own way.
I liked le vide à perdre best. Here the composer invites us to a nightclub in Istanbul. It is hard to recognize the style of the place - it may be a jazz club, a techno club, or a trash club, with a room reserved for ambient lovers. Strands of sounds overlap and collide with each other, only to hang in space and time a moment later. The head seems to be cut off from external stimuli and the mind falls into ecstasy. Among the confusion one can find references to the classics and pop culture (the ‘Orchestra Hit’ effect, which has not been heard for a long time).
A percussion solo emerges among the prepared instruments and electronics of Ensemble Ascolta, announcing a solution, but the author leaves us without a detailed ending to the night.
The Prague part of the album is Wie ein Stück Fett, a piece based on Gustav Meyrink's novel The Golem. The monodrama of the soprano, at times playing catch-up, at times giving way to instruments, and at times taking on the role of percussion, is presented in many shades. Here, darkness and mystery mingle with invigorating soundtracking. The story is ably supported by the BRuCH ensemble, but the verbal content will only be understandable to those who know German. More accessible is Bellygoat Boom, based on observations from fieldwork in New Zealand. Here, the pictorial murmurs and chirps are punctuated by unusual instrumental dialogues and ritualistic bursts of percussion by the WDR orchestra. Taking a journey through music may be for the best in such uncertain times." (Piotr Mika on Ruch Muzyczny 05/15/2022 – for the original Polish version, please click here; translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator)
"Scan the QR code, watch the video or text panel, and play the CD. Is this CD an interactive work of art or has new music, which can be quite cumbersome, simply been enhanced with visual gimmicks? Haven't composers for a long time been prefacing their works with quotations from literature or references to imagery?
In the Beginning was the Sound, therefore first of, the CD itself: Already after a few minutes one gets sucked into the sometimes abrupt, sometimes peaceful, but always superbly executed sonorities without excessive knick-knacks. Even without explanations and additional video or text panels, Le vide à perdre (for prepared trumpet, prepared trombone, drum set, bass drum, electric guitar, e-cello and live electronics) has a lot to offer. Time flies - the Ensemble Ascolta under the direction of Nicholas Kok pulls it off with ease.
Weird musical ecstasy, the brilliantly howling e-guitar, very precise wind instruments and lush drums give a whack on the ears, beyond all genres and labels, full of playfulness and displaying outstanding musical craftsmanship. The electronics enhance the acoustic hustle and bustle and elevate themselves in a solo in the middle of the work, only to be almost humorously carried back into the ensemble by the acoustic colleagues. The drum set wraps up the piece, evoking a fictional academic version of a sober Keith Moon.
Wie ein Stück Fett begins with a recitation of a text from Gustav Meyrink's novel The Golem. Gradually, words are replaced by sound as they are read. Marie Heeschen’s voice dominates the entire excitingly colorful activity. Once again, it’s a real treat for the ears with soprano, flutes, violoncello and piano. Composer Krüger seems to be bursting with musical ideas and he knows how to stage sound.
Starting from an opening note, with the help of the WDR Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Elena Schwarz, an endless network of sounds, structures, hidden quotations unfolds. The references to Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and William Blake are pointed out in the booklet. If one is not fond of these three authors, the music becomes nevertheless accessible, because it is gripping, dazzling, full of suspense and very well recorded.
A fourth piece, Sweep over me them dusty Bristles, played by the ensemble Inverspace (with flute, saxophone, piano/synthesizer, percussion, live electronics, tape), is also packed with musical quotations and is just as exciting and accomplished as the rest. You won't find it on the CD, though, but exclusively online via the QR code (p. 32 of the booklet). It is great fun with musical depth to look and listen to, excellently recorded and crafted. With the additional QR codes of the booklet, this CD becomes even more colorful, the listener is more actively involved in the listening process - but even without, the CD is also meaningful and worth listening to." (Heike Eickoff in Das Orchester 05/2022; translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator and by M.K.))
„A CD for the adventurous listener. These recent electroacoustic works by Matthias Kruger are very absorbing. Drawing on a range of techniques, traditions and technology there is great crossover between styles and genres, signifying the great freedom and wealth of experience that today’s composers enjoy.“ (Lark Reviews, November 23, 2021)
"Matthias Krüger's exuberant music for ensemble: A night in the legendary nightclub "Vida Pera" on an Istanbul roof top terrace, 2015, one year before the military coup. A fragment from Gustav Mahler's 4th Symphony, a childhood memory. Nietzsche's "birth of tragedy from the spirit of music". Herder's considerations on the primacy of the sense of hearing and Schiller's "Aesthetic Education of Man". In addition, songs by U2 and Moby and the heralds of the Beat Generation Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. This selection of materials that Matthias Krüger draws on in his compositions is strictly subjective and anything but random. It is an attempt to make sense of an increasingly multilayered reality with musical means: to reveal its subtexts and references to tradition without getting lost in them. To this end, a technically sophisticated set-up is deployed, in which voices and analog instruments, digital and electro-acoustic sound generators as well as live electronics interact. The analytical precision, however, is always counterbalanced by a Dionysian unleashing that also seeks to cross borders into the realm of the theatrical. All of this can be found on the new portrait CD of the Edition zeitgenössische Musik of the German Music Council, whose ensemble works were recently created in the Deutschlandfunk Chamber Music Hall." (Ingo Dorfmüller on Deutschlandfunk, 03/05/2022)
" 'Contains material from the following pieces' - this is a note that sticks out when studying the booklet of this release, and it is indicative of Matthias Krüger's work as a whole. Explicit references as well as implicit ones are ubiquitous in his works, but the long-established category of quotation does not do justice to his way of working. Reminiscent of the Zimmermannian spherical shape of time, Krüger not only incorporates musical and philosophical influences into his work, but outright utilizes them as a springboard for his compositional work.
Le vide à perdre, written for the ensemble Ascolta, is to be understood in the context of a club in Istanbul that was closed under political pressure, as Bastian Zimmermann explains in the booklet. Sonically dominant are a multitude of high, piercing tones as well as an impressive amount of different degrees of distortion. After a while one realizes that this is an impression-like memory of a night at the club: booming music, ringing ears. The ensemble Ascolta delivers these instrumentational amalgamations with great brilliance.
As an acoustic work, Wie ein Stück Fett (Like a Lump of Fat) dives into a different sound world and initially seems like a piece for speaking voice with accompanying music. Just like in a game, the words of a sentence are gradually substituted with sounds, thus shifting from a semantic level to a sonically complex one surprisingly quickly. Marie Heeschen excels with subtle nuances in the speaking voice as well, and the ensemble as a whole, gradually emerging from the blunt accompaniment, displays a great energy and richness in sound
In sweep over me them dusty bristles, the musical references seem to literally steer the course of the piece, and not infrequently the reviewer catches himself smiling incredulously as he is drawn into a new world of references, that’s how naturally the music spills over into a completely different section. In the video (Rikisaburo Sato), which goes far beyond mere documentation, digital artefacts, color distortions and text slides are interweaved in a multi-layered and rapid manner as to create an evocative homage to the beginnings of video art. In addition to instrumental virtuosity, the ensemble Inverspace has also mastered theatrical aspects such as gestures and exclamations.
Now, is it a political message to have David Guetta alongside Albert Camus as a material reference? No! Instead, it is "plainspoken" autobiography. In his way of composing with references, Matthias Krüger creates a new compositional technique that one could well imagine as a subject in an academic syllabus. The interweaving of the explicit with composed impressions, which become all the more tangible to the listener precisely because the influences are exposed, is unique, and makes Krüger a kind of impressionist of the 21st century." (Jakob Böttcher in Neue Zeitschrift für Musik, 04/2021; Transl.: M.K.)
„[Matthias Krüger] combines electronics and instrumental composition into a pleasantly undomesticated mix in which material from pop, art, literature, and new music come together in fruitful ways. A true powerhouse of energy is le vide à perdre (2016/19), a propulsive sound space in glaring colors, impressively realized by Ensemble Ascolta. The instrumentation is distinctive: prepared trumpet and trombone, drumset, bass drum, synthesizer, electric guitar, electric violoncello and live-electronics. The piece draws on Kruger's techno experiences, but you'll look in vain for a beat, despite the incorporation of various club tracks. Instead, the total dissolution and pixelization of sonic and textural identities prevail. His orchestral piece Bellygoat Boom (substrate), commissioned by the WDR in 2019, is even more bombastically sized and features set pieces from Mahler's 4th Symphony as well as by U2 and Moby. It begins with the sluggish groaning and grinding of a few sound monoliths and ends in a catastrophic Mahlerian frenzy.“ (Dirk Wieschollek in Neuen Musikzeitung 02/2022, transl. by M.K.))
„In Matthias Krüger's "Die freye Lust" [Léo Maurel's instrument] indeed becomes an aggressive noise-making machine, along with the rumbling of timpani and electronic beats. If one sticks to the association of outer space, it is now rather a war of the stars arising in front of the inner eye: planets collide, spaceships explode, black holes implode. In addition, the air-powered melodica: it sounds like an old harmonium at a funeral. At some point, the air is switched off, and it exhales its last note.“ (Elke Kamprad in Badische Zeitung, 12/01/2021; Transl.: M.K.)
„[…] Matthias Krüger's extroverted craving your kiss. The German composer does not take resources for granted. The gaze was caught by lassoes made out of PVC tubes and spun in the air, and the ear by sophisticated constructions shimmering with microtones, from which more and more distinct consonances, more and more peculiar samples emerged, until the music became overabundant. (Karolina Dabek on glissando.pl, 10/16/2021 – for the original Polish version, please click here; translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator)
„Matthias Krüger is a committed risktaker. Extremely imaginative and curious. Not afraid to go the distance with an idea that “may or may not work”. This willingness to explore is convincing and draws the listener in.“ (Jury: Mayke Nas, Nicole Lizée and Richard Ayres, September 2018)
„The intense physical energy of Matthias Krüger's quintet, fueled by its insistent pitches, amplitudes, repetitions, and high-speed dramaturgies, also challenged its listeners. Habits have thus not only the ability to make life more manageable and comfortable, but can also be the entry to hell.“ (Sylvia Systermans on Deutschlandfunk [German public broadcasting], 05/28/2017; Transl.: M.K./Thierry Tidrow)
"...at least as freaky as Matthias Kruger's finale "Le vide à perdre" for electronics, surround sound, prepared wind instruments, and a whole lot of percussion: like the “Grand Wazoo" of the 21st century, it borders on the threshold of pain and crawls with life. With almost feverish eyes and visibly happy to finally be able to hear his composition the way (Ensemble ascolta performing dedicatedly under the baton of Nicholas Kok) he had once imagined it, Krüger cranked the controls at the mixing desk all the way up to the max. Eclat is a festival that lives and thrives on such moments. It enables the proximity between the artists and the audience. There are no trenches." (Mirko Weber, Stuttgarter Zeitung, 02/06/017; Transl.: M.K./Thierry Tidrow)
"... like a sound massacre: a shrill and distorted electro inferno." (Otto Paul Burkhard in Südwest Presse, 02/07/2017, Transl.: M.K./Thierry Tidrow)
"... a sometimes almost paradoxical listening experience. A new sound space opens up and, very surprisingly, is immediately drawn into the increasingly obsessive soundscape. The same happens in the vocal part, which also features overtone singing. However, Krüger's musical actions do not carry their meaning within themselves; rather, the musical discourse is characterized by a compulsive obsessiveness which blusters into extreme panic. It is inherently inspired by the text, the opening chapter of Gustav Meyrink's novel The Golem, published in 1913, a classic of fantastic literature." (Ingo Dorfmüller on Deutschlandfunk [German public broadcasting], 07/22/2017; Transl.: M.K./Thierry Tidrow)
"Thus the recital opened with Matthias Krüger’s renk, a work that is rather a visual than a sonic performance, judging from how much the pianist’s body—in this case Claudia Chan—is being solicited in a such an unusual way: fingernails, palm of the hand, wrist, forearm; all are deployed on the keyboard, as well as underneath and even on top of the instrument without necessarily always pressing the keys all the way down. The effect is spectacular, and invites us to consider the piano through all of its constituents, beyond the traditional keyboard." (Isabelle Stibbe in La Terrasse, 03/22/2017, Transl.: M.K./Thierry Tidrow)
"Matthias Krüger came up with the idea for this composition in Istanbul. There, he had observed street musicians and was inspired by the foreign sounds and the constant interplay between musicians. The sound fields in his music therefore change accordingly. Krüger starts out with an impulsive drum solo. This is followed by a section in which the flute dominates. The music acquires an exotic character through microtonal variations, as they occur in oriental music, and through the use of the tulum, a Turkish form of bagpipes. Krüger challenges the musicians' sound sensitivity. The instrumentalists capture the fragile microtonal fluctuations with subtlety, easily intoning the melodic motifs’ filigree ornamentations. They play Kruger's composition with an improvisational fashion that makes the piece seem very much alive." (Hanno Ehrler on Deutschlandfunk [German public broadcasting], 07/31/2017; Transl.: M.K./Thierry Tidrow)
"... oriental sound patterns with an anarchistic and theatrical attitude." (Bastian Tebarth in StadtRevue, 07/2017)
"At the Kunststation St. Peter, Matthias Krüger conjured up tender soundscapes. A wild and impressively contrasting Alphorn solo roared and screeched like both a ship's horn and a free jazz trumpet. The watch hands of music history are still ticking onwards." (Rainer Nonnenmann in Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger, 05/26/2014; Transl.: M.K./Thierry Tidrow)