Herbert Eimert


Born: April 8, 1897; Bad Kreuznach, Germany   Died: December 15, 1972; Cologne, Germany  
German composer and musicologist Herbert Eimert was one of the founders of the WDR electronic music studio in Cologne and the senior statesman of electronic music in Germany. Born to a family of East Prussian origin, Eimert was mobilized into the German Army in September 1914 and miraculously managed to survive until his discharge in February 1919. Afterward, he entered Cologne Conservatory, where he studied with Hermann Abendroth, among others, Read more and wrote the book Atonale Musiklehre (1923), one of the first theoretical textbooks to deal with the subject of atonality, although it stops short of the dodecaphonic system introduced by Arnold Schoenberg within a year or two of that time. Atonale Musiklehre raised the ire of his professors at the Conservatory, and Eimert was obliged to transfer to Cologne University, where he earned his doctorate in 1931; from 1927 to 1933 Eimert also worked for the WDR in Cologne. Although he occasionally contributed to publications such as Melos, Eimert kept a low profile during the war years, working as a critic and editor for the Kölnischer Zeitung. When the occupation of Germany began, Eimert was hired on as the first German employee of the British-controlled NWDR. In 1948, Eimert began his long run as a host of the Musicalisches Nachtprogramm, a popular nighttime show with which he was connected until 1966; for it, he produced the 1948 radio drama Kain, based on Lord Byron. In 1950, Eimert published a slim volume called Lehrbuch der Zwölftontechnik, which became the main European "how to" book on the twelve-tone system, and was translated into several languages, though not English. He also coined the term "punktuelle Musik" (pointillistic music) to describe post-Webernian serialism.

In 1951, Eimert, Werner Meyer-Eppler, and engineer Robert Beyer founded the Cologne Electronic Music Studio, which for years was no more than "two primitive sine wave generators, no (...) noise generator and some very primitive filters," according to composer Konrad Boehmer. Karlheinz Stockhausen created his first electronic music there at Eimert's behest, and during Eimert's tenure Karel Goeyvaerts, Gottfried Michael Koenig, Herbert Brün, Nam June Paik, Mauricio Kagel, and György Ligeti all created electronic music there. When Eimert retired in 1962, Stockhausen took his place as the director of the studio. Eimert also served as a lecturer on electronic music during the Darmstadt summer courses from 1951 to 1957, and, with Stockhausen, initiated publication of the important avant-garde music periodical Die Reihe in 1955. Eimert died at age 75 in 1972, shortly after completing the manuscript of a dictionary of electronic music, Das Lexikon der elektronischen Musik, with Hans-Ulrich Humpert.

Eimert's surviving compositional output is not large and many of his electronic pieces are very short owing to the difficulties of producing such music in the 1950s. One of his most memorable electronic works is the Epitaph für Aikichi Kuboyama (1957-1959), composed on a text by philosopher Günther Anders and dedicated to a Japanese fisherman who passed through a radioactive cloud produced by the A-bomb test on Bikini Atoll, only to die six months later. Read less
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