Michael Schmidt

John Cage Chair and Professor of Philosophy of Music and Media at The European Graduate School / EGS.

Michael Schmidt


Michael Schmidt (b. 1957), the John Cage Chair at The European Graduate School / EGS, studied piano and did his doctoral work in musicology. He is currently the coordinator of Classical Music Online with Bavarian Radio Station, Munich, and teaches Strategies for the Media Future of Music at the Ludwigs Maximilian Universität in Munich and at the Universities of Music in Munich and Karlsruhe (Germany). Michael Schmidt is the author of Ekstase als musikalisches Symbol(1989), Hat Musik ein Geschlecht? (1997), Zukunftsmusik für Kulturwellen (2002), Capriccio für Siegfried Palm (2005), Philosophy of Media Sounds (2011), Von der Interpretation zur SimulationDie Pornographie der schönen Stellen (1995), Polyphony of the Beautiful ChannelsTerror Aestheticized and the Technique of MusicMusic as MediaMusical Expression and Digital Media, and Musical Fusion in the Age of Media. Michael Schmidt is a member of the selection committee of the Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation, Berlin, and head of the board of trustees of the Georg-von-Vollmar-Akademie, Munich.

Michael Schmidt asks: What happened to music, to its expression, and to its meaning in the age of media? One of the earliest descriptions of the effect the technical preservation and reproduction of music has on the listener can be found in Thomas Mann’s Zauberberg (The magic mountain). For the narrator, the pleasure of music is closely related to the addiction of the gambler: “What achievement… was it, that delivered our friend from his card-tic and drove him to another, nobler but by no means less peculiar passion? It was a flowing cornucopia of a serene and soulful pleasure. It was a music machine. It was a gramophone.” It is the broadcasting and recording media which has made the music of all epochs and styles omniavailable and omnipresent: “the tape recorder in combination with longplay-record revolutionized the repertory of classical music. Just as the tape meant a new study of spoken rather than written languages, so it brought in the entire musical culture of many centuries and countries. Where before there had been a narrow selection from periods and composers, the tape recorder, combined with longplay-record gave a full musical spectrum that made the sixteenth century as available as the nineteenth, and Chinese folk songs as accessible as the Hungarian” (Herbert Marshall McLuhan: Understanding Media).

Michael Schmidt explains that it is due to records, compact-discs, i-pods, radio, and television that music is not only universally available but has also became a universal presence. Whether in a department store, restaurant, station, or airport, music has become a constant companion of our everyday life. Michael Schmidt’s work asks if music has, by its media-caused omnipresence, approached the murmuring drone from which it may once have sprung—is music once again close to the murmuring of water and wind, those omnipresent sounds of nature? Or is it rather that the media has made music a part of the noise characteristic of our technical world, whose machines and acoustic signals drown out nature altogether, making it inaudible?

Theodor W. Adorno labeled modernism as a painful, intrinsic movement of musical material by someone desperately composing in a time devoid of all meaning—Arnold Schoenberg’s music comes to mind. Michael Schmidt demonstrates that this is no longer true for the postmodern composer who loves playing games in a musical hyper room, where he keeps arranging his samples or his musical filing cards. Everything is ready and waiting. Michael Schmidt explains that compared with Adorno’s gloomy ethical-aesthetic dictum, DJ Spooky’s poetics seems more like a Fröhliche Wissenschaft (a ‘gay science’ in the sense of Friedrich Nietzsche) of music and media. Today’s laptop musicians take their musical media-produced hyperreality into account by using anything and everything—a style which copies as veil, as direct quotations, or as digital samples of existing recordings and other ready-made sounds coming their way by using only acoustic things as material for their musical collages.

“Anyone, using recording and/or electronic means, feels and will increasingly feel himself capable of making a piece of music, combining in his one person the formerly distinct activities of composer, performer and listener,” the composer John Cage says in his book Empty Words. Michael Schmidt proves that media opened music to sound and made it universally available as material for personal collages. At the same time, media puts music in the state of a constant murmuring drone, an incessant flowing. The outcome depends upon our creativity and our competence, in both our music and our media. According to Michael Schmidt, the philosophy of media sounds is an invitation to the imagination of the ears and the brain: Let’s reflect the resonances of media sounds….



Polyphonie Vernetzt: Perspektiven Mulitmedialer Musikvermittlung, Schmidt, Michael. Polyphonie Vernetzt: Perspektiven Mulitmedialer Musikvermittlung. Conbrio, 2012. ISBN: 3940768332

Capriccio für Siegfried Palm, Schmidt, Michael, Theo Geißler, Juan M. Koch, and Brigette Palm. Capriccio für Siegfried Palm. Conbrio, 2005. ISBN: 3932581717

Hat Musik ein Geschlecht? , Schmidt, Michael, and Wolf Loeckle. Hat Musik ein Geschlecht? Conbrio, 1997. ISBN: 3930079810

Ekstase als Musikalisches Symbol in den Klavierpoemes Alexander Skrjabins, Schmidt, Michael. Ekstase als Musikalisches Symbol in den Klavierpoemes Alexander Skrjabins. Hans Heinrich Eggebrecht, Pfaffenweiler, 1989. ISBN: 3890851800


Internetperspektiven für „Special Interest“ im Kulturradio

Schmidt, Michael. “Internetperspektiven für „Special Interest“ im Kulturradio.” In Radiojournalismus, edited by Peter Overbeck, 217-221. UvK, 2009. ISBN: 3896695738

Das Klassikportal des Bayerischen Rundfunks

Schmidt, Michael. “Das Klassikportal des Bayerischen Rundfunks.” In Musik und Kultur im Rundfunk: Wandel und Chancen, edited by Peter Overbeck, 67-77. Lit Verlag, 2007. ISBN: 3825896455

Perspektiven multimedialer Musikvermittlung

Schmidt, Michael. “Perspektiven multimedialer Musikvermittlung.” In Musikjournalismus, edited by Peter Overbeck. UvK, 2005. ISBN: 3896694227

Von der Klassikwelle zum Klassikportal

Schmidt, Michael. “Von der Klassikwelle zum Klassikportal.” In Musikjournalismus, edited by Peter Overbeck, 199-202. UvK, 2005. ISBN: 3896694227

Zwischen Gemeinschaftsideologie, Leistungsorientierung und Profilsuche: Kritische Anmerkungen zur Geschichte der Musikschulen in Deutschland

Schmidt, Michael. “Zwischen Gemeinschaftsideologie, Leistungsorientierung und Profilsuche: Kritische Anmerkungen zur Geschichte der Musikschulen in Deutschland.” In Thema Musik Live, Band 4: Musikschulen auf dem Prüfstand, edited by Wolf Loeckle and Wolfgang Schreiber, 7-33. Conbrio, 1994. ISBN: 3930079461

Hören mit Schmerzen – Musik vor und nach der Katastrophe

Schmidt, Michael. “Hören mit Schmerzen – Musik vor und nach der Katastrophe.” In Zeitkritik nach Heidegger, edited by Wolfgang Schirmacher, 155-159. Die Blaue Eule, 1989. ISBN: 389206301X

Hören aus der Stille

Schmidt, Michael. “Hören aus der Stille.” In Schopenhauer in der Postmoderne, edited by Wolfgang Schirmacher. Passagen, 1989. ISBN: 3900767181

Ekstase als musikalisches Symbol

Michael Schmidt. “Ekstase als musikalisches Symbol.” In Klavierpoemes Alexander Skrjabins, 175-181. Centaurus Verlag Pfaffenweiler, 1987. ISBN: 3890851800

Komposition als Symbol

Schmidt, Michael. “Komposition als Symbol.” In Musik-Konzepte Heft 37/38: Alexander Skrjabin und die Skrjabinisten II, edited Heinz-Klaus Metzger and Rainer Riehn, 44-53. Edition Text + Kritik, 1984. ISBN: 3883771716


Michael Schmidt

Faculty Interview

Michael Schmidt

Evening Lecture

Michael Schmidt

Media Sounds and Globalisation 6/6

Michael Schmidt

Media Sounds and Globalisation 5/6

Michael Schmidt

Media Sounds and Globalisation 4/6

Michael Schmidt

Media Sounds and Globalisation 3/6

Michael Schmidt

Media Sounds and Globalisation 2/6

Michael Schmidt

Media Sounds and Globalisation 1/6