robert henke

(chapter introduction)

Robert Henke, born in 1969 in Munich, Germany, began releasing works of electronic music in 1994. In 1995 he formed Monolake together with Gerhard Behles, focussing on realtime interaction with machines at a time when most techno-related electronic music was produced entirely offline and performance typically meant presenting a DJ set. This orientation led to Henke building custom hardware controllers for performance and Behles founding music software company Ableton, which Henke soon joined to help developing the company’s only product, Live. Since its invention in 1999, Ableton Live has rapidly grown to become the standard tool for electronic music production and performance. The product’s capabilities of seamlessly integrating production and performance functions have deeply transformed electronic club music, but have also exerted influence over a wide range of diverse musical genres and audio engineering applications.

While Behles quit his artistic pursuits to solely concentrate on the company, Henke has continued being engaged in both worlds, music creation as well as software engineering: algorithms as an integral part of the creative process, as he puts it. A third field – teaching – now rounds off his profile as one of the central figures at the crossroads of programming, club music and academia. Henke has held teaching positions at Berlin’s Universität der Künste, where he was professor of sound studies, the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA) at Stanford University and the Studio National des Arts Contemporains – Le Fresnoy in Lille, France. His installations, performances and concerts, many of which include surround sound and visual components, have been presented at London’s Tate Modern, Centre Pompidou in Paris, New York’s MoMA PS1 and at numerous festivals.

I was curious to hear Robert’s stance on interrelations between devices and creativity, tool layouts translating into musical forms, the art of managing digital complexity and iconic aspects of presets.