Robots, electronics and contemporary music


Mouse on Mars, Ensemble
Musikfabrik, André de Ridder

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They will all be performing together on one stage: the avant-garde orchestra Ensemble Musikfabrik, the electronic pioneers Mouse on Mars, conductor André de Ridder, and an array of percussion robots. This concert will certainly be an exceptional combination of electronic and acoustic sounds. Mouse on Mars has been at the forefront of electronic music for years now. Band members Jan St. Werner and Andi Toma prove their place with these two new compositions. The evening will begin in complete darkness with a performance of De Umbris Idearum... The acousmatic memory palace. This dark and experimental composition includes percussion robots and a lighting installation which responds to the music. It will be followed by the larger and lighter work Paeanumnion, a compelling hybrid of electronic  and  orchestral music.



Mouse on Mars (Jan St. Werner, Andi Toma), Ensemble Musikfabrik
De Umbris Idearum … The acousmatic memory palace (2016)


Mouse on Mars (Jan St. Werner, Andi Toma)
Paeanumnion (2011)

Background information

In robots/non/robots collaborators Mouse on Mars, Ensemble Musikfabrik and conductor André de Ridder explore the no man’s land between electronic dance music and contemporary music. Mouse on Mars is a German electronic music collective made up of 

Jan St. Werner and Andi Toma. Their music is typified by an enormous stylistic diversity, ranging from nightclub house to avant-garde sounds, and by a taste for unexpected collaborations. Both musicians are autodidacts and share a deep fascination with acoustic science and philosophical problems. This preoccupation shines through in the pieces they perform in this concert: De Umbris Idearum… The Acousmatic Memory Palace (2016) and Paeanumnion (2011).

The character of their music makes the members of Mouse on Mars interesting collaborative partners for a new music collective like Ensemble Musikfabrik. The Cologne-based ensemble approached Mouse on Mars in 2011 about a joint jubilee concert, intended to reflect on 25 years of the Cologne Philharmonie. The result was Paeanumnion (2011). The title is purposefully cryptic. ‘Paean’ in Greek refers to a triumphal song used to give thanks to a higher power. In Paeanumnion, electronica performed live by Mouse on Mars is combined with acoustic instruments. Mouse on Mars do not simply stay behind the decks, they also occasionally play guitars and sing, with the vocals distorted digitally. Although the composition is varied, Paeanumnion is dominated by a sense of light, inspiration and celebration.

De Umbris Idearum… The Acousmatic Memory Palace represents a second jubilee collaboration, this time marking 25 years of Ensemble Musikfabrik’s existence. This piece has a completely different character to Paeanumnion. The composition is an ode to the Groβe Sendesaal (Concert Hall of the West German Radio) in Cologne, where the piece was premiered. The mystical piece begins with electronic sounds in total darkness, pointing to the ‘acousmatic’ aspect in the subtitle which refers to the fact that the origin of sound is invisible. The use of computer controlled robot musicians (Moritz Simon Geist, Sonic Robots) underlines this alienation between sound and its source. Light installations that respond to the music also form part of the piece.



Mouse on Mars, made up of Jan St. Werner and Andi Toma, is widely regarded as one of Germany’s leading and most versatile electronic music collectives. The duo shifts effortlessly from pop to contemporary and from club music to the avant-garde. Mouse on Mars began in 1993 in Cologne and Düsseldorf.

Since their debut album Vulvaland (1994), the duo has released 11 albums as well as numerous solo projects and collaborations, all of which have further enhanced their genre-defying sound. Alongside making music, Werner also works in education and academic research. He was the artistic director of STEIM Amsterdam from 2005 to 2007 and currently works as a teacher at the New York University in Berlin and at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology. The duo have often worked with other artists, such as Stereolab, Matthew Herbert, Helado Negro, Bon Iver and The National. Since 2011, Mouse on Mars have also become much more active in the world of contemporary classical music. In 2011 their collaboration with Ensemble Musikfabrik, conductor André de Ridder and composer Stefan Streich led to the orchestral piece Paeanumnion, which has been performed in Cologne, Berlin, London and Chicago. The duo has also often worked with Solistenensemble Kaleidoskop and in 2013 Werner made the electronic opera Miscontinuum for the Bavarian Radio (Bayerische Rundfunk). In 2016 De Umbris Idearum… The Acousmatic Memory Palace was premiered in Cologne, an electro-acoustic composition in which midi-driven robots are among the players.


Ensemble Musikfabrik is a Cologne-based ensemble for contemporary music known as a leading group in this field. Ensemble Musikfabrik was established in 1990 and made its debut in 1991 under the name New Music Ensemble North Rhineland-Westphalia during the Wittener Tage Festival for New Chamber Music. The mission of Ensemble Musikfabrik is to bring to life little-known and new compositions, in many cases commissioned by the ensemble. Over the course of its relatively short existence the Ensemble Musikfabrik has also built up strong working relationships with leading figures in the world of contemporary music, including Louis Andriessen, Stefan Asbury, Richard Ayres, Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Peter Eötvös, Vinko Globokar, Heiner Goebbels, Toshio Hosokawa, Nicolaus A. Huber, Mauricio Kagel, Helmut Lachenmann, Klaus Lang, Diego Masson, Martin Matalon, Zsolt Nagy, Emmanuel Nunes, Henri Pousseur, Wolfgang Rihm, Rebecca Saunders, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Sasha Waltz, James Wood and Hans Zender. The ensemble performs its repertoire in about eighty concerts per year both in and outside Germany and has its own series of premieres on West German Radio (Westdeutsche Rundfunk). Interdisciplinary projects involving live electronica, dance, theatre, film, literature and visual art have broadened the usual form of the conducted ensemble concert just as much as chamber music, discussion concerts and improvisations. Since 2013 the ensemble owns a complete replicated set of the Harry Partch instruments. Furthermore, the double bell brass instruments are another outstanding trait of the ensemble's eagerness to experiment. The Ensemble Musikfabrik is as open as its mission: to create music that does not yet exist.


The German conductor André de Ridder (1971) is known for his eclectic programmes and projects, which aim to engender a dialogue between different musical styles and genres. He has worked with such contemporary music specialists as Ensemble Musikfabrik, but also with the band Gorillaz, the Danish indie rockband Efterklang and jazz musician Uri Caine. In 2012, De Ridder formed stargaze, an international ensemble of young musicians who break down the barriers between pop, classical, electronic and contemporary music. De Ridder is frequently active in Great Britain, where he is a regular guest of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, London Sinfonietta, the BBC Philharmonic and the Britten Sinfonia. He has been a guest conductor with the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, Tapiola Sinfonietta, the SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden Baden und Freiburg and the Camerata Salzburg. He has also frequently performed at the Holland Festival. He conducted 2001: A Space Odyssey and Sunken Garden (both in 2013) and In C Mali (2016). In 2013 he played violin in Brooklyn to Berlin together with Solistenensemble Kaleidoskop and Lee Ranaldo. In January 2016 he made his debut as conductor with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. As an opera conductor, De Ridder's productions have included works by Mozart, Janáček, and Henze. He conducted the English premiere of Gerald Barry's The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant at the English National Opera in 2005, the world premiere of Wolfgang Rihm’s Drei Frauen at Theater Basel in 2009 and in 2016 De Ridder was leading the Dutch National Opera in the world premiere of Only the Sound Remains.



Mouse on Mars (Jan St. Werner, Andi Toma), Ensemble Musikfabrik
concept and realisation
Mouse on Mars, André de Ridder
Stefan Reich with Brigitta Muntendorf and André de Ridder
André de Ridder
performed by
Mouse on Mars, Ensemble Musikfabrik
with support by
Kunststiftung NRW