It is not often that we come across modern composers who are also active free improvisers. Dietrich Eichmann writes orchestral scores and works for piano and electronics, but he also tours as a free improv pianist with The Straight Trio and has performed with Wolfgang Fuchs and Garrett List, among others. In between he finds time to manage the record label Oaksmus and host a concert series by the same name in Berlin.
Eichmann's formative years reads like a short who's who of avant-garde music, all fields combined. He was still in his teens when in the early 1980s he studied piano and improvisation with Alexander von Schlippenbach, who introduced him to Berlin's jazz scene. After two years spent on musicology and philosophy studies he came back to music, this time learning composition from Wolfgang Rihm, theory and analysis from Mathias Spahlinger and Walter Zimmerman. Between 1992 and 1994 he was assistant to Frederic Rzewski at the Conservatoire Royal de Musique de Liège in Belgium.
His first musical project of importance was a performance duo with Wolfgang von Stürmer called FIQ (Fraktion Illegaler Quomponisten). They recorded a self-released cassette in 1986, En Suite in Twelve Parts, which consisted mostly of found sounds, electronics, and turntable work. The performance piece "Game and Earnest" (premiered 1987, recorded 1989, released 2001) earned Eichmann his first laurels. A long work for improvisers, computer, and chess players, it allied his interests in electronics, chance operations (the chess pieces triggered computer music loops), and free improvisation.
In 1990 Eichmann worked for the first time with the Ensemble Modern, which would premiere his "Verdichtung" twelve years later. Also in 1990 he co-founded his first music production company, Neue Komponisten Gesellschaft, which remained active until 1996. Meanwhile he toured Europe in 1995 with Ken Butler, Anthony Coleman, Christophe Gründ, and Stürmer and wrote two pieces for French choreographer Stéphanie Aubin: "Piano Quartet The Late 92" and "La Pulsation Intégrale."
In 1998 he completed "Entre Deux Guerres," an impressive piano concerto, Varèse-ian in its dynamics but still very personal. In 2001 the label Wergo released a CD of his contemporary classical works, while his own newly-incepted label Oaksmus began to unearth recordings of his earlier pieces, including Game and Earnest and Entre Deux Guerres. In the spring of 2002 Eichmann toured the US as a free improv pianist with Lars Scherzberg and Astrid Weins, appearing at the Knitting Factory and at the first Improvised and Otherwise festival.