Dieter Schnebel

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Dieter Schnebel
Born(1930-03-14)14 March 1930
Lahr, Baden, Germany
Died20 May 2018(2018-05-20) (aged 88)
Berlin, Germany
Resting place Dahlem Cemetery
Education University of Tübingen
  • Composer
  • Theologian
  • Musicologist
Organization Hochschule der Künste, Berlin

Dieter Schnebel (14 March 1930 – 20 May 2018) was a German composer, theologian and musicologist. He composed orchestral music, chamber music, vocal music and stage works. From 1976 until his retirement in 1995, Schnebel served as professor of experimental music at the Hochschule der Künste, Berlin.



Schnebel was born in Lahr/Baden. He began general private music studies with Wilhelm Siebler from 1942 until 1945, when he started piano lessons with Wilhelm Resch, and continued study with him until 1949 at the age of 19. [1] He continued with music history through 1952, under Eric Doflein. [2] Simultaneously he began to study composition, from 1950, with Ernst Krenek, Theodor W. Adorno and Pierre Boulez, among others. He entered formal studies at the University of Tübingen where he took musicology with Walter Gerstenberg, as well as theology, philosophy and further piano studies. [3] In 1955, he left with a degree in theology, [1] but with a dissertation about Arnold Schoenberg. [4] Soon after, he married Camilla Riegger in 1956, and the couple had a son and daughter. Schnebel became a minister, and taught theology and religion until 1963 when he began teaching philosophy and psychology. [4] After his first wife died, he underwent a period of psychoanalysis. In 1970 he married translator Iris von Kaschnitz [4] (1928–2014), daughter of Marie Luise Kaschnitz, and began teaching religious studies and music in Munich, which he continued until 1976. [2] His students included Australian composer Norma Tyer. In 1976, he began teaching in Berlin as a professor of experimental music and music research, a chair created for him. He held it until his retirement in 1995. [4] [5]

Tombstone, Dahlem Cemetery Grab-Dieter-Schnebel-Friedhof-Dahlem.jpg
Tombstone, Dahlem Cemetery

Invited by Walter Fink, he was the sixth composer featured in the annual Komponistenporträt of the Rheingau Musik Festival in 1996, where his Schau-Stücke for voices and gestures premiered. [6]

Schnebel died of a heart ailment in Berlin on 20 May 2018 at the age of 88. [7] His and his wife's grave an in Dahlem Cemetery.

Cycles and style

Schnebel composed several cycles of works, sometimes over a long time. [4] One of them was called Versuche (Essays), consisting of four works written 1953 to 1956. They concern serial techniques, exploring space by placing performers at separate positions. His religious music includes a cycle Für Stimmen (...missa est) (For voices ...), consisting of four works written 1956 to 1969). They use the human voice and organ in experimental settings of prayers and biblical texts. A cycle Produktionsprozesse is a group of compositions related to "language and body" which concerns the physical sound production, with the performers utilizing speech and breathing organs in unusual ways. [8] [3]

His earliest works were strongly influenced by his fellow Darmstadt students Karlheinz Stockhausen, about whose early works he wrote an extended essay, and Mauricio Kagel, about whom he edited a book. Starting in 1959, he also came under the influence of John Cage. [9] [10] [3] )

Schnebel made arrangements of works by Bach, Beethoven, Webern and Wagner, called Re-Visions, sometimes using their traditional concepts to reflect new techniques and different ways of looking at them. [3]


Schnebel's awards include the Arts Prize of Lahr in 1991. He received the first European Church Music Prize in Schwäbisch Gmünd the same year. He was a member of the Berlin Akademie der Künste from 1991, and of the Bayerische Akademie der Schönen Künste since 1996. [4] In 2015, he was awarded the Bundesverdienstkreuz am Bande.


Schnebel's works are held by the German National Library. [11] Many of them are published by Schott Music. [12]

Music with orchestra

Chamber music




Further reading

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