Edu Haubensak


Edu Haubensak was born in Helsinki, Finland on April 9th, 1954 as the son of a Swiss architect and grew up in Zurich. He started playing the violin in the mid-60s and switched to piano ten years later, taking piano lessons with Werner Bärtschi. In 1973 he self-taught via the book Harmonielehre (Theory of Harmony) by Arnold Schönberg. At the Musikakademie Basel he studied from 1974 to 1979 with Thomas Kessler, Robert Suter and Jürg Wyttenbach. His main focus was music theory and composition. In 1976, Haubensak took part in seminars given at the Academy in Basel by composers Dieter Schnebel from Germany and Earle Brown from the US. It was at this time that he wrote his first piece for piano, Schwarz Weiss (1979), the two scenic pieces Drei Klangbilder (1981) and Gleichgewichte (1979-81), which premiered at Kunsthalle Basel in 1980. Later, he also attended composition courses and masterclasses with Heinz Holliger (1996) and Klaus Huber (1997).

Haubensak was co-founder of the series of contemporary concerts at Rote Fabrik in Zurich (1981). He worked for the Swiss radio DRS2 in the realisation of an electronic collage with words and music (aphorisms by E.M. Cioran, 1983). This production was also broadcast by Deutschlandfunk Köln in Germany. Haubensak was awarded a scholarship to the Istituto Svizzero di Roma (1984/85) and in the same year was awarded First Prize by the jury of the International Composer’s Seminar Boswil in Switzerland. Later he had the opportunity to present his first composition for two pianos in scordatura and orchestra, KurvenKonturenFiguren, at Tonhalle Zurich (1987) with the chamber orchestra of Paul Sacher’s Collegium Musicum.

From 1989 to 1999 Haubensak taught contemporary music at the Schule für Gestaltung und KunstZürich. In 1993, he established the CD label Dokumental to preserve and archive his concerts and works. Listen here:  The CD Harmonies and Melodies was nominated for the Preis der Deutschen Schallplattenkritik in 2019.

In 1994, he was awarded a one-year work grant by the City of Zurich. He took part in a transdisciplinary group for intermedial research (2007) at the Hochschule der Künste Bern (HKB). He was a guest lecturer and composer

at UDK Berlin in the year 2000 and at the Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte Berlin in the year 2009, where he taught about the perspectives for new tuning systems for piano. Edu Haubensak won the Zollikon Art Prize in 2006 and was awarded a scholarship from the cultural foundation Landis & Gyr in London in 2010.

Haubensak’s main interest lies in instruments and choirs with new tunings (scordatura). His first composition for solo piano with altered pitches culminated in the ten-part opus magnum piano cycle GROSSE STIMMUNG lX with a duration of 175′ (1989–2005). The first worldwide premiere of the integral cycle took place at Festival Wien Modern in 2020, (Wien Modern 33, Stimmung).

Haubensak has written various essays in MusikTexteDuWerk, KunstMusik, Positionen and in Böhlau Verlag (Galina Ustvolskaja, Komponieren als Obsession). He has also been published in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) with essays on the composers Harry Partch, Galina Ustvolskaja, Conlon Nancarrow, Giacinto Scelsi, Ivan Wyschnegradsky, James Tenney, Morton Feldman, György Ligeti and Gérard Grisey.

Edu Haubensak took part in the international festivals MaerzMusik Berlin (D), Klangspuren Tirol (A), Firenze Sound Contemporanea (I), Festival Rümlingen (CH), ZeitRäume Basel (CH), Wien Modern (A) Ruhrtriennale (D) and he works with well-known musicians such as Simone Keller, Samuel Stoll, Martin Lorenz, Sylvia Nopper, Marianne Schuppe, Stefan Wirth, Conrad Steinmann, Tomas Bächli, Cordula Bürgi, Rico Gubler, Heinz Holliger and the ensembles Kammermusiker ZürichCollegium Novum ZurichTzaraWerktagBuck/WolfarthAequatuor, Cantando Admont, Camerata Variabile and Mondrian Ensemble, as well as with the orchestras Basel SinfoniettaMusikkollegium WinterthurSinfonie Orchester Basel and with Ensemble Resonanz in Hamburg.

photo credit: Ayes Yevas