Steffen A. Schmidt

Swiss artists-in-labs Programm 2011
Institute/Lab: Service de Chirurgie Cardio-Vasculaire, Centre hospitalier universitaire vaudois CHUV, Lausanne, Switzerland
Artistic Background: Musicologist, Pianist, Composer


Steffen A. Schmidt was born in Berlin (DE) and studied musicology, semitic languages and Italian. As a pianist, composer and musical performer he is autodidact, influenced by Zen Buddhist methods of creating tones, improvisation and his scientific research on Bela Bartok and Olivier Messiaen. He developed a rhythmic theory, which is close to the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze. As a musicologist he wrote his doctorate on rhythm in new music and his habilitation on the relation of music and dance in 20th century. He worked with several dancers and for theatres in Berlin and internationally. Since 2004 he lives in Zurich, teaching cultural media studies, opera and film music history at the Institute of Cultural Studies, Zurcher Hochschule der Künste, ZHdK.


The project deals with the phenomenon of the heart sound in its acoustical and symbolic meaning. Collecting sound material of the heart beat from phonocardiography and the Doppler sound (Echocardiography), the rhythmic qualities of the heart sounds and murmurs are analysed, especially the defects, such as mitral stenosis murmurs (holosystolic murmur etc.). On the one hand the project is conceptualized as a musical performance, in which heart sounds are either produced by an Echocardiogram live on stage, or mixed with tape recordings from a hospital, and live piano sounds, played by the artist himself. On the other hand, a text has been written (and will be further developed), which explores the heart as cultural phenomenon between its functional and scientific significance as an organ and its symbolic meaning in global culture. For the future, it is planned to combine these perspectives into a cultural theory of the heart, in which the music plays the most important role as an “Heart Art”. Connecting to the cultural history of the heart (e.g. Ole Hoystad), the musical interpretation of the heart through history offers and adds important links to the understanding of global culture.