In his life and in his work, the musician and visual artist Eberhard Blum (1940–2013) established a continuum of the musical and visual arts. From the beginning to the end of his working life, sight was inconceivable without sound, and there could be no art without music.
As a leading exponent of new and experimental instrumental, vocal–verbal, conceptual, and interdisciplinary works, Blum defined contemporary performance practice as much through the strength of his commitment as he did through the vigor and artistry of his playing. Had it not been for his authority as a soloist, his stamina and expressivity, many works of New Music would surely not have been developed around and variously scored for the full range of his flutes and voice. Nor would such works as the late, long trios of Morton Feldman have been given durations of up to four and a half hours. Likewise, the authenticity of his phonic-art recitations—foremost, here, his bravura performance of Kurt Schwitters’s Ursonate—relied as much on the virtuosity of his articulation as it did on the integrity of his persuasive physical involvement with a piece’s form.
From the late 1970s onward, this body language, whose exuberance well served the emphatic production of sound, manifested itself in Blum’s work as a visual artist as well. Employing gestures whose origins he recognized in the mechanics of the writing process, he went on to produce countless graphic–conceptual works on paper—at first, parallel to his concert and recording activities, then, having chosen to end his work as an active musician in 2001, as the principal focus of his artistic production.
In addition to his work as a visual, performing, and recording artist, Blum cultivated the art of conceiving, developing, and realizing ingeniously designed concert programs of music, both old and new, that he had valued and dedicated himself to throughout his lifetime. Collaborating with musicians he admired both personally and professionally, he more often than not presented these programs, whether as single concerts or as series, in art museums and galleries.
Detailed information and commentary on individual concert series can be found in his autobiographical CHOICE & CHANCE: Bilder und Berichte aus meinem Leben als Musiker (An illustrated account of my life as a musician, Berlinische Galerie, Berlin 2008). The last sentence of this book, written in 2007, reads: Ein jeder hat seine Besessenheit, meine besteht jetzt darin, unermüdlich an der Schaffung des von mir angestrebten Œuvres zu arbeiten—ohne dabei die Musik nur einen Moment lang zu vergessen—“Each of us has an obsession, mine now lies in striving to create a [graphic] œuvre, without forgetting music for a single moment."
The website EberhardBlum.org provides an introduction to the range and singularity of his life’s work.
Rheinsberg, 1997 Photo © A.H. Lehmann