Eberhard Schoener: A Life of Music

From the violin to the conductor's desk to the synthesizer: tales and memories of a great composer

Eberhard Schoener PorträtDeutsches Museum

The Sound Artist

Musician and conductor. Composer and sound artist. Producer and choreographer. Eberhard Schoener never stayed in one role for long. A man of multiple talents who always tried out new methods and among other things made a name for himself as one of the greatest pioneers of electronic music in Germany. He was one of the most creative figures behind timeless music, who dared to merge classical, pop, and rock as one of the first inventors of the crossover.

Eberhard Schoener mit Familie (1946)Deutsches Museum

The musical career of Eberhard Schoener, born in 1938, began at the age of three. When wandering around a fair he discovered a child's violin he just had to have, which his parents then bought for him. His father hoped his son could become a violin maestro, so he made him practice every day for hours on end. The enthusiasm of a young Eberhard Schoener—pictured here with his parents and sister in a family photo from 1946—was held back.

Eberhard Schoener an der GeigeDeutsches Museum

Erinnerungen an die Jugend

Schoener later graduated from the Detmold Academy of Music. However, his former teacher and mentor told him in no uncertain terms about his ability to forge a great career as a violinist…

Bayerische StaatsoperDeutsches Museum

In 1959, Schoener went to Munich. After his tryout he became part of the Bavarian State Opera as its first violinist. According to Schoener, it was a great learning experience.

Staatsoper OrchesterDeutsches Museum

Lehrjahre an der Münchner Oper

Schoener played under many of the best conductors of the time, and found himself becoming more and more enamored by the idea of standing behind the desk himself.

Erfahrungen in Siena

Schoener moved to Siena where he took part in a course led by a certain Sergiu Celibidache. The grandmaster passed on a piece of advice for his career: Pick up musicians on the street and conduct them as best you can. Inspired by these words,
Schoener gathered his own orchestra back in Munich…

Eberhard Schoener und das Junge Orchester (1962)Deutsches Museum

…and founded the Youth Symphony Orchestra.

Walter Carlos Switched On Bach (1968)Deutsches Museum

Schoener discovered that he enjoyed experimenting with music. There was later a decisive turning point in his life when—as he states here—he listened to a truly unique piece on the radio…

Bob Moog Tafel TrumansburgDeutsches Museum

Die Begegnung mit Bob Moog

With financial backing, Schoener traveled to the US—to Trumansburg, the company headquarters of Bob Moog—and after some initial difficulties bought a truly unique synthesizer…

Schoener Moog 1969Deutsches Museum

A private video clip of Eberhard Schoener talking about his meeting with Bob Moog in Trumansburg. Shown here is the Fireman's Parade, a traditional festival in the city in the US state of New York.

Eberhard Schoener mit dem Moog IIIp (1969)Deutsches Museum

Das Abenteuer Osaka

One of Schoener's first big projects with his new Moog was a commission by the German government for a composition for the Expo 1970 in Osaka. Schoener modulated a six-four chord—the final chord from Beethoven's 7th Symphony—for 15 minutes. It was an affront to the classical avant-garde under Karl-Heinz Stockhause—completely off-limits!

Schoener Osaka 1970Deutsches Museum

Eberhard Schoener als DirigentDeutsches Museum

Schoener continued to go his own way entirely. For the 1972 Munich Summer Olympic Games he implemented a cultural program and conducted Pucchini opera Gianni Schicchi in the Alte Münze residence. In later years, Schoener conceived the hours-long opening celebrations for two additional large sporting events: the 1978 Alpine Ski World Championships in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and the 1993 World Championships in Athletics in Stuttgart.

Eberhard Schoener Klassik-Rock-Nacht (1980)Deutsches Museum

Then in the 1970s Schoener became a revolutionary pioneer in the crossover genre between classical and rock—he saw music as a collective work and not parts of limited possibilities. In 1972, he met Jon Lord, the keyboardist from Deep Purple, and experimented in London with rock band Procol Harum. He then started a total of five classical rock night events in 1980—concerts that each lasted up to six hours and were broadcast live on television. The premiere took place in November 1980 in Circus Krone. Participants included Jon Anderson (Yes), Andy Mackay (Roxy Music), and Mike Batt.

Eberhard Schoener und seine dritte Klassik-Rock-Nacht (1982)Deutsches Museum

The third edition in December 1982 with Mike Oldfield (left) and Klaus Nomi (second from right) in the Munich Rudi-Sedlmayer-Halle became legendary. It was the last public appearance of Nomi, the eccentric countertenor who was visibly weakened and greatly affected by AIDS as he stood on stage. Afterward Nomi flew to the US. On August 6, 1983 he died in New York. Left in background: Peter Behrens, drummer for New German Wave band Trio.

Eberhard Schoener und StingDeutsches Museum

Das erste Treffen mit "The Police"

Even today, Schoener still has a close friendship with the world-famous British musicians of The PoliceSting, Andy Summers, and Stewart Copeland—who he brought to Munich for a show in 1977.

Schoener Bali-Agung 1976Deutsches Museum

Schoener was a connector between worlds, both musical and cultural. His project Bali-Agung, where he traveled to Bali and combined traditional gamelan music with Moog synthesizer sounds, was revolutionary.

Eberhard Schoener Bali-Agung (1976)Deutsches Museum

Pictured here in an appearance with TV host Rudi Carell in 1976 on his show Am laufenden Band.

Das feuerrote Spielmobil (1972)Deutsches Museum

Schoener composed a lot of film music, for example, for children's show Das feuerrote Spielmobil at the start of the 1970s…

Schoener Trotta 1973Deutsches Museum

…for the feature film Trotta by director Johannes Schaaf in 1973...

Derrick Abspann (1985)Deutsches Museum

… and even increasingly for the Friday evening cult crime series Derrick, such as one episode with David Bennent, known from the film adaptation of the book The Tin Drum. Schoener's song Codeword Elvis was sung by none other than Sting.

Schoener Video Magic 1978Deutsches Museum

Together with Sting, Schoener also produced the album Video Magic in 1978, along with other works.

Eberhard Schoener mit dem Tenor Andrea Bocelli (1996)Deutsches Museum

"La Luna"

Schoener worked together with major musicians and singers later on as well, like star tenor Andrea Bocelli, for whom Schoener wrote the wonderful song La Luna. Heard here is Andrea Bocelli in a duet with singer Helen Schneider.

Der Moog IIIp - Eberhard Schoener und Wolfgang M. Heckl (2019)Deutsches Museum

Eberhard Schoener still has a presence today. In 2019, for example, he bequeathed his famous Moog IIIp to the Deutsches Museum—exactly 50 years after his noteworthy journey to Trumansburg. Pictured here: Eberhard Schoener and Wolfgang M. Heckl, general director of the Deutsches Museum.

Im Studio von Eberhard Schoener (2020)Deutsches Museum

Schoener gave an exclusive look into his studio and works on a visit to his home near Miesbach. Here he talks about how he transcribed synthesizer notations…

Im Studio von Eberhard Schoener, Teil 2 (2020)Deutsches Museum

…but also about his collaboration with members of The Police in their early years. It can be heard here in the Schoener composition Rhine Bow.

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