Interview with Saxophonist Heribert Leuchter An engineer in the "Jazzkeller"

After leaving school in 1972 I started off studying mechanical engineering at RWTH Aachen University, trying to do the same as my elder brother. Engineers are the epitome of straight-thinking, goal-oriented people, and I always liked that.

Heribert Leuchter

  • Born in Aachen
  • Saxophonist
  • Engineering graduate (RWTH Aachen University)
  • State-examined orchestral musician
  • Founder of the Lux Orchestra
  • The name behind the Heribert Leuchter Trio
  • Many other projects
  • Current CD: Sounds of Science

Apart from which: I always really liked maths too. What always interested me most in my studies were the aspects related to human science and medicine. Despite my love of music, I dropped out of my course. I was working as a scientific assistant at the Institute of Plastics Processing where I also wrote my degree dissertation.

After graduating in 1978 I soon got an offer from Mannesmann, but somehow I just couldn’t see myself spending 40 years in an office or becoming a manager somewhere up in the dizzy heights. When I think how former classmates are now CEOs of industrial conglomerates or managing directors of small or medium-sized businesses it really dawns on me how different our career paths have been. I don’t think I could handle the “always on” aspect of that lifestyle.

As a development aid worker I was surplus to requirements

To get my bearings in life I headed off to South America to see if I had anything going for me as a development aid worker – and had to accept that there’s no great demand for wet-behind-the-ears academics! What I’d learnt was of no use in digging wells or helping people in everyday life. When I got back, though, I knew for sure that I wanted to study music. I’d already had some contact with the College of Music and Dance, having guested with the college big-band during my studies. And so, in 1983, I took my second degree, sitting the state examination for orchestral musicians – a bit unusual for me as a dyed-in-the-wool jazzman (in Germany there’s not one single orchestra place for state-examined musicians playing the saxophone).

Dreams come true and dreams foregone

Nevertheless, my studies were really useful in important ways: I discovered that inventing music is the thing I really want to do in my life. Even now, I still live and breathe composing and playing new music. My dream of composing music which others play too, however, has not yet come fully true. I’m usually the only artist performing my music. Mind you, I’m not up there on my own, of course – I’m part of a duet or a trio, quartet or a larger ensemble like my LUX Orchestra. One of my favourite projects, one I look back on fondly, is the “KlangWeltReligion” music-and-lyrics collage (meaning: WorldReligionSound) which was presented in the year 2000 at Expo in Hanover. When everything comes together in a project – and the location, the content and the atmosphere all join up to give it great meaning – that really is something very special.

Universes of numbers and sounds

Today, I continue to have a great affinity for things technical. In the same way as mathematics uses numbers as a kind of language with which to describe the world, music has its system of notes, and both disciplines have creative fields which one can actively shape. Albert Einstein was both a scientist and an artistically creative person. He saw that there’s a pattern behind everything. And Beethoven created a whole universe through his music – using only twelve different tones. In addition to the natural sciences, art has a sensual component which defies description.

Looking for niches in the Aachen scene

It’s not always easy to position yourself within Aachen’s music scene. With a rich offering of cultural and artistic goings-on, and a limited catchment area, my audience has to know where they can find me. Even though I know there’s now even more pressure on students than before the course reforms, I’d really like to see them getting more involved in the arts and culture scene. I’m using my new project called “Sounds of Science” to showcase the everyday acoustic surroundings of students. Using sounds from RWTH Aachen University’s labs and research halls with all their technical equipment I’m creating – together with my colleague Christoph Titz (trumpet) – an inspiring cosmos of sound which casts a whole new light onto the sounds that surround us.

Sounds of Science - tribology and fluidpower (extract)

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External links

Heribert Leuchterevents, cd's, media (German only) Christoph Titzmusic, video, pictures (German only)