Dementia & Avantgarde: The Concept and Practice of the KlangKunstLabor Sound Art Project in Duisburg, Germany

in Arts & Dementia


Since 2018, musicologist Elisabeth von Leliwa and internationally renowned German composer Gerhard Stabler have been developing the KlangKunstLabor Sound Art Project for people living both with and without dementia. Drawing on the traditions of Dada, John Cage, Fluxus and Stabler’s own concepts of ‘PerformanceMusic’, participants experience and explore the diverse possibilities of sound in everyday items, sound objects, natural materials, the surrounding environment and the human body. Guest musicians introduce modern playing techniques on their instruments and present a contemporary repertoire as a starting point for sound imitation, further exploration and musical collaboration. In two-hour workshops, these different sounds are explored, developed and ultimately put together or composed by Stabler as a sound art piece that lasts several minutes. Professional musicians and people living both with and without dementia meet on an equal footing in these joint performances, which can take place in the safe space of the workshop as well as in a more open environment. The concept of KlangKunstLabor does not explicitly focus on activating memory (as is done so often and with great success in musical projects for people living with dementia), rather on perception, creativity and experimental playfulness. The project is funded by the Ministry of Culture and Science of the German state of Nordrhein-Westfalen.

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