Space as an instrument

Space as a sound-musical entity is the point of departure. Space becomes a musical instrument that is predominately played with percussive playing techniques. The individual area of the spacial location become, quasi, their own autonomous sub-instruments, such as various areas of the floor, window panes, walls, the air and also stools or podiums. Through the act of playing these various individual “instruments”, I also travel in space bringing the choreographic/dancerly space into play.

I only need minimal resources, such as a “Floor Rubber” or “Whipping-Sticks”. Otherwise only the hands, feet and the whole body are the instruments of sonic production that bring the space to sound. The movement in space becomes, through this, a central element that cannot be separated from the acoustic experience. Body and space melt in the process of producing sound, into an interdependent resonating body.

Through the trans-disciplinary cooperative practice with contemporary dancers I develop a method of playing space that also incorporates the choreographic/dancerly space. In this way, movement can also be a point of departure for sound in which the sound interacts with movement in a way that predetermines movement. In 2012, the connection was established between musical and choreographic/dancerly movement in the performance concept “moved music” and shortly thereafter a performance with the dancer Nina Hänel in which on the stage space a giant imaginary percussion-set was played. My movement served as the point of departure for dance material for the other dancers.

Space as Resource

One and the same space can take on so many different spheres. It is this redefinition or multi-definition of space that I find fascinating. The everyday floor can transform at any moment into a demanding music instrument with musical-artistic elements, such as pitch, timbre, and their rhythmic ordering- and then suddenly the floor can return its “original” function. This shifting of focus and attention are decisions that we consciously, but mostly un consciously, reach.

At the same time as it is a musical instrument, the space is also a stage, a surface for ordered movement, a space/place of sounding and happening. It is solely the inner decision that allows the moment to become a musical-artistic moment.

For me, the questions are: to what extent do we need instruments, and the related question when and how can an object become an instrument? From theses questions, over the course of the last years, my concept has developed of playing that which already is already there and around me and what already has a sound quality.
This is, for me, a social statement: I engage with the resources that are immediately around me. I am not dependant on extra material commodities. Through this, I become a “musical self-supporter”. The concept for a sustainable, minimalist and conscious life is comparable here with the potential for social transformation.

Realisation possibles: Performances/Happenings/Interventions and Labor phase/Workshops

Duo Mertin Niznik

The duet of Holger Mertin (Germany) and Justyna Niżnik (Poland) constitutes an unorthodox combination of apparent contradictions. Contrary to common national stereotypes, in this two-person band, the Polish musician represents the structured world of rules which encompasses classical music, while the German musician brings an unrestrained frenzy of improvisation born out of the performance arts, the punk subgenre and global rhythm cultures. Let’s not be mislead by stereotypes, however, because in this combination, the musicians meet halfway − creating a unique, fresh and innovative quality in music and a new movement, overcoming fixed divisions, and rising above all audience expectations.

This unexpected fusion of forces, sounds and movements is an explosive experience previously unknown to the Polish and German music scene. It breaks away from all cliché-ridden names and patterns. The repertoire of the Mertin-Niżnik duet contains their own, original compositions as well as unique arrangements of well-known works of the great masters using the violin, looper, and various percussion instruments, which for Holger Mertin also include the floor and his own chest!


Sound sphere:

In this workshop, we are dealing with our environment from the perspective of listening. How does our environment sound, our immediate surroundings? How do we locate ourselves in our sounding environment? How can disturbing sounds be built into and used in our own sound environment? How do urban and rural structures sound?

We research sound transformation, learn the perspective shift from “inner” to “outer listening”. We will learn to use the sound of our own bodies to play with our sounding environment, with our sound sphere.

This workshop is directed to everyone who wishes to learn to participate consciously and responsibly with their environment.


There exist workshops and working phases in divers constellations, far afield from the music and arts scene that can be gathered under the aforementioned “working instruments” and professional methods.

How can specialists from varying fields communicate with and learn from another without having to become specialists in the other fields?

What methods and formats are there so that interdisciplinary exchange can be fruitful and go beyond scratching the surface?

What needs to be considered so that musicians and dancers, or natural scientists and performing artists can develop trans-disciplinary approaches?

Which dialogs/exchange requirements must be catered so that communication flows- which prerequisite do the actors need to bring with them? What is more important: the general conditions for the communication/ and exchange, or the presumptions of the actors?



“Drums And More”, that is action and interaction, spirited playing together and passionately meeting another. The audience becomes a part of a creative podium discussion. Everything is possible. Attending a concert transforms into a stimulating event. Since 2009, I have invited personalities from various artistic fields to meet in an open, unplanned dialogue.
The points of departure are the communal joy in playing and the spontaneous development of new ideas in a live context, which always guarantee a surprising and charged result.

The instruments I play on include: Handpan, gongs, overtone drums, and Waterphone, as well as everyday objects and the objects around me in the performance space, the floor and other surfaces. The environment transforms, through this, into an instrument that I greatly enjoy playing, due to its immense freedom and generous potential for shaping.

Previous guests

Jaki Liebezeit (Can), AnnenMayKantereit, Milan Sládek (Pantomime), Hayden Chisholm (Saxophon) & Echo Ho (Electronics), Ballett of the Theaters Pforzheim, Jonas Burgwinkel (drums), Eberhard Kranemann (Ex-‚Kraftwerk‘), Sebastian Studnitzky (Trumpet, electronics), Liron Man (Hang), DJane Marcelle (Electronics), Paul Shigihara (Guitar), Ali Haurand (double bass), Justyna Niznik (Barock violin), Kirvem Davul Zurna (ost-anatolische Musik), Roland Peil (Perkussion), Maria Jonas (Gesang), Martin Sasse (piano), Florian Ross (piano), Matthias Hautsch (guitar), Qualitätsdada (Dada-Performance), Rick Kam & Phuong Tuong (dance), Nina Patricia Hänel & Philine Herrlein (dance), Raphael Mürle (figure theater), Klaus Marquardt (violin), Christoph Neuhaus (Guitar)

© 2020 Holger Maik Mertin. All rights reserved.