Helmut Oehring


The composer, director, choreographer and author Helmut Oehring was born in 1961 in East Berlin. As hearing child of deafmute parents he considers German sign language his mother tongue, as well as a foundation for his audiovisual compositions and choreographies for musicians, performers, sign soloists and dancers. An autodidact guitarist and composer, unadmitted fot university education because of repeated concentious objection to GDR military service, after the fall of the Berlin Wall he became a master student of Georg Katzer between 1990 and 1992 at the Berlin Academy of Arts. In 1994/95, he was guest of the Villa Massimo in Rome, and he obtained numerous prices since, including the Hanns Eisler Prize from the Deutschlandsender Kultur, the Italian Orpheus Chamber Opera Prize and the Schneider Schott Music Prize. He also was awarded the Hindemith Prize (1997) as well as the Arnold Schoenberg Prize (2008) for the entirety of his creation which – since the early theater music for Ruth Berghaus’ productions of works by Bertolt Brecht at the Thalia Theater or for Robert Wilson and the inspiring collaborations with artists such as Peter Greenaway, Friedrich Goldmann, Claus Guth, Joachim Schlömer, Michael Simon, Ulrike Ottinger, Maxim Dessau, Lothar Zagrosek, Patrizia Kopatchinskaja, Ingo Metzmacher oder Daniele Abbado – today includes around 400 works of almost all genres. His compositions and productions are performed worldwide. The New Yorker recently named him one of “the most influential audiovisual composers alongside John Adams, Kaija Saariaho, Björk and Robert Ashley”. In 2011, btb/Randomhouse published Oehring’s autobiography With different eyes. From the Child of Deaf Parents to the Composer, which he directed as a radio play by SWR in 2015; a film based on his screenplay and with his music is being planned. He is a member of the Berlin Academy of Arts, the Saxon Academy of Arts and the Academy of German Music Authors. In 2015 he was awarded the German Music Author Prize in the music theatre category. 2020/21 he was Excellence Fellow of Villa Aurora in Los Angeles.

The focus of Helmut Oehring’s work in close cooperation with librettist/co-director Stefanie Wördemann and sound director/sound designer Torsten Ottersberg is the composition and realization of vocal-instrumental audiovisual works, which in the new composition pick up on influences from older music, literature, fine arts and philosophy. Using electronic media, sign language, dance, performance, conceived/improvised music, audio drama and film, he creates an instrumental-vocal theater that combines poetic forms with political-documentary content. Another focus of the work of Oehring and his team is the integration of his compositions and productions into the field of education, the mediating practical work of national and international cultural institutions and educational institutions with children, young people and students.