Martin Schlumpf (b. 1947) was born in the Swiss town of Aarau, where he was raised and educated through his high school graduation in 1966. During these years, he played double bass in various jazz groups, along with studying classical cello. Schlumpf also began writing essays on composition during this time, beginning with his discovery of the music of Austrian composer Anton Webern.
In 1968, Schlumpf moved to Zurich to study clarinet, piano, conducting, theory and composition. He received a teaching certificate in piano with Warren Thew in 1971, and completed his degree in music theory with Rudolf Kelterborn in 1972. Further studies in composition took him to Boris Blacher in Berlin in 1974. Since 1977 Schlumpf has been professor of music theory at the Zurich University of the Arts, where he has also taught group improvisation since 1991.
Until 1980, Schlumpf was mainly active as a composer of contemporary art music, winning awards at the Zurich Competition (first prize, 1972 and 1979) and the Tonhalle Competition (1975), among others. Beginning in 1980 he returned to improvised music and started playing in a number of his own groups at first as a bass player in Trio 80, then as a bass clarinetist in his eleven-piece band Swiss Fusion 84, as well as the sextet Die Vögel, and especially Bermuda Viereck. Schlumpf has also taken part in other projects, including John Tchicai and Cadavre Exquis Orchestras, film and theater music projects, and cabarets.
Since the late 1980s, Schlumpf has been widely active in the borderlands between improvisation and composition. He has placed increasing emphasis on his work as a composer in a new post-modern style. Beginning in 1999, Schlumpf’s interests increasingly incorporated the computer in his compositions with the aim of obtaining a larger range of timbres and complex polymetrical structures. In 1999 he was commissioned by the Zurich Musikhochschule to arrange several of Conlon Nancarrow’s “Studies” for computer sounds.