updated 8 April 2024
© Alberto Novelli

Sven-Ingo Koch

German composer born 26 September 1974 in Hagen.

Sven-Ingo Koch studied composition, computer composition, piano, and musicology at the Folkwang University of the Arts in Essen with Nikolaus Huber. From 1999 to 2003, he studied at University of California San Diego on a DAAD scholarship, then at Stanford University with Roger Reynolds and Brian Ferneyhough. Koch has spoken about how these years were the most instructive and influential for his studies.

He has received scholarships from various institutions, including GRAME in Lyon (2003), the Heinrich Strobel Foundation of the SWR (2004), Akademie Schloss Solitude (2007), Gastkünstler ZKM (2008), Villa Massimo (2011), the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (2012), Casa Baldi (2015), Film- und Medienstiftung NRW (2019), and the Swiss association artbellwald (2023).

Koch’s work focuses on superpositions and interactions. In his pieces, he features instrumental lines that do not intersect and are composed independently of one another, but which can still emerge from the same rhythmic and melodic units. This can be seen with the oboe and the harpsichord in Die Frage nach der Dinglichkeit (The Question of Materiality, 2018) and one of his first pieces, Anders und Y. (Anders and Y., 1999) for clarinet and piano, as well as in the series Von der Liebe zur Linie (From Love to the Line, 2016-2022). Koch steers his explorations of polytonality towards the work of Charles Ives or, on a visual level, to Max Ernst’s technique of frottage.

He traces the origins of this approach to when he was not understood when speaking his mother tongue in California: “The culture shock and this particular solitude have greatly influenced my music. This gave me the idea to write for independent sound layers that intersect, confront, or ignore each other.”1 He uses polyphony to abolish the hierarchy between principle and secondary voices, thus freeing them from the constraints of integration. In the words of Gustav Mahler, whom Koch often quotes, he approaches composition as if he is “creating a world,”2 only with little material so that his musical language remains easily digestible for the listener. He uses this approach to create expectations within his audience, which he then happily foils. In most of his pieces, the tension Koch explores lies in this aim to use limited starting materials to create heterophony and heterochrony.

His pieces have been played by the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne, the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra, Ensemble Musikfabrik, Klangforum Wien, Ensemble Modern, Ensemble Resonanz, and the Neue Vocalsolisten, as well as the Auryn, Arditti, Sonar, Michelangelo, and Vogler quartets. He also composed the pieces kreisförmig quadratisch (Circular Square, 2006) and Barabande (2007) for the Ascolta Ensemble to accompany Walter Ruttmann’s abstract and experimental films from the 1920s.

Koch is currently working on a commission from the online Galerie Ficher-Rohr for the opening of an exhibition dedicated to Gerhard Richter.

Prizes and Awards

  • Prix de Rome / Villa Massimo, 2011
  • Düsseldorf Music Promotion Prize, 2006
  • Weimarer Frühjahrstage Prize, 2006
  • Elisabeth Schneider Foundation Prize, 2005
  • Stuttgart Composition Prize, 2003
  • Folkwangpreis, 1999

1. Quoted on anaclase.com, 23 July 2007: http://www.anaclase.com/chroniques/sven-ingo-koch-salut-to-sd-2006-en-création-française 
2. MusikTexte, May 2020, p. 55-58. 

© Ircam-Centre Pompidou, 2024


Site du compositeur, MusikTexte, France Musique, anaclase.com

Liens Internet

(liens vérifiés en février 2024).


  • Matthias ENTREẞ, « „Von der Liebe zur Linie“. Der Komponist Sven-Ingo Koch », in MusikTexte n°165, Mai 2020, p. 54-58.
  • « 11 Fragen an Sven-Ingo Koch », in Neue Musikzeitung, 2018, Vol. 67, Issue 3.
  • Sven-Ingo KOCH, « Linien, Melodien », in Positionen 84, August 2010, p. 11-12.


  • Sven-Ingo KOCH, Hommages, dans « Atem Der Statuen: German Romantic Music For Clarinet And Piano », 1 CD Cobra Records, 2017, COBRA0057.
  • Sven-Ingo KOCH, « Ungleichzeitiges / Der Durchbohrte / Die Überwindung Des Großen Klaffens / Les Asperges De La Lune / Und. Weit. Flog. », 1 CD WERGO, 2009, WER 6573 2.