Herbert Brün

Herbert Brün’s computer graphics represent a watershed in early computer art and design.  Widely recognized as a visionary pioneer in electronic composition including music and graphics, as a leader in social thought and computer theory and as a beloved teacher and mentor, Brün was the first musical director to bring electronic compositions to the stage, in Munich in the early 1950’s.  Rare Nest and the Brün Estate are pleased to present Herbert Brün’s graphics to a wide community of collectors, for the first time.    


As a child in his father’s Berlin study, Brün began experimenting with radio technology.  He left Germany in 1936 for Palestine, where he studied piano and composition at the Jerusalem Conservatory and then with Stefan Wolpe, Eli Friedman, and Frank Pelleg. He furthered his studies at Tanglewood (with Aaron Copland) and Columbia University from 1948 through 1950. 

From 1955-61, in addition to composing, he conducted research concerning electro-acoustics regarding possibilities for musical composition in Paris, Cologne, and Munich. During this period, he also worked as composer and conductor of music for the theater, notably with Fritz Kortner, gave lectures and seminars emphasizing the function of music in society, and did a series of broadcasts on contemporary music.

Herbert Brün, Charles Hamm, Lejaren Hiller, Salvatore Martirano, Kenneth Gaburo at the University of Toronto, 1965.

Herbert Brün, Charles Hamm, Lejaren Hiller, Salvatore Martirano, Kenneth Gaburo at the University of Toronto, 1965.

After a lecture tour of the U.S. in 1962, Brün was invited by Lejaren Hiller to join the faculty of the University of Illinois. There Brün continued his work in the electronic studio and began research on composition with computers, which resulted in pieces for tape and instruments, tape alone, and graphics (some to be performed by interpreters). He collaborated with Heinz von Foerster on several interdisciplinary courses in heuristics and cybernetics at the Biological Computer Laboratory (1968-74). In 1968, he participated in the ground-breaking exhibition “Cybernetic Serendipity” at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts. 

Throughout the 1970s, 80s, and mid 90s, while remaining on the University of Illinois faculty (Professor Emeritus 1987), Brün held residencies and guest professorships around the world most notably at Ohio State University (1969-70), the Hochschule der Kunst and Technische Universtat, Berlin (Summer 1978), and Gesamthochschule Kassel (1989). From 1980, he toured and taught with the Performers' Workshop Ensemble, a group he founded. His awards and honors include an honorary doctorate from the University of Frankfurt, one prize from the International Society of Bassists, (1977), and the Norbert Wiener medal from the American Society for Cybernetics 1993. He helped found the School for Designing Society in 1993 and taught there through the year 2000.  Brün wrote and spoke incisively on the social and political significance of composition and on the tendencies of language to preempt thought.  He died in Urbana, Illinois in the year 2000.

Media (External Links)

This performance of three compositions was recorded on August 24, 2018 at Rare Nest Gallery - in conjunction with a special reception for members and friends of the Experimental Sound Studio.  

Three compositions by Herbert Brün, introduced by Jeff Kowalkowski.

1. "The Laughing Third", 1993 performed by Pantelis Bolarakis

2. "Serenade for Base", 1977 performed by Samuel Bradshaw

3. "Futility", 1964, taped piece performed by Herbert Brün & Marianne Brün (spoken word).

This concert was organized in conjunction with the exhibition "Herbert Brün 100" at Rare Nest Gallery - through September 13th, 2018. The exhibition moves to the Experimental Sound Studio with an opening reception on October 12th, 2018. With gratitude to the performers, the Experimental Sound Studio and Mr. David Cloud.

An online archive of Herbert Brun's writings

This comprehensive archive includes writings, interviews and performances.  With gratitude to Arun Chandra of Evergreen State University

Herbert Brün: Worlds of Sound by Lena Brün

A loving, brief documentary overview on Brün's accomplishments produced by Brün’s granddaughter. (Youtube)

Herbert Brün on Social Transformations, 1994

Brün’s presentation at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) in the Spring of 1994 about the "art and cybernetics of being human." Brün's presentation includes his ideas about social transformation, floating hierarchies, longing for links, violence as a message and peace as a need.  With thanks to Jude Lombardi. (Youtube)

Richard Howe on Brün's Graphics (PDF - opens in new window)

Performance: Mutatis Mutandis 355, See1: Eyes by Herbert Brun

Performed by the Null Set Ensemble at Carnegie Mellon University on October 7, 2015. This concert was part of the exhibition Aftersound: Frequency, Attack, Return at the Miller Gallery, curated by Melissa Ragona and Margaret Cox. (Youtube)

Herbert Brün on Floating Hierarchies

Herbert Brun (1994) in Baltimore illustrating his idea of floating hierarchies. (Youtube)

Listen to a performance of "Infraudibles" performed in 1968 with Evan Parker on the Institute of Contemporary Art (London) label, as a part of the ground-breaking exhibition "Cybernetic Serendipity".  (ICA Archive)



Vinyl Recording that accompanied the groundbreaking 1968 exhibition at the Insitute of Contemporary Art, London

Vinyl Recording that accompanied the groundbreaking 1968 exhibition at the Insitute of Contemporary Art, London