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Frank Rothkamm [ Opus Spongebobicum ]
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Catalog No: FLX9
Artist: Frank Rothkamm
Title: Opus Spongebobicum
Label: Flux Records
Length: 36:33
Composed: 2006-2007
Release Date: 7/2/2008
Edition Size: 500
UPC: 635961126225
File Under:

OPUS SPONGEBOBICUM (2005-2008) is an Enhanced Compact Disc issued on July 2nd, 2008.

"Opus Spongebobicum" was composed and produced by Frank Rothkamm in New York and Los Angeles from 2005-2008. Sponge provided by: 99¢ Only Store. Co-Producer: Nina Schneider. This Opus is published by: Rothkammusic (ASCAP). Spongebob Squarepants is a registered trademark of Nickelodeon.

"The how and the why of the composition and recording of Opus Spongebobicum"

H o w ?

A lot of my composing is done in my head as it is very easy to change things around, to invent vast worlds and get a sense of all possibilities. However I only work with abstract sound shapes (Tongestalten), or imagined sound and math, since I am not Mozart and there's a lot of labor and technology involved to actually materialize my imagined compositions into perceptual reality.

In 2006 the recording of 'Opus Spongebobicum' was started on a Casio Privia PX-100 digital piano as MIDI information into Cubase, which is a Digital Audio Workstation. Originally each variation was conceived to be 33 minutes long and there were to be 32 of them (just like Beethoven's Diabelli variations), but after recording 20 of these half hour variations, I changed my mind; each variation was to be 1 minute long. Eventually I recorded 40 segments of 'MIDI-fied' piano music over the course of 40 nights within a 2 year period.

In January of 2008 I sat down and started editing all of this in order to form a coherent whole. I worked in Cubase's Key Editor, which represents notes in microscopic detail and used this program to make hundreds of corrections. There are a few passages that a human being probably couldn't play, but in general a pianist with good technique should be able to play all of 'Opus Spongebobicum.' Each note (there are 15919 of them) makes pianistic sense.

As a final touch, I then started experiments to make a recording of the Casio Privia that would sound real, like a pianist playing a real piano. As a guide I took the characteristics and frequency curves of 1950's monophonic vinyl records. I overlaid a few stereo samples of surface noise with the actual recording of the piano, which was then sent through a monophonic Lexicon Pantheon reverb with no pre-delay. On careful listening you can hear a needle drop onto the record before the music starts.

Variation 40 is actually made from the skipping noise of the needle playing the last groove of a vinyl record. A situation any vinyl lover will recognize! Final mastering closely followed the compression characteristic of mid-20th century Deutsche Grammophone master tapes.

So the ideal experience is that of a classical piano recording, delivered on a Compact Disc, like someone made a CD from an old, but mint, LP: 'Opus Spongebobicum' is thus the recording of a recording.

W h y ?

In my 2004 manifesto I proposed the aesthetics of Supermodernism. Two of its characteristics are the randomization of man and machine and the randomization of time.

In 'Opus Spongebobicum' there are two references that are VERY obvious: The cartoon series 'Spongebob Squarepants' on Nickelodeon, which is very surreal, and Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji's 'Opus Clavicembalisticum', a 285 minute work for solo piano.

Sorabji has fugue themes which are of great symbolic importance to him, much like a Formula would be for Stockhausen. So I transcribed the first line of Spongebob's theme song and cast it with the markings from Stockhausen's 'Mantra'. This became the 'Secret Formula from SpongeBob Squarepants', located under the plastic ring which holds the Compact Disc. In the Spongebob cartoon there are many episodes that make reference to the Secret Formula, which is a recipe on how to make the Krabby Patty hamburger.

Each variation contains this formula, in most cases it is a recognizable motif and its great simplicity makes it easy to spot, both melodically and harmonically. In other cases it is hidden, but not too deeply. The old laws of piano music and the history of the piano are contained therein.

Tracklisting: year opus
[01] New York Veraenderung 1 2007 394 1:01
[02] New York Veraenderung 2 2007 395 1:00
[03] New York Veraenderung 3 2007 396 1:00
[04] New York Veraenderung 4 2007 397 1:01
[05] New York Veraenderung 5 2007 398 0:58
[06] New York Veraenderung 6 2007 399 1:09
[07] New York Veraenderung 7 2007 400 0:14
[08] New York Veraenderung 8 2007 401 0:39
[09] New York Veraenderung 9 2007 402 1:14
[10] New York Veraenderung 10 2007 403 0:59
[11] New York Veraenderung 11 2007 404 0:42
[12] New York Veraenderung 12 2007 405 0:18
[13] New York Veraenderung 13 2007 406 1:00
[14] New York Veraenderung 14 2007 407 0:52
[15] New York Veraenderung 15 2007 408 0:25
[16] New York Veraenderung 16 2007 409 0:38
[17] New York Veraenderung 17 2007 410 0:19
[18] New York Veraenderung 18 2007 411 1:41
[19] New York Veraenderung 19 2007 412 0:38
[20] New York Veraenderung 20 2007 413 1:09
[21] New York Veraenderung 21 2007 414 1:05
[22] New York Veraenderung 22 2007 415 0:55
[23] New York Veraenderung 23 2007 416 0:59
[24] New York Veraenderung 24 2007 417 0:28
[25] New York Veraenderung 25 2007 418 0:57
[26] Los Angeles Veraenderung 26 2007 419 0:58
[27] Los Angeles Veraenderung 27 2007 420 1:02
[28] Los Angeles Veraenderung 28 2007 421 0:36
[29] New York Veraenderung 29 2006 422 1:14
[30] New York Veraenderung 30 2006 423 0:46
[31] New York Veraenderung 31 2006 424 1:59
[32] New York Veraenderung 32 2006 425 1:04
[33] New York Veraenderung 33 2006 426 0:54
[34] New York Veraenderung 34 2006 427 0:07
[35] New York Veraenderung 35 2006 428 1:09
[36] New York Veraenderung 36 2007 429 0:58
[37] New York Veraenderung 37 2007 430 1:09
[38] New York Veraenderung 38 2007 431 1:36
[39] Los Angeles Veraenderung 39 2008 432 0:56
[40] Los Angeles Veraenderung 40 2008 433 0:44


Citing Jean Paul Satre from the Critique of Dialectical Reason in the sleeve notes of Opus Spongebobicum, 'the dialectic reveals itself only to [.....] an investigator who lives his investigation' very much defines the approach that I have come to expect from the one man label, composer, film maker and theorist Frank Rothkamm. His output is prolific, varied and always delivered with an unceasing attention to detail, precision and humour. This is no more so than with his two most recent albums Opus Spongebobicum and Frank Genius is Star Struck, which are poles apart stylistically, yet share a commonality that Frank Rothkamm.

Released in 2008, Opus Spongebobicum takes it's inspiration from a combination of the seventeenth century Austrian music publisher and composer, Anton Diabelli and the American cartoon series Spongebob Squarepants. Anton Diabelli as the notes go on to reveal, was to commission various composers including Ludwig van Beethoven to write musical variations (Veraenderung) on a theme he himself had written. According to legend and the biographer Anton Schindler (although he was ultimately discredited for doctoring some of Beethoven's texts), the composer didn't think much of the theme. In fact he described it as a 'schusterfleck'; translated means 'coblers patch' or apron, which he is also thought, though never proven, to be keen on wearing. Whether this was a vestige of his own ambiguous sexuality is pure speculation, however as Maynard Solomon points out, it was certainly a great deal more complex than it seemed on the surface. Referring to Beethoven's many dreams featuring horses, as a 'Freudian incest complex and a libidinal attachment to Gleichenstein' (a close male friend and confindant) 'may have found it's outlet in this wish fulfilling homosexual imagery' (1990, p.65). Of course all this pondering on Beethoven's sexuality might be exactly the same as what he simply thought of Diabelli's theme 'A Load of Cobblers' (cockney rhyming slang) but I've digressed.

Rothkamm's Veraenderung however, couldn't be further away from the aforementioned slang, displaying a virtuosity of performance and composition that I'm certain would have entertained even Beethoven. He develops a melodic motif that is subtle yet strong enough in form to be recognisable in most of it's thirty nine variations, none of which are much more than a minute long. The fortieth is just record crackle, as a conceptual back echo (I hazard a guess) of the old 78 vinyl, which Beethoven's own Veraenderung might have found itself on. In places, there are strains of the late Romantic tone poems of Grieg or Chopin and the use of dissonance and tone clusters bring to mind early twentieth century experimentalists like Claude Debussy and Henry Cowell, who I'm guessing are favourites of Mr Rothkamm too. Back to the liner notes 'This is but the starting point for Opus Spongebobicum, 40 variations on the secret formula from Spongebob Squarepants, our beloved yellow friend. These are not new Diabelli variations; they are instead the phonographic record of changes or 'Veraenderungen', of an absorbant sponge, a hommage to the square ' 'fur Kenna und Liebhaber' which is C.P.E Bachs idealised [....] audience of 'knowers and lovers.'

Moving on chronologically but spinning a good three hundred and sixty degrees stylistically, is Rothkamms last album Frank Genius is Star Struck. A plunderphonic onslaught of cut and paste beats, samples of television and film soundtracks not to mention some iconic pop plunders, all wrapped up in programming so deft it makes a mockery of so much of the mediocre dance music production you hear these days. Of course this is all garnished with Rothkamm's edgy, slightly wrong if not downright bent aesthetic, which runs through almost everything I have heard by this man. And, as if he hadn't already wiped the floor with his production, his virtuosity as a keyboard player shines through on tracks like Elvis (track 7), which contains an organ solo that is up there with players such as Jimmy Smith or the UK's James Taylor. There are also some interesting genre threads running through the album with touches of the early experimental EDM workouts of Meat Beat Manifesto, Depth Charge or Sabres of Paradise. Again, referring to my comment on the use of Tone Clusters, I'm sure these artists have been on Rothkamms radar for a while. Favourites ? Well, I would have uploaded all these tracks as examples, but it is the way that they are melded together that really captivates. There is just so much going on under the surface of each one, and the manipulated integration of samples like Bowie's Changes and The Stones Gimme Shelter really made me smile, not only for the humour but for sheer adventurousness. Still as people like Negativeland found out there is nothing like a good lawsuit to improve your profile.

There is literally something for every ones taste in these two extraordinarily diverse albums, and along with Rothkamms sheer innovation I guarantee he'll make you laugh. Further information on all Rothkamm projects is available from his website.


Solomon, M, (1990) Beethoven Essay's, Simon and Schuster Macmillan, New York.

Solo classical piano in small doses. Modern classical, a definite recital-hall feel with grand fast tracks alongside creeping, academic slow ones. Contemplative, sitting-down music: Moods are usually upbeat or off-kilter, although I wouldn't say it actually gets playful.

All 40 tracks stem from the first line of the "Spongebob" theme, but they're mostly unrecognizable. (Try your luck with 1, 2, 5, 30, or 38.) The liner notes do include an interesting brief history of Beethoven's "Diabelli Variations," which are apparently just as much of an influence here.

The back cover, btw, shows how long each of the 40 tracks is. It's not obvious at first.

Some highlights:

1- Big, flowery
4- The most obvious use of "Spongebob" melody.
5- A more twisted "Spongebob" than track 4
13- Nice, more stern than a lullabye
18- Some grand old-world pomp
20- Ooh, a bit slower, sadder
21- Some nice fast spinning.
26- Like softshoe pounding
29- Slow bass footsteps
30- Stern German avant-garde hammering
34- Six notes, 6 seconds. Smart-ass.
36- Rhythmically pounding, passionate
38- Stuttering, toy-piano-like
39- Bouncing, almost Elton-John rock-like. Not kidding.
40- Quiet electronic snips, like the end of a record. (Don't play this one!)
Wedge KZSU

Frank Rothkamm, mathematical operations, and sponge pack bastards

Three new albums shows another three of the many faces of Frank Rothkamma. As would be until the end of life wishes to avoid comminution of ideas, such, which would be many other makers gladly upnul at least life.

Frank Rothkamm (born 1965) is a German living alternately in New York and Los Angeles. Bespectacled intellectual with no small sense of humor to its brand Flux gives conceptual album, which zúro?uje his education and experience with music from the disco and classic industrial, preaches supermodernismus from which desires - mainly for financial reasons - to create the Church, and performs like the the roofs of New York's skyscrapers.

Triumph of the machine name IFORMM

Famous especially albovou trilogie FB01 - FB03, the number pionýr?m electronic music, purchase the unique tools IFORMM, which built from commonly available sound modules. Tool with a few keyboard p?ela?uje automatically according to pre-embedded algorithms and pianist Rothkamm it was able to form a follow-up to electronic music creation such as Karlheinz Stockhausen improvised and in real time. The supermodernismus is a fully incorporated synthetic vibrations without any similarity to the empirical world. Trilogie was recorded exclusively in polospánku to eliminate the effects selektujícího ega. Was recorded directly into the recording media without any predetermined rules, the author tried to use only intuition and transcendental ideas. Distinctive "co" are mathematical operations affecting the conduct of the controlled accident sinusových sound curves. The resulting polyphony is the work of "groups of Ego and Its Clones" - navrstvení above captured traces. Result transferred to non-4.1 format was presented to several site-specific performances and showed confidence and charm that early electroacoustic music may be just retrozábavou younger generation, but can, without disclaiming its roots, read entertaining and totally simultaneously.

Oh, sponge!

Album Moers Works (the brand Monochrome Vision) was vybo?ením light of a number of "adult works. Collection of short miniatures that Rothkamm as a teenager made in Germany shows that already at an early age was able to stick in your pocket most of the sound post kolážist?, a patchwork of noise, radio and tape manipulation excerpts could do levity and neutáp?l in a descriptive verbiage, frequent sins industrialist? who do not like to admit the existence of joy.

Story album Just Three Organs began thirty years ago. Then t?ináctiletý Rothkamm arrived during the ski trip to Swiss chapel, knocked three times and the entry of the local organ played Bach. Since then, the organ was unaffected, and after many years appeared in the electronic bazaar Yamaha Electone 250 D. It was made nine months after the Swiss event, and number three and nine became a leitmotif of works, that on the 3rd 3. 2008 zhmotnilo in the form of albums with footage 33:33, where an area of nine tracks added three organ features three pairs of hands and feet. The realignment was 33 cents and three-sounding speakers hung in the air so as to form a triangle, the resulting massive reverb between rotoval cycle of three revolutions per minute. Album is a homage to the sound only, from the characteristically p?idušených basových tones to strictly easylisteningové "bubble" of higher frequency of short fiction. Clearly regards Rothkamm?v nejodpo?inkov?ji sounding opus.

The Opus Spongebobicum, as the title suggests, inspired by "really surreálným" cartoon series SpongeBob Squarepants and ?ty?at?i?tvrt?hodinovou song Kaikhosru shapur Sorabjiho Opus Clavicembalisticum for solo piano. Even here Rothkamm pianist neusedá for piano, the sound of your choice instead of a vysamploval after careful listening piano LP of the fifties. As Sorabji had several musical themes, which for him was almost mystical-philosophical importance and appeared in many of his works, Stockhausen and his Formula, Rothkamm working with the first part of the score Serial signature tune and it represents the forty-minute variations, which shows how perfectly mastered craft composer of classical music. Relatively traditional-sounding work entails much "of the laws and the history of piano music."

Total macaroni pervers

This year, again on the 3rd March, the Rothkamm odvázal and presented humorous, bastard album Frank Genius Is Star Struck. "Digital cantata" as album says it is, according to the terms of creators and critics of current electronic music, or bastard pop mash-up consisting of vocal phrases pop hits, which, in the appropriate sort giving rise to a simple slogan?m. Background consists of primitive disco and technobeaty, over them the phrases endlessly repeated Prince, Nico, Rolling Stones (I do it just "uuu", which begins the dark pit Gimme Shelter) and many others. I admit, a similar meta-enriched pop aesthetics of wood hedonismu stars diska from Rothkamma I really expected, though there is some relationship with the work of the late Arthur Russell, now rediscovered and celebrating discoikony that "as of" serious music form, "in the night "passionate. I wonder what comes next joker Rothkamm.

(from the original Czech)
Petr Ferenc A2

Forty piano variations on the first line of the Spongebob Squarepants theme. The concept is apparently inspired by Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations, for what it’s worth.

It's quite classical-sounding, and you wouldn’t know anything was up were it not for variations like the fourth one, where the theme is in plain sight. After that "Waaaait a minute…" moment, you start being able to pick out the theme in other tracks — No. 30, for instance, features stern low-note hammering for about a minute before decelerating into the theme.

The variety adds to the fun; No. 39 has a “hit single” feel, using rock techniques for an Elton John effect. No. 40 is a cheat; it’s a recording of the inner locked groove on a vinyl record.

I played No. 4 as an easy introduction to the concept, then added No. 34 as further illustration. No. 34 is six seconds long (five, if you don’t count the opening fraction-of-a-second silence) and doesn’t even get through the theme all the way. A very smart-ass trick that just adds to the charm.

Apparently, the CD comes with a sponge. Gotta love that.

There is a cool refreshment about Opus Spongbobicum, the latest release by Frank Rothkamm, a musical wunderkind who currently makes his home in New York City but was born and grew up in the grim country of what used to be dichotomized as West Germany/East Germany and guess who came out on top? Anyway, this album of quiet, piano solos, sonatas, what-have-you is a simple-yet-complex work of genius by a man whose life has been music. It's long overdue that classical music make a “comeback”, so to speak. I mean, sure there is a big audience for performances of symphonies, string quartets, opera and the like written by long dead composers and performed by some of the best musicians in the world. But as far as the genre, there is really no new stuff being written.

It seems to have gone out like a candle with a short wick in the midst of the 20th Century. The last great gasps of musique classique seems to have been taken in the middle or first half of the 20th Century, with such luminaries as Debussy, Shostakovich, Igor Stravinsky and Leonard Bernstein, representing the lighter side of the genre, such as his updating of Romeo and Juliet, the award-winning musical West Side Story, in which we saw choreographed gang fights circled around the forbidden love between a boy and girl each representing the other gang.

Then there was Elliot Gould, the mad genius of the piano who had great potential for so much more but burned out instead of fading away. Now comes Frank Rothkamm, seemingly out of nowhere. Born in the small German town of Gutersloh, Frank began his piano lessons there. Then his family moved to Nurtingen in Southern Germany. After about age 12 Frank started composing his own music. It wasn't just any music but his own, unique brand of music. Paul Hindemuth gave young Frank an eye-opener during his formative years which greatly impacted his approach to music. Soon he abandoned all conventional notation and developed his own method of composing. Using this method, he devised, composed an opus that he submitted to the regional state competition, the Jugend Komponiert or “Youth Composes”. The work was summarily rejected: the judges of the competition didn't even consider it “music”, which a seemingly more enlightened mass audience today realizes is a relative judgement and that there are no “rules” to making music.

It was in 1985 that Rothkamm moved to Cologne and during his day job at a mental clinic, developed his own musical language – a language using algorithms using human knowledge coupled with the burgeoning computer logic (BASIC language, a now-archaic form).
Ten years later Frank is in New York, collaborating with DJ Glove and they released Tuning, the debut album on Frank's own Flux Records. It was made entirely from the sounds of a woman tuning a piano, you can imagine the intelligence and creativity it took to put this seemingly unlistenable noise into an avant-garde classic. Over the next 10 years Frank moved back and forth between US coasts – from New York to California and back. Unfortunately many of his early archival material as well as a lot of his old equipment was destroyed in the “California Witch Fire”, in 2007.
Currently, Frank still commutes between the West Coast and New York. In 2008 he bought a Wurlitzer piano from a Los Angeles thrift store (Hollywood has some of the best thrift stores). He will continue to play that thing until his arm falls off, repetitive stress injury or not.

Anyway, the music on Opus Spongbobicum is a breath of fresh air and not at all out of place in an indie world. It could easily be played/listened to right next to something by Stereolab or Sonic Youth.
The songs on this album are not even named, they're just 40 short pieces that are pure bliss to the ear and make great ear candy. Hopefully Frank Rothkamm will continue to keep putting out his brand of beautiful and unique music. The world is in great need of cathartic music both loud and jarring as well as quiet and soothing.

Frank Rothkamm is always surprising, attaching curious anecdotes to his projects, which are sometimes biographical, or - as in this case - focused more on the genesis of his work and ideas, creating compositions based on clearly conceptual mental processes.

'Opus Spongebobicum' although recorded with a digital Casio Privia PX-100 and Cubase, is, on first listening, a purely traditional piano album. Originally each variation was designed to be 33 minutes long and repeated 32 times (just like the Beethoven's 'Diabelli variations'). After recording 20 of these variations of about half an hour, the approach was adjusted to one minute passages. Overall, the project consists of 40 Midi segments, which were all recorded at night during a period of around two years.

The recording stage was followed by editing hundreds of corrections and interpretative sections – a process that would have been very difficult without technological aids. As a final touch, the sound has been made as realistic as possible through the use of frequency curves and a 'vintage' compression.

We hear a mix of piano techniques, harmonies, melodies, historical avant-garde and romantic tunes. New classicality reworked for contemporary habits.
Aurelio Cianciotta NEURAL

Newest by the prolific and constantly moving Rothkamm - who is something of a phenomenon. Here he broaches very different territory indeed, with a 35 minute piece of constantly mutating, quote-infested, melodic, harmonic, romantic, ascerbic, brittle, contemporary, traditional, piano bar, concert hall, uncategoriseable piano music. It's a beautiful enigma, and a pleasure to listen to. Subtle but great. And, as ever, the sleeve-notes are exquisite.
Chris Cutler RER

Frank Rothkamm has been an avant-garde pianist since his childhood in Germany. Now he is a bicoastal American with repetitive strain injury who also accepts commissions for commercials, video games and movie trailers.

I am unfamiliar with any of his previous work but am informed that it always has a conceptual framework. This is obvious here where, without cracking a smile, Rothkamm pays tribute to a Saturday morning cartoon favourite of the latest generation of toddlers, Spongebob Squarepants.

With all the seriousness in the world and making all kinds of gestures hinting at both classical styles from romanticism to modernism and great pianists from Horowitz to Richter, Rothkamm is playing for laffs. Playing very well indeed, for the joke would not work unless the teller knew what he was doing. Rothkamm´s "40 variations of the secret formula" behind the charcter are explicated further in the dense liner notes, yet another nod to the code of "serious" music - all that´s missing is that the notes appear in French and German as well as English, as is the custom.

There is of course a serious side, too - Rothkamm is toying with the idea of homo ludens, or "playful man". Grown-ups are directed and do work, children are blissfully aimless and just want to have fun - which is of greater value, and what kind of value? And to repeat, first and last Rothkamm is an excellent pianist who takes his comedy seriously. There are no squeals or bicycle wheels, just strong, intense and emotive playing.
Stephen Fruitman SONOMU

I’ve written of Frank Rothkamm before in these pages, last time it was about his recording of a group of Yamaha electric organs and, looking back at the review now, I see my comment that his playing of instruments with microtonal pitch variations on “Just Three Organs” might drive some listeners to distraction. I suspect the same could be said of this new work, although for very different reasons, but personally, I love it!

As a catalyst to “Opus Spongebobicum”, German born Rothkamm has been inspired by one of the essential piano works by his great countryman Ludwig Van Beethoven, although he insists that his piece is no attempt to create a new “Diabelli Variations”.

Betthoven was commissioned to write a set of variations on a waltz by Anton Diabelli and he created 33 of these over a four year period. Analysts have tried to find patterns in these across time and it strikes me that the late Robert Anton Wilson could’ve come up with a very good book of Illuminatus style conspiracy theories on this very topic. Anton Schindler, Beethoven’s sometimes wayward biographer, added to the mystery by claiming that the composer was initially derisive towards Diabelli’s original theme and that he described it as a schusterfleck, which translates as a cobbler’s patch.

This reference to shoe repair with something square and absorbent serves as an important signpost for Frank Rothkamm. After all, who lives in a pineapple under the sea? Absorbent and yellow and porous is he… Spongebob Squarepants!

What we have here is a set of 40 piano variations on the theme for Stephen Hillenburg’s lovable cartoon creation. The concept alone is inspired, Rothkamm’s variations, both instantly recognizable or highly abstract, held my interest throughout thanks to his dynamic pianism and his sleevenote is enjoyably descriptive.

Now to the question of adding a score number to end this review. If the prospect of this album already has you recoiling, you might think a zero is more appropriate. For me, it has to be…. 10/10

"40 variations on the secret formula from Spongebob Squarepants, our beloved yellow friend".


A "recent cartoon" devotee this writer is not, but looking at a Nickelodeon trademark at the end of the liner notes I deduce that we're talking about an animation here. Which won't put in plain words the nature of this music for solo piano, coming from a man whose "repetitive strain injuries" limit the time that he'd like to set aside to enjoy a recently acquired 1968 Wurlitzer.

Amongst the many, many things that Frank Rothkamm has done, we are now cognisant of a cycle of studies with Karl Heinz Witte ("a pianist renowned for his rare ability to improvise multi-voiced fugues") that perhaps represents a key through which the probing ones can move towards this record without remaining all at sea (more or less what ensues with the preponderance of Rothkamm's outings).

Another tentative rationalization, most probably an essential issue underlining this "Opus", comes from the composer's designation of "piano music as a form of sitting contemplation". Still, there's not too much in this disc that could be used as a soundtrack for staring at the void: the nonstop shift between proto-classical forms and flashes in which the contrapuntal texture seems to break up into sweetly tolerable non-consonance is what, on the contrary, keeps the conscientious listener sleeping with an eye open. Sooner or later, something unforeseen happens even in apparently inoffensive passages.

Is Rothkamm implying that he's the actual sponge? Is this just an absorbing (pun intended) remembrance of the influences of his youth? Should I start watching Nickelodeon to comprehend?

The view from this terrace: this gathering is - who dared to doubt? - a one-of-a-kind system for escaping expectations by utilizing refashioned past conceptions converted into a string of unquiet considerations. Very nice-sounding to these ears. Warning: not suitable for post office employees and customs personnel.

Frank Rothkamm, who lives in New York and Los Angeles and comes from Germany, has already published quite a few CDs on his Flux label. None of which, however, sound like this new one or are even remotely on the same level. As a classically trained pianist he recently preferred electronic sounds.

"Opus Spongebobicum", a work with a strange and for me not translatable name, has an individual character and, like the album cover, does not match the intimate and ornate music. This music consists of 40 individually selectable, very short tracks, which together form a piece: the “Opus”. (Frank Rothkamm provides a explanation and includes a translation for the German audience with: "40 Veränderungen über die Geheimformel von SpongeBob Schwammkopf") In between each variation  there are no spaces or (longer) breaks to separate one motif from the other. Without pause, the playful, lyrical, reflective composition, its individual parts, "Variations", play quite different motifs and their own rhythm and dynamics from beginning to end.

Frank Rothkamm demonstrates compositional depth. He exploits his ideas with a deeply emotional playing and shows craftsmanship that is easy-going and clean.

In the booklet are the classical influences referenced, right at the beginning Ludwig van Beethoven; Stockhausen, Franz Liszt, Bach. There is no comparison between  "Opus Spongebobicum" and these models, which in themselves are un-comparable and are to be understood as inspiration, unlike in rock and jazz, and not as direct style models, but rather as a claim and Ideal.

Frank Rothkamm  "Opus Spongebobicum" was composed between  2005 and 2008, in parallel to his avant-garde electronic albums. From a craft, rhythmic and dynamic perspective both styles are entirely separate fortunately. Only in this way gained “Opus” its demanding and exquisite quality.  

The recording also sounds very good, the sound of the pianos is clear and clean, even reverberated loud passages are clear and very good to hear.

My recommendation to this very interesting and melodic piano work!

(translated from the original German by Google and the Composer)
Volker Mattei RAGAZZI

Only last April there we talked of "Just 3 Organs" last effort of the German investigator Frank Rothkamm, active musically since boyhood and now a resident in America for some time, and today we find the 42 year old artist come to grips with a new work titled at least bizarre, and newly published through its own label Flux Records.

With this disc there is also a limited version (40 numbered copies) comprising a sponge (!), whole The character Spongebob has nothing to do with practically nothing, and references will certainly look into areas other than those known from the film... The work has an additional 'title' slightly more exhaustive, namely "40 Variations On The Secret Formula From Spongebob Squarepants", play on words that combines the vein ironic and bizarre by Frank to a half-idea of what we will find little in the 37 minutes disc, or - precisely - 40 variations ... Piano variations to be precise, on several occasions put together like the "Diabelli Variations" by Beethoven, as narrated in two interesting pages of the internal booklet.

Maybe someone you are already asking what is particularly 'dark' in a disc in less than 37 minutes condenses many as 40 variations of sometimes isolated piano tones (in the sense that certain ideas seem too 'intimate' to meet the tastes of pure listening), and while we must say that the work exudes not sure solarità*, perhaps one point that most deserves to be stressed is that "Opus Spongebobicum" sounds inevitably 'private', as a liberating act made solely with the plan.

I could not help but to think of a pianist closed in his room and totally devoted to his passion for the ivory keys as to isolate itself from the rest of the world, as if the inspiration sopraggiungesse in a short but absolutely spontaneous and intense momentum which is impossible escape ...

That analysis remains a work with certain interpretative difficulties and outside the box (at least ours), certainly made with very good taste, large capacity and lots of passion, but indicated mainly to lovers of the piano in its most classical.

*Eros Ramazzotti - Solarita

[ translated from the Italian ]
Roberto Alessandro Filippozzi DARKROOM

I am grateful and fortunate to be able to present Rothkamm’s work to you, as I sincerely believe he is one of the great talents of our time. I’m amazed at not only his prolific nature, but the high quality of his musical output– perhaps a Rothkamm-centric broadcast is in order for next month?

Satanicpornocultshop — Anorexias Gas Balloon (Candy Says)
Satanicpornocultshop — Detachable P
Chris Cichocki — Lanimilbus Radiation
Chris Cichocki — Transmission
New Haven Improvisers Collective — Quantum Decoherence
Eddie the Rat — Food the the Moon Too Soon, pt. 1
Eddie the Rat — Cannibal
Eddie the Rat — I Ovulate in Mode
Frank Rothkamm — Opus Spongebobicum, Variations 1-32
Bearly Queen — Hairy Palm Adventures (about 30 minutes worth)
Husht — The Flight of Plankton
Husht — Morphogenesis
Husht — Threads


Right now, I’m doing the “Rothkamm-centric” portion of the show I promised a couple weeks back. Taking my queue from Rothkamm’s studio multitudes, I too will be harnessing the power of technology to thicken the mix– at present, I am mixing from three Rothkamm albums– I wonder how many instances of the man this has yielded?

I think the Rothkamm mix went very well. I may have mis-labeled a couple of the track names in the playlist, however. It gets a little hard juggling that many discs at once! For the record; I used FB01, FB02, FB03, LAX, Just 3 Organs, and Opus Spongebobicum to create the mix.

Rothkamm — B and B Plus 33
Rothkamm — Independent Bernoulli Trials
Rothkamm — Half Man, Half Amazing
Rothkamm — Outdoor Heritage of New Jersey
Rothkamm — Reality OR Room in Hollywood
Rothkamm — Opusspongebobicum, Variation 23
Rothkamm — Opusspongebobicum, Variation 10
Rothkamm — Incident Outside Mesquite
Rothkamm — Ancient Meats

Work by Frank Rothkamm has always a conceptual edge. In 1978, at the age of 12, he started to compose music, on the piano. Later on he devised his own notation for music and kept on playing the piano until now. I might be wrong but one of the first times his work was reviewed in Vital Weekly was his 'Tuning' 12" as DJ Flux, which consisted of the sound of tuning a piano.

Here he offers '40 Variations on the secret formula from Spongebob Squarepants' - which comes with lengthy liner notes on 'variations' but how it connects to my favorite cartoon hero of the new millennium - I am even being waked up when he's on by the other, much younger fan when she's around. Much like I know next to nothing about classical music, it's not easy to value this work. Forty pieces of piano music, which go in one flow and which are certainly nice to hear. It's not the piano playing of say Satie or Debussy - that much I know - but more like 19th century piece of classical music with some 'strange'elements
thrown in that make this is quite a strange piece too.

Even when the overall concept left me with questions, the work as such was nice to hear. That's about all I can say about it. (FdW)
Frans de Waard VITAL WEEKLY

bravo! bravo! bravo! bravo! bravo! bravo! BRAVO!

I am playing it second time for today.

Did you compose them? I guess.  amazing.  any concert plan? one of  
the pieces is  nostalgia, made me feel of Japanese like tone?

I do like them, Frank the chef.
Yukari Hayashida PUFFIN PRESS

Frank Rothkamm is an unusual and interesting figure by all accounts. He trained as an actor, has studied bionics and been a computer programme creator and website builder, as well as having a vibrant creative life making music in a variety of forms. Flux Records is Rothkamm’s own label, on which he has produced a number of albums. Opus Spongebobicum is the latest of these, having the subtitle ‘40 variations on the Secret Formula from Spongebob Squarepants’.

For those of you without children, I can tell you that Spongebob Squarepants is an improbable cartoon character who lives in a pineapple under the tropical sea, working as a humble but uniquely talented ‘krab-burger’ chef. Having grown up with those excellent Fred Quimby produced Tom & Jerry cartoons, and the dry wit and slower pace of other work such as ‘Top Cat’, Spongebob Squarepants initially drove me up the wall with its manic childishness. The creator Stephen Hillenburg is no fool however, and once one has become acquainted with the characters and the surreal nature of the cartoon, there is in fact much quite sophisticated humour to be enjoyed. The title music on which much of Opus Spongebobicum is based is a deliberately banal sea shanty with a good deal less musical development potential than Diabelli’s ‘cobbler’s patch’, the Beethoven variations which are referred to in the booklet notes. Rothkamm writes that “Opus Spongebobicum continues the noble tradition of piano music as a form of sitting contemplation, or Zazen, full of emotional ritardando, aimless wanderings, unpredictable dynamics ...”.

This is one of a number of problems I have with this piece. The limited potential of the Spongebob theme is, as already mentioned, deliberately banal in its frothy bounciness and incurable, almost aggressive optimism. Creating 37 minutes worth of ‘aimless wanderings’ on such a theme seems to me a rather futile exercise, unless there is some kind of additional point one is attempting to make – either in a humoristic sense, or with at least a hint of irony. The only really ironic aspect of this work is, as far as I can hear, the title, which pokes directly at Sorabji’s remarkable Opus Clavicembalisticum, a piece on an entirely different scale and plane. I find Opus Spongebobicum almost as hard to take as Sorabji’s Opus, despite its comparatively brief duration.

This is piano solo music, but created entirely in the digital domain. The piano sound is acceptable, if rather electronic sounding if you are used to real piano sound. While the sonic quality is fairly good there is a distinctly narrow soundstage which gives an impression more of mono than stereo. This is a weakness which I feel could probably quite easily have been remedied in a final mix. Rothkamm writes at some length about the background, theory, and content of the piece, but as with the music it is hard to decide whether the composer is hoodwinking us with an intellectual smokescreen for pretentious nonsense, or providing serious commentary for a painstakingly prepared and deeply felt expressive vehicle for his creative art. One of the comments he makes on his own website makes me suspicious: “Originally each variation was conceived to be 33 minutes long and there were to be 32 of them (just like Beethoven’s Diabelli variations), but after recording 20 of these half hour variations, I changed my mind; each variation was to be 1 minute long.” In other words he’d already given up on and ditched 11 hours worth of music from a piece which would have been over 17 hours long, and what we get is a minimal compromise, or an intensely compact masterpiece in dubio – unless of course he’s having a joke at our expense with that original proposal, which I also suspect.

I note that the Nickelodeon trademark character Spongebob Squarepants appears nowhere on the design for this release, probably due to copyright, and possibly because the company would have nothing whatsoever to do with this project. Either way, it’s a blessing in disguise, since anyone buying such an item expecting a fun time with one of their favourite TV themes would be in for a surprise, and most likely a severe disappointment. This is ‘heavy going’ in the Lisztian, Sorabjian sense of the phrase, and I can’t imagine it going down a storm with many people. Had I seriously embarked on such a project myself I think I would have been tempted to delve a little deeper – utilising some of the intriguing possibilities offered by, for instance, Squidward’s clarinet playing, Spongebob’s foghorn alarm clock, that marvellous intermezzo music or some of the bizarre songs which crop up during the series, most of which share a similar inane quality with the main theme, but possess a compulsive character due to an inbuilt ironic self-awareness. I think the final track, the 40th variation which just has the sound of a needle ticking repetitively on a virtual vinyl LP, tells us all we need to know: plenty of stylish pretension, very little genuine substance. I admire Rothkamm’s brass neck and apparent hard-work ethic, but if this is a joke I don’t get it, and if anyone considers this a work of genius then they are very silly indeed.
Dominy Clements MUSICWEB


Sunday,August24,2008—Hosted by JayEychaner

Artist Song Album Label
Vertonen Breach Stations CIP
DougTheriault Crete Interface ToastAndJam
MSBR LiveInChicago,1999.02.27 UltimateAmbience2 20City
TheHub Noosphere BoundaryLayer Tzadik
TheChoirBoys FrenchwomanLuggageCart WithStrings pfMentum
TheKallikakFamily Portland,Oregonpartone May23rd,2007 TellAll
TheKallikakFamily Portland,Oregonparttwo May23rd,2007 TellAll
DreddFoole TheJugIsGlowin' KissingTheContemporaryBliss FamilyVineyard
GammaGoat KillingDucksWithNunchuks BeardofSound,BeardofSand Eh?
ChristianMarclay Paris,February11,2000 djTRIO Asphodel
TheLeagueOfAutomaticMusicComposers OaklandTwo 1979-1983 NewWorld
FrankRothkamm OpusSpongebobicum2 OpusSpongebobicum Flux
FrankRothkamm OpusSpongebobicum11 OpusSpongebobicum Flux
PlanetY Live11.17.06 SpaceStation PublicGuilt

 Jay Eychaner WEFT

CURTIS : digital music, experimental, computer & electroacustic music...

Jliat ? Now That?s What I Call Noise Vol. 15 ? Self Production

Rothkamm ? Opus Spongebobicum ? Flux Records

Oikos ? Hikikomori #2 ? Creative Commons ? Donostiako Zuloak ? R.O.N.F. Records

Zum ? Tunguska ? Creative Commons

C_utter & Oikos ? Noviembre 2004 ? Discos Bajo Zero

Byetone ? Death Of A Typographer ? Raster Noton

Alva Noto ? Unitxt ? Raster Noton

Francisco López ? Conops ? GD Stereo


PLAYLIST of the 579th radio show « Le Vestibule »
August 16, 2008 from 9:00 P.M. to 11:00 P.M.
on CFOU 89.1 FM

1) Violet Vision: “Heaven Underground” (BNE/YO YO RECORDS)

2) Foretaste: “Black Box” + “21” (BOREDOM PRODUCT)

3) Marc Houle: “Jouster” (MINUS)

4) Marlena Shaw: “California Soul (Diplo / Mad Decent Remix)” (VERVE RECORDS)

5) The Dielectric: “Mechanisms” (URBCOM)

6) Santogold: “L.E.S. Artistes” (LIZARD KING RECORDS)

7) Wolf Parade: “California Dreamer” (SUB POP)

8) Louie Austen: “Wipeout” (KLEIN RECORDS)

9) Rothkamm: “Opus Spongebobicum (Variations 14 to 18)” (FLUX RECORDS)

10) Warren Suicide: “Sometimes” (SHITKATAPULT)

11) Straftanz: “Blood In Blood Out” (SCANNER)

12) Val-Inc.: “Faces” (INNOVA RECORDINGS)

13) Information Society: “Empty 3.0” (DANCING FERRET DISCS)

14) Konrad: “These Nights” (RADICAL TURF)

15) Union-Taste: “3-Times” (SYNGATE RECORDS)

16) Think Of One: “Wereld Ni” (CRAMMED DISCS)

17) ** Impact Pulse: “Impact Nation” (ADVOXYA RECORDS) **

18) Protassov: “Steam And Oil” (SWITCHSTANCE RECORDINGS)

19) Redzone: “Fish Eye View” (PHASECHANGE RECORDINGS)

20) Brazilian Girls: “Ricardo” (VERVE FORECAST)
 Jean-Francois Fecteau CFOU


Le piano : Je l’admets: comme thème, c’est pas très recherché. Et pourtant, ces deux heures sont truffées d’excellentes et étonnantes musiques pour piano solo. Du classique contemporain au jazz, en passant par l’impro libre et des trucs très conceptuels. Pour pianos acoustiques, mécaniques et en ruines.

The Piano: Yeah, I know, pretty basic for a theme, right? And yet, these were two hours filled to the rim with excellent and surprising music for solo piano. From contemporary classical to jazz, free improvisation, and highly conceptual music. For acoustic, mechanical, and ruined pianos.

GUUS JANSSEN / Toe-Tapping Tune (11:28) - Out of Frame (GeestGronden)
PHILIP THOMAS [comp.: Michael Finissy] / Jazz (4:36) - Comprovisation (Bruce’s Fingers)

HOWARD RILEY / Geocentric One (3:42) - Short Stories (Volume Two) (Slam Productions)
GENEVIÈVE FOCCROULLE [comp.: Anthony Braxton] / Composition No. 5 (8:01) - Piano Music (1988-2000) (Leo Records)
PAUL BLEY / Solo 8 (3:07) - 12 (+6) in a Row (hatOLOGY)

BRIGITTE POULIN [comp.: James Harley] / Édifices (naturels) (10:37) - Édifices naturels (Collection QB)
ROSS BOLLETER / Dead Marine (6:10) - Secret Sandhills and Satellites (Emanem)

FRANK ROTHKAMM / [Variations 1-10] (9:20) - Opus Spongebobicum (Flux)
MARLA HLADY / Playing Piano (8:01) - Musicworks 101 (Musicworks)

THECLA SCHIPHORST / Portraits: Pierre-André (9:26) - Piano à numéros (Ohm Éditions)
CHARLEMAGNE PALESTINE / Cataclisma 5 (10:47) - From Etudes to Cataclysms (Sub Rosa)

GUUS JANSSEN / In the End (6:58) - Out of Frame (GeestGronden)
 Francois Couture CFLX

Title; Played; Label; Time; Total Time;
Vermont Rules; Joan Jeanrenaud; Talking House Records; 9'44"; 9'44";
Rex Minus; Near The Border; Blackstone Audiobooks; 5'54"; 15'38";
Untitled #193; Francisco Lopez; Quasi Pop; 6'59"; 22'37";
Steady Flux; Random Touch; Token Boy Records; 6'57"; 29'34";
High - Culture -
Thomas Christoph; HCMF Records; 10'41"; 40'15";
3 Arms And A Dead Cert; Attrition; A Two Gods Recordings; 5'40"; 45'55";
Opus Spongebobicum N° 1 - 25 Frank Rothkamm; Fluxrecords; 21'33"; 67'28";
No Repeats; Caetitu; Emanem Disc; 22'46"; 90'14";


Y Carrier BandVideo VoiceVoice coilDeep Listening www.deeplistening.org23:328:04
Y Fine Arts Quartet / B. HerrmannEchoes for String QuartetFour American QuartetsNaxos www.naxos.com23:4620:17
Y Rothkammparts 21 - 40Opus SpongebobicumFlux www.fluxrecords.com00:1520:50
YYColin Fisher & Jean MartinAllo CavemanLittle Man on the BoatBarnyard Records www.barnyardrecords.com00:456:15
YPaul DuttonInexSoundworks 1990 - 2000Intermedia00:514:05
Michel DeneuveSource CristallineSoundworks 1990 - 2000Intermedia00:565:30
Y Nils BultmannThe MadnessTerminally uniqueMutable Music www.mutablemusic.com01:137:20
YYRyan Clarktracks 31 - 33the CD with the black shapesBad Wolf Records www.badwolfrecords.com01:213:26
Y "Blue" Gene TyrannyThe Somewhere SongsThe Somewhere Songs / The Invention of MemoryMutable Music01:2410:04
Y Carrier BandFrozen SpeakerVoice coilDeep Listening01:4323:20

 James Bailey & Ron McFarlan CKLN