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Friday, May 10, 2019


(Professor Jürgen Bräuninger)

Well-known and highly respected Durban composer and lecturer, Professor Jürgen Bräuninger (September 13 1956 to May 6 2019), died on May 6, 2019, at the age of 62.

Professor Christopher Ballantine LG Joel Professor of Music Emeritus University Fellow School of Arts: Music has issued the following obituary:

The Discipline of Music deeply mourns the sudden and untimely death of Professor Jürgen Bräuninger. One of South Africa’s finest and most innovative composers, his creative work achieved international acclaim. As a Music lecturer at the University of Natal and UKZN (where he was one of the longest-serving members of the Music staff), he had a profound impact on his students as well as on the development of Music Technology locally and throughout the country.

Born and educated in Germany, Jürgen was a prize-winning composition student at the State University for Music and Performing Arts in Stuttgart (where he studied with Ulrich Süsse and Erhard Karkoschka), and at San Jose State University in California (where his teachers included Allan Strange and Dan Wyman). In 1985, he was appointed Lecturer in Composition and Music Technology at the University of Natal, Durban; he rapidly developed our Electro-Acoustic Music Studio into the finest and most influential academic facility of its kind in the country. He was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 1991 and to Associate Professor in 1997. Many of his students went on to enjoy distinguished careers in music, both locally and abroad –as academics, music technologists, composers, music producers, or writers of film music (most notably for such films as the Oscar-winning Tsotsi, and Perfect Pitch, and for films directed or produced by the likes of Martin Scorsese and John Carpenter). For some years before he took early retirement at the end of 2016, he served as Academic Leader for the Discipline of Music in the School of Arts.

Besides many works for various ensembles, soloists, and electronic media, Jürgen also contributed to film scores (e.g. Lawnmower Man) and a number of Jay Pather’s Siwela Sonke Dance Theatre productions (e.g. A South African Siddhartha and Ahimsa-Ubuntu). Probably the best-known of his many CDs and DVDs is dUrban Noise and scraps Works (Claremont GSE AM31), a classic of recent South African music, and a wonderful example of his ongoing creative wish to forge a new, postcolonial South African compositional idiom, beyond the divisions between classical and popular, urban and rural, modern and traditional.

In recent years he was a key member of the Insurrections Ensemble, a collection of musicians and poets from India and South Africa. Established in2011to explore “the relationship between word, voice, expression and sound around shared social and political concerns between the two societies, ”to articulate “dismay and rage about our globally dark present”, and to “address the inadequacy of political expression in our times”, the ensemble has given many performances in both countries–most recently in India, during December 2018. His community work was extensive, and always focused on how he might contribute to urgently needed social change. For example, he served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Durban Music School (a not-for-profit institution), he served as curator and in other capacities for national and international events hosted by NewMusicSA (and similar new-music bodies), he was appointed a jury member for an international composers’ competition held by the Gaudeamus Foundation in Amsterdam, and he was a long-serving executive board member of our University’s pioneering Culture and Working Life Project.

Jürgen Bräuninger’s music is available on a wide variety of digital formats, including SoundCloud, YouTube, the Leonardo Music JournalCD Series (Volume 10: Southern Cones: Music out of Africa and South America), and numerous CDs and DVDs. Three of the Insurrection Ensemble CDs are available from South African History Online.

His life will be commemorated St Thomas’ Church, Musgrave, on Saturday May 11, 2019, at 15h00. All are welcome. - Professor Christopher Ballantine