Inspired by top DJs such as DJ Q-Bert, DJ D-Styles and Kid Koala, Alex Sonnenfeld began his DJ career at the young age of 14. He is self-taught, often training up to 12 hours a day. Today, he is not only an active performing DJ, but a teacher as well, eager to share his knowledge with others.
The German-born Sonnenfeld has mainly worked as a hip-hop DJ, but has also collaborated with rock and jazz musicians, and has also worked on theater projects in his native country. He is perhaps best known for developing S-Notation, a written notation model that covers all manual motions of a turntablist's instrument through the systematic representation of notation symbols.
Sonnenfeld's work on S-Notation spanned 14 years, some of which he spent in constant contact with the composer Professor Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928-2007). Stockhausen is considered one of the most important music scientists of the 20th century for his work in electronic music, aleatory (chance) in serial composition and musical spatialization.
Sonnenfeld met Stockhausen in 2002 when he attended a speech given by the professor. There, he presented his S-Notation theory to Stockhausen, explaining his notation system.
"I remember he was extraordinarily surprised by it," recalls Sonnenfeld. "Soon after, we became pen pals, which then grew to him collaborating with me on my S-Notation project until his death in 2007."
Sonnenfeld developed his S-Notation into the thesis Bewegungslehre, a scientific music analysis of turntablism that is currently under review with various music scientists in Germany. His goal is to make turntable- and mixer-based music theory an accepted musical art form.
"If we consider the combination of a mixer and record player as a musical instrument in modern music," explains Sonnenfeld, "it should be theoretically possible to define all courses of action in the same similar and exact method as is possible with traditional equipment."
He continues, "It should be possible to define the immeasurable variety of all established, as well as still unknown, scratch techniques through the same functional connection and therefore be decoded from a single technical formula."
Sonnenfeld uses the Stanton ST.150 digital turntable and the M.207 mixer to help put his theories into practice.
"This turntable and mixer have some of the strongest motors I have ever played on," he says. "It’s really awesome and unique to have these in the market of DJ equipment. The effect section on the M.207 gives me the ability to augment my musical output and use this equipment as a full-fledged instrument."
The Stanton ST.150 is a back-to-basics digital turntable boasting the world's strongest torque motor (4.5 Kgf-cm). Made of heavy-duty steel construction, which minimizes feedback, it also has an ultra-stable platter and tone arm.
Stanton's M.207 mixer is an affordable, reliably rugged two-channel mixer loaded with innovative features such as the FXGlide, a continuous strip-touch controller that utilizes touch-slider technology. Providing real-time capabilities, it can also be automated in real time, allowing DJs to create a custom modulation of the FX parameter, which can then be played back.
Sonnenfeld lives in Berlin, working as a guest professor at Qbert Skratch University. In addition to his teaching gig, Sonnenfeld also publishes video tutorials on his Tonspielzug YouTube channel, and continues to work on various personal music projects, including a new electronic music showcase based on his S-Notation music theory. His goal for the showcase is to bring a new approach to scratching in the electronic music scene, inspiring others to treat the turntable as a new musical instrument.
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