DIETER SCHNEBEL was born in Lahr in the Baden region of Germany on 14 March 1930. After attending the Freiburg Conservatory (1949–52) and establishing close ties to the Kranichstein Holiday Courses in New Music (later based in Darmstadt), he studied Protestant theology, philosophy and musicology in Tübingen.
From 1976 until his retirement in 1995 he was professor of experimental music and musicology at Berlin University of the Arts while continuing his work as a theologian by delivering sermons. He produced church compositions (Für Stimmen – missa est,Magnificat, missa brevis, arrangements of Bach chorales, organ music), most recently for the church pavilion at the Hanover World Exposition (2000) and the documenta 2001.
With the founding of his theatre company “Die Maulwerker” he systematised his open-ended concept of the work of art, drawing partly on the Fluxus movement (visible music, reactions, Anschläge–Ausschläge), in which musicians are called upon to act in space, using their instruments and voices in unconventional ways. Among his key works of recent years are Missa, Sinfonie X and Majakowskis Tod – Totentanz.
He was awarded the Lahr Culture Prize in 1991 and received the first European Church Music Prize from the city of Schwäbisch Gmünd in 1999. Schnebel is a member of the Berlin Academy of the Arts (since 1991) and the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts (since 1996). He has written many musicological publications, including studies of Webern’s Piano Variations op. 27, Franz Schubert and Giuseppe Verdi.