professionals are recruited from all facets of the radio industry to select the World’s Best Radio Programs℠. In this Grand Jury Confidential, NYF gets up close and personal with Götz Naleppa, Drama Director & Sound Artist, Naleppa Audio Productions, Germany.
Götz Naleppa began his career as assistant director, working at the Schiller Theater in Berlin for 5 years during the directorship of Boleslaw Barlog. He has been a director and dramaturge in the radio drama department of RIAS active -Berlin. In the 1970s, he was instrumental in the development of the original radio drama and the art head radio play, working with George Tabori increasingly on actor-oriented directing. In the 80s, he turned his creative focus to musical and experimental radio play forms, and the radio art and sound composition.
Mr. Naleppa has shared his knowledge as a lecturer at the Technical University of Berlin and HDK (Berlin), followed by teaching and directing work in Latin America.
In the 90’s he constructed the radio play departments of Germany Radio (Cologne / Berlin) as a radio play director, and from 1997 to 2008 Mr. Naleppa acted as director and dramaturg for Germany Kultur (responsible editor for sound art). Since January 2009 he has concentrated his talents on projects serving as a freelance director (radio drama, media arts), translator and composer in digital sound art. Throughout his illustrious career, Mr. Naleppa has garnered numerous awards for radio drama productions and multiple radio play of the month with international competitions including: Prix Europa, Prix Marulic, Gold Award of New York Festivals, and Prix Italia.
In the interview below, Mr. Naleppa shares his insights on early career influences, his evolution in the radio industry, the defining moment in his career, and much more.
New York Festivals: Who or what were your early influences in your career?
Götz Naleppa: The whole family listening to a radio with a “magical eye” and far-away cities marked on it – in the Fifties, when I was a boy.
First recording in a professional radio studio on occasion of a school competition – and coming out as the winner team.
Starting up a high-school theatre-group and staging and playing a Shakespeare comedy.
Earning a little pocket-money as supernumerary in the local Opera House, fascination of the machinery behind the scene.
Listening to classical music very early – and to the sounds of nature.
New York Festivals: What’s the most important thing you learned from your first job?
Götz Naleppa: The first job was being assistant of stage director in Schiller-Theatre in
Berlin in the Sixties. The first thing I learned was, that actors drink a lot of coffee – and that I had to go and fetch it for them. The second thing I had to learn was: that theatre – as all arts – is hard work.
New York Festivals: What were some early leadership lessons for you?
Götz Naleppa: The tenacity and the passion without which I would not have been able to build up the high-school theatre group and the staging of the first play.
Direction of a radio-play featuring the Tabori-group – and the main actor telling me at the end (as a compliment): “you did not disturb very much!” – a first lesson of modesty.
Working with George Tabori taught me the most important thing: respect! That actors are not puppets, but human beings with a great potential of creativity. And that my power depends on my capacity of unleashing this potential.
Becoming better by listening better – to others.
New York Festivals: What qualities are the most important to have?
Götz Naleppa: See 3: tenacity, passion, modesty, openness. To add: fantasy, breaking of rules, thinking “around the corner”, an open ear for the right “tune”. Love for what we are doing.
New York Festivals: Tell us a bit about your evolution in the radio industry?
Götz Naleppa: Radio? I did not inherit it. At the beginning it looked rather like a theatre career: students’ theatre, studies of drama, assistant producer at the theatre Schiller -Theater in Berlin for 5 years, learning the theatre handicraft rising from the ranks, in addition to studies and the doctor’s degree.
And then, when my teacher and boss Boleslaw Barlog left: one of the numerous breaks in my life: I turned away from theatre and towards a new medium, unknown to me: radio play. Which button do I have to press if I want the actors to hear me behind the pane? Imperceptibly, the new medium seduced me from the optical perception into listening, listening actively. The heard sounds don’t they penetrate into layers of the human being inaccessible to the sight?
Meeting a new great teacher, the author and director George Tabori, was striking for me. We lived in ‘the wild 70s’ of the the RIAS-Berlin radio play department: experiments, collages, documentary play, dummy head, team work, all these forms where a mirror of the revolt of 68. And Tabori spoke of listening actively, respecting the actor, curiosity and liveliness. This was the time when I understood what it means to be a producer as I see this vocation today.
The years of apprenticeship were followed by years of migration, guest direction of radio plays at many radio broadcasting stations. And then there was the fall of the Berlin Wall and, shortly after, the “Radio in the American Sector” RIAS had ceased to exist. – Another break.
The situation now called for taking responsibility, not only for one single radio play, but for a whole radio play department, at first for Deutschlandfunk in Cologne, then for both Radio Play departments of Deutschlandradio in Berlin and Cologne, the new German National Radio. This meant to do without my own artistic work for the benefit of the ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’ radio play program, setting up a new department in Berlin, composed by East and West, where everybody could learn from everybody; an exciting and exhausting experience. Once the setting up was completed and the structures were created – another break: renunciation of the management of the radio play department and return to my own artistic work and above all – the concentration upon a secret love: sound art, the musical aspect of radio play. Imperceptibly, music accompanied me during my whole professional life, beginning with the supernumeraries at the Stuttgart
opera house, when I bore gold bars onto the stage for the singer Wolfgang Windgassen in the opera ‘Rheingold’, via nights with Pink Floyd and The Beatles’ White Album in the 60s on to the foundation of the experimental radio play formation ‘Transit Communication’ with jazz musicians at the beginning of the 80s. Only later I noticed how much my secret love ‘music‘ participated in every one of my radio play productions. And now I could build up the new slot ‘Sound Art’ by Deutschlandradio Kultur, every week 55 minutes of sound composition at midnight, boundless, unheard-of; text – sound – music? Again the well-known place between the seats: uncomfortable and unsuitable for sleeping. What did Tabori always require during the rehearsals: ‘Do remain curious!’ When I grew older, this curiosity rather increased, and also the wish to pass on what I have learnt – in universities and in workshops, in order to promote the next generation – maybe to express my thanks to my great teachers.
The last great break in my profession was: leaving the big institution of National Radio with its more than 800 employees and to become a one-man-company, finally having the time and freedom to do my own solitary work of sound composition in my own studio.
New York Festivals: What was a defining moment in your career?
Götz Naleppa: The realization that ‘career‘ is not everything. Occupying the position of head of the radio-play department of the most powerful radio station in Germany, juggling with a big budget – and not being happy – because bureaucracy eats up all creativity. And deciding in this moment to stop ‘career‘ in favor of artistic survival. I renounced to the assignment, stepped voluntarily down the ‘career-ladder‘ in order to follow my secret love: music. I started building up the slot “Sound Art” and ran its weekly hour for 14 years.
New York Festivals: Will you share how the culture of your company encourages creativity?
Götz Naleppa: My former company “Deutschlandradio Kultur” has this cultural mission in its name. Listening to their broadcasts, listening IS creativity. My actual one-man-company on the other hand depends on my own creativity.
New York Festivals: What’s your favorite radio program that you created?
Götz Naleppa: Difficult to choose among hundreds of creations during many years. But normally it is the latest that I like best. Therefore my answer: my sound composition ‘CANTUS APIUM (Song of the Bees), 7 variations after Vergil for voice and 15 bee-colonies‘, winner of a Gold Award of New York Festivals 2014.
New York Festivals: What are the hallmarks of award-winning radio programs?
Götz Naleppa: Originality, audibility, radicalness. With other words: innovation, best sound, profound knowledge and love for its subject(s).