Pas Paravant

active in the 1980s


In 1980 a three-member, initially nameless band was formed in a living room in Vienna-Floridsdorf: Karl Kowanz (saxophone), assistant for new media at the University of Applied Arts, Renate Kocer (drums), a graduate of Oswald Oberhuber’s graphic art class, and Wolfgang Poor (saxophone and percussion), the group’s only »real« musician, experimented for a while with open musical structures, in the process recording copious amounts of material on cassette. The trio, mostly creating free improvisations, gradually grew into a larger ensemble, supplemented by ManfreDu Schu (vocals), Günther Schrom (bass), Wolfgang Stengl (guitar), and Hans Weigand (guitar)—all students from the University of Applied Arts and the Academy of Fine Arts. They ultimately came up with a name for this undertaking with its pronounced collective spirit: Pas Paravant, an onomatopoeic play on words suggesting rejection of any kind of partition (»paravent« being a term used in German to refer to a folding screen).

No official compilation has yet been produced for this grouping, which remained active throughout the 1980s. Apart from early cassette productions in tiny editions, there are two LPs recorded by different sub-constellations, namely Brot und Spiel (Bread and Circuses, 1986) and Musik aus -Zwei Zimmer- (Music from -Two Rooms-, 1988), which only give a limited sense of the sound of the entire group playing together.

Felix Dorner born in 1958

Renate Kocer born in 1954

Karl Kowanz born in 1951

Wolfgang Poor born in 1952

Günther Schrom

ManfreDu Schu
born 1959 as Manfred Schus

Wolfgang Stengl born in 1957

Hans Weigand born in 1954

Visual Arts and Music

Visual Arts and Music

The goal of tearing down partitions (paravents)—in other words, breaking through borders—that is articulated programmatically in the group’s name, Pas Paravant, shaped its members’ artistic work as well as the band’s musical activity: Karl Kowanz is a pioneer of video and computer art, which at the time had not yet attained canonical status in Austria; Renate Kocer (later Kowanz-Kocer) works in the transitional zone between performance, film, and installation; Wolfgang Stengl and Hans Weigand operate in different ways with an expanded concept of sculpture.

In keeping with this, the band members see no categorical distinction between artistic and musical forms and allow different genres to flow into each other in the music too: minimal music, new wave, jazz improvisation, free form, no wave, all with a dash of Dada or onomatopoeia that tilts toward the absurd (linguistic imitation of extra-linguistic sound events). The only thing this mix is not meant to sound like is rock or conventional pop music.

Another shared feature of the art and music practiced by Pas Paravant members is that everything they created oscillates intriguingly between cool »waviness« and post-minimalistic »groove.« An object created by Hans Weigand at the time—a piano emaciated to a carcass with extra-long feet (1984)—sums up the principle of Pas Paravant’s music: a pared-down, slightly deformed basic concept in which traces of classical musical (the piano) are indeed recognizable, yet in which, moving beyond that frame, skeletal, allusive and minimalistic, morbid elements dominate. In this spirit, they would meet once a week for recording sessions in the Floridsdorf »living room,« creating snappily rhythmic sonic skeletons, sometimes with sparser harmonies, sometimes with less stripped-down sounds.

In the Exhibition

In the Exhibition

Pas Paravant

concert Töne und Gegentöne, Wiener Secession, 23. 5. 1983, with

Felix Dorner (voc., guit.), Karl Kowanz (as., ss., synth., voc.), Renate Kowanz-Kocer (dr., perc.), Wolfgang Poor (bass guit., perc.), Günther Schrom (bass guit., voc.), Wolfgang Stengel (voc., guit., synth., bass guit., perc.), ManfreDu Schu (Manfred Schus) (voc., synth.), Hans Weigand (guit., bass guit., voc.), 15:56 min.

Film: Romana Scheffknecht and Tommy Schneider

A concert recording from the Vienna Secession shows the group at the height of their densely interlocking collective process. In May 1983, the »Heimvorteil« section at the Töne & Gegentöne festival offered young, edgy Viennese groups a platform, which they otherwise found only in galleries (such as Galerie nächst St. Stephan, where Pas Paravant also performed in 1983) or at the University of Applied Arts. Pas Paravant, its ranks now expanded by singer and guitarist Felix Dorner, who had joined the group shortly before, were on brilliant form the night they played. During the sound check, a blasé coolness still prevailed, swelling up in the course of the concert to brusque, compact iciness. A tribal beat forms the backbone, coupled with the two guitarists’ insistent, filigree riffs, overlaid by the anti-anthem fanfare signature of the two saxophones. Both singers—dressed with a brilliant flourish in collarless shirts and pleated trousers with braces—flung themselves into onomatopoeic Dada grunting, mostly limited to single, endlessly repeated syllables. »Gutta,« »Hu,« or »Freedom Hopapa Io« are some of the fitting titles of the group’s music. The musicians later described their style in a nutshell as »future jazz.« Their category-defying experimental gesture, which persisted until the early 1990s, would however never again be enacted as intensively as in this performance.


Christian Höller