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Born in Ulm, Germany in 1957, Michael Riessler studied clarinet and received music degrees at the academies for music in Cologne and Hanover, Germany (graduated 1975). His first professional experience was with the ensemble Musique Vivant in Paris (1978). In 1982 he played chamber music concerts with Siegfired Palm and Aloys Kontarsky, along with other modern improvisation groups. In 1988 he was with the Kölner Saxophone Mafia on a tour of West and Central Africa sponsored by the Goethe Institute. Through guitarist Claude Barthèlèmy he became involved with L'Orchestre National de Jazz Paris, and worked with the orchestra from 1989-1991. He did a solo tour through Russia in 1990 performing the compositions of Karlheinz Stockhausen.

Riessler has experimented with the outer borderlines of structure, sound, music, and speech. His musical explorations have run the gamut from such complex formations as in Le Bucher des Silences (1991) to extremely reduced ensembles such as his trio with Valentin Clastrier on hurdy-gurdy and Carlo Rizzo on tambourine, and his duo work with dancer Migel Charnock (1998). In 1992 Michael Riessler received The German Record Critics' Prize for his composition Heloise, which was commissioned for the Donaueschinger Music Days. His composition Honig und Asche was commissioned for the 1997 Berlin Biennale. His project Momentum Mobile (1993) consisted of hurdy-gurdy player Pierre Charial along with four jazz musicians, a string quartet, and a brass quintet. He has composed and arranged music for theater, radio, and films, and has been guest professor at the music academies in Den Haag Holland, Graz Austria, Orlèans France, Toronto Canada, and the Institute for Contemporary Music in Darmstadt Germany. Riessler has performed solo concerts at major classical, contemporary, and jazz festivals throughout the world.

Riessler's playing credits span the breadth of contemporary music. He has worked with such diverse musicians as Steve Reich, John Cage, Carla Bley, Vinko Globokar, Michael Gibbs, Ensemble Modern, David Byrne, Sarah Vaughan, and Rabih Abou-Khalil; his orchestral credits include the Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Cologne Radio Symphony Orchestra.

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