Born in 1956 in Frankfurt am Main, he studied with Hubert Käppel (guitar), Francis Travis (lute and conducting), Hans Heinrich Eggebrecht (music theory), Hans Werner Henze and Klaus Huber (composition) as well as Mesías Maiguaschka (electronic music) in Bremen, Cologne, and Freiburg. Already during his studies he collaborated with Luigi Nono and Hans-Peter Haller on live electronics projects. He has received numerous prizes and scholarships including from Cité des Arts (Paris), Villa Massimo (Rome), the City of Stuttgart (the Music Prize for compositions), and Baden-Baden (the Baldreit Stipend). As composer, conductor or producer, he has participated in festivals including Steirische Herbst in Graz, Presteigne Festival, Tage Neuer Musik in Darmstadt, Roma Europa, Berliner Festwochen, Schwetzingen Festival, Warsaw Autumn, and Donaueschinger Musiktage. His music has been performed by highly regarded ensembles such as the Arditti and Auryn Quartets, Ensemble Modern, ensemble recherche, the symphony orchestras of Austrian (ORF) and German (SWR) Radio. He taught musical forms and music analysis at the High School of Arts in Bremen (1990–96). He also led a conducting class at the Mürztaler Musikwerkstatt. In 1991–2005 he worked for the Rossini Festival on the island of Rügen as a producer and (several times) its director. He produced Handel’s Orlando, Rossini’s Cinderella and The Barber of Seville, Donizetti’s Don Pasquale and L’Elisir d’amore, Saint-Saëns’s Samson and Dalila, Offenbach’s Les Brigands, and Britten’s The Prodigal Son in Germany, France, Austria, Italy and Switzerland. He also directed and produced a number of music films, including Pandora (1993) and Sintflut (2001). He took part in the production of a lm about Leni Riefenstahl commissioned by the Vienna State Opera.
Stage works are at the core of his output as a composer, as are live electronics projects. His stage music includes Der Turm (world premiere 1989, Bremen Theatre, Radio Bremen), Babylon (world premiere 1997, Schwetzingen Festival, SDR) and Schwarz Rot Gold (world premiere 1998, Frankfurt am Main, Hessische Rundfunk). As a conductor he led, among others, Ensemble Modern, Ensemble Surplus, Collegium Novum Zurich, and Ensemble Experimental (from 2009). With the latter he made the world premiere recording of Luigi Nono’s Risonanze erranti (awarded the German Music Critics’ Prize in 2011). Since 2006 Detlef Heusinger has been artistic director of the SWR Experimentalstudio.
Selected works: Todesfuge for baritone, guitar and string quartet (1979–80), Aufstieg for chamber ensemble (1982), Spiel der Zeit, three sonnets by Andreas Gryphius for soprano, baritone and chamber orchestra (1983), Epiphora – Anaphora – Oxymora for piano (1984–86), RhapTime for 19 instruments (1985), Von Insel zu Insel for chamber ensemble (1985–86), Der Turm, music theatre in four scenes for vocalists, orchestra and live electronics after Peter Weiss (1986–88), Elipsis for small orchestra (1988), TurmStücke, orchestral suite from the opera Der Turm (1987–91), Rossini a D., music burlesque for three voices, dancers and chamber orchestra, to a libretto by the composer after operatic libretti and letters by Rossini (1989–90), Pandora I, II for string quartet (1993–94), Herzlieb for two sopranos and chamber orchestra (1994), Abraum for piano trio and live electronics (1995), Babylon, music theatre in three acts for solo voices, orchestra and tape, to a libretto by the composer after Michel de Ghelderode’s play Don Juan ou Les Amants chémeriques (1996–96), terra incognita for large orchestra (1997), Sint ut (The Flood) X for video triptych and 8-channel electronics (2000–1), Kagebayashi, three interludes for chamber ensemble from the cycle gezamusik (2004), 2nd anniversary of zabriskie point, concerto for guitar and orchestra (2004), Triple Concerto, Part 1 for oboe d’amore, viola, amplified harpsichord and large orchestra (2010).