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Press Comments

The silent film adventure has always lived from joining images and music directly ... The percussionist Steven Garling develops orchestral interpretations that lift the internal tension of the film into explosive arches of composition, gently and beautifull.
(H.H., Film heute)

Idiocy, Garling plays way wicked rock 'n' roll ...
(Emil Pasunke, "Junge Welt")

... bone-snapping drum intro of the bony Steven Garling ... furious ... an incredible virtuoso.
(Potsdamer Neuste Nachrichten)

The quietest drummer in Berlin handles his instruments sensitively and is always successful in transferring gentle emotions by means of sound and phrasing suspense by means of meter. The most magic moments of this musical-cinematic correspondence are Charlie’s appearance, to which Garling drums up a reminiscence of David Lynch’s soundtracks, to which you can almost hear Charlie’s heart beating ...
(Ulf Lippitz, Kieler Neuste Nachrichten)

Chaplin cajoles across the screen with his cane. Garling cajoles across the drumheads with the drumsticks.
(rowo, MAZ)

Garling shows that percussion can be much more than just a soundscape or keeping time. He enhances our enjoyment, condenses illustratively, while the farce stumbles further and further into the nonsensical.
(wit, Schwäbisches Tagblatt)

Garling can do almost everything with his instrument. The audience was thus torn as to whom it should pay more attention to, Garling or the Chaplin film. It was obvious how well he mastered the subject, as for stretches he played with his eyes closed and yet at just the right instant produced the noise that fit with the images on the screen.
(KÜMA, Ostseezeitung)

Steven Garling pounded his drum set with such fervor and physical tension that it seemed more fitting to think of a Gesamtkunstwerk comprised of body, spirit and soul.
(ceb, Pfullinger Anzeiger)

Steven Garling let the drumsticks fly for the showing of two short films by the surrealist Man Ray and a longer film passage from Jacques Cousteau’s The Coral Divers, making this act the highlight of the evening.
(le, Eßlinger Zeitung)

Garling’s art was rewarded with applause and eardrums hurting from laughter.
(nes, Freie Presse Plauen)

The original music to Metropolis could hardly be better than this freely improvised version by percussion and organ.
(Nicole Freyler, Lausitzer Rundschau, Okt 2002)

He is capable of extracting the most astonishing sounds and moods from every kind of percussion instruments ... it was improvisation, yet had a playful form which enhanced the style of the film.
(Frank Burkhard, Das Blättchen, Okt 2002)

From the days of the standard Wurlitzer, something special in cinematic life has emerged, provided once again by the musician Steven Garling. He brings silent films back from obscurity.
(TAZ, Sept 2002)

If you want to hear, you have to feel ... Pop is a waste of time ... Eventually you forget it and understand that silent film is its own form of art ... Garling finds his calling as a symphonic composer.
(Tagesspiegel, Jul 2002)

"The Phantom of the Opera", where rats scamper through the catacombs, the water drips from the vaults – which Steven Garling makes audible, just like the steps on the staircases of the famous "Hunchback of Notre Dame".
(IN München, Jan 2002)

Ttranslation: Susan Richter
Photo: Erik Hackenschmidt 

The Musician

Born in Magdeburg in 1968 and raised in Berlin, the 36-year-old percussionist Steven Garling has accumulated a remarkable professional history over his musical career.

After studying percussion with Herrmann Naehring and jazz with Steffen Hübner, the Berliner started his stage career early, both as a soloist and together with top-class musicians in exciting band formations. His later music projects like THE FUTURE DAYS (with Steve Binetti and Lexa Schäfer) and THE FLYING SEALS (together with London DJ Mick Clark) show the influence of his early work with the Berlin band THE INCHTABOKATABLES and guitarist Steve Binetti in the Berlin of the late-1980s and early-1990s – a historical period of upheaval and redesign in the German metropolis.

A special event during this artistic heyday left its mark on the biography of the drumming performance artist: the First Russian Silent Film Festival in the Filmkunsthaus Babylon. It showed Garling how to lend a contemporary voice to images, stories, characters and moods though music. Through his music he overcomes language barriers and addresses his listeners in an unusually subtle manner.

Two years later Steven Garling opened his own cinema, THE SHOULDER ARMS in Berlin-Mitte. There it was possible to experience for the first time his concept of showing silent film rarities interpreted with a live concert. Since then Garling has been appearing with this idea all over Berlin and Germany. On behalf of the seventh art he is also on the road abroad, touring through Europe and America as a mobile silent film cinema. “Le 7ieme art” was also the name of the first International Silent Film Festival Berlin he initiated in Berlin in 1998.

The Sound

Characteristic for the percussionist and performance artist are not only an ability to change his instrument constantly, and his specialization on different kinds of styles from one period to the next; even the repertoire is in constant flux. Is Steven Garling unstable? By no means. A pupil of the multi-instrumentalist Herrmann Naehring and a wayfarer in the territory of the acoustic world of percussion instruments, Garling has developed a very personal parlance of his instruments, in which he has spent years developing his distinctive style. And yet time and again there are surprises and moments when it appears he has invented something completely new.

For the past ten years, his main professional activity has been touring with silent films. During this time he has accompanied a repertoire of over 450 films. Although many of Garling’s listeners could not even imagine percussion replacing the familiar silent-film piano before attending one of his concerts, audiences are astounded by his performances, featuring instruments that hail from Polynesia, Asia, Africa and South America. Garling is able to use these instruments to produce effects reminiscent of sounds of nature, to play melodies, to generate orchestral tension, to increase his dynamics and rhythms ad infinitum, to produce minimalist tone structures and to set sounds to complement or contradict cinematic images. With his music he is able to tell stories of nature: the worlds of birds, animals, water and plants; but also of the distant cultures of years gone by or the industrial present.

The virtuoso subordinates himself to film sensitively, reservedly and temperamentally and uses pauses to let the expressive power of the silent art come to bear in full force.

His activities over the past 20 years began in ensembles and orchestras, with dancers, marionettes, writers and graphic artists. As a soloist, over and again he found himself on the threshold between performance, theater and film, where he discovered that the primary element of his work takes on ever more meaning in connection with other arts. At the same time, Garling’s musical symbiosis of body and spirit also creates a state of experience that takes not only his partners, but also his audience with him on his artistic journey.

Short bio

Born 8/7/1968 in Magdeburg.

1978: Move to Berlin.

Classical guitar lessons from 1984-1986.

Piano lessons in elementary theory and music theory with Jörg Beilfuss.

Percussion lessons since 1985. Studied African music, jazz, classical music.

1986: First solo concert, in the Trinitatiskirche, Weigersdorf. Played only church music concerts until 1989.

First puppet theater music for children and adults, 1987.

Ensemble work in orchestras, improvised music, chansons, blues, swing and pantomime theater.

Since 1988, concert tours in various European countries and the U.S.

Since 1990, autodidact and concerts of minimal and contemporary music, free jazz, interactive performances with painters, dancers and writers.

Since 1991, scoring of silent film projects and Peking Opera.

Since 1992, professional rock music and experimental music.

Since 1993, private instruction in small drums for children.

Since 1994, pop music and professional work on compositions for silent films.

Since 1996, compositions and concerts on Chagall’s bible illustrations.

Since 1997, private instruction in the subjects percussion/composition and arrangement for teenagers and adults.

Since 1998, organizer of the International Silent Film Festival in Berlin.

Since 1999, study of Balkan and Mediterranean music. Radio drama and film music.

Since 2000, instruction with Thomas Fülbier in Latin American percussion music.

Since 2001, autodidactic study of Arabic, Turkish and Greek folk music.

Since 2002, workshops on the sense of body and rhythm for all ages, in Germany and abroad.


With countless instruments he creates a sound cosmos on concert stages, amphitheaters, theaters, cinemas and churches: baobab, African drums, agogos, Alpine cow bells, bongos, Brazilian folk instruments, Brummtopf, Bulgarian sheep and goat bells, castanets, caxixi, chequere, chimes, claves, conga, cymbals, darbuka, energy chimes, finger cymbals, finger bells, flexaphone, Glockenbaum, glockenspiel, gongs, guiro, Jazz drums, kalimba, Klangschalen, Klangscheiben, metallophone, opera gong, Opernschlange, Orff instruments, East Asian sound effects, pandeiro, timpani, polyphone, qunito, rakatak, rattles, tubular bells, tambourine, Tukano Indian Schlitztrommel, Schwirrholz, tam tam, temple blocks, timbales, triangle, tumba, vibraslap, water gong, xylophone, circus bass drum.

He frequently invites other percussionists as guests to expand the ensemble of exotic instruments: Stephan Barnikel, Toni Cercola, Sabiá da Costa, Pierre Favre, Thomas Fülbier, Topo Gioia, Hans von Klitzing, Lucas Niggli, Herrmann Naehring, Mark Naussef, Dincer Ozer.

The current DVD
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Filmworks Audio. Vol 1
CD, TP 9 Records
Cray Fish Music
CD, the shoulder arms
The King of Kings
DVD, the shoulder arms
Rare Silent Movies II
the shoulder arms
Rare Silent Movies I
the shoulder arms
The Future Days -
steal away and pray
the shoulder arms
The Flying Seals -
Live in Ljubljana
the shoulder arms
the shoulder arms
Destination Paradise
zwischen bild und ton
garage # 5
Film Noire
Deutschlandradio Hörspiel
Wege in die Nacht
Filmmusik CD / Video
Fish Stone
SFB Hörspiel
Fontane Impressionen II
SFB Hörspiel
the shoulder arms
set-a-lite 099
 ordering & more...
Press Photos

The photos are available as 300dpi jpg files, in b/w or rgb format. To download images, click the right mouse button (Mac: ctrl-click) and select “Download image/link to data medium”.
Photos 1-3: Erik Hackenschmidt
Photos 4-6: Eva Bonato