Hi! I’m Stephan Kunze.

I’m an independent music and culture writer, and I started this newsletter in 2022 to write about non-mainstream music.

If you’re a sophisticated listener and you’re looking for some passionate music writing by an actual human, you’ve come to the right place.

Personally, I don’t like to listen to what an algorithm puts in front of me. I still rely on ‘human recommendation systems’. Most writers don’t seem to do that anymore –instead they write about what performs well on streaming services and social media.

I search for inspiration in different places – small improv gigs in Berlin’s and London’s microvenues, and tips from friends that love music more than the business.

I guess you could consider the music I write about ‘experimental’. I love music from all kinds of genres. Back in the days, I was an avid reader of magazines like The Wire (UK) or Spex (DE). Their eclecticism shaped my musical taste.

I’m into free music of all kind – spiritual jazz and electronic music, ambient and noise, dub and hip-hop, musique concrète and minimalism, avant-pop and post-rock. I enjoy music that’s a bit difficult and not too predictable.

What I don’t care about is mainstream top 40 radio. I’m not interested in the latest trends. You won’t find any ‘poptimist’ takes on global superstars here.

Before starting zensounds, I had already been a music journalist for two decades, freelancing for national and international media.

For years, I edited one of the biggest music magazines in my native Germany. I wrote copy for labels, agencies and brands. I produced and hosted community radio shows. I managed artists and founded an independent record label. Later I worked for a well-known audio streaming service, first as a local music editor and then in a strategic role, leading their global editorial team.

By the time I started this newsletter, I had become increasingly disillusioned with the entertainment industry and the attention economy.

Pitching to editors felt like a waste of time, if you weren’t suggesting a ‘hot take’ on a popular record, or some snappy comment on everyone’s favourite superstar’s latest social post.

After leaving my last full-time position in the industry, I got back into a habit of actually listening to music. Influenced by a course in Deep Listening, a meditative practice developed by composer Pauline Oliveros, I relearned to appreciate music not as mood-enhancing background noise, but as an artform of inherent value.

Aside from music and culture, I am interested in what is often lumped in under the umbrella term of ‘alternative lifestyles’. That means I read articles and books and watch documentaries on topics like off-grid living, self-sufficiency, permaculture gardening, and DIY craftsmanship.

I’ve been in search of a lifestyle removed from digital screens and social media, more in tune with nature, the seasons, and analogue activities. I dug deep into the philosophy and counter-cultural history behind that way of thinking in my non-fiction book Zen Style (2021).

I’m interested in Eastern spiritual practices, and I’ve been a student and practitioner of Zen Buddhism for some years.

As of now, I divide my time between Berlin and Western Pomerania, a rural area in Northeast Germany, near the Baltic Sea and the Polish border.

zensounds is free, but if you enjoy my writing, please consider becoming a paid subscriber to support my work. A subscription is €5/month or €50/year.

Paid subscribers will also get access to the full archive and exclusive posts – these will be more personal essays with practical takes on a mindful, anti-consumerist lifestyle, written for a small, like-minded community.

If you don’t feel like subscribing on Substack for any reason, you can also make a donation via my Ko-Fi page.

Pitch music and contact me at zensounds@posteo.de.

Sign up for free, and if you enjoy my writing, consider becoming a paid subscriber.

Full disclosure

I’m freelance consulting for Everything Jazz, an online record store operated by Universal Music Group, and Deutsche Grammophon. UMG and Deutsche Grammophon are not affiliated with this newsletter in any way.

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On experimental music and alternative culture


I’m an independent music and culture journalist and book author.