The mother ship. Founded anytime around 2002 this group of four very differently rooted minds keeps growing musical ideas and cumulating influences with every new collaboration. No matter if Dowland, Jazz or songs of the working class, music of every origin we like or come across through projects takes an unexpected twist when transformed through bowed steel. Slowness is unescapable for us and we have to explore every new piece on it’s own. So the experience of time itself became our inexhaustible topic.
Despite of actual circumstances we hope to meet you this year. Looking forward to a project with two danish sopranos and the wonderful music of Hans Erik Philip in late September, to AHA-Festival Gothenburg in November and more in between.
Playing solo is not my favourite setting but at times a perfect way to run out of comfort and to reach this particular mindset – a challenge, competing with my own habits (and gradually becoming aware of the not so obvious).
On the other hand it is the most flexible way to react on environmental moods and to let the moment speak for itself.
Beside improvisation in unpredicted constellations i try to evolve these four main threads:
Ambient – stage, music and player dissolve into landscape and architecture as part/background of the environment, here i use electronics and algorithms to manipulate the sound of my instrument. Field recordings are incorporated to blur out the line between real and artificial and comment on actual noises.
Chamber music – traditionally arranged like a concert, with composed and improvised pieces, just instrument and voice, no cables or speakers, but an attempt to push the boundaries of the unplugged sound world. For that, i help myself with melodies from all the sources i love, from all times and cultures.
Installations and performances – meant to intensify the listening and often related to history and audible characteristics of the venue, i incorporate related found objects, space and auditory illusion … sometimes i’m even requested to come without any instrument or preparation.
A Ë R
With swiss based musicians Ania Losinger (Xala) and Mats Eser (Mallets) we’re drowning deeply into the realm of polyrhythmical patterns. After many years of explorative work we finally found a way to match their dense, pulsing flow of pointilistic structures with the static and time resisting sound of the Stahlcello and named it A Ë R.
In early 2019 we’ve got the opportunity to produce a record at the famous Auditorio Stelio in Lugano which is now out on CD and vinyl at tonus-music-records.com and ready for download: theluganosession.bandcamp.com
Junges Ensemble Dresden
Invited to write for JED by conductor Olaf Katzer about 5 years ago, i wanted to hear this fabulous choir singing overtones. So along with the finished piece i enclosed an arrangement of a german christmas carol, the lyrics replaced by overtones. Our then following fruitful collaboration led to the CD project „Licht über Licht“, containing contemporary and traditional works from composers of different religious confessions.
In late October 2020, just hours before a second pandemic lockdown JED celebrated it’s 15 years anniversary. Ironically, the singers had to keep maximum distance from each other whilst murmuration was the central topic i had in mind. (To me, choirs display intellignent swarm behaviour most beautifully. That is what „Starlings“ wants to feature.) However, we probably never would have tried such placement but were rewarded with a cinematic surround sound.
Making music … OK. But making music accessible to kids is a different matter. When Mathis proposed to take part in one of his school projects i didn’t expect long-term consequences. Then, with a little help of my friend i realised what’s so obvious: The future of music seriously needs encouraged people who are used to experiment with noises and rhythms by themselves, wether with instruments or anything else in reach. Since many of our kids come with physical handicaps, learning disorders, are socially deprived or refugees we have to get around the barriers of common musical education. They show us how to build instruments or spare them, how to use findings, household items or scrap, how to invent rules and signs. And they do it together. Even 7 years later we still get surprised.
Beside playing french horn in orchestras for years, Mathis is a masterlful percussionist. We take every opportunity to throw together what we like most, for an often unpredictable outcome.
In February 2017, during a very cold open air, we accompanied syrian singer Sara al Aga for two or three songs. Not yet unfrozen again we got the first inviatation to play an entire concert… JaSaMa (the arabic word for open sky) was born. Two years later we released our CD debut at the world music festival in Rudolstadt.
A miraculously long chain of acquaintances and circumstances brought me in touch with visionary dutch composer and singer Miranda Driessen. For her composition „Koerikoeloem“ she needed a series of eight aeolian harps, very sensitive to even light wind and sufficiently loud to fit in the dynamic range of classically trained singers and flute players. Not the simplest task… Blacksmith Steffen Hartmann was prepared for the hard work. But there was just not enough time to fully test the harps before delivery. So i didn’t realise that one of my earliest dreams came true – before they were sounding all together in the flat dutch landscape under perfect wind conditions in summer 2018.
Fortunately our collaboration did not end here. After finishing her work on Koerikoeloem, Miranda came up with a solo piece for Stahlcello and harmonic singing: „Die Entdeckung der Langsamkeit“. Here she combines the inevitable consonant harmonic series with dark, chromatic colors and the beatings of narrow intervalls. This hypnotic work is now one of the first of it’s kind that opens up the ancient vocal technique for a contemporary musical language in an elaborated, very enjoyable way.
An accidental phone call in spring 2019 turned into a spontaneus invitation to contribute some lines to Ätna’s new Album. After finishing another project in Berlin i called Demian, not knowing they were working at Hansa Studios at the time. Cought by surprise and literally just minutes later i entered this famous place. The singles „Try“ and „If You Were Gone“ are out now on iTunes and Spotify.
Inventively juggling with todays artistic viewpoints, AuditivVokal stretches it’s horizon from the distant past to what we belief to be a possible future of a cappella music. The beginning of my permanent membership in this vocals-only ensemble was suddenly hushed by the effects of some virus. Now it’s difficult to check impatience…
Meanwhile AuditivVokal does explorative home work: we’re seeking to gradually bridge the gap between voice science and performance, extending unplugged chamber music digitally, connecting worldwide with composers and singers via internet, initiating online symposiums and so perhaps escorting a growing community of adventurous vocal performers. To my fortune, ensemble leader Olaf Katzer made contact with kurdish composer Amer Ali whose amazing composition for solo voice „My instrument“ will keep me busy for the next year(s), although it’s duration is, according to the scores, just „…15 seconds or a little more…“
Together with chummy drummer Demian Kappenstein we’re always admiring the ingenious musical spirit and otherworldly (unmistakably norwegian?) trumpet sound of Arve Henriksen. After we both met him separately (i.e. Stahlquartett proudly appears 2013 on his CD „Places of Worship“) it didn’t take long to get him around. In April 2018 we made it up as a trio for a short series of concerts, following just one very simple rule: no rehearsels and no talk about music on beforehand. One year later we met again at Demians studio, this time breaking our rule. Now, a collection of sonic stemps in our hands we’re looking forward to our first release, most probably on cassette tape.
The Orpheus Sinfonia
British Hornist Nicolas Korth has a deep, life-long interest for the sound of the Harmonic Series. His latest composition „Harmoniae naturales – Send My Roots Again“ requires four male overtone singers. This amazing piece turned out to be my ticket to London in January 2019 where i had the fortune to perform with Wolfgang Saus, Lothar Berger and Rollin Rachel at St. George, surrounded by and part of the captivating Orpheus Sinfonia.
Guthman Musical Instrument Competition
After receiving the message of being nominated for the competition i had a tough time to fix the logistics of my instrument. It’s last trip by plane was about 10 years ago and transport conditions changed ever since. So going to Atlanta, Georgia became one of the most challenging and adventurous travels of my life. Finally i could somehow manage to be there in time, spent few days with these inspiring people and am now the approved owner of the „Best Overall Instrument“ of the GMIC 2018.
The mesmerising power and beauty of Anettes songs made it likewise tempting and challenging to still add something meaningful. Initially planned one-shot, we now are repeatedly working on new projects in various settings from almost unplugged duo to full band, sometimes even with choir.
There are places in the world that i have always wanted to visit. One of them is the Lofoten archipelago, right above the polar circle. To get there with my instrument was only possible by ship and train, a 45 hours ride. But it didn’t take a second to decide for when Anette tendered to accompany a couple of her concerts. To leave for home was harder.
Speaking completely different languages without missing the meaning of a single word might describe what it is about playing together with japanes Koto master Karin Nakagava. When we first met around 2010 i immediately realized that sound can change the way one perceives the world. She literally can hold wind and time. Fortunately we keep in touch and i enjoy this musical conversation every now and then. Looking forward to June 2021…
An operatic singer by heart, with natural sense for drama and driven by curiosity, Annette knew how to place anachronistic elements in a telling manner. She introduced me to the world of opera. For quite a number of the productions she directed i was demanded to contribute something new: overtones, sound objects, even Didgeridoo. And she, always confiding with what i came up, set it off the beaten path.
I owe her much. Too early, Annette passed away in summer 2020.
Jan Michael Horstmann
Dedicating all his mastery to music itself and to the experience of his audience, conductor Jan Michael Horstmann initiated a large number of ear-opening symphonic adventures one of which i had the chance to be part of. Therefor Tango afficionado Lothar Hensel had been commisioned to write a concert with three movements where orchestra meets Stahlcello, overtone singing and Didgeridoo. As he told me, the last part depicts a primordial landscape with growling dinosaurs. Gradually, Jan thrilled us to sheer extasy.
Facing an audience expecting the hell of a concert can be frightening without an instrument at hand. However, after checking kitchen, bar and and bathroom for moveable parts, the comfort zone is restored. Now every finding has to reveal it’s own sonic value. Accustomed to the drums, Demian Kappenstein beats everything i stroked before.
Oh well, …Yenidze! This wonderful glass dome, equally transparent to the cities lights and sounds, has not only been home for several bulky music sculptures. More than 20 years ago they came to life together with (and were made for) a small theatre, mainly dedicated to literature, storys and fairytales. In 2020, again together, they died due to increasingly hot summers.
Manager and guiding spirit Rainer Petrovsky became a fatherly friend over the years, who once literally safed my life.
Putting up with the staggering climate of this greenhouse i could witness how imagination works when sounds, words and ears give wings to each other. Here, tellers and musicians of very different originis gave glimpses into their secrets. Beside supporting almost 50 programs from various actors with music and noises, i found Yenidze as „my“ laboratory, providing a stage for sometimes early fruits, the very first concerts with „tuned steel music“, and soon after harbouring finally 17 editions of an annual festival, focused on overtone singing: LauschRausch
This wished-for weekend in every September saw cordial and respectful encounters, some of them repeatedly: with Hosoo’s Transmongolia, Egshiglen, Nadishana, Christian Zehnder, Sainkho Namchylak, Terje Isungset, Tran Quang Hai, Hans Tschiritsch, Andreas Stahel, Stuart Hinds, Matthias Loibner, Karin Nakagava … to name a few.
The idea behind his main instrument Folkofon is strikingly simple. It looks like a usual keyboard. Press a key and it will play a short video along with sound. Press a second key, two smaller clips will appear and blend their sounds into each other. And so on. It depends on the material it is fed with, on the frame work of the project, on the location. Usually, Ole films local people singing a long tone for him. Later unified on the screen they can build up a choir. The same works for the typic environmental noises he collects at each place. Many of his performances involve people from around the world, often young refugees with their particular musical background. At least three of our performances took place in harbours where occasionally he arranged chords and melodies for ship horns. Everything is hold together through Ole’s incredible ear for the hidden melody in every noise or spoken word around and his respectful sense for cultural distinctions. To meet him was deeply influential.
Pina’s instrument consists of twelve or more tuned glass bowls. Impossible to catch these massive, slow, space-filling tones by records. You have to be exposed to them directly. In terms of pace we’re tilling neighbouring fields. So mutual understanding comes naturally. On the other hand, our encounters want to be mindfully prepared. Pina often surprises me with new pals: a flame-driven organ in the tiny chapel of Krobitz, saxophonist Hayden Chisholm or writer Bettine Reichelt…
After many years back in northern Sweden, Stefan invites fellow musicians from the better days every now and then. We met first in my home town Dresden through his former band Strömkarlen, where i sometimes joined as a guest. With him i could live out my love for scandinavian folk and the songs he writes are a marvelous invitation to join in. He tought me that the most violent jokes are told in bands that play the softest music.
Music seems to be the perfect alibi to travel and meet, right? We try hard not to have fun.
Himself deeply impressed by the inexplicable effect of sounds on soul and body, Volker wanted to share his amazement with others. Tirelessly he collected instruments, connected musicians and made beautiful places accessible for audiences that i’d have never seen otherwise. I’m grateful for more than 15 years with this bright mind who left forever in January 2021.
The zither has long ceased to be a common instrument. For no reason, you think, when you listen to Czech virtuoso Michal Müller. He has made it his own, with a respectful take beyond traditions in a way that feels very close and at the same time complementary to my search. There is not much to discuss before playing together.
Imagine a place that exhibits a hole of the Magic Flute, van Gogh’s lost ear and the sound of the sinking Titanic, 20 minutes after. The Museum of Lies is the worlds greatest collection of luminous desires and dusty dreams, a Chamber of wonders filled to the brim with even more Chambers of wonders, all of them singing their own little song. Since Director and Labyrinth Master Reinhard Zabka speaks natively Dada, this is the perfect habitat for everything I cannot use under earthly conditions.
Not the longest journey can compare with Schaubudensommer. The whole world is already there, all even unimaginable crossovers of comedy, freak show, circus, dance or illusive cabinets of wonder… This most beloved of all annual festivals was (and hopefully will be again) breeding ground, meeting point and melting pot with impact on everything else i do. Many durable constellations began here as crackpot ideas, some of them still at work.