[AW des Louvre Paris in Cooperation with Lucerne Festival Academy WP Lucerne Festival]
While working on the piece, I always had the idea to rather build a musical frame to the Mozart Adagio KV 411 than juxtaposing it with another piece of music. As it is common in galleries and museums to put masterpieces in frames to isolate their world from ours, my intentions with Mozart's clarinet piece were going in the same direction.
Some musical material of the Adagio can be found in my music, but I would consider it instantly as a leakage of material due to the borderless transitions between the pieces and not as quotation.
The two clarinets and three bassetthorns are a homogeniously sounding group I am looking at as one instrument with five mobile parts instead of five independent and individual instruments. These five parts expand and distract in the performance space, going along with each other, or sometimes against, gather together in subgroups... but the invisible string which all parts are attached to remains uncut.
„Wenn alles funktioniert ist ein Mobile ein Stück Poesie, lustvoll tanzend und voller Überraschungen“ (Alexander Calder)
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[WP Lörrach, Burghof, Frederic Belli, Johannes Fischer]
[AW des Jungen Klangforum Mitte Europa, WP Swednice, Polen, Ltg: Christoph Altstaedt]
While outlining the concept of „Traumspur“ for solo percussion and orchestra I soon realized that the quite different and contrasting character of percussion playing and also in relationship to it’s sonic environment would made it impossible for me to think of a closed symphonic form or a classical three movement concerto model. I rather liked the idea to open different windows for very different sonic spaces. This makes eight short moments, glimpses, sometimes tutti, sometimes solo or only for orchestra. Parts overlap or are played simultaneously, the clear outlines of the short movements blur. Similar to a dream sequence the movements follow in an erratic, chaotic order. Only when listen to the whole piece one will discover a structural arc, which actually wasn’t plan while composing but evolved naturally in the process.
Souvenir I-III are like short diary excerpts, inspired by personal experiences. Souvenir I (Rangoon) remembers the bloody riots in Burma in the fall of 2007. In the same month I was visiting Korea and working on a new percussion piece written for that included a very special instrument: a burmese bell.
While watching these violent images from Rangoon on tv and in the papers I was playing on an instrument of a country that tried to free themselves from a rigid military regime through peaceful demonstrations and gatherings. So I made four small burmese bells the protagonists of the first movement. Following the utopia these little and soft instruments would contain the magical powers to silence the big orchestral tutti, the roaring of an world in anger, with there beautiful and intimate sounds. Those four bells thus build the wholce harmonic material for the entire piece.
Notturno I refers to a sleepless night in San Diego, in which a mocking bird kept me awake with his relentless and beautiful song. I was listening for hours and tried to find melodically structures and phrases to identify. Later I learned that these birds have a special ability to transform surrounding sounds into their songs (e.g. cars, lawn mowers …). In my night music I didn’t want to transcribe the mocking bird’s song in a way we would know from Messian for example, I rather tried to catch the special atmosphere of that night and make use of some rudimental patterns of the bird songs to create a microtonal, floating and suspended music. In a short percussion cadenca, the connection to the bird songs seems more obvious.
Steine/Solitude I (Berceuse) is in comparison to the precedent movements rather playful. The titel Berceuse seams to fit as the soloist improvises with several ball cradles also known as Newton’s Cradle. Small decorative items used to be found on office tables in the 60’s. The soloist must try to keep all three cradles in constant motion while adding rhythmical patterns. The orchestra percussion section accompanies him with a pulsating stone music.
The playfulness wears out quickly and we experiences in Souvenir II the brutal force and the violent potential that these stones also contain.
In Solitude II (imaginative place) the space opens for a totally different sound world: live recordings found in the left-behind things of my sister which frequently travelled to Afghanistan as a journalist and was tragically shot and killed there, together with her partner, in a nocturnal riot in 2006. These recordings create an almost surreal atmosphere expanding softly out of the roaring orchestral tutti. Far in the background a piece from Schumann’s Kinderszenen (Kind beim Einschlummern) is hidden in a formidable and beautiful recording by the great Clara Haskil, which shimmers through the soundscape, electronically modified with several rhythmical filters to resemble the sound of church bells and only to be heard in the original for a very short moment.
Later in Solitude II the Schumann piece will be laying the structure for the soloist’s actions as he sings the piano piece to himself in silence and accompanies him with soft metal sounds, totally detached from the orchestral music. In the very end the strings glissandi dissolve in a vibrating, sizzling sounds - maybe a window to reality.
Souvenir I (Rangun) - Souvenir II (Notturno) - Solitude I (Berceuse) - „Steine“ - Souvenir III (REM) - Solitude II (Geträumter Ort) - Notturno II /Solitude III
PREVIEW / ORDER (Score: 25 € / Orchestra parts: 60 €)
[WP 2daysand2nights New Music Festival Odessa, Ukraine]
This piece focuses on different levels of sound and rhythmical energy …a high wire choreography as chamber music thrill.
AUDIO SAMPLE (Soundcloud-link) / PREVIEW / ORDER (Score: 12 €)
[WP Ravensburg, Germany, Trio Belli-Fischer-Rimmer]
The pleasant call to write for your own group made it possible much more than during the usual compositorial process to seek for an experimental attitude as I knew some part of the piece would only evolve and develop during our rehearsal process. This way of composing seemed logical as some developments were structurally set but left open in terms of timbres and detailed sonic formation to be decided in the mood of the moment on stage. When it was obvious that my new pice should be the opening for our concert, I was reflection on the purpose of the overture genre and decided to create a rather ‚tragic‘ overture that goes kind of wrong and turns the whole purpose of a overture into nonsense. All musical processes break up or get stuck. The initial idea for the erratic and chaotic structural plan came from playing flipper machines: always changing, chaotic combinations while the beginning is always the same. The use of an old banjo and a harmonica for the percussionist are references to country, folk and blues and also a secret bow to the wonderful and astonishing sound world of the great Tom Waits.
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[AW für Leibnitz Trio, WP Göttingen]
Comissioned by the Leibniz Trio I wrote this piece during some grey and rainy november weeks. The title is a quote from Rainer Maria Rilke’s poem „Herbst“ (autumn):
Die Blätter fallen, fallen wie von weit,
als welkten in den Himmeln ferne Gärten;
sie fallen mit verneinender Gebärde.
Und in den Nächten fällt die schwere Erde
aus allen Sternen in die Einsamkeit.
Wir alle fallen. Diese Hand da fällt.
Und sieh dir andre an: es ist in allen.
Und doch ist Einer, welcher dieses Fallen
unendlich sanft in seinen Händen hält.
Similar to a light pencil drawing I sketched out a soft and tender music that carefully wanders from one sound to another. A translucent web is built from single impulses and few pitches of the three instruments. Melodically they follow a extremely slow and stretched pitch fragment taken from a traditional german lullaby „Der Mond ist aufgegangen“. Very subtle, the music start to develope and moves forward in a spiral-like acceleration with rhythmical flow to vaporate in a last energetic impulse. It is the first piece I tried to find new ways of harmonic structures as I tried to search very intuitively, sitting at the piano and just combine single notes and listen. Being a percussionist, it seemed to be the same working process like choosing the right spektral character of cymbals or triangles for a special mix of timbres. This method proved to give me very interesting results and a new sensitivity for harmonic relationships.
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[WP Hundisburger Musiksommer, Johannes Fischer]
The snare drum is the core instrument of our huge collection of sound items and I was always thinking of giving it more focus in my solo repertoire. That’s why I invented „Air“, a piece that portrays the drum not only as a rhythmical instruments but tris to showcase it as a resonant body, a kind of amplification unit for all kind of astonishing sounds. The title refers to the physical aspect of sound production as the air between the two membranes start to vibrate after striking the skin but also ist connected with the latin expression „aria“ which can also be translated as song. My intentions where focused on make the body of my drum „sing“ with a broad variety of different sticks, mallets and playing techniques.
[AW des Kammermusikfest Lockenhaus, WP Nicolas Altstaedt und Johannes Fischer]
In antique greek mythology Argos is the name for and multi-eyed giant guarding Io on order of Zeus’ jealous wife Hera. His hundred eye balls are always awake and on the watch and never close together.
The legend tells that Hermes frees Io by soothing the giant with the sound of his flute and sings him into sleep only to cut off his head.
In times off internet, google earth, GPS and Big Data we have created our new, contemporary Argos. Satellite images can scan every inch of our planet, the pacific ocean is miked to detect military submarines, surveillance cams change the face of our cities, informations are accessible instantly and everywhere on the net. The business with data and information is a booming economy.
Big Data are high clouds of information statistical rendered and used for all kinds of algorithmic applications.
The individual is overwhelmed by tis constant stream of information and confronted with a never stopping stream of images, text and informations.
My music starts off very dense and complex, a sort of perpetuum mobile of collaged sounds starts to drown in it’s own structural density, dissolves and transforms into introversion and a narcotic soundscape. The energy of the beginning starts to bounce back and developes into a rhythmical and dense melodical climax with the electrified cello and several drums to implode into a dramatic coda in which a text by Jean Paul Sartre is recited by a cut and paste collage of Klaus Kinski’s voice while accompanied by shuttering sounds of wooden boxes.
AUDIO SAMPLE (Soundcloud-link) / PREVIEW (als PDF) / ORDER (Score: 12 €)
[WP Achern, Trio Belli-Fischer-Rimmer]
[AW des Bayerischen Rundfunks, WP ARD Contest Sept. 2014]
„Wolkenstudie“ was inspired by small sketches I discovered in an exhibition of works by William Turner several years ago. Those little fragments (cloud studies) on white paper show a very minimalistic and transparent use of paint and colour. They inhere a poetic and quite spontaneuos beauty.
Despite their subtle beauty and fragility, those cloud studies also have dark and menacing potential. In the larger paintings they often have sensational qualities of light, colour and motion, dark, misty or bright. I tried to translate the virtuosity and sensitivity of the brush strokes into the movement of fingers, hands, mallets and arms while playing.
I encourage every performer to seek for the maximum level of expression as colours and timbres of the instruments are concerned. The instrumentation might be specific but still there is plenty of room for experimentation and decisions to be considered individually. The tuning of the skin instruments needs special consideration, as any clear tonal or pentatonic relationship should be avoided. Yet all seven drums should have a destinctive pitched quality to their sound, specially the low congas and tumba and the frame drum.
The piece is structured in four tableaus: grey on white – green to blue – dark – red to faint orange.
They are to be considered as one piece and to be played attacca.
„Wolkenstudie“ was comissioned by the Bayerischer Rundfunk for the 63rd ARD International Music Competition in Munich 2014.
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The arrangement of selected piano pieces by Eric Satie for strings quartet was on my wish list for several years and I was lucky to get the possibility to make it happen together with the fantastic Armida Quartett at the Heidelberger Frühling Festival. I wanted to combine Saties short pieces with my own little sketches and miniature pieces functioning as preludes or interludes to make the collection of 14 pieces into a suite of approximately 20 minutes of music. I extracted some musical material from the Satie pieces to word as a structural DNA for my own music. I started to improvise over these little and original gems by Satie with a imaginative strings quartet in my head and thus came to several solutions and sound colours. Most of the compositorial work didn’t happen on the desk but rather in my head spinning sounds and ideas back and forth, mostly while traveling in the car or on planes. Little and spontaneous sketches that reflect Satie’s music on a very playful level. The lines between his and my music are blurry as it is a tender get together of several musical ideas and a deep bow to this fascinating artist.
It is told that while Satie used to walk home from Paris to his domicile ein Accueil in the early mornings he was sketching out most of his ideas, the title of my piece expresses the wish for such a early morning stroll together with the master.
PREVIEW / ORDER (Score: 15 €, Score and parts: 20 €)
[WP Konzerthaus Wien, eardrum percussion duo]
[AW Heidelberger Frühling, WP Sarah Maria Sun and Johannes Fischer]
The piece was commissioned by the Heidelberger Frühling Festival as part of a series of new pieces for voice and percussion that should find a contemporary connection to the old Heidelberg-based „Wunderhorn“ collection, a collection of folk lyrics and poems edited by Clemens Brentano und Achim von Arnim. My music however doesn’t refer directly to texts from this collection as I choose a more contemporary and poetic text passage from Paul Auster’s novel „City of Glass“:
„Each time he took a walk, he felt as though he were leaving himself behind, and by giving himself up to the movement of the streets, by reducing himself to a seeing eye, he was able to escape the obligation to think, and this, more than anything else, brought him a measure of peace, a salutary emptiness within…By wandering aimlessly, all places became equal and it no longer mattered where he was. On his best walks he was able to feel that he was nowhere. And this, finally was all he ever asked of things: to be nowhere.“
The piece jumps right into a whirlwind of sounds, audio samples from New York of the 80’s, the time when Auster wrote his novel. The soprano sings in very high register, producing sirene-like sounds while the percussionist pushes forward with complex and relentlessly pulsating rhythmical combinations.. After a while, the different sound layers blend into a oceanic breathing noisy drone that calms down and leads to silence. The percussionist sets a melodic-rhythmical layer on bell-like sounds to intonate fragments off the german folk song „Guten Abend, gute Nacht“ (part of the Wunderhorn-collection) on which the soprano start to hum along in an intimate and carefully improvised manner. A constantly shifting drum’n’bass groove establishes slowly and transports the softly spoken text passages before the pieces come to meditative tranquility and fades out.
AUDIO SAMPLE (Soundcloud-link) / PREVIEW / ORDER (Score: 12 €)
[AW Ensemble musikFabrik, WP musikFabrik Köln, Hannah Weirich und Dirk Rothbrust]
Ballroom, Lee Plaza Hotel (the ruins of Detroit) for violin with delay unit and electrified toy piano, e-guitar, stones, tenor drum and audio cassette player (all played by the percussionist) is inspired by a foot taken by Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre. Their photography portraits abandoned factories and grand hotels in Detroit, once the cradle of the booming american automobile industry. Today the times of economic growth and wealth are long gone; empty ruins, abandoned street are left behind like ghost towns an give a nostalgic reminiscence to the opulent and success-driven past, a touching and sad memorial of civilization history. My music reacts to the strong emotional and poetic impact of the photographs, turns a feeling into sounds that progress in very slow motion. Melodic fragments are reflected by the violin, musical artifacts, a waltzing figure of a beloved master shimmers through, a faint dance like circulating music starts, reduced to very little pitch material. The coda introduces a through the technical imperfections of an old cassette player deranged audio sample from Jim Jarmusch’s movie ‚Only lovers left alive‘.
AUDIO (for sale) / PREVIEW / ORDER (Score: 12 €)
[AW Third Coast Percussion, WP Notre Dame University, Third Coast Percussion]
'What is any ocean but a collection of drops' focuses on the one creative key element that performers and audience share during a concert: listening. I was trying to create an environment and space for listening, in a way one would listen to a rainstorm, a river, a forest, wind or the ocean. As the surface of any ocean consists of countless small particles, a snare drum roll is a similar phenomenon: creating a sustained sound that is formed out of many fast strokes in each hand.
The roll is, from where my piece departs. It explores different subtle sonorities that if amplified unfold sounds we are not used to hear from an instrumentation that everybody is that familiar with: a timpani, a bass drum and four cymbals. Although the performers' playing dynamics are very soft throughout the piece, the microscopical amplification creates a substantial drone-like quality.
Although there is tempo and pulse, it's more about the shapes and forms we hear and the process of a sound that is in constant modulation. The bass drum, in the center of the set-up functions solely as a loudspeaker as the sounds from the cymbals are infused into the drum through a transducer. Those low frequencies keep the bass drum head moving and resonating and create surprising distorted buzzing sounds with little objects put on the surface.
Yet there is no theatrical element desired, the architecture of the set-up, performers moving and gathering around certain instruments and some playing gestures might evoke associations of a strange ritual. I prefer to think of it as a laboratory situation.
As with all music I write and determine, I strongly believe in the spontaneous creative power and presence of it's performers and I couldn't be more confident in giving sounds to a group like Third Coast Percussion, thankfully knowing they would turn my ideas into something magical.
AUDIO SAMPLE (YouTube) / ORDER (Score: 10 €)
[AW des BBC 3 und der Royal Philharmonic Society, WP Leeds, Armida Quartett]
Having already collaborating with the Armida Quartet and knowing about their superb qualities I was more than happy when being asked by the BBC 3 and the Royal Philharmonic Society to write a new string quartet piece for them. I've always liked to know for whom it is I am going to write as most of the time it has strong effects on the outcome of the piece. While I have been working on several rather soft and quite melancholic pieces earlier this year, I definetely wanted to contrast these pieces with a vivid and energetic music. As percussionist, my musical origins are rather in the field of noise and experimental sounds as well as pulse and rhythm. So I wanted to give the quartet a little souvenir from "my world": small bird whistles immitating the sound of a sparrow. Referring to the german saying "mit Kanonen auf Spatzen schiessen" (to use a sledgehammer to crack a nut) and remembering the Armida's wish to somehow find a musical connection to "The Art of the Fugue" by J.S. Bach, the title "canons and sparrows" was born.
So while in the beginning of the piece, the perpetual rhythmical twittering of the bird whistles dominates the musical structure, the noisy and edgy atmosphere leads into a fast moving and energetic section with canonic and rhythmical spark. The music slowly looses its initial rhythmical drive and energy and progresses gradually into static, drone-like harmonies, miraculously finding it's way to one of the fascinating canons from "Art of the Fugue".
As the sound of twittering sparrows kind of stuck in my head while composing, the whole piece turned into a playful and sparkling capriccio.
/ PREVIEW / ORDER (Score: 15 €, Score + parts: 20 €)
[WP Edinburgh, Scottish Ensemble and Johannes Fischer]
Telemann's famous orchestral suites, Tafelmusik (literally, 'table music', or 'banque music') is commonly accepted to have been composed to accompany royal dinner parties and feasts. As a result, in many ways the suites have been stigmatised and labelled as 'funtional music' - although musicologists have worked hard to disprove the claims, highlighting the inspiring qualities of this superb music.
Out of the desire to bring Scottish Ensemble something from my Home, Hamburg, my initial thought was to take the first suite from Tafelmusik and start from there, re-composing a piece around the existing musical material. As a nod to this image of feudal dining that the original conjures, I decided to create a sound table to perform from as my 'instrument'. The table has a number of items and objects on it or attached to, all of which are amplified, with the amplified sounds creating an artificial reality which alternately contrasts or blends with the historic acoustical sound of the strings and harpsichord.
Another desire driving this specific piece was wanting to interact spontaneously with the other players. Although most of the music is written precisely, it also leaves enough breathing space for improvised freedom, creating a playful dialogue between musical partners.
I have used bits and pieces of the original Tafelmusik as samples with the intention of placing them in a completely new musical environment - but really, the other way the piece features is through inspiration. The rhythmical potential of the original has been a source of inspiration to other more contemporary rhythmical languages - drum'n bass, jazz, experimental electronica. In a way, this piece is a reading of the original from a contemporary perspective, looking for these surprising connections and similarities which span historical periods, performance practices, musical styles and fashions.
Ultimately, it's a very personal approach to the original Telemann, and I am super excited that the Scottish Ensemble were willing to give it a try and brought it to life so wonderfully on our tour in March 2017!
Baroque underground - Tafelmusik with a twist (on BBC website)
Music for electrified table and strings - a dining experience with Telemann (on Facebook)
PREVIEW / ORDER (Score: 20 €, Score + parts: 25 €)
[WP Hitzacker, Johannes Fischer]
The title of this piece can be understood as reference to the virtuoso and energetic orchestra fanfare 'A short ride in a fast machine' be American composer John Adams, one of the most-performed and succcesful orchestra pieces from the past 25 years. To maintain the balance of the universe, I developed a kind of anti-hero with few and simple instruments. The piece is dedicated to my first car, a black '83 Suzuki Swift called 'Fury', which I bought for little money from a fellow student.
This car was full of surprises and quirks and required quit an amount of improvisational skills and lots of patience in it handling.
The instrumentation is simple, only a small snare drum and a plastic petrol canister. Both sound sources are amplified thus we can listen to its sonic interieur and with the help of various experimental playing devices and a simple guitar effect unit quite astonishing sounds are being produced. Rattling, squeaking, groaning and wheezing its way through, the piece never really seems to catch momentum.
Being layed out as a work-in-progress, adding a toy piano and some foot-operated organ pipes to its instrumentation will be the next step in the creative developement.