You’re a lucky man

I visited Sydney, Australia, when a composition of mine was performed there during the World New Music Days 2010. After the concert a journalist from New Zealand asked me where I was from, originally, and I answered that I grew up in a little town in Germany called Donaueschingen.
‘Oh, you’re a lucky man!’, the journalist said.
The funny thing is that while I was growing up there, it would have never occurred to me to look at it like that.

In Donaueschingen, you see, there is a legendary festival of contemporary music where many a modern masterpiece has had its first performance. Sitting in those concerts as a teenager, though, the music seemed super weird, as seemed the audience, grey-haired guys studying scores while they were shuffling about our small city, people who had come from far away to listen to this eccentric stuff.
I didn’t understand anything of what was going on in that music, I wasn’t a classical guy, normally I was listening to the Beatles and I had just discovered Chick Corea and ECM, but there was something in this contemporary music that I seemed to recognize.
It sounded like music I often heard in my dreams, when I slept.
When I found Zappa, I saw how these two seemingly separate worlds could be connected. I was fourteen when I heard ‘We’re only in it for the money’ for the first time.
And hadn’t also the Beatles already pointed in that same direction with ‘Revolution No. 9’?

Contemporary Collective im Museum Artplus (photo: Ralph Brunner)

Performing at the Donaueschinger Musiktage myself, finally in 2015, felt like a circle coming round. With my Contemporary Collective we managed to create exactly the kind of music I had been pursuing for all these years in between: soundscapes, improvised dialogues between some of my favorite instruments, the bass clarinet, the cello, the electric guitar and my keyboard department, based on a ‘Parameter Chart’ I had devised.
With the right kind of musicians and the right kind of chemistry between them, these results can be achieved in improvisation: anything can happen, surprising turns of events, the sense of spontaneity and forward motion, always vibrating with life and the intensity of the present moment.

This is what we are doing nowadays and will be doing also in 2019 with my trio F# and the Hille-Könighofer Experience. These are live music installations, music that can happen only once in exactly the same way.

 And this is what I am aiming at in my composed music as well. I would like my composed music to sound like it were improvised, and my improvisations like they were composed.
The same intensity, the same spontaneity, the same sense of uniqueness in the present moment – but written down, so that it should be possible also for other musicians to bring this music to life, even if I’m not around myself.
This is where the Sid Hille Camerata comes in, a chamber music ensemble performing my compostitions, with a string quartet at its heart.
After the success of our CD ‘Farbformen’ (being nominated for ‘Record of the year 2017’ by the national broadcasting corporation YLE and being voted the audience’s favorite), the year 2019 will bring a cooperation with the fantastic mezzo soprano Virpi Räisänen.
Virpi commissioned a new piece from me, which I will start working on in February and which is due to be premiered in autumn 2019.

More news from the composer’s shed include a short piece for cello ensemble in January, a solo piece for decacorde (the ten-stringed guitar) sometime later in spring, and the almost finished piece for bass clarinet and chamber ensemble (a tentet with several of my favorite instruments, strings, piano, percussion).

I’m a lucky man, I guess, getting to do exactly what I dreamed of, in those days in Donaueschingen, a long time ago!

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