Sweet sounds for the small hours

Pi­anist and com­poser Nils Frahm’s new al­bum is a tri­umph of af­ter-hours at­mo­spher­ics and tex­ture. Jim Car­roll gets a late-night min­i­mal mes­sage

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC -

You recorded Felt in your apart­ment at night with the strings on the pi­ano muf­fled with a piece of felt to pla­cate your neigh­bours. It sounds like a cy­cle of sounds for the small hours. Do you think the process was as im­por­tant for cre­at­ing that at­mos­phere as the com­po­si­tions? I al­ways try to think of mu­sic more in colours, at­mos­pheres and tex­tures. Sound and notes and dy­nam­ics are all equally im­por­tant. Some sounds couldn’t even be com­posed, they just ap­pear, like the hiss of an old com­pres­sor, the sat­u­ra­tion of a tape ma­chine. I be­lieve it is im­por­tant to be al­ways open for all those “con­trib­u­tors”, it can make your mu­sic bet­ter when you in­vite in all the ac­ci­dents and not-planned phe­nom­ena. You rec­om­mend that peo­ple lis­ten to Felt on head­phones. What are your favourite head­phone al­bums? I think my favourite head­phone mu­sic comes from David Dar­ling. His cello record­ings are dis­turbingly beau­ti­ful and the record­ing and the spac­ing of all the sounds is in­sane. How im­por­tant is the room in dic­tat­ing the at­mos­phere of a show and your play­ing? I be­lieve it is im­por­tant to al­ways ap­proach a sit­u­a­tion quite glob­ally. You can’t ex­tract a pi­ano from its room. You would rather in­clude all cir­cum­stances in your concert and not try to ig­nore cer­tain as­pects. When I play pi­ano at a rock’n’roll fes­ti­val, I play a dif­fer­ent show than in a quiet church. It’s some­thing I un­der­stood quite early – to be open to what sur­rounds you and get in a di­a­logue with it. You’re a fre­quent col­lab­o­ra­tor, work­ing with ev­ery­one from Peter Brod­er­ick to Ola­far Ar­nalds. What do you look for in a fel­low mu­si­cian be­fore work­ing with them? I look for courage and bold­ness in my con­trib­u­tors. I like play­ing with peo­ple who have a strong per­son­al­ity and mu­si­cal iden­tity, who let them­selves be guided by in­tu­ition and their hearts. There is a long list of peo­ple I would like to work with, but I be­lieve it would be a bad omen to state them all here right now. You have a real fondess for the ECM la­bel I think ECM did so much for acous­tic mu­sic in the last decades. It man­aged to melt all forms of in­stru­men­tal mu­sic with each other and cre­ate its own sound and it brought record­ing mu­sic for­ward so much. I love all Steve Re­ich re­leases, Eber­hard We­ber, Wal­ter Fähn-drich, Arvo Pärt, Valentin Sil­ve­strov and many more. Why do you think mod­ern clas­si­cal com­posers and play­ers like your­self have been get­ting so much at­ten­tion of late? To be hon­est, I try to not notice the buzz too much. Of course, I notice that the fol­low­ing for the mu­sic is get­ting big­ger and big­ger, but I am not al­ways sure why that is, I only know that we de­serve it. Ev­ery­one I work with or col­lab­o­rate with re­ally works so hard, with so much love and ded­i­ca­tion and I am happy that this is re­warded. It only seems fair.

On the other hand, we live in a time when-peo­ple are crav­ing a quiet, calm place, where they can re­flect, let their mind wan­der or just share some tears with the world. Things around us are get­ting much faster and more chaotic and in­stead of keep­ing up with all of it, peo­ple just want to hide from it some­times. That is what I do when I play. I dis­ap­pear from the world and live in a self-made uni­verse, where my mu­sic is just wait­ing for me, like a good old friend you can al­ways count on. What’s next on your agenda? More al­bums and col­lab­o­ra­tions? Al­ways. There is no de­sire to stop play­ing and writ­ing. I’m col­lect­ing ma­te­rial from live shows, I am about to re­lease a mini-al­bum called Screws, I’m work­ing with Anne Müller on a new record, I work for dance and bal­let pro­duc­tion, I do pro­duc­tion for mu­si­cians like Colin Stet­son, Sarah Neufeld, Lubomyr Mel­nyk and Sleep­ing Dog, and I will start writ­ing the fol­low up al­bum to Felt this year. Also, I’m about to re­lease an­other al­bum with FS Blumm. Nils Frahm plays Dublin’s Uni­tar­ian Church tonight

Nils Frahm: ‘I try not to notice the buzz too much’

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