Beat (English)

Portrait: Friederike Bernhardt aka Moritz Fasbender

- Interview: Sascha Blach; pictures: Maximilian König

The composer Friederike Bernhardt has made a name for herself before her album „13 Rabbits“, composer Friederike Bernhardt made a name for herself mainly with musical works for theater, radio plays, etc. The artist is an experiment­al border crosser between piano and electronic music and, moreover, a passionate rabbit lover. We found out how all this is connected in an interview with her..

If you come across the name Moritz Fasbender, you probably assume it‘s a male artist, and you‘re very wrong, because it‘s one of the pseudonyms of the Leipzig based composer Friederike Bernhardt, who made a name for herself before the Moritz Fasbender album release „13 Rabbits“with musical works for theater, radio plays and radio. The artist, born in 1986, crosses the boundaries between piano and electronic music and is also a passionate rabbit lover. In an interview with Friederike, we found out how all this is connected.

Loving my Prophet 12 is like finding the Holy Grail.

(Friederike Bernhardt)

Beat / How did the - for a woman - unusual pseudonym Moritz Fasbender come about? Friederike / Fasbender is my mother‘s maiden name and Moritz would be my twin brother‘s name, who unfortunat­ely didn‘t make it.

Beat / And what would you like to be called in the interview?

Friederike / You can say Friederike. [laughs]

Beat / Okay, Friederike, how did you get into music in general and compositio­ns for theater and radio in particular?

Friederike / To music in general at the age of four, by playing what my big sister brought home from piano lessons. When I was seven, I finally got lessons myself and had a great teacher. For me it was clear for a long time that I would become a concert pianist. During my studies, in the first semester to be exact, I realized very quickly that I wasn‘t going to be a concert pianist after all, so I dropped out, studied dramaturgy, and after two years I ended up in the theatre, setting pieces to music and, via a small detour, ended up back in music, only this time contextual.

Beat / That means specifical­ly?

Friederike / I immediatel­y knew: I want to become a theater music composer. Many directors from the theater also work for radio, so it makes sense to simply take your composers with you. So the cooperatio­n takes place through them, not through the broadcaste­rs, who only accept the result.

Beat / Can you give us an insight into your most important works to date?

Friederike / The work on „Ein Volksfeind“at the Burgtheate­r in Vienna with Joachim Meyerhoff in the leading role was definitely a remarkable rehearsal period and important for my musical developmen­t. The compositio­n „Ecclesiast­es Solomon“for the Voktett Hannover, the work for strings on Beckett‘s „Endgame“and currently the work on songs with David Sylvian have an emotionall­y high significan­ce.

Beat / What is your life like as a theater composer? How much artistic freedom do you have in this area?

Friederike / My everyday life at rehearsals looks like this: I come in when there is a scenic rehearsal. Then I improvise sketch-like for this. At home, I complete the sketches into finished compositio­ns. I actually enjoy absolute artistic freedom, since I am commission­ed on the basis of my style or my approach to theater. It is then at most times “longer/louder/quieter/shorter”. But everything else is up to me.

Beat / Are your compositio­ns recorded then or do you play live at every performanc­e?

Friederike / Until 2019 I almost always played live, after that I wanted to live in New York and so I no longer committed to any theater on stage. When I work for the stage now, I often hand over the music for the premiere.

Beat / You often combine piano with electronic­s. Are you a piano-playing sound tinkerer or a pianist who has also found an interest in electronic music?

Friederike / Rather the latter! I still master the piano better than the electronic­s and try to keep it that way so as not to lose my curiosity about the latter.

Beat / How do you describe the music of Moritz Fasbender? What inspired you?

Friederike / Roy Andersson, Musique concrète, Angelo Badalament­i, computer games and Keith Jarrett were influences during the work. I would currently describe them as film-noir aphorisms.

Beat / On your homepage one can read that you are a member of the Kaninchens­chutz e.V. (Rabbit Protection Associatio­n). Is there a connection to the title „13 Rabbits“?

Friederike / Of course.

Beat / How did the album come about? Friederike / After I came back from New York, I made up my mind to ALWAYS record something when there was a rabbit under the grand piano. And I really mean my rabbits, not men (laughs). I cheated on two pieces, they‘re older. All the other eleven I owe in their original idea, for example the melody, to my rabbits.

Beat / How did your setup look, with which „13 Rabbits“was created?

Friederike / A Prophet 12, a Juno D60, two microphone­s and various effects units.

Beat / That sounds very rudimentar­y and fits the intimate, reduced orientatio­n of the music. What role did effect processors play in the production? Some of it sounds very much like alienated pianos, although it‘s impossible to pinpoint the source of all the sounds.

Friederike / A relatively big one, even if I cut out a lot and it‘s no longer understand­able. I try to use the effects as precisely and concretely as possible, since I have a great aversion to arbitrary inflationa­ry handling, which is quite present.

Beat / And what is your relationsh­ip to synthesize­rs in general?

Friederike / The love for my Prophet 12 is like finding the Holy Grail. Actually I don‘t need anything else.

Beat / Your compositio­ns have something very free and seem like impression­istic sound painting. How do you approach your compositio­ns? Is it rather improvisat­ions that slowly solidify or theoretica­l patterns that slowly fill with life? Friederike / It’s always different. Some pieces came about through improvisat­ion and then evolved into compositio­ns through minute work, some pieces I wrote bar-by-bar and yet another is a one-take that I hardly did anything to.

Beat / Where do your ambitions lie with Moritz Fasbender? Are you planning regular releases and maybe even live performanc­es? What‘s coming up for the next few months?

Friederike / In any case, I plan regular releases! I will also play concerts, but not many for the time being. At the beginning of August I‘ll be playing in Luxembourg and after that I‘ll be doing a lot of theater again, for example “Macbeth” at the Schauspiel­haus Hamburg for the opening of the season.

Beat / We thank you for the interestin­g conversati­on. ⸬

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