giovedì 12 giugno 2014

Interview with Jonas Löffler by Andrea Aguzzi first part

The first question is always the classic one: how does it start your love and interest for guitar and what instruments do you play or have you played?

I started playing the guitar at a quite young age – with six years – and somehow (it is too distant to remember the exact circumstances) I was pretty determined to play just this instrument, there was simply nothing else in question for me. This determination stayed and I am happy my parents did not try to convince me of another instrument back then. Besides some not very serious attempts at the electric bass (in a school band) and the piano (in the conservatory) I never played any other instrument than the classical guitar (including some of its historical incarnations).

What was your musical training, with which teachers have you studied and what impression they left in your music? I know that you have studied with one of my favorite guitar player: Pablo Marquez ..

After a little less than two years in the local music school in my hometown close to Franfurt/Main (Germany) I started going to the conservatory of Frankfurt where I had lessons with Stephan Werner. Stephan is a fantastic person who has an incredible passion for teaching and an immense talent for working with children. I stayed with Stephan for almost nine years and I would say that his way of teaching and his profound musicality influenced me deeply and basically constitute the basis of my musicianship. In working with him (as with all my following teachers) there was never a boundary between instrumental technique and music, it was always one thing: The music and its emotional content always formed the center of attention. In 2006 I started studying at the Darmstadt Music Academy with Olaf Van Gonnissen. With Olaf I learned to have a much more independent way of working, moreover, with him being an avid performer of historical instruments, he encouraged me to work with the historical sources of the music I was working on and to perform them on the original instruments of the respective epoch. After finishing high school, I went to study with Pablo Márquez in Basel (Switzerland). Pablo is an incredible musician who sees things from a wider perspective (being also a conductor and a respectable pianist) and has very clear musical ideals. Transparency and balancing of voices and the conscious shaping and use of specific sound qualities and colors are at the center of his teaching and I believe that I have learned a lot from him in these respects (along with many other things). While studying with Pablo I also had regular lessons at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis with the lutenist Hopkinson Smith, partly on the baroque guitar, partly on the classical guitar. His (amazing) lessons were often build around the insight that many times one has a very clear conception of the music already in her or his mind and as soon as one realizes that, bringing the idea on the instrument is not a big step anymore. After finishing my Bachelor's degree I continued to study with Stephan Schmidt in Basel. Stephan is also a fabulous musician and a great person as well as a very sensitive pedagogue. My lessons with him gravitate many times around focusing all the bodily energies used for playing into the music itself instead of wasting them for big movements of the hands or the whole body. Also, talking about music and the guitar with Stephan provoked many thoughts in me that I would not want to miss.

You have realized “Terra”, your first cd, your first recording, can you tell us more about this record? Why this title and this repertoire ….? 

At some point in the last year, after playing several concerts and competitions, I realized that I had quite a nice repertoire at hand that was worth to be recorded. I had anyway planned for a longer time to make a new CD (I already recorded one in 2006, released privately) and decided to record a part of my repertoire at this point in April 2013. I found that the pieces, although they mostly had no obvious nexus, matched quite well in their contrasting features and their overall mood. That led me to emphasize these contrasts in the sequence of pieces on the record – the different musics appear like the manifold surfaces and appearances of the earth, hence the name Terra. Also, one of the central pieces recorded, Tristan Murail's Tellur, is essentially composed around that very concept and also carries the earth in its name, tellus being a latin synonym for terra: Tellur is built on the constantly changing and in itself harshly contrasting sounds of one instrument: the guitar.

Berio in his essay "A remembrance to the future" wrote: ".. A pianist who is a specialist about classical and romantic repertoire, and plays Beethoven and Chopin without knowing the music of the twentieth century, is also off as a pianist who is specialist about contemporary music and plays with hands and mind that have never been crossed in depth by Beethoven and Chopin. " You play both traditional classical and contemporary repertoire ... do you recognize yourself in these words? 

I would not be as orthodox. I do not understand why the supposed “border” between “traditional” and “contemporary” repertoire is often stressed so much. Especially given the fact that many of the pieces regarded as “contemporary” are anything but contemporary and many times are already as much as half a century old or older and themselves became part of a certain tradition. Also given the plurality of styles within so called “classical” music in the 20th century I do not understand why it should be helpful to know Chopin for an interpreter of Steve Reich's minimal pieces (and vice versa). At the same time knowing many styles of music is without doubt helpful to gain a certain mental flexibility that surely is helpful for approaching different kinds of music. While Berio apparently had the so called grand tradition of European music in his mind, I would try to be less (or maybe differently) ideological and say that it somehow helps to play different kinds of music. These might be Bach, Georgian vocal polyphony or German Schlager: it does not really matter for me.

What does improvisation mean for your music research? Do you think it’s possible to talk about improvisation for classical music or we have to turn to other repertories like jazz, contemporary music, etc.? 

I would not consider myself an improviser as I have to little experience in that field. From the experiences I have (mostly in the field of so called free improvisation) I can say that again this helped me to gain more flexibility in playing composed music. Classical music is full of improvisatory aspects that many musicians just don't classify as improvisatory: Starting from different room acoustics that are to be dealt with, to chamber music situations and to the occasional mistake that happens while playing. All these aspects (and many more) demand an improvisatory flexibility from the musician that is, as I would say, not very different in nature from that of a jazz musician or any other improviser.

What’s the role of the “Error” in your musical vision? For “error” I mean an incorrect procedure, an irregularity in the normal operation of a mechanism, a discontinuity on an otherwise uniform surface that can lead to new developments and unexpected surprises ...

If there was something like a human condition, I think that the error would be a big part of it. As errors happen everywhere where humans are at work, they are also a big part of music. For me errors in any form sometimes inspire new ways of working, sometimes, in case they repeat, they require a rethinking of the method in use and sometimes I don't even realise I did a mistake. In my own playing and musical thinking I tend to not give them a lot of room. Ideally I don't see practicing as a way to avoid errors but rather as a way to get to and to understand the center of the music. If you get there, mistakes do neither matter to me nor (ideally) to the listener.

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