Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
My name obliges: I am a real night owl. [Dominik's family name translates to Owl Mountain]
I always go to bed around 5 o'clock in the morning. At night in the dark, when everything is asleep and the moonlight is reflecting on the lake outside my window, I can just work best. I don't have a real morning routine, at most I drink coffee, eat a bowl of fruit and watch the birds.
I don't have fixed schedules either, they constrict me in my natural flow. I'm not only a musician, I'm also active in many other fields: book author, scientist, game developer, etc. These are all creative projects and processes that influence each other very positively. I always work on the things I feel like doing. Convenience is biological efficiency. When I've been writing for a few hours, I really feel like making music again. Other areas of the brain are active and this balance is very stimulating.
Besides, for me, one always intertwines with the other. I also use my music for my work as a biologist, for example for nature documentaries for TV and cinema or science communication projects, for example in museums, and on the other hand I always use my science as a meta-level and concept for my music.
Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
In the 90s I had two great passions: techno and nature. The realisation of combining both passions and not having to be forced to choose one was actually the most groundbreaking thing.
On the one hand, because nature is an inexhaustible cornucopia of inspiration for me, and on the other hand, music is a wonderful, low-threshold and pleasurable vector for sensitising our fellow human beings to our homeland, nature.
I really got started with my debut album "Flora & Fauna" in 2003. It felt so wonderful to be able to send biological and musical outpourings into the world at the same time.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
I think a state of awake relaxation is the most useful state for sustainable creativity. There are various tools for reaching this state: contemplative observation of nature for example, without the pretension of wanting to change anything, walking in silence or meditation. Doing something completely different artistically, such as painting a picture, can also open the door to creativity.
The important thing is to enter a state of calm. When I am in this transcendental state, every impulse I feel, no matter how small, can unfold freely on this smooth surface and create waves, set processes in motion. If, on the other hand, the sea is too effervescent from the haste of everyday life, you can throw a skyscraper of impulses into it, it will not create waves, but will be relentlessly swallowed up by the roaring masses of water.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
Everything is oscillation. According to the superstring theory, there is no matter, only oscillations, and music is nothing else. It has this tremendous power.
Our tonal long-term memory is still the reason why some music makes us happy and some music makes us sad. We usually perceive minor tone sequences as gloomy, major tone sequences as clear, radiant and happy. Today, although we have a highly complex language and the most modern communication channels such as mobile phones, e-mail and the internet, we still understand these messages. This perception has passed into our genes in such a way that even people who have never had contact with Western music understand it. Music, then, is a global language, understood similarly throughout the world and used on different occasions in similar ways and with remarkable universality.
Music, moreover, can be seen as the social glue of our society. Through singing, making music and dancing together, the group feeling was and is strengthened, the basis of our society. Humans are herd animals who want to be seen and merge with their group. Even the brain waves of those making music oscillate in unison. Our body rewards this with the release of the happiness hormones endorphin and dopamine. After a while, serotonin and noradrenalin are added, which have an antidepressant effect.
Music relaxes, balances the emotions, makes you more awake, more efficient and attentive, happier. It also leads to the formation of defence substances, such as immunoglobulins. Music has also been proven to have pain-relieving effects. Patients undergoing surgery with partial anaesthesia need less anaesthetic if they listen to music during the operation. Even on the day after a concert, our dopamine receptors are even more active than usual and literally crave more music. Music creates a real hunger for more music that makes us happy. So music can be truly addictive, like a drug.
The happiness hormone dopamine, which is released so abundantly when we listen to music, is only produced by our body as a reward when we do things that are essential for our survival and ensure the transmission of our genes - for example, when we eat or have sex. From this we can conclude that, from an evolutionary-biological point of view, music is relevant for survival.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
Here, too, "open science" should apply; free access to all resources for everyone. We share one planet and will only be able to solve all future problems as a collective.
In general, however, we need more respect in our dealings with each other, an acceptance of difference, because colourful diversity is the elixir of life. Diversity is not a theoretical thought construct, but a practical principle of nature for the preservation of life. I think respect and fair appreciation are also essential in the field of sampling, especially when it comes to respecting copyright.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
A big problem of nowadays is: we don't listen properly anymore and this on so many levels. In a hyper-visual age, we forget that our hearing is our best developed sense organ. The first to be developed in the womb and the last to be extinguished when we die. But we neglect our super sense. We torture it with low quality MP3s from shabby cheap headphones.
It makes sense that the hearing sense is our most elaborate sense, because our ancestors could not see but hear whether a predator was lurking behind the bushes or not. Many wonders of nature can only be discovered by listening. If you want to marvel at the enchanting iridescent blue of a kingfisher, for example, you should memorise its call and pay attention to its sharp sounds.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
Yes, that leads us to the question: What is art?
For me personally, art is not something that serves a pure practical function, but something that makes something resonate on a meta-level, something that is meant to broaden the horizon. It really just depends on this information, not on its actual materiality.
I think that as an established artist with a wide reach and high profile, you should feel an obligation to use your power, with the stages that are offered to you, for meaningful, humanistic aims.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
Friedrich Nietzsche already said: "Without music, life would be a mistake". And indeed, music is indispensable for becoming humankind and for our prehistory.
Because music is older than language. We know today that when we make music, the oldest part of our brain, the brain stem, is active. When we speak, only a younger lateral lobe is active. We have a vocal organ that enables us to emit sounds over three to four octaves, but we only need one to speak. Stroke patients are often no longer able to speak, but they can still make music.
All these indications point to the fact that humans were already making music before they developed language. Emotions and feelings were communicated with tone sequences from the larynx, similar to what animals still do today. This archaic sensation in the deepest and oldest parts of the brain that we perceive in music therefore says more than a thousand words.