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?
Music is always there already. First, I try not to be in it's way. On stage I dismiss all thoughts like “oh, what will the audience think of the performance” etc, but I try to hold on to the musical string which is present in the room at all times. This string is like fog. If one tries to grab it, it is gone. One has to gently guide it and shape it in the desired direction.
Of course, there is always the little monkey in your head talking and talking and talking. But that's ok. That's just what the little monkey in our heads is doing. It can be a great companion and the source of inspiration but on stage it can be disturbing. So I have a simple trick; I keep the monkey busy by feeding it. Since it is impossible to think of two things at the same time I think of what's most present in my playing anyway: The melody! When I do that, I dismiss all bad thoughts and reach a state of flow which lasts throughout the concert in the best way.
At home while composing I keep the process as playful as possible. Finding the scales is a technical process which takes a great deal of preparation, almost as long as the process of composition itself. This is very technical and inspiration is only a minor part. But once I start composing I don't think about the theoretical background, I just think of form and listen to myself play at the microtonal keyboard. Distractions are also present then, but my time is very precious, so this helps me focus.
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
I make use of electronics because I have to. Not because I want to. It is a necessity in order to produce the microtonal harmonies. But I consider my music to be acoustic. For Mikrojazz (released on RareNoise Records, co-led with David Fiuczynski) and for my prior projects, I wanted them to sound this way. So the electronics I am using are just a side thing. The musician shouldn't be aware of them or get disturbed by them. When electronics are more evolved and complex I feel like they become a separate instrument which needs to be mastered. This takes years of practice and I've often noticed that electronics can be in the way between the musician and the audience. But I think using electronics is a great thing happening in today's music because all these possibilities exist, so it is understandable to make use of them. So electronics can enable creativity once they are truly mastered and can be played like an instrument.
It is important for me that electronic instruments sound natural. The software I am using now (Pianoteq) sounds very natural, especially the electronic instruments such as Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer but also vibes. I am not sure if I would recognize them as being artificial in a blind fold test.
Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments, contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work? Can you describe the co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
There is no such thing as co-authorship between my tools and myself. The way I compose is very traditional. I play on the piano and sometimes the saxophone and find my melodies there. I am not using any tools contemporary composers use. I aim for my music to be heard, felt and executed in the same manner of originality and humbleness.
How do you see the relationship between sound, space and performance and what are some of your strategies and approaches of working with them?
I would like to define music as “sound in relation to time”. I want sound to develop itself in the room. This requires time and enough space. Microtonal harmony is in close relation with rhythm and the speed of the music. These harmonies ring in the room in a defined speed. This is also an approach to composition.
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? What happens to sound at its outermost borders?
I am not synaesthetic so I cannot tell about any connection to other senses.
But it is reported that people often see pictures when listening to my music. And indeed, I find the similarity of composing music and composing a painting quite prominent. So I am composing musical pictures.
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?
I am an open minded and responsible person taking part in society. I reflect on the world and express it by my music. Art is always in a dialogue within society. History has proven often enough how an individual is able to influence and change the world. The way I see the world and how I want it to be in the future is best expressed through my microtonal music. I am very happy now that people all over the world are able to listen to it. I feel very humbled by their response that for some it has changed the way they view the world. By showing them a new world of sound it has changed the way they perceive everything else. I am happy to be one of the many artistic voices who are helping to make this world a more harmonic one for everyone.
It is remarkable, in a way, that we have arrived in the 21st century with the basic concept of music still intact. Do you have a vision of music, an idea of what music could be beyond its current form?
The Internet caused society to change and adjust at an astronomical speed. We are getting a boost of technology like never before in the history of humankind. It has changed the world we live in. Music naturally corresponds to that. Look at all the music genres founded in the 20th century! And existing today! Music is as alive as its musicians which are spread all over the globe and connected almost in real time. This is truly a glimpse of the musical Utopia happening right now. So microtonal jazz music does seem to be just a logic consequence in the end, doesn't it? Music will continue to change and develop in all directions at the same time. There will be mainstream music. Always. Beyond that, listeners have already found a universe of people and sound! And microtonality is opening up these possibilities to an undiscovered extent.