Name: Ruediger Gleisberg
Occupation: Composer, multi-instrumentalist, producer
Recent release: Ruediger Gleisberg teams up with Bernd Scholl for five contributions to the compilation Secret and Mystery, out now via BSC/Prudence
Recommendations: A very difficult question ... there is so much wonderful music, literature and art that I find it difficult to name a title ...
If you enjoyed this interview with Ruediger Gleisberg and would like to find out more about his work, visit his official website. He is also on Instagram.
[Read our Bernd Scholl interview]
When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I started my music in the mid 80s - before that I played in a few bands. My first publication was in 1988 with "inZeit-outZeit".
At that time I was influenced on the one hand by bands like Yes and Genesis on the other hand by electronic music like Tangerine Dream.
I was fascinated by the wide world of sounds and working with them.
[Read our Steve Hackett of Genesis interview]
When I listen to music, I see shapes, objects and colours. What happens in your body when you're listening and how does it influence your approach to creativity?
I also feel this synaesthesia. With my eyes closed, I see the music in colours and shapes. In fact, I also have a separate colour in my head for each harmony, e.g. a minor.
The creative work is certainly not a purely intellectual process, but emotions play a major role and also drive me in my work.
How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?
I've always tried to get better and to get closer and closer to my ideal of my own sound aesthetics and complexity of the composition.
When I listen to old recordings today, I usually think that I would do it differently today or that I could have done it better at one point or another.
I'm very self-critical - maybe that's a good thing for further development.
Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.
In all modesty, I see myself as a composer; I'm not very good as an instrumental musician and I'm not very good at performing live either. My strength - and with it the sense of identity that you are talking about here - lies more in my creativity and imagination.
As a listener, this means that I encounter all kinds of music with curiosity and then analyze it in my head for composition, the structure of the sounds used.
Music is always interesting to me, even if there are of course styles of music that I prefer.
What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?
I can only speak for myself, but I suspect that other musicians feel the same way: I usually have an idea in mind before I sit down at the piano and then go to the studio. Sometimes it's a sound that inspires me or I hear music somewhere that fascinates and inspires me.
How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?
Originality and innovation are extremely important; Perfection is certainly also a matter of definition and timelessness often only becomes apparent years later.
The genius of a millennial genius like Johann Sebastian Bach was only recognized by very few people during his lifetime, years after his death his sons were more famous than he was and today no one would doubt his genius. Bands like Pink Floyd, which are among the really big today and have written music history, played the first concerts in front of a handful of people, but they didn't let themselves be irritated and their originality and innovation then contributed to the great success.
When I hear bands like Dream Theater I would use the word "perfection", but I also know that many people don't get into this music and consider the extremely virtuoso solos unnecessary.
What I personally find important is respect and openness for EVERY MUSIC. I think in our culture too much is awarded a numerical value, judged and condemned.
Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?
Studying music at university gave me the tools of the trade, for which I was later grateful.
In terms of my personal development as a musician, I don't have any particular strategies. I have found that staying true to yourself and your style of music is an advantage. Excursions into other music genres usually don't work.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.
I try to start my day with yoga, which doesn't always work. Then I also have a "normal" job, because I couldn't live off the income from my music (so I worked for many years as a teacher for music, German and philosophy at schools). So my life is not very different from the lives of most other people.
I don't always have as much time for music as I would like, sometimes only on weekends. Most of my colleagues, whom I know a little better, still have to do some job to stay afloat financially.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?
I do a lot of film music, but also commissioned work and then there are specifications.
In film music, it is the ability to sense what the director wants. When I see the film, I usually already have my own ideas in my head. I usually start at the piano with the first musical themes. Then I go to the studio and finally I hire other musicians, e.g. a cellist, who plays her part according to my specifications and that is then brought together in the final mix. Most of the time there are still requests for changes.
If I produce a piece for myself without specifications, then it is usually the case that I already have part of the music in my head, then implement it on the piano and then go to the studio and add more tracks, usually a piece has between 12 and 20 different tracks.
When I work with a colleague - such as Bernd - we send each other the soundtracks and then try to supplement the template appropriately. Sometimes I also write sheet music and pass it on to musicians, e.g. a string quartet.
Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?
I also played in bands as a teenager, but then came civil service, shift work in a rest home and then band rehearsals together became more difficult.
At the same time, however, the first affordable multi-track recording devices came onto the market and you could implement your own musical ideas. That impressed me.
How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?
Music influences our feelings like no other art form and is closely related to people and human history. However, the value of music, or rather the value that society is willing to give to music, has changed over and over again.
In the Middle Ages, musicians were not considered much, at best suitable as dance accompanists, but not considered serious work. In the second half of the last century, thanks to records, it was possible for musicians to become well-paid stars. Today the value of music has dropped radically again - most musicians only earn pocket money through download portals and much more.
But it is probably part of capitalism, the downside of which we are becoming more and more aware of, that one would like to have everything as cheaply as possible, preferably for free. The mentality of getting everything as cheap as possible has done massive damage ecologically, ethically and also culturally.
Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions has music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?
All of these themes mentioned, such as love, death, loss, etc., are associated with strong feelings and nothing can express and represent feelings as strongly as music.
Mozart's Requiem says in tones everything that we associate with death: suffering, mourning, pain, hope.
How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?
I can look at music scientifically by analyzing it, structure, key etc. But I find it difficult to explain the emotional effect scientifically, even if we already know what happens biochemically in the brain when we hear music. Conversely, I can't represent science musically and one would not associate science with differentiated feelings.
In my opinion, it would be good not to see music and science as opposites, but as disciplines which, despite their differences, are closely related to us humans.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you feel as though writing or performing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
I'm with you there. I enjoy cooking and cooking is a creative process not unlike the process of making music. I have an idea in my head, e.g. for a great soup, and by adding ingredients and spices, etc., I am getting closer to my idea in my head. Ultimately, almost every work can also contain creative elements.
It would be arrogant to place the musician's work far above other works. But of course my ability to express myself emotionally is much higher when making music than when I'm cleaning the bathroom ...
Music is vibration in the air, captured by our ear drums. From your perspective as a creator and listener, do you have an explanation how it able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?
I understand what you mean and yet I don't have an answer. That's the magic of music ...