Attendance at IKF opens up new prospects for Swiss musicians

The FONDATION SUISA and Pro Helvetia presented their joint stand under the banner “Swiss Music” for the first time at the 31st Internationale Kulturbörse in Freiburg, Germany. The results have been positive. Text by Urs Schnell, FONDATION SUISA

FONDATION SUISA: Attendance at IKF opens up new prospects for Swiss musicians

Mich Gerber appears at the 2019 Internationale Kulturbörse Freiburg. (Photo: Marcel Kaufmann)

Last year, the Internationale Kulturbörse Freiburg (IKF) celebrated its 30th anniversary with a Swiss focus. The FONDATION SUISA went along to see whether the most important trade fair in the German-speaking region for stage production, music and events would be the right place for Swiss musicians to be represented. There were repeated suggestions from the music scene that this could give rise to new performance opportunities on German stages and in small venues.

For years, the FONDATION SUISA has been involved in foreign music showcase festivals and music trade fairs, with the aim of promoting networking between the domestic music scene and international promoters and agencies. Following an in-depth assessment of the IKF’s potential, it thus seemed an obvious choice to implement the successful concept of a joint Swiss stand from 20 to 23 January this year in Freiburg for the first time.

Over the three days, the “Swiss Music” stand – in collaboration with Pro Helvetia – allowed artists and their agencies to connect with the vibrant promoter scene and, in particular, to meet promoters who operate outside the usual music network. Exchange with the Swiss music scene could especially open up new prospects for small theatres relying on a varied programme of fringe events.

Our joint stand allowed musicians and agencies to present themselves to a wide audience without having to hire their own expensive stand, allowing them to take maximum advantage of the IKF as a communication platform, marketplace and a place for development. Many saw the fact that IKF is not merely a music trade fair as a positive, offering potential new ground. Having the ‘Swiss Music’ stand right next to the entrance to the adjoining performing arts and street theatre hall was a major boost to visibility.

A wide array of extraordinary figures also appeared live on stage, with performances from Mich Gerber, Gina Été, the Postharmonic Orchestra, Moes Anthill, Bruno Bieri and Park Stickney.

Initial feedback on the first Swiss presence in Freiburg has been extremely positive. As a key meeting point for small and mid-sized stage productions in the German-speaking region, the IKF will also open up new opportunities for Swiss musicians in future.

For more information, please visit:
ikf.swissmusic.ch and www.fondation-suisa.ch/ikf

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The FONDATION SUISA and Pro Helvetia presented their joint stand under the banner “Swiss Music” for the first time at the 31st Internationale Kulturbörse in Freiburg, Germany. The results have been positive. Text by Urs Schnell, FONDATION SUISA

FONDATION SUISA: Attendance at IKF opens up new prospects for Swiss musicians

Mich Gerber appears at the 2019 Internationale Kulturbörse Freiburg. (Photo: Marcel Kaufmann)

Last year, the Internationale Kulturbörse Freiburg (IKF) celebrated its 30th anniversary with a Swiss focus. The FONDATION SUISA went along to see whether the most important trade fair in the German-speaking region for stage production, music and events would be the right place for Swiss musicians to be represented. There were repeated suggestions from the music scene that this could give rise to new performance opportunities on German stages and in small venues.

For years, the FONDATION SUISA has been involved in foreign music...read more

“Get Going” contributions and “Carte Blanche” awarded for the first time

As part of its new funding policy, FONDATION SUISA made four “Get Going!” and one “Carte Blanche” grants for the first time. A “Get Going!” start-up funding of CHF 25,000 each is allocated to Beat Gysin, Bertrand Denzler, Michael Künstle and the Duo Eclecta. The “Carte Blanche” amounting to CHF 80,000 is bestowed to Cécile Marti. Text by FONDATION SUISA

FONDATION SUISA: “Get Going” contributions and “Carte Blanche” awarded for the first time

Composer Cécile Marti is awarded the «Carte Blanche» of FONDATION SUISA which is allocated every two years. (Photo: Ingo Höhn)

As part of its new funding policy, FONDATION SUISA intends to react quickly to the fast-changing music scene. In the “inbetween” area, i.e. away from common genre, age or project categories, creative and artistic processes take place which threaten to end up in no man’s land when it comes to the current application process.

As a consequence, four “Get Going!” contributions with CHF 25,000 each have been offered as awards in June, for the first time. “With this annual bidding process, we try to locate creative places and artistic visions which deserve to be funded” said Urs Schnell, FONDATION SUISA MD. “As a consequence, the competition is kept open deliberately.”

With more than 90 bids, the “Get Going!” contributions have had an enormous response among music creators. “The expert jury hasn’t made it too easy for itself to select four recipients from the many highly interesting bids”, Schnell adds. From the description of the artistic purposes that are now funded, it is easy to gauge what this type of start-up funding actually is all about. “At the end of the day, music is about discovering new worlds time and again, to render items audible and tangible and to fathom new perspectives” according to Schnell.

“Get Going!” contributions 2018

The composer Beat Gysin, for example, creates architectonic spaces in the course of his “Leichtbautenreihe” (series of light structures), where unusual audio situations enable the listener new ways to perceive music. Gysin thus investigates the dynamic possibilities resulting from the relationship between space, music and the recipient/listener.

“Space” is also a concept that Michael Künstle is interested in. The composer of film and concert music pairs orchestral tradition with modern innovation in terms of composition and recording in order to create a space composition which becomes accessible in the form of a three-dimensional listening experience.

Saxophonist and composer Bertrand Denzler, on the other hand, locates new compository possibilities via a deliberate non-allocation of his creations to spaces. With a “migrating residence”, he attempts an improvisatory and compository exchange with foreign cultures. The constant dialogue with ever-changing influences is intended to show the way which eventually flows into compository results.

Andrina Bollinger and Marena Whitcher, aka Duo Eclecta, are strolling through interdisciplinary terrain. The singers, performers, multi-instrumentalists, producers and composers collaborate continually with other art forms in order to create new audible, visible and sensible worlds of experience.

“Carte Blanche” to Cécile Marti

The “Carte Blanche amounting to CHF 80,000 which is not offered as part of a bidding process but directly awarded by an expert jury every other year, is intended to enable music creators to focus on their artistic progress without suffering from financial pressures.

Those who have followed the creative career of Cécile Marti over the last years know that the artist originating from Zurich is a worthy recipient of this “Carte Blanche”. Especially her orchestra cycle, “Seven Towers” in 7 parts and for 120 musicians, which had its première concert performed by the SOBS orchestra in Biel in 2016, and has since its inception also been performed by the Berne Symphony Orchestra, the Geneva Camerata and the Basel Sinfonietta, has caused a sensation.

Simultaneously, Marti graduated with a dissertation on musical time course. The “Carte Blanche” now enables her to transfer her initial research in this area into an artistic context. Explored courses of time shall be made visible with the aid of a ballet and by way of sculptures (Marti is also a stone sculptor).

www.fondation-suisa.ch

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As part of its new funding policy, FONDATION SUISA made four “Get Going!” and one “Carte Blanche” grants for the first time. A “Get Going!” start-up funding of CHF 25,000 each is allocated to Beat Gysin, Bertrand Denzler, Michael Künstle and the Duo Eclecta. The “Carte Blanche” amounting to CHF 80,000 is bestowed to Cécile Marti. Text by FONDATION SUISA

FONDATION SUISA: “Get Going” contributions and “Carte Blanche” awarded for the first time

Composer Cécile Marti is awarded the «Carte Blanche» of FONDATION SUISA which is allocated every two years. (Photo: Ingo Höhn)

As part of its new funding policy, FONDATION SUISA intends to react quickly to the fast-changing music scene. In the “inbetween” area, i.e. away from common genre, age or project categories, creative and artistic processes take place which threaten to end up in no man’s land when it comes to the current application...read more

New support strategy: “We want to look ahead”

FONDATION SUISA reinforces its activities regarding the support of music in Switzerland and the Principality of Liechtenstein: Each year, four music projects shall be launched under the motto “Get Going!”, and every other year, a bigger amount shall be allocated to works under the slogan “Carte Blanche”. Text by FONDATION SUISA

FONDATION SUISA - New support strategy: “We want to look ahead”

With its revised support policy, FONDATION SUISA intends to locate new creative places and push new projects forward where music creators can exercise their creative ideas in the most unrestricted way possible. (Photo: Alberto Andrei Rosu / Shutterstock.com)

The Foundation Council of the FONDATION SUISA decided to reorient one part of its support policy and to open it up to new perspectives. By way of these actions, the foundation intends to recognise modern requirements against Swiss music creation more. Instead of looking in the rear view mirror, it will look ahead much more in future. Four conceptual projects and one work project shall replace the previous policy of granting an award.

Urs Schnell, Managing Director of FONDATION SUISA, said: “Instead of patting an artist on the shoulder by awarding them a prize after their success, we invest the money we have available with a focus on the future instead.” He adds: “We wish to promote instead of judge and thus increase our focus towards what lies ahead of us.”

“Get Going!” supports new projects

The so-called “Get Going!” initiative is a type of start-up funding. Four “Get Going!” contributions @ CHF 25,000 each will be made available each year. Music creators may apply for a “Get Going!” subsidy from end of June 2018 onwards. What’s important is that “Get Going!” does not compete with or affect any other support projects by FONDATION SUISA, in particular the current application system, existing partnerships, exhibitions and events abroad or the playing of music in classrooms.

Schnell explains: “On the contrary, they are an important start-up support and serve as a supplement to the existing types of promotion. We want to explore new areas for creation. Especially those outside existing pigeon holes which have been established in the support policy in the past. Even though they have proved themselves to be useful, they still contributed to the fact that certain projects end up being neither here nor there.”

Financial independence thanks to the “Carte Blanche”

Rather than being subject to a bidding process, the “Carte Blanche” is instead granted every other year by a jury of experts, and it amounts to CHF 80,000. The “Carte Blanche” is intended to enable the benefiting party to completely focus on their musical activities and creations over a longer period in time. “The promotion as well as the artistic development are in the focus of a “Carte Blanche” and less the result of the work on a specific work” – this is how Schnell describes the framework of this substantial subsidy.

With both support projects, FONDATION SUISA wishes to react to the fast-changing music scenes where innovative creative concepts fail time and again because they don’t fit into the prevailing regulations. FONDATION SUISA therefore deliberately renounces on current genre, age or project categories. “Get Going!” and “Carte Blanche” shall be accessible to as many musical and creative people as possible. Schnell concludes: “Music creators shall face as little restriction in their creative ideas as possible. It is in the ‘in between’ where conventional genre definitions fail, because they fall through the grate, that we wish to become active in future as constructive promoters and supporters.”

The new support policy of FONDATION SUISA shall apply with immediate effect. The first four “Get Going!” projects with CHF 25,000 each shall be opened for application at the end of June 2018. Information on the application will then be uploaded to the website of the foundation.

www.fondation-suisa.ch

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FONDATION SUISA reinforces its activities regarding the support of music in Switzerland and the Principality of Liechtenstein: Each year, four music projects shall be launched under the motto “Get Going!”, and every other year, a bigger amount shall be allocated to works under the slogan “Carte Blanche”. Text by FONDATION SUISA

FONDATION SUISA - New support strategy: “We want to look ahead”

With its revised support policy, FONDATION SUISA intends to locate new creative places and push new projects forward where music creators can exercise their creative ideas in the most unrestricted way possible. (Photo: Alberto Andrei Rosu / Shutterstock.com)

The Foundation Council of the FONDATION SUISA decided to reorient one part of its support policy and to open it up to new perspectives. By way of these actions, the foundation intends to recognise modern requirements against Swiss music creation more. Instead of looking...read more

“Intuition and emotional effect are more important to me than inflexible concepts”

FONDATION SUISA awarded Balz Bachmann the Film Music Prize 2017 for his original compositions for Wilfried Meightry’s film documentary “Bis ans Ende der Träume” (Until the end of dreams). Guest author Markus Ganz in an interview with Balz Bachmann.

Balz Bachmann: “Intuition and emotional effect are more important to me than inflexible concepts”

“Each film is exceptionally unique, that is why I look for a bespoke musical language for each film”, Balz Bachmann explains. (Photo: Patrick Hari)

Balz Bachmann, how did you get to create the film score for Wilfried Meichtry’s film documentary “Bis ans Ende der Träume”?
Balz Bachmann: It was the first time that I worked with Wilfried Meichtry. Plus, it was his début as a director; until now, the graduate historian had only been active as a scriptwriter in the film sector. We started chatting during the Solothurn Film Days and soon discussed film projects in general but also potential collaboration avenues. After further talks with involved parties, I received the script, read it and discussed with Wilfried Meichtry, the producer Urs Schnell (DokLab GmbH, Berne) and the editor, Annette Brütsch.

How exactly did you start your work?
Well, it was the classical procedure at first: I received some film material, sometimes just rough edits, so that I would get a feeling for the underlying mood. After that I started to create musical sketches and sent them to the cutters. We then took a look at the interaction with the image. The result was some sort of a ping pong game between my music and the cut, each of them reacting to the other and vice versa.

What was special about it?
I had to find a certain kind of dramaturgy for a complex combination of documentary and fictional image material. The challenge was to create an overarching dramaturgy for the entire film despite of this. It was a close collaboration between the editor, the director and myself in order to find out what is needed to achieve this. At the beginning we thought that 25 minutes of music should be enough (the film is 82 minutes long). We realised, however, that the image material was relatively static as it contained many photos, and had intentionally been staged this way, also in the fictional parts. As a consequence, we became aware that some sort of movement, another level was needed which co-told and commented on the story: more music.

Did you create a suitable sound library for the film score at the beginning of your work?
That would have been an interesting approach, but I went about it a different way. I have to try out in each case how the image and the sound work together. I try to sense with my intuition what happens to me as a viewer when I use certain moods, tones and musical themes. In the case of this film, I chose a broad tone range in order to make the different times and places perceptible. I also used diverse stylistic elements: classical parts with a viola, for example, but also those which related to the places in question, more musically than from a sound perspective. After all, I did not want to fall prey to the cliché of ethnic music.

“You have to develop a proper musical language for a film and that is only possible if you compose music specifically for this purpose.”

No ethnic Caribbean romanticism for the place where the two protagonists got to know and love each other?
Exactly, the music should be a narrative form in its own right, in which the place is resonating, yet is translated individually and separately. As a consequence, the range of the film score I have used stretches all the way to pure electronic music which creates a rather interesting contrast to the old woman, for example. I have been undecided for quite a while whether this might work, whether this might be plausible to the viewer. This applies to film score, similarly as it does to acting: You perceive a person and are taken in by it, without realising that the character of that person is just being acted. Parallel to that, music has to suck you into a film – that’s my top rule.

Have you used different musical settings for documentary and fictional material in order to illustrate the difference?
No, quite the opposite: I have tried to combine the two types of material and allow them to overlap. I wanted to create a fluent transition between the two, so that viewers transcend from the documentary into the fictional scenes without realising it.

What do you think of the two basic approaches of film score creation whereby it is either created to reinforce or contrast a theme?
I don’t like inflexible or purely theoretical music concepts, I love intuitive elaboration. Each film is extremely unique and represents its own world which is why I look for a proper musical language for each of them. That’s why film scores exist in the first place, even though there is already a plethora of existing music. But that is exactly my point: You have to develop a proper language for a film and that is only possible if you compose music specifically for this purpose.

Do you therefore also not work with “temp tracks” (a provisional soundtrack with already existing music to be able to test the effect of the existing film material)?
For a film composer like me, this is, of course, an emotive term (laughs). Editors in particular support the notion of creating a rhythm for the images or because they are worried that a scene alone is not enough to carry the mood. I do not think such arguments count because, in my opinion, the rhythm of images can be better perceived without provisional music. As a consequence I think it makes more sense if you create it “dry”, without temp tracks. There is, in my opinion, the rather interesting approach to compose film score purely on the basis of a script, without having images at all. As a composer, I can, in such instances, draw from my own vision and imagination which I have created after reading the script for this story. That gives me a lot of room and freedom.

You are then able to create an autonomous level which has not already been pre-influenced by images?
Exactly. The second advantage of doing this, is that you can work with music that has been specifically made for the script during the cutting process, and try out how the music works. The third advantage is that you maintain a high level of autonomy from the very start. After all, a major disadvantage of temp music is that it inevitably becomes a reference – especially for the director and the editor – from which it is hard to break away again. People connect the two levels, image and sound, automatically in an emotional manner, which is why it is so difficult to separate the two from each other later on.

“In a film documentary, the dramaturgy has to be developed in a different manner to a feature film, where the scenes and the dramaturgy are much more pre-established by the script.”

The soundtrack is always a means to support the viewer when the story is told. Do you connect characters and places with sounds and musical themes?
Yes, I use themes in nearly every film, they stand for something and are repeated, which helps the viewers with their orientation. If you have seen a scene with a certain type of music and the music is repeated at a later stage, you automatically and quickly get access to the next scene as it is connected through. As a consequence, it often serves as a starting point for a project that I hook into a place or a character. The more I engage with the character and allocate a certain musical theme to it, the more the film structure gets reinforced by this action, especially on an emotional level.

Does the majority of your work take place parallel to the cutting process?
Yes, that’s usually the case, but not to such a major extent as for the film “Bis ans Ende der Träume”. Here, the music and cutting process took place in synchronicity for nearly half a year, and the work was nearly finished at the same time. The reason for this was that the cut was leaning on the music much more than usual. In a film documentary, the dramaturgy has to simply be developed in a different manner to a feature film, where the scenes and the dramaturgy are much more pre-established by the script.

The collaboration between you and the editor Annette Brütsch was very intensive, I gather?
Yes, as it is a process where cutting and music react to one another. Have to react to one another, because there were extremely different thematic sections: for example the travelling, and the century-old Benedictine priory in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, where the woman later retires to completely – to a certain degree exactly the opposite, as she had enjoyed travelling to countries alone where women did not do so when she was young. We realised that the dilapidated house needed an atmosphere. But it was also clear that a melodic music would take up too much room, tell too much. I found it rather interesting at first how to deal with the ambient sound in the house. But I came to the conclusion that it’s not the room itself that makes the difference. The result was that I created a specific static sound for this house.

How did you meet the challenge of having to keep the suspense going for more than 82 minutes?
It is very important to watch the film as a whole during the screenings, since I only work on individual scenes. This is when you realise if there is something wrong with the rhythm of the film, as that is what matters. And we realised at some point that the viewer somehow fell into a hole when there was no music at all. That is how more and more music was added – now it is 60 minutes, which is a lot, especially as I prefer films with less music. But in this film, it simply made sense as it is an important element to convey emotion.

One and a half hours is not only the usual duration of a cinema film, but also of concerts. You are also active as a live musician, just like in the band of Sophie Hunger: Are there parallels?
Well, one factor that is certainly comparable whether it’s a performance during a concert or a film in the cinema: I am always nervous. I listen to music differently when an audience is present, my feelers are just opened much wider. That is different for a film such as “Bis ans Ende der Träume”: I had half a year’s time to create a dramaturgy.

Does your experience as a live musician also influence your work on sound tracks?
Absolutely. As a live musician, it’s all about moments of happiness where something special is being created. And that’s what I am looking for when I create film score, too.

Balz Bachmann (born 1971 in Zurich) is a trained printer and studied double base at the Swiss Jazz School in Berne. Since 1997, his main job has been to compose music for feature films and documentary films, among them “Yalom’s Cure” (2015), “Die Schwarzen Brüder” (2013), “Eine wen iig, dr Dällebach Kari” (2012), “Day is Done” (2011), “Giulias Verschwinden” (2009), “Sternenberg” (2004) and “Ernstfall in Havanna” (2002). Balz Bachmann is also an active musician and performs during many concerts together with artists such as Sophie Hunger and band. He is also President of Smeca, the Association of Swiss Media Composers.
Balz Bachmann had already received the Film Music Prize by FONDATION SUISA in 2003 (for “Little Girl Blue”) and in 2006 (for “Jeune homme”, together with Peter Bräker who, together with Michael Künstle was also involved in the development of the musical themes for the film in question “Bis ans Ende der Träume”). The award is valued at CHF 25,000 and is presented each year, alternating between the category feature film and documentary film.
The film “Bis ans Ende der Träume” tells the story of the Swiss travel journalist Katharina von Arx (1928 – 2013) and the French photographer Freddy Drilhon (1926 – 1976) in documentary and fictional sequences. They were adventurers, globetrotters and lovers. The couple settles down in a monastery ruin in the French-speaking part of Switzerland and soon faces the question how strong love is. The film is expected to be shown in cinemas in 2018.

Information on the Film Music Prize of the FONDATION SUISA
Video clip on the Film Music Prize 2017 of the FONDATION SUISA on Art-tv.ch

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FONDATION SUISA awarded Balz Bachmann the Film Music Prize 2017 for his original compositions for Wilfried Meightry’s film documentary “Bis ans Ende der Träume” (Until the end of dreams). Guest author Markus Ganz in an interview with Balz Bachmann.

Balz Bachmann: “Intuition and emotional effect are more important to me than inflexible concepts”

“Each film is exceptionally unique, that is why I look for a bespoke musical language for each film”, Balz Bachmann explains. (Photo: Patrick Hari)

Balz Bachmann, how did you get to create the film score for Wilfried Meichtry’s film documentary “Bis ans Ende der Träume”?
Balz Bachmann: It was the first time that I worked with Wilfried Meichtry. Plus, it was his début as a director; until now, the graduate historian had only been active as a scriptwriter in the film sector. We started chatting during the Solothurn Film Days and soon discussed film projects...read more

New Jersey, just south of Berne

Polo Hofer receives the FONDATION SUISA Prize 2017 in the category “lyrics author”. Christoph Trummer writes in his guest contribution about the factors distinguishing the works of the award winner from others.

New Jersey, just south of Berne - Polo Hofer FONDATION SUISA Prize 2017

Polo Hofer, winner of the FONDATION SUISA Prize 2017 has found his way into popular culture and has translated rock and roll as a way of life for the German-speaking part of Switzerland. (Photo: Patric Spahni)

If you wanted to be brief, you’d say: The FONDATION SUISA Prize is a recognition award for outstanding creations. In 2017, it will be awarded to a lyricist for the first time. Polo Hofer was nominated for the award. What else did you expect the jury should do?

Of course, we’ll gladly dedicate more than just these few words to this worthy award winner and his works.

Those who were born after 1970 and grew up in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, are likely to find it hard to imagine their schooldays, youth and life in Switzerland as such without Polo Hofer and his songs and lyrics. Some of his works, ranging from “Bin i gopfriedstutz e Kiosk” (“Am I a blimmin’ kiosk”) to “Bim Sytesprung im Minimum e Gummi drum” (“For that bit on the side as a minimum a condom”) have turned into one-liners; you cannot possibly imagine everyday language being without them. Even those whose parents don’t even own a Polo Hofer CD can sing along to “Alperose”.

Song lyrics turned into popular cultural assets

These lyrics are now part of popular culture, in the German-speaking part of Switzerland, for sure. Since his early days with the band Rumpelstilz, Polo’s discography has been serving as a means to tell the story of a rather eventful Swiss history. The “Summer 68”, when (apparently) it was the done thing to travel to Kabul to smoke weed. The wild 70ies, years of upraise, with Rosmarie to Spain, free love next to the “Teddybär” (“Teddy Bear”). The dark side of dreams in the form of a “Silbernaadle töif im Arm” (“A silver needle deeply plunged into the arm”). And already then, dulled by consumerism, in full swing with the “Waarehuus Blues” (“Warehouse Blues”).

Polo’s lyrics are, sometimes, explicitly political: “Da isch nüt vo Grächtigkeit / So wie’s i dr Verfassig schteit” (“Um WAS geits?”) (“There is no justice / as it’s written in the constitution”, song: “WHAT’s this about?”). He does, however, also narrate world history as a personal story, when an old love affair finally gets a chance as the Berlin wall comes down (“Wenn in Berlin bisch”) (“When you’re in Berlin”). Plus, he criticises society with role prose, whose poetry stems from conversations at the regulars’ table in the pub, for example when the farmer’s son of the Lochmatt sums up the empty promises of a life in the bright city lights: «Lah mi vergässe bim rote Wy» (“Let me forget with a glass of red”). That’s popular in its very essence, but it also has side effects.

Sometimes the loud role of Polo National smothers the fact that he also has other qualities as a lyricist. For example, when he ponders about his own mortality in “Im letschte Tram” (“In the last tram”) or when he negotiates the literal sense of God, all the world and his brother in “I dr Gartebeiz vom Hotel Eden” (“In the garden pub of the Eden Hotel”) without getting lost in intellectual deliberations.

Rock and roll – translated for Switzerland

Some of Polo Hofer’s great songs are congenial translations: Tom Waits’s “Jersey Girl” into “Meitschi vom Wyssebüehl” (“Girl from Weissenbühl” – a Berne suburb), Todd Snider’s “Alright Guy” into “Liebe Siech” (“My dear chap”), and Dylan’s “Leopard-Skin Pill- Box Hat” into “Schlangelädergurt” (“Snake leather belt”). With that, you find out about another one of Polo’s various roles, which make him so significant (not only) for music performed in dialect in Switzerland: He is a translator. Not only a translator of song lyrics but one of the most important translators of rock and roll and popular culture into our culture, into our customs and habits.

Polo Hofer has managed to turn desires, but also the lustfulness of the young with its pubescent obscenities, the rebellion against a stale and settled system, in brief: the rock and roll way of life for the German-speaking part of Switzerland into sound. D’Stüehl ewäg, mir sy giggerig u wei schwoofe (Get the chairs out of the way, we’re in the mood and want to dance). He was inspired by, and found some of his topics in the rock and roll catalogue of legends and brought it to Switzerland: We would probably not get into a ride with Bobby McGee on the highway, but hitchhike with Rosmarie from Paris to Gibraltar. Wyssebüehl is closer than New Jersey.

Polo Hofer as a central figure of our story has opened doors through which many others could pass, even if they didn’t even know his music at all. And now he receives an award for this work. As such, the FONDATION SUISA Award 2017 is a kind of “Lifetime Achievement Award”. We congratulate you from our hearts!

www.polohofer.ch

The FONDATION SUISA Prize is a recognition award for outstanding creations. FONDATION SUISA bestows this award to authors and publishers rendering outstanding contributions to the enrichment of the cultural heritage of our country with their creations. The award, valued at CHF 25,000.00 is granted in a different category each year.

Christoph Trummer won the FONDATION SUISA Prize 2011 in the category “Singer/Songwriter”. Our guest author was born in 1978 and grew up in Frutigen (BE). Apart from his musical activities, he is President of the Association for Music Creators Switzerland.

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Polo Hofer receives the FONDATION SUISA Prize 2017 in the category “lyrics author”. Christoph Trummer writes in his guest contribution about the factors distinguishing the works of the award winner from others.

New Jersey, just south of Berne - Polo Hofer FONDATION SUISA Prize 2017

Polo Hofer, winner of the FONDATION SUISA Prize 2017 has found his way into popular culture and has translated rock and roll as a way of life for the German-speaking part of Switzerland. (Photo: Patric Spahni)

If you wanted to be brief, you’d say: The FONDATION SUISA Prize is a recognition award for outstanding creations. In 2017, it will be awarded to a lyricist for the first time. Polo Hofer was nominated for the award. What else did you expect the jury should do?

Of course, we’ll gladly dedicate more than just these few words to this worthy award winner and his works.

Those...read more

Lyrics for a song: “Anything goes – if it has success”

The FONDATION SUISA dedicates its CHF 25,000 recognition award to lyricists of musical works this year. But what makes a song text a success? Guest author Markus Ganz in an interview with Jean-Martin Büttner

Lyrics for a song: “Anything goes - if it has success”

“Song texts usually don’t work on paper”, says journalist Jean-Martin Büttner. (Photo: Dominic Büttner)

Jean-Martin, what do you make of song lyrics including the line “A Wop bop a loo bop a lop bam boom”?
Jean-Martin Büttner: This is an example for coded song lyrics. “Tutti Frutti” by Little Richard secretly deals with black drag queens and sexual practices, at least in its 1955 original version. To understand this, you got to know that the singer had a triple disadvantage: Richard was black, gay and from the South of the USA. The American political scientist, Greil Marcus, explained its amazing effect rather accurately in an interview. Even if they did not understand the lyrics, listeners would still be able to sense from the mere joy of Little Richard’s singing that it was about something naughty. It might sound strange but this is a central part of rock music – not because it says something but because it expresses something.

In its book “AWopBopaLooBopALopBamBoom” which had become a classic in rock literature, Nik Cohn wrote in 1971 that these words “summarised what Rock’n’Roll really was about” rather masterly. He also wrote that Rock’n’Roll lyrics were some sort of a “secret code of teenagers”. Youth culture is, however, subject to constant change. Does this mean that these lyrics are caught in their era?
I believe that this applies to each set of song lyrics and also for many poems. Only the greats such as Shakespeare, Rilke or Dylan can write lyrics which transcend their own era. These lyrics by Little Richard are clearly trapped in its time, albeit because it had to be coded into nonsense in order to escape the censorship of white radio stations. Ironically, this also holds true for explicit, vulgar and drastic hip hop lyrics which don’t omit anything. Calling women champagne bitches and writing hymns about your own sneakers wears off extremely quickly.

What significance has this song text by Little Richard retained?
“Tutti Frutti” is a historic text. But you also have to understand that Nik Cohn had an anti-intellectual attitude vis-a-vis the interpretation of Rock’n’Roll. And that his book was one of the first on rock music. I still love it today because he wrote in such a radical style. Nik Cohn, who was an Irish Jew and thus an outsider from the beginning, wrote sentences such as those according to which there were never proper lyrics in Rock’n’Roll. I believe that he meant this as a provocation but not just that. It was his way of attacking artists such as Dylan or the Beatles which, in his opinion, had ruined Rock’n’Roll with their textual cockiness.

Is the act of ennobling the song lyrics by the Nobel Prize in Literature to Bob Dylan thus also a loss for the tradition of lyrics that have been pushed “ad absurdum”?
Not at all, luckily there is no institution that decides what is or isn’t a proper song text. Besides, Dylan himself has written surreal lyrics, which might well play on words and are funny but don’t really make any comprehensible sense, such as “Subterranean Homesick Blues” from 1965. In this song, Dylan – who never actually denied it – leans back on Chuck Berry’s “Too Much Monkey Business” – which is not far from Little Richard; Dylan was thus closer to Nik Cohn’s hero as the latter wanted to admit. Dylan even once said that his professional goal was to play piano with Little Richard.

“Poetry is always a vocal art, too. Poets recited their texts as early as in ancient times.”

Nevertheless: Haven’t song lyrics increasingly lost their original character?
Yes, the question for the meaning. I have always rejected the absurd notion that rock music had to remain music for the youth, something it had originally been. It has rather turned out to be a kind of culture which grows with its authors, has aged with them. Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash or Leonard Cohen are or have been relevant way beyond their pension age. Besides, poetry is always a vocal art, too. Poets recited their texts as early as in ancient times.

Little Richard has – not least – provoked, something that has become difficult nowadays …
This gesture has lost its impact long ago. Lady Gaga is a good example as her provocations became such a major part of her marketing. Her final provocation, to show herself without make-up, shows how desperate she has become. Nowadays, it is rather heart-warming that David Bowie triggered a scandal when he said he was homosexual – and it wasn’t even true. Such shock effects, from Alice Cooper to Marilyn Manson, have worn themselves out completely. The consolation: Good music remains good.

In rock music, the lyrics depend very much on other aspects such as sound or phrasing, and only makes sense because of that. Do lyrics still have the same meaning as they used to have back then?
I don’t cease to be amazed how little attention people pay to the lyrics. It probably has always been that way. In fact, the Beatles mainly wrote trivial lyrics along the lines of “She Loves You”, even though their irony and their lyrical talent would have allowed them to do so much more at the time. It is interesting that especially within the hip hop genre lyrics play a central role, while the music is monotonous and repetitive. What also stands out is the development over the last decades where hip hop is no longer sung or rapped just in English, but, in Switzerland, for example, increasingly in German, Italian and French. In line with this development, it is only logical that the importance of lyrics has increased again. For example Peter Fox (Seeed): His solo album “Stadtaffe” [city monkey] is a hymn dedicated to his home town Berlin – and only because of the German lyrics, Berlin citizens could identify themselves with the song.

“Lyrics aren’t a school subject. It should be left to each individual what they make of the song lyrics.”

This example also shows that the background of a text is sometimes the prerequisite to understand it. But can an author really expect from his audience that it grapples with its song lyrics?
Lyrics aren’t a school subject. It should be left to each individual what they make of the song lyrics. A friend of mine has been a hip hop dance instructor for a long time. She did not realise that the pieces she used often contained misogynist lyrics, as she only played them to provide music for dancing. But that’s ok.
On the other hand, I keep noticing during concerts that due to the lack of knowledge of the lyrics misunderstandings pop up. A classic example which even US-Americans misunderstood is “Born In the USA” by Bruce Springsteen. The piece deals with the fate of Vietnam veterans but is full of ambivalence as it starts with a fanfare and Springsteen is shown on the cover of the album in front of a US flag. Left-wing message, right-wing chorus. Reagan only heard the latter and was enthused, Springsteen distanced himself in a peculiar mumbling manner. The record made him a millionaire.

But doesn’t something from the original message stay on?
Greil Marcus, whom we mentioned earlier, described in his essay why everything that Springsteen sings remains without any consequence. Irrespective of how often the artist sings about a broken family and the poverty in the USA, it was striking that nobody ever responded. This silence was proof that all of his statements remained without effect. How could it be otherwise? I have asked the comedian Eddie Izzard, whether comedy could actually change anything. He said: only politics changes things, that’s why he was standing for Parliament. If you want to change something, you have to change the law.

Writers of song lyrics often say that – by way of their texts – they are trying to trigger an association within their audience so that they can create their own stories from that…
An important role during the 1960s was the fact that black youths listened to James Brown who sang: “Say it loud – I’m black and I’m proud”. That was an instruction to a black identity – telling you that you could be someone who exists, who is important in the USA, because you get a voice – even if you are part of a minority.

He gave people courage to stand tall and self-confident…
Exactly, many song lyrics played an important role for the civil rights movement. Songs have always played an influencing role, also during the movement against the Vietnam War. Why, of all things, was it “Sloop John B” by the Beach Boys that became a hymn for the GIs in Vietnam, even though this cover version only contains the story of a quarrel on a ship? Because the chorus says: “Why don’t they let me go home, this is the worst trip I’ve ever been on”. No wonder that this hit the right tone in Vietnam. Or: “Nowhere To Run” by Martha and the Vandellas was phrased as a love song, but became the slogan for left-wing protesters against the government.

A text can also receive a completely new meaning…
An example for this is the piece “Another Brick in the Wall” by Pink Floyd, which has been redefined in South Africa among white and black pupils as a hymn against Apartheid. German cultural scientist, Diedrich Diederichsen once said, pop music was an open channel. The good thing about it: You can do what you like. If the audience decides that a song means this or that, then that’s the way it is.

“One of the most famous examples of a song which didn’t have any meaningful, serious lyrics initially, is ‘Yesterday’ by Paul McCartney. The original text for this song was ‘scrambled eggs, baby I love your hairy legs’.”

Many musicians have expressed themselves against Donald Trump in the last months, but up until his inauguration there were few explicit songs…
The English journalist, Julie Burchill, once wrote that nothing would castrate a political message as efficiently as a pulsing backbeat. Bob Dylan realised this quickly and ceased to create songs pointing fingers, he was well ahead with his thinking. His explicitly political songs such as “Now Ain’t The Time For Your Tears” have aged in a worse manner than his songs which simply state a general unease against the war such as “Masters of War”. I think that great artists don’t think in weeks or years, and that’s why all great political songs are not specific. Gil Scott-Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” is a universal song, especially as humour and irony are added to it – something that protest musicians unfortunately include very rarely.

Many songwriters confess that their lyrics don’t get written until after the music has been completed. How do you explain that?
One of the most famous examples of a song which didn’t have any meaningful, serious lyrics initially, is “Yesterday” by Paul McCartney. The original text for this song was “scrambled eggs, baby I love your hairy legs”. Brian Eno mentioned during his press conference in Geneva last year that the majority of artists sing anything during their rehearsals, some sort of a scat song. From this emerges a chorus or a hook, from which the actual lyrics are developed. Many musicians use this process, for example Bono, or Mick Jagger. Writing lyrics, by the way, is also hard for authors, who are famous for their texts. Randy Newman for one said to me in a conversation that he wrote melodies with more ease than lyrics – the latter were a nightmare.

But aren’t song lyrics often secondary, and only have the purpose to carry the melody?
This can be deceptive as the example of ABBA shows. You could, of course, argue that “I do, I do, I do, I do” does not constitute song lyrics which belong into the Hall of Fame. But “Knowing Me, Knowing You” is a piece which sweetens a bitter message with an enchanting melody. The lyrics are about a divorce and is one of the favourite songs of Elvis Costello. “The Day Before You Came”, the last, desperately sad ABBA single, also combines an excellent set of lyrics with an extremely sad musical piece.

As we all know, many song texts pop up by chance, on the spur of the moment …
The most famous example for a song which practically happened by accident is “Smoke On The Water” by Deep Purple. To put it simply, the band was watching across the lake, how the casino in Montreux was on fire – and wrote a gripping, but actually rather descriptive song about the event in the blink of an eye. Bob Dylan sometimes falls into such a creative rush, too: He wrote all of his lyrics for “Time Out Of Mind” within two weeks even though the verses are rather long.

This is more the modus operandi of singer songwriters who reduce the story down to the bare minimum. You do, however, sometimes also find the other extreme with them, where the lyrics are basically simply wrapped in music….
You notice that when the lyrics overwhelms the music in such a way that the music becomes a pretext. In the case of a good songwriter like Dylan that’s another matter. “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)”, for example, formulates a cascade of words – and still works because the language becomes an instrument of rhythm. The Beatles-Song penned by John Lennon “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” is the opposite of that: Despite its length of nearly eight minutes, it consists of one single sentence with variations. This shows how much freedom you have as a lyricist. There’s a great quotation by Max Frisch: “Anything goes – if it has success”.

«You must stop imagining that lyrics can be read: they don’t usually work on paper, they are dead.»

This could be used as the guideline for song lyrics about love, still the main theme in pop music. A love song can appear clichéd with respect to the choice of words, and yet work magnificently. What makes the difference?
An example how the same text can have a completely different impact depending on instrumentation and interpretation is “I Will Always Love You”. The song has not been written by Whitney Houston but Dolly Parton. And her original version dating back to 1974 is grand, even though the lyrics are incredibly trivial: The recording lives off the performance.

The same song lyrics can also have different meanings in different interpretations…
A good example for this is “You Can Leave Your Hat On” by Randy Newman. In its original version, this love song is lurking, the protagonist a stalker, you get scared of him. In Joe Cocker’s version, however, the song about a sexual offender turns into a hymn for sex and freedom – and as such, it was used for the film “9 1/2 weeks.”

The lyrics of two love songs can be nearly identical regarding the choice of words and yet one can seem corny whereas the other is captivating. Why?
You must stop imagining that lyrics can be read: they don’t usually work on paper, they are dead. One of the reasons for this is that the technique of repetition is important for song lyrics; texts by writers like Nick Cave look absurd on paper.
One of the great exceptions, however, are the song texts by Leonard Cohen. An explanation for this phenomenon is that he wrote three books and two poetry volumes before he entered a studio for the first time. He started playing the guitar because he thought he could reach a wider audience as a consequence. The magic of song lyrics usually appears when being sung, just remember Marvin Gaye’s “Hitch Hike”. His singing imparted a kind of lascivious elegance.

By way of singing the lyrics, it is also possible to break the stereotype of a text or add an ironic note …
Lyle Lovett does exactly the opposite in his song “She’s Leaving Me Because She Really Wants To”. The text in the title is coined by its typical irony but he sang it in a grizzling, absolutely non-ironical sounding country song. What constitutes the breach here is that he performs an unconventional text which is a persiflage on the genre, in a completely conventional style.

The songwriter and producer Roman Camenzind once said that you could write an authentic song text only in your own mother tongue ...
That’s a great thesis, even if there are examples that show that the opposite is true. In the case of Rammstein, I am fascinated by the fact that concert-goers sing along to the German lyrics, even in places like Mexico City or New York. Singer Till Lindemann once told me that the majority would only sing along phonetically and not understand the phonetic implications and play on words of “Du hast” – one of their song titles. English is treacherous in this respect, anyway. It’s like when you play the guitar: You can quickly get to grips with guitar chords, and it sounds alright. But then it gets complicated rather quickly. And that’s what you find in the case of lyrics of authors whose mother tongue isn’t English.

And in Switzerland?
We do have some amazing lyricists such as the songwriters Kutti MC, Endo Anaconda (Stiller Has), Kuno Lauener (Züri West) and Carlos Leal (Sens Unik); The reality in Switzerland is, however, that the dialect is rather restrictive in terms of the audience; the conditions in Germany are completely different.

If you want to live off your music in Switzerland you have to try to find a wider audience with an international language. Is this inevitably at the expense of authenticity?
Yello are a good example that using English can be a success. Dieter Meier has written many lyrics with Dadaistic nonsense, but his English is – regarding the accent and the humour – definitely very Swiss. You also feel how the personalities of the two shine through very strongly, something which creates authenticity. In a special way, the Young Gods are successful because Franz Treichler sings his English lyrics with a French accent; but it is his voice that’s important, not the lyrics. For me, these are the two most important Swiss bands because they have maintained their identity despite their international aura. Bands that sing French lyrics such as Sens Unik have more luck as they have an international language as their mother tongue.

Jean-Martin Büttner (born 1959) grew up bilingual in Basel (German and French). He studied psychology, psychopathology and English in Zurich and wrote his dissertation on “Singers, songs and compulsive words. Rock as a narrative form.” (the book with the original title “Sänger, Songs und triebhafte Rede. Rock als Erzählweise”, published in 1997 is sold out). In the middle of the 1980s, he regularly wrote for the Swiss music magazine Music Scene which was run by the interviewer Markus Ganz at the time. Since 1987, he has been employed by the Swiss daily, Tages-Anzeiger. He works as an editor for the cultural and domestic affairs department and is the daily’s correspondent for the French-speaking part of Switzerland, and Switzerland’s Parliament (Bundeshaus) editor. Since 2010, he has been writing on various subjects, including regular articles on music.
Recognition award for lyricists
FONDATION SUISA dedicates its CHF 25,000 recognition award to lyricists of musical works this year. Works in all languages will be considered. The entire works of the nominees will be judged, not just individual lyrics. All participants must prove that there is a relationship of their works with the current Swiss music creative scene. It is also possible that third parties nominate candidates. An expert panel will judge the submitted nominations based on the Award regulations. Closing date will be 24 February 2017. Further information, including the regulations and the entry form can be downloaded from the FONDATION SUISA website.
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The FONDATION SUISA dedicates its CHF 25,000 recognition award to lyricists of musical works this year. But what makes a song text a success? Guest author Markus Ganz in an interview with Jean-Martin Büttner

Lyrics for a song: “Anything goes - if it has success”

“Song texts usually don’t work on paper”, says journalist Jean-Martin Büttner. (Photo: Dominic Büttner)

Jean-Martin, what do you make of song lyrics including the line “A Wop bop a loo bop a lop bam boom”?
Jean-Martin Büttner: This is an example for coded song lyrics. “Tutti Frutti” by Little Richard secretly deals with black drag queens and sexual practices, at least in its 1955 original version. To understand this, you got to know that the singer had a triple disadvantage: Richard was black, gay and from the South of the USA. The American political scientist, Greil Marcus, explained its amazing...read more

“If I had made a movie with African music, I would have been freer.”

The Swiss composer Niki Reiser received the CHF 25,000 Film Music Prize of the FONDATION SUISA in the course of the International Film Festival in Locarno. The prize was awarded to him for the film score accompanying Alain Gsponer’s film version of “Heidi”. The composition process for this film score has been a particular challenge for Reiser. The themes “Heidi” and “Switzerland” were rather inhibitive than inspiring in the beginning, as he tells us in an interview.

“If I had made a movie with African music, I would have been freer.”

For the third time, Niki Reiser (in the middle) received the FONDATION SUISA Film Music Prize on 7 August at the occasion of the International Film Festival in Locarno. (f.l.t.r.) Mario Beretta (President of the Jury for the Film Music Prize), prize winner Niki Reiser and Urs Schnell (Director FONDATION SUISA). (Photo: Otto B. Hartmann)

Niki, you won the FONDATION SUISA Film Music Prize for the third time for the soundtrack to “Heidi”. What kind of thoughts crossed your mind first when you heard about this?
I was really happy, of course. In 2001, I received my first award from the FONDATION SUISA. The fact that I still provide quality 16 years later and won a prize with it, has made me very content. It’s a confirmation that I am still a part of the game. And it also means a lot to me that such a competent jury has chosen to award me.

Film composers are usually in the background. The public mainly knows about the actors and directors. Is it important to you that your creations become more known by receiving such awards?
Of course, that is a lovely effect. However, it means much more to me if the audience comes to me after a movie and tell me how the music particularly stood out to them. The fact that people perceive the music in films, that’s more important to me. There is a saying: “You don’t notice good film score”. It is my aim to make people notice film music without it pushing too much into the foreground. The award is now a bit like the icing on the cake. And the great thing about it is that people come to me again and tell me: “The music in this film was really great.” Music was thus not just in the background.

You have also performed on stage as a flute artist in various formations, and thus played your compositions live in front of an audience. Do you miss the direct feedback from the audience?
Yes, I rather miss the opportunity to develop my own pieces and interpret them anew each evening. With film music, that’s different: Once it has been recorded and mixed, it cannot be changed. In the case of live music, you can change a piece, depending on the changing times – that’s something I do rather miss. On the other hand, you are restricted when you play in bands, by the predetermined themes, whereas that is not the case for film music. Each film has a different theme.

In your acceptance speech during the award ceremony, you mentioned how difficult the process of composing was for you. What was special about said process? How did you approach composing said film music?
What was special for me was the fact that the themes “Heidi” and “Switzerland” initially inhibited rather than inspired me. Besides, you are always more critical vis-a-vis your own creations and quickly jump to the conclusion whether “something works and something else doesn’t.” You restrict yourself. If I had made a movie with African music, I would have been freer, as the topic wouldn’t have been so close to me. And the beginning was the hardest. The film starts with a flying scene. The goal: “Now you have to create something light, airborne.” In moments like these, I shut off, as this is a huge challenge from naught to sixty. The core of the music only emerged through constant trial and error.

So you did get specific instructions how the film score was supposed to sound?
Not what it should sound like, but the effects it should have. The music should have had some lightness and elements of hovering. At the same time, it was supposed to express a longing, yet have something healing about it. The more adjectives you have in your head, the less musical ideas will come to you. It usually only works once the rational thinking stops and you start making music. It is via making music that I discovered film music.

Childrens’ films, sentimental films with a regional character, and nice images of the Alpine world – don’t you get tempted to fall back on existing musical clichés?
Of course, the images are really rather out of this world. If I had composed a typical Swiss music to accompany them, it really could have turned into some form of a commercial film. That is why we have decided not to use a typically happy Swiss major key. While I think Swiss melodies are rather nice, I did not want to write a folklore song. By using the minor keys, we reached a more dramatic effect. Heidi, is, after all, a drama, not just a childrens’ film.

There are many film versions of Heidi. There are also some well-known Heidi film melodies. The majority of people in Switzerland thus have a connection – even a musical one – with Heidi. Did this also influence your work?
No. I have, on purpose, not watched any older Heidi films. On the one hand, so that I would not be influenced. On the other hand, so that I would not obstruct myself: It is possible that you don’t do something just because someone else has already done it. I have told the story based on the Heidi character. This means: The music accompanies the emotions of Heidi and reflects her current emotional state. It is thus more an emotional, and not a Swiss story. I have tried to set the music so as if a child is enjoying its very emotions in a moment.

You have composed music for a film for the first time 30 years ago. In the meantime, technology has changed dramatically. How has this influenced your work style when you compose?
It had no influence on my work for Heidi; I have recorded each instrument live and not used any sound generating technology. In the case of other films, especially smaller projects, my work style has changed. I can now record the music in my home and arrange it from there. That way, I can execute the entire film production at home. My way of composing, however, has not changed due to technological developments. The goal is still to search for themes and sounds. Compared to composition, the dialogue process with the cutters’ workplace has changed. If I have composed something, I can send entire files with images via internet and about half an hour later discuss them with people sitting at the cutter’s table via skype. In the past, I had to send the tapes in the post. It took a week until the material arrived and another 3 to 4 days until the director sent their reaction. Communication speed has definitely increased. This does, however, also entail some negative aspects: Back in the day when everything was not digital yet, you had more time to develop something. Nowadays, everything is faster. This means: Ideas also have to be created faster.

You have been a SUISA member since 1986. What are the membership benefits for you as a composer?
I can rely on the fact that I receive a basic income. Well it is actually my main income. I could not live from the films themselves, the fees I receive for them, directly. It’s the royalties that guarantee that the balance sheet works out at the end of each year. Some colleagues say to me that I ought to change over to GEMA because many of my works are shown in Germany. I am not sure whether I would ever change. SUISA isn’t such a huge institution; people can therefore react more quickly.

Niki Reiser was born in Reinach, AG, in 1958 and grew up in Basel. He found his access to music by playing the flute and already started as a teenager to compose works for various bands and musical formations. Once he did his A-levels, he studied jazz and classical compositions with a focus on film scores at the renowned Berklee College of Music in Boston (USA). Especially due to his long-term collaboration with the directors Dani Levy and Caroline Link, Niki Reiser managed to become a household name on the German and international film stage. He has received the German Film Prize five times for his works. Niki Reiser lives and works in his hometown, Basel. (Text: FONDATION SUISA) www.nikireiser.de
The FONDATION SUISA Film Music Prize carries a value of CHF 25,000. It honours extraordinary performances in the sector of film music composition and its aim is to support prize winners and increase their popularity at home and abroad. The prize is awarded each year at the Festival del film in Locarno, alternating between the categories feature film and documentary film.
The jury for the FONDATION SUISA Film Music Prize
• President: Mario Beretta (Stage and film music composer, Zurich)
• Jürg von Allmen (Sound engineer, Digiton Tonstudio, Zurich)
• André Bellmont (Composer, conductor, lecturer at the Zurich University for the Arts, Zurich (Zürcher Hochschule der Künste))
• David Fonjallaz (Film producer, Lomotion AG, Berne)
• Zeno Gabaglio (Composer and artist, Vacallo)
• Corinne Rossi (Managing Director, Praesens-Film AG, Zurich)
• Yvonne Söhner (Production Director Baloise Session, Music Festival Basel, Ehrendingen)
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The Swiss composer Niki Reiser received the CHF 25,000 Film Music Prize of the FONDATION SUISA in the course of the International Film Festival in Locarno. The prize was awarded to him for the film score accompanying Alain Gsponer’s film version of “Heidi”. The composition process for this film score has been a particular challenge for Reiser. The themes “Heidi” and “Switzerland” were rather inhibitive than inspiring in the beginning, as he tells us in an interview.

“If I had made a movie with African music, I would have been freer.”

For the third time, Niki Reiser (in the middle) received the FONDATION SUISA Film Music Prize on 7 August at the occasion of the International Film Festival in Locarno. (f.l.t.r.) Mario Beretta (President of the Jury for the Film Music Prize), prize winner Niki Reiser and Urs Schnell (Director FONDATION SUISA). (Photo: Otto B. Hartmann)

Niki,...read more

Mediate between melody, harmony and rhythm

FONDATION SUISA grants Heiri Känzig its Jazz Award 2016. The musician from Zurich is regarded as one of the most prominent double base players in Europe. He is less known as a distinguished composer. Guest contribution by Markus Ganz

Mediate between melody, harmony and rhythm

“The richness of his variations and his dexterity make him a virtuoso of his instrument”, FONDATION SUISA writes about this year’s winner, Heiri Känzig, in its press release in connection with the Jazz Award. (Photo: Pablo Faccinetto)

Heiri Känzig is probably more known to the international jazz scene than the Swiss public. The double bass player has never sought out the attention of the broad masses, but managed to convince with humble musical talent. Born in Zurich in 1957, he moved abroad while still young because of music, and lived in cities such as Vienna, Munich and Paris. Heiri Känzig smiles during our conversation when he recalls how Mathias Rüegg had encouraged him to break off secondary school (Gymnasium) in Schiers and to study at the music conservatory in Graz. He later on followed the co-founder of the Vienna Art Orchestra to Vienna, which would become his own springboard into the international jazz scene.

Vienna as a starting point

From 1977 onwards, Heiri Känzig was a member of the Vienna Art Orchestra for 15 years, and already performed on their debut, the single (!) “Jessas na” (1978): “A crazy record”. He thus became part of an innovative scene and obviously gained a good reputation as a double bass player quickly. After all, he became a supporting act for the Bebop trumpeter Art Farmer as early as 1978. Since then, Heiri Känzig has played with numerous big names in jazz such as Art Lande, Kenny Wheeler, Lauren Newton, Billy Cobham and Ralph Towner; he was particularly close to Charlie Mariano. It is also unusual that he became a member of the “Orchestre National de Jazz” as the first non-French national in 1991.

Heiri Känzig insists that he does not just regard himself as a jazz musician: “I like to play different kinds of music.” He showed this, for example, with the “Tienn Shan Schweiz Express” (with musicians from Kirgistan, Khakassia, Mongolia, Switzerland and Austria) or a project with the Algerian Oud player Chaouk Smahi. Furthermore, he was a studio musician for artists like Nena and Andreas Vollenweider. What really amazes is the fact that Heiri Känzig who is usually known as a live musician, has been playing on 130 albums based on his biography. He plays down the fact that there are more in the meantime, and clarifies that at least thirty alone stem from the Vienna Art Orchestra.

Underestimated composer

One constant factor in Heiri Känzig’s career has been the cooperation with Thierry Lang, which had begun before his contract with the legendary Blue Note Records label. For about 25 years, he has been playing with the pianist from the French-speaking part of Switzerland, usually in a trio, but sometimes with guest musicians, and currently even with a string quartet. He also increasingly contributes to compositions. As a co-leader, Heiri Känzig currently works mainly with the jazz ‘institution’ Chico Freeman as a duo, and in the “4-tet” with the “Cholet Kaenzig Papaux Trio”, and with Depart, a trio founded in 1985 with Harry Sokal, which now has Martin Valihora as its drummer.

On the suspense-packed last Depart album “Refire” (2014), the majority of works were written by Heiri Känzig. He is still often described as a “versatile accompanier” or similarly. “As a bass player you are usually not the front man as it is more often the case for trumpeters or pianists”, he says and is relaxed about it. “The bass is primarily an accompanying instrument, and a low one at that, which is not perceived as easily from an acoustic point of view than other instruments.” Heiri Känzig also confirms that the bass has the function to connect the different types of instruments. He adds, laughing: “Bassists are, in a way, the diplomats among musicians, mediating between melody, harmony and rhythm; that’s why we probably are such conciliatory people …”.

Virtuosity and sound

When he composes, he does not worry about the function of the bass, but often just starts playing, usually on the piano. “At the beginning of a composition are bass lines, which I find by playing and which inspire me. These are rhythmic approaches, whereas I fathom the harmonious aspect with the piano.” These are two fundamentally different approaches, and yet the further development of the pieces bear a communality. Composing is always a very exciting process because you never know where it will lead you. You don’t have a clue, and yet something always tells you where to go through next.”

Media reports continue to praise the virtuosity of Heiri Känzig. “And of course you can tell yourself that it doesn’t make sense at all in the case of a bass because the low tones are hardly audible anyway”, he adds and shrugs. “But I add colour to the music by doing so, sometimes even a sound thunderstorm.” This contributes to the fact that his performance has a very individual and unique note. Heiri Känzig can, however, not quite explain this himself. “Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I have hardly ever copied anything”.

Heiri Känzig was born in 1957 and grew up in Zurich and Weiningen. He studied music in Graz, Vienna and Zurich. Since 1990, he has been living in Meilen and been a lecturer for double bass at the University for Music in Lucerne since 2002. The singer-songwriter Anna Känzig is his niece; a joint performance is planned for May 2017. – The Jazz Award 2016, worth CHF 15,000 is presented to Heiri Känzig in the course of a special matinée concert on Sunday, 4 December 2016 at 11 am in Moods Zurich. Heiri Känzig will perform together with Chico Freeman and Thierry Lang first in a duo each, then in a trio.
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FONDATION SUISA grants Heiri Känzig its Jazz Award 2016. The musician from Zurich is regarded as one of the most prominent double base players in Europe. He is less known as a distinguished composer. Guest contribution by Markus Ganz

Mediate between melody, harmony and rhythm

“The richness of his variations and his dexterity make him a virtuoso of his instrument”, FONDATION SUISA writes about this year’s winner, Heiri Känzig, in its press release in connection with the Jazz Award. (Photo: Pablo Faccinetto)

Heiri Känzig is probably more known to the international jazz scene than the Swiss public. The double bass player has never sought out the attention of the broad masses, but managed to convince with humble musical talent. Born in Zurich in 1957, he moved abroad while still young because of music, and lived in cities such as...read more

Traditional folk music as a basis for more complex compositions

The composer and accordion player Franz «Fränggi» Gehrig receives the FONDATION SUISA Award 2016. The annual recognition award granted by SUISA’s music promotion foundation will be awarded in 2016 in the category “new, current Swiss folk music”. An interview with the 30-year-old award winner from canton Uri on the prize, his musical work and the attraction of old and new traditional folk music. Text/interview by Manu Leuenberger

Traditional folk music as a basis for more complex compositions

Fränggi Gehrig began playing the accordion as an eight-year-old. He studied accordion at the University of Lucerne, in the specialisation field Jazz with a focus on traditional folk music, and also composition. (Photo: Blatthirsch.ch)

Fränggi Gehrig, you are receiving the FONDATION SUISA 2016 award in the category “new, current Swiss folk music”. What does the award mean to you?
Fränggi Gehrig: The award came as a total surprise, as I had no idea when I entered the competition whether I had any chances. That’s why I am now even more happy and am really rather honoured that I am allowed to receive this award.

Many traditions are linked with folk music. What are the challenges if you wish to give folk music a new and current shape?
The most important thing, in my opinion, is never to forget your roots. You have to be careful that you don’t harmonise or rhythmically change melodies in a different way and say this is a new kind of folk music.
I believe that the connection between “traditional” and “new” material won’t work if you have not intensively experienced these traditions over a very long period of time. Especially traditional folk music is very difficult to learn. You need several nights out and the same amount of hours of practice home alone, in order to really be at home in it. It’s my opinion that you need this background in order to give folk music a meaningful new and current shape.

On the one hand, we can often hear you performing old traditional works with your accordion. On the other hand, you write proper compositions for bands such as Rumpus, Stegreif GmbH or the Alpini Vernähmlassig, where you also play. What attracts you to be a performer of old and a composer of new music at the same time?
I like the variety and the range of diverse projects in my work. As I said before, the traditional, “old” music is my base, that’s what I grew up with and I still love playing it very much. I believe it fits better in a cosy boozer where you can dance than in a concert hall. On the other hand, my slightly more complex compositions are more suitable for concert situations. The target audience is, in those cases, totally different, you practically move between two worlds. I like this kind of variety as it inspires me to continue doing both and sometimes combine.

Six years ago, you joined the Swiss Cooperative Society of Music Authors and Publishers. What benefits do you have from a SUISA membership?
I can have my works protected under copyright and benefit when my compositions are performed in public.

Have you already got an idea what you are going to use the FONDATION SUISA award money for?
It is rather likely that I will indulge in buying myself a good instrument which I have been ogling for a while.

Which of the many formations that you play with is currently or in the near future closest to your heart?
It is my aim to push my own quintet forward a bit in future. I also hope that I can continue to enjoy many amazing moments together with my formations and music colleagues.

Official website: www.fraenggigehrig.com

The FONDATION SUISA award is a recognition award with which outstanding creative work is acknowledged which enriches the musical heritage of Switzerland. The award is granted by SUISA’s foundation for the promotion of music ((3)) each year in varying categories and carries a prize money of CHF 25,000. Most recent award winners were: Aliose (category “variety music), Gary Berger («instrumental/vocal composition and electronics), Ruh Musik AG (“Music publishing”), Trummer (“singer-songwriter”) and Michel Steiner and Willi Valotti (“Swiss traditional folk music”).

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The composer and accordion player Franz «Fränggi» Gehrig receives the FONDATION SUISA Award 2016. The annual recognition award granted by SUISA’s music promotion foundation will be awarded in 2016 in the category “new, current Swiss folk music”. An interview with the 30-year-old award winner from canton Uri on the prize, his musical work and the attraction of old and new traditional folk music. Text/interview by Manu Leuenberger

Traditional folk music as a basis for more complex compositions

Fränggi Gehrig began playing the accordion as an eight-year-old. He studied accordion at the University of Lucerne, in the specialisation field Jazz with a focus on traditional folk music, and also composition. (Photo: Blatthirsch.ch)

Fränggi Gehrig, you are receiving the FONDATION SUISA 2016 award in the category “new, current Swiss folk music”. What does the award mean to you?
Fränggi Gehrig: The award came as a total...read more

Jazzahead! 2016: Der Schweizer Jazz im Fokus

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