Tag Archives: Jazz in Switzerland

Label Suisse and SUISA make Swiss music possible | plus video

The ninth edition of the Label Suisse Festival will take place in Lausanne from 18 to 20 September 2020. Programming of this biennial festival is dedicated to the Swiss music scene with all its diversity. Special highlight: Artists from all genres have composed works especially for the Label Suisse. These works will be performed live at the festival for the first time. SUISA is once again involved as one of the main partners of the festival. Text by Erika Weibel

Label Suisse is unique to Switzerland: Every two years, the festival in Lausanne offers the public an insight into Swiss music creation – across geographical and genre boundaries – and thus highlights the current horizons of Swiss musicians of contemporary music from pop, rock, jazz, classical and new folk music in its most diverse forms of expression. More than 60 established as well as emerging artists will be performing as part of the varied programme in various locations in Lausanne over three days.

Exciting composition projects complete the diverse concert programme. Composers from various musical genres have created works for the festival that will be premiered there.

The festival is not only aimed at a music-loving audience but is also a get-together for the Swiss and foreign music and event scene. SUISA, as a cooperative society of composers, lyricists and publishers of music, is once again one of the main partners of the festival, making music in Switzerland possible together with the Label Suisse.

Composition projects

The following compositions were created especially for the 2020 Label Suisse:

Jazz
Nik Bärtsch, composition and piano.
Project in partnership with the Zurich University of the Arts and the Jazzcampus Basel with the participation of young musicians.
Performance: Saturday, 19 September 2020, Salle Paderewski
Further concerts in the twin cities at the Klangbasel Festival (Basel) and at Moods (Zurich)

Classical music
Antoine Chessex, commissioned composition for great organ, chest organ and Hammond
Artists: Simone Keller and Dominik Blum
Project of 35 minutes duration, entitled “Technosphère & Fragmentation”.
Performance: Sunday, 20 September 2020, Eglise St Francois

Isabel Mundry, composition
Collegium Novum Zurich (CNZ) ; Brian Archinal, percussion solo
Title of the work: Noli me tangere (2020)
Performance: Saturday, 19 September 2020, Salle Paderewski

Cod.act – André et Michel Décosterd
“Von Roll Twist 4” – Installation for 6 speakers and one performer (Francesco Biamonte)
André et Michel Décosterd combine their skills, the first being a musician, composer and sound artist and the second an architect and visual artist. Together they develop an artistic work in the form of performances and interactive installations. Their approach starts with a reflection on sound and movement and their possible interaction.
Performance: Saturday,19 September 2020, D! Club

New traditional music
Michel Godard
Works composed especially for the occasion by Michel Godard, conducted by Pascal Emonet. Played by fanfare players of the Valais Brass Band and Jazz Conservatory in a little-known sound approach: the Italian Banda. This orchestra is accompanied by Michel Godard, Pierre Favre, Isa Wiss and Matthieu Michel.

Come along and experience how the sounds of completely new works are brought to an audience for the very first time.

www.labelsuisse.ch

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The ninth edition of the Label Suisse Festival will take place in Lausanne from 18 to 20 September 2020. Programming of this biennial festival is dedicated to the Swiss music scene with all its diversity. Special highlight: Artists from all genres have composed works especially for the Label Suisse. These works will be performed live at the festival for the first time. SUISA is once again involved as one of the main partners of the festival. Text by Erika Weibel

Label Suisse is unique to Switzerland: Every two years, the festival in Lausanne offers the public an insight into Swiss music creation – across geographical and genre boundaries – and thus highlights the current horizons of Swiss musicians of contemporary music from pop, rock, jazz, classical and new folk music in its...read more

“This crisis is indicative of a sick society”

Today, in the context of our “Music for Tomorrow” project, we are introducing Swiss jazz and improvisation musician Cyril Bondi, and his piece “We Need to Change”. In a written interview, Cyril tells us why he believes that politics and not the virus are responsible for the current crisis. Text by Nina Müller; video by Cyril Bondi, edited by Nina Müller

Cyril Bondi, age 40, describes himself as an experimentalist who loves working with others. Jazz and free jazz are the preferred domains of the Geneva-born musician. He describes improvisation as the backbone to his music. “Improvisation has allowed me to play in different contexts and to feel as much at ease in a jazz trio (Plaistow) as in experimental/traditional music (La Tène), in a pop/rock duo (cyril Cyril), or working collaboratively on a multitude of projects with “d’incise””, he tells SUISA in a written interview. Cyril’s music regularly oversteps the musical boundaries that society has erected over the years. “I have always tried to develop new things, new concepts, to play my instrument differently, to deconstruct it, reinvent it, seek new sounds, new textures”, Cyril says, explaining his musical evolution.

Bondi composed the piece “We Need to Change” exclusively for “Music for Tomorrow”. Before the lockdown, he was occupied with writing several pieces for his next solo album. He had to interrupt his projects because of the coronavirus. When he received the invitation to “Music for Tomorrow”, he realised how much he was aching for a change. Working on the piece was an intense experience. “Intense because I saw it as an opportunity to express a feeling related to what we are experiencing, this curious blend between the clear evidence of a collapsing society and the denial thereof”, Bondi explains. ”I feel this tension deeply and the creative space I plunged myself into enabled me to express it my way”. Moreover, because he normally works with a band or an orchestra, it was unusual for him to work alone.

Cyril Bondi, what are your workdays like during the corona pandemic?
Cyril Bondi: My workdays are generally organised around my family. I have three children at home, so I constantly have to look after them, help them with their homework and keep them occupied. If I want to get some work done, I have to get up early or devote the evening to work on my various projects. There’s no denying it, the pandemic has hit cultural circles with full force, and musicians even more so, underscoring the precariousness in which they have been living for years. I therefore spend much of my time handling concert cancellations and re-schedulings and checking the different aids and grants available. I am also a member of the FGMC, the Geneva federation of creation music, which brings together professional musicians of all genres, from hip hop to contemporary music, and which is trying to put forward common claims for an industry devastated by the pandemic. As a result, I don’t have much time left for my artistic work; at a certain point, I needed to get back to composing; I plunged into new pieces without knowing who I was writing for or why, apart from the need to delve back into creation. I’m also trying to get ahead with recording the Cyril Cyril (pop/rock) album and my own solo album (experimental).

What does this crisis mean for you personally?
This crisis is indicative of a sick society. We are in this situation not because of a spreading virus but because of the political choices our societies have made. Public services and hospitals are being dismantled, forests destroyed, we are exploiting, plundering, and consuming. Personally, I try to read, keep informed, have discussions with others, listen to music. These dark times make me realise just how much we need culture, the arts, and artists to inspire us, to make us dream, help us escape and make us think. We have never needed them as much as we do now.

How can the public help you at the present time?
People must be aware of the state of emergency impacting the cultural industry and stop thinking that they are contributing any aid whatsoever from behind their computers or smartphones. They must buy records, support the live artists they like, listen to the musicians living around them, and above all support the concert halls, theatres, and festivals as soon as they are allowed to re-open; because my greatest fear is yet to come. People are afraid to meet each other, touch each other, hug each other, kiss each other, dance with each other… how can we be expected to share a true moment of music?

Would it be helpful if people streamed more music from Spotify and Co.?
I think anybody would say the same: companies like Spotify, Youtube, and Facebook are looking to make as much money as possible by exploiting other people’s resources. I am one of those other people. They will never give me a penny of what you consume.

What positive effects might the current situation have in your opinion?
My hopes lie in the collective experience we are living through. Are we intelligent enough to realise that a world with fewer airplanes and cars, with more nature, a less hectic rhythm, more time spent with the family, and greater solidarity is a world where hope can be born again? This capitalist society is leading us to our downfall – we must take the opportunity to invent, create, and conceive a new world. This may be naive, but I believe that everyone today can understand this message.

Do you have a message for your fans?
Listen, sing, dance, and go out!

www.cyrilbondi.net

“Music for Tomorrow”
The Covid-19 crisis has hit SUISA’s members particularly hard. The main source of income for many composers and publishers has completely been lost: Performances of any kind have been prohibited by the Federal Government until further notice. In the coming weeks, we will be posting portraits of some of our members on the SUISAblog. They will tell us what moves them during the Covid-19 crisis, what their challenges are and what their working day currently looks like. The musicians also performed and filmed their own composition for the SUISAblog at home or in their studio. SUISA pays the musicians a fee for this campaign.
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Penny-pinching in digital music distributionPenny-pinching in digital music distribution Business in the online sector has been subject to constant change – not only for copyright societies. In the second part of the interview, SUISA CEO Andreas Wegelin reports on the status quo and provides an outlook on the scenarios that are being discussed. Read more
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Today, in the context of our “Music for Tomorrow” project, we are introducing Swiss jazz and improvisation musician Cyril Bondi, and his piece “We Need to Change”. In a written interview, Cyril tells us why he believes that politics and not the virus are responsible for the current crisis. Text by Nina Müller; video by Cyril Bondi, edited by Nina Müller

Cyril Bondi, age 40, describes himself as an experimentalist who loves working with others. Jazz and free jazz are the preferred domains of the Geneva-born musician. He describes improvisation as the backbone to his music. “Improvisation has allowed me to play in different contexts and to feel as much at ease in a jazz trio (Plaistow) as in experimental/traditional music (La Tène), in a pop/rock duo (cyril Cyril), or working collaboratively...read more

Remembering an extraordinary person and gifted musician

The pianist Willy Bischof was an established figure on the Swiss jazz scene and made his mark on the programmes of Radio DRS as music editor and programme director. In December 2019, the long-standing SUISA member died at the age of 74. Obituary by guest author Pietro Schaller

Willy Bischof: Remembering an extraordinary person and gifted musician

Willy Bischof at Studio Mulinetti in Genoa on the occasion of the CD production of “A Pianist In Parisˮ in September 2004. (Photo: Pietro Schaller)

Dear, caro Willy

In 1968, I saw and heard you for the first time – as pianist of a quintet in a dance hall. As guitarist and trombonist, I played in a dancing band, too. I made the decision to “get outˮ in mid-May 1978. Trigger for this was a contact to Radio Bern, which produced a live recording of our band in July 1974 in the Kursaal Bern – Georges Pilloud was the initiator.

At the end of May 1978, I contacted you at Radio Studio Bern, “Do you need an archive staff member?ˮ “No! A producer is urgently needed, come to Bern, details will be discussed later.ˮ The first meeting with you took place in the radio play studio. You at the Steinway Concert Grand piano. “Do you know Cantaloupe Island?ˮ I asked, you played it right away. Perhaps this was the prelude to our long-standing relationship.

Monday, July 3, 1978 was my first day of work at the radio studio in Bern. No sign of Willy. I was on my own, because your workplace was at the Montreux Jazz Festival – together with Ruedi Kaspar. For several years you were the “Radio dream teamˮ in Montreux – unforgotten are your multilingual interviews with world-class musicians. At that time, I did not know that you had made a brilliant coup years earlier by acquiring the broadcasting rights for all live broadcasts on Radio DRS2.

The following 2 months were a crash course in “how Radio DRS worksˮ: Departmental structures, reading and interpreting minutes of meetings, as well as ways of speaking and sensitivities of media workers. Whenever the “regularˮ working hours were exceeded, these extra lessons were moved to the garden of a nearby pub.

Your plan was to manage the programme area of entertainment music at DRS1. Together with Ruedi Kaspar you invented “5 after 4ˮ, the first radio show with pop and rock music. Polo Hofer was a discovery by the two of you, and your presence on this show was the cornerstone of Poloʼs career and of dialect rock.

Your specifications for a balanced DRS1 music programme were easy for me to meet. Like you, I was not afraid of any kind of music: in our opinion, it had to be well played and sound good. There were numerous records of almost every genre, and all the music editors maintained extensive archives of their own. I didnʼt know at that time that you had established a free sampling service through your excellent relationships with the record industry approximately 5 years earlier – a classic win-win situation. Without this coup de main, your ideas of a successful DRS1 radio music programme would have failed – simply because the desired music repertoire would not have been available.

Your appointment as “Chief of Entertainment Music Radio DRS1ˮ occurred in 1978. In the following year, your new place of work was Studio Zurich, Ruedi Kaspar “dislocatedˮ to Studio Basel. The fact that this was the prelude to DRS3 was unknown to me. However, inside the radio it was suspected that a 3rd radio programme could be in the planning phase. In autumn 1982, I followed your call to move to Studio Zurich to build up the “Zurichˮ part of the music editorial department. With the success of Radio 24 (start of broadcasting 28.11.1979), Radio DRS increased the implementation speed.

On 1 November 1983, SRG General Director Leo Schürmann symbolically pressed the start button: DRS3 broadcast for the first time.

The following 5 years were the most successful years of DRS3, despite some major differences of opinion between the three editorial offices in Basel, Bern, and Zurich. As “Head of the Music Departmentˮ, you mastered these difficulties with great expertise, caution and gentle pressure.

In 1988, he moved from DRS3 to DRS2. It is possible that recurring discussions of principle on the subject of “musicˮ as well as overflowing meetings and bureaucracy left their mark. It may also be that your love of jazz and music-making as a member of the DRS3 management team had been neglected. The takeover of the “jazzˮ department was the prelude to the establishment of the CH jazz scene, which became a valuable platform with studio sessions for young talent and lesser known formations. For Radio DRS2, this was an important undertaking, which also established the station as an institution for the promotion of culture.

1991 was the birth year of “Apéroˮ, the radio show on DRS2, which you conceived. On the occasion of an annual studio party in Studio 2 in Zurich, you played a Duke Ellington Medley on the concert grand piano, which made everyone present – radio director Andreas Blum was also present – realise that you were a brilliant pianist.

I have always been a big Hazy Osterwald fan. My idea was to re-produce the jazz repertoire of the Osterwald Sextet with an identical formation consisting of you and former DRS band musicians. Together we discovered more than 70 recordings of Hazyʼs best formation from 1951-1964 in the Zurich radio archive. Jazz of the highest level in excellent recording quality, produced by Radio Beromünster in the studio in Basel with Eddie Brunner as sound engineer – former member and later band leader of the famous Teddy Stauffer Band. With your help, a significant document of Swiss jazz from the years 1951-1964 was produced in 1994, the CD box set “50 Years of Music with a Touch of Swingˮ was a great success.

Our intention to realise a production with the post-produced “Hazy Osterwald Jazz Hitsˮ was not executed after careful consideration: Sound, charm, groove of this epoch were too unique and could not be reproduced … A wise decision and a reference to the great recording technique of Radio Beromünster and the producing of Eddie.

In November of the same year the “Berner Song Daysˮ took place in the “Bierhübeliˮ. Your formation, the Willy Bischof Jazztet with Hazy Osterwald, Willy Schmid, Peter Schmidlin and Stefan Kurmann, founded in 1993, was invited as guest of honour. Radio DRS1 recorded the concert. The subsequent CD “Swiss Airˮ is still available today.

In 1998 you were awarded the long overdue “Prix Waloˮ for the radio show “Apéroˮ.

Willy Bischof warming up in the studio. (Photo: Pietro Schaller)

In 2004, I had the idea to produce a recording with you as a solo pianist. The planned location was Studio Mulinetti in Genoa. Versions of Italian classics such as Roma Nun Faʼ Stupido Stasera or Estaté were up for discussion. No persuasion was needed on my part – you were immediately enthusiastic about the project. We assembled the repertoire together. Victor Eugster from “Activ Recordsˮ financed the project. The production date was the end of September 2004. However, shortly before the recording date you changed your mind: “I would rather record French chansons in my own versions – a CD title is already available – ʻA Pianist In Parisʼˮ … Suitable chansons were quickly evaluated. I travelled to Camogli – 30 km east of Genoa – at that time my second home to prepare the production.

The session was successful – all participants got along very well and you played superbly as always. I remember that this was perhaps one of your lucky musical moments.

Your retirement in 2005 encouraged me to retire a year later as well. In the following years, our meetings became rarer – I learned through the grapevine that your health had become unstable. Our last personal contact was on the occasion of a concert I organised with your trio on 21 January 2011 at the Hotel Palace Lucerne.

What remains is the memory of an extraordinary person and gifted musician. You didnʼt strike me as a superior. You were a friend.

Addio Willy

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The pianist Willy Bischof was an established figure on the Swiss jazz scene and made his mark on the programmes of Radio DRS as music editor and programme director. In December 2019, the long-standing SUISA member died at the age of 74. Obituary by guest author Pietro Schaller

Willy Bischof: Remembering an extraordinary person and gifted musician

Willy Bischof at Studio Mulinetti in Genoa on the occasion of the CD production of “A Pianist In Parisˮ in September 2004. (Photo: Pietro Schaller)

Dear, caro Willy

In 1968, I saw and heard you for the first time – as pianist of a quintet in a dance hall. As guitarist and trombonist, I played in a dancing band, too. I made the decision to “get outˮ in mid-May 1978. Trigger for this was a contact to Radio Bern, which produced a live recording of our...read more

“In this, we are all really challenged as a community”

With the “Music for tomorrowˮ project, SUISA aims to support its members in these difficult times. We offer artists a platform where they can talk about their current situation while in lockdown and present one of their works. This week we present the Swiss pianist, composer and music producer Nik Bärtsch and his piece “Modul 5ˮ. In the interview, Nik talks about his everyday life in lockdown with his family and what he has in common with an Australian emergency doctor. Text by Nina Müller; video by Nik Bärtsch, complemented by Nina Müller

Nik Bärtsch (48) is a successful jazz pianist who lives with his family in Zurich. In addition to music, Zurich-born Bärtsch also studied philosophy, linguistics and musicology. It is therefore not surprising that music has a deeper meaning for him. On his website, he describes his music as follows: “A piece can be entered like a room, inhabited. Through obsessive turning moments, overlays of different meters and micro interplay, the music moves on and changes its states. Attention is drawn to the minimal variations and phrasing. The band thus becomes an integral organism – like an animal, a biotope, an urban space. Youʼre supposed to think with your ears and hands.ˮ

He lives this philosophy with his band Ronin and has already toured in Europe, Asia and the USA. With his formations Nik Bärtschʼs Ronin and Nik Bärtschʼs Mobile as well as solo, the musician has released more than thirteen sound recordings, which are performed at weekly performances as part of his concert series at the Zurich Club Exil. Since 2006, he has his own label “Ronin Rhythm Recordsˮ.

For “Music for Tomorrowˮ Nik Bärtsch performed the piece “Modul 5ˮ. He says with regards to the piece: “The piece consists of a small complex pattern in 6/4, which spreads over the whole piano in the course of the piece. I came across this pattern quite early in my musical development and it has accompanied me constantly over the years. Thus the piece, which was composed at an early age, experiences a constant evolution, as I do myself. We work together so to speak, so that our relationship becomes ever simpler, more direct and yet deeper and more mysterious – just as my wife and I shape our lives together.”

Nik, how does your working day as a composer look like during the corona pandemic?
Nik Bärtsch: I am a completely independent composer, pianist, bandleader, producer and publisher. So, at the moment, the only difference compared to the time before the virus is that I travel much less. All international concerts, productions and workshops have obviously been cancelled. I now have the same daily routine that I have at home between trips: I compose, practice, rehearse, organise and communicate alternately. In addition, I share family life with our children together with my wife, who is also very active in her job.
As usual, it requires a lot of love for life, discipline, structure, but also creativity and the desire for surprises.
Since we want to organise and maintain all this at a high level, it was not a big change for us. Our children are often at home and not in after-school care or anywhere else. We all do martial arts and therefore we also have the possibility to train together on the meadow in front of the house.
Our Monday concert series at the EXIL Club will continue for the time being as pure streaming (www.yourstage.live). So Monday remains the ritualized local concert day and the community and the different teams stay in constant contact.

What does this crisis mean for you personally?
Like all severe crises, it shows me exactly where I stand as an artist and human being and once again unconditionally demands my creativity, integrity and resilience.
But as a freelance musician this is often the normal state of affairs anyway. But the big question is: How do groups, ensembles, bands and concert venues survive the current change in the medium term? In this we are all really challenged as a community. The questions that do arise are actually rather useful: What does music mean to me as a professional? What does it mean to all of us? How do we pay for music and the services behind it? How do we sensibly link the value-appraisal chain with the value-creation chain?

How can the audience support you at the moment?
By rewarding my performance and ours: So by watching our paid streams and by consuming and distributing our music on all other media as well. And by learning exactly how music production and presentation works: How many people and their achievements are behind it, when a wonderful song helps me through the day.

Would it help if people on Spotify and Co. streamed more of your music?
The number of streams must be very high for this kind of payment to work. It still helps, though. Everything is connected and the more independent artists are heard and shared, the better. The local, authentic and special art and initiative ultimately feeds the global commercial development. We have noticed this everywhere on our tours around the world.

What do you think the current situation could bring with it?
I always try to deduce the positive in every situation and learn something. The current situation is once again fundamentally testing our prosperity, our security and thus our working methods. This is valuable. Only when we realise how vital music, its inspiring environment and its wonderful possibilities are, can we appreciate the professional handling of it. SUISA and, for example, the Association of Swiss Musicians communicate this very well. Every musician should do this just as passionately and professionally.

What do you want to give your fans to take away from this interview?
Be honest in your approach to music: Nobody simply takes home a loaf of bread at the bakery without paying.
So enjoy the music with the awareness that people have worked on it with love and unconditional devotion.
I recently received an email from an emergency doctor in Australia. He thanked me for the music. He tackles every challenge of the last few years – the floods, the bush fire and now the virus – by listening to one of my tracks in the morning and drinking a coffee with it. Then he would know why he was doing all this and would also be able to bear death, pain and danger. The music gives him strength to rescue, save and help people. I understood then that it is better to focus unconditionally on the music than to help out a little everywhere. In this case, the chain of inspiration works with precision: We both concentrate on the essentials. His integrity, talent and professionalism help me and vice versa. So we both help others again. Societal appreciation and value creation can only work together.

www.nikbaertsch.com

“Music for Tomorrow”
The Covid-19 crisis has hit SUISA’s members particularly hard. The main source of income for many composers and publishers has completely been lost: Performances of any kind have been prohibited by the Federal Government until further notice. In the coming weeks, we will be posting portraits of some of our members on the SUISAblog. They will tell us what moves them during the Covid-19 crisis, what their challenges are and what their working day currently looks like. The musicians also performed and filmed their own composition for the SUISAblog at home or in their studio. SUISA pays the musicians a fee for this campaign.
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All comments will be moderated. This may take some time and we reserve the right not to publish comments that contradict the conditions of use.

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With the “Music for tomorrowˮ project, SUISA aims to support its members in these difficult times. We offer artists a platform where they can talk about their current situation while in lockdown and present one of their works. This week we present the Swiss pianist, composer and music producer Nik Bärtsch and his piece “Modul 5ˮ. In the interview, Nik talks about his everyday life in lockdown with his family and what he has in common with an Australian emergency doctor. Text by Nina Müller; video by Nik Bärtsch, complemented by Nina Müller

Nik Bärtsch (48) is a successful jazz pianist who lives with his family in Zurich. In addition to music, Zurich-born Bärtsch also studied philosophy, linguistics and musicology. It is therefore not surprising that music has a deeper meaning for him....read more

Creating music in the era of contamination

A discussion on the deceptively simple theme of ‘contamination in music’ provided much food for thought, reaffirming the desire to talk about music and ideas, to try to understand one another better and more profoundly. Text by guest author Zeno Gabaglio

Jazz in Bess: Creating music in the era of contamination

Round table discussion on the theme of ‘Creating Music in the Era of Contamination’: (from left to right) Zeno Gabaglio, Nadir Vassena, Maurizio Chiaruttini (moderator), Gabriele Pezzoli and Carlo Piccardi. (Photo: Giorgio Tebaldi)

Writing a report on an event you’ve taken part in comes with one major problem: the conflict of interest. This most partial of creatures precludes any reasonable expectation of objectivity, so readers are warned that every aspect of the account from this point will be marked by the utmost subjectivity.

But let’s rewind: on 7 June 2019, a round table discussion on the theme of ‘Creating Music in the Era of Contamination’ took place in the convivial surroundings of Jazz in Bess in Lugano (the closest thing Ticino has to a Jazz club – but this magical venue deserves an article all of its own…). Four diverse exponents of Ticino’s music scene were invited to take part: Nadir Vassena (a composer, teacher and stalwart of the cultural scene for decades, and someone who has enjoyed considerable success across Europe), Gabriele Pezzoli (a jazz composer and pianist who has pursued a distinctly personal and varied creative path), Carlo Piccardi (a musicologist, director of Rete Due for many years, and one of the most devoted connoisseurs and defenders of Ticino’s musical heritage) and the writer Zeno Gabaglio.

It was an eclectic group – like the proverbial box of chocolates – and their mixed backgrounds alone suggested a range of ideas on music. This wealth of opinions emerged rapidly thanks to the moderation – and encouragement – of Maurizio Chiaruttini, a journalist and former producer at RSI.

Search for an own musical identity

‘Contamination seems to have become almost an imperative in every field of artistic expression: contamination between different genres, contamination between languages – cultural and popular, academic and commercial, acoustic and technological – contamination between cultural idioms of disparate origins. In a context such as this, what does it mean to search for your own musical identity, your own style, your own authentic means of expression?’

This was our starting point and, going against every dramatic rule there is, I can tell you right now that there was no arrival point – or at least, there wasn’t just one. Opinions diverged even on the meaning of the term ‘contamination’: some underlined the essentially negative connotations of the word (which, Vassena reminded us, shares the same root as ‘contagion’), while others agreed its distinctness from concepts such as ‘purity’ and ‘identity’. ‘Contaminated’ musicians, of course, cannot be pure; they inevitably lose a small part of their identity to take on something new.

Keeping the focus on terminology, Gabriele Pezzoli suggested a synonym – ‘hybridisation’ – which is less negatively connoted and more open to the variety of stimuli the modern world offers up, and with which Pezzoli identifies.

Masterpieces are often the result of a process

Carlo Piccardi then started off by reminding us that contamination is a broad historical phenomenon that dates back well before the present day. Major historical works – undisputed masterpieces that are universally recognised as uniform creations – were often the result of a process. But the processes required to create a work are hardly ever reported, and even more rarely remembered. It is in precisely these processes that, during the last two thousand years of European music, contamination has played a decisive role.

As mentioned earlier, we didn’t reach any one conclusion, but this discussion on the apparently simple and narrow theme of “contamination in music” led us to secondary themes and observations that – in an era when you might expect the opposite to be true – reaffirmed our desire to talk about music, to discuss ideas as well as sounds, and to try to understand one another better and more profoundly.

www.jazzinbess.ch

Guest author Zeno Gabaglio is a musician/composer and a SUISA Board member.

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A discussion on the deceptively simple theme of ‘contamination in music’ provided much food for thought, reaffirming the desire to talk about music and ideas, to try to understand one another better and more profoundly. Text by guest author Zeno Gabaglio

Jazz in Bess: Creating music in the era of contamination

Round table discussion on the theme of ‘Creating Music in the Era of Contamination’: (from left to right) Zeno Gabaglio, Nadir Vassena, Maurizio Chiaruttini (moderator), Gabriele Pezzoli and Carlo Piccardi. (Photo: Giorgio Tebaldi)

Writing a report on an event you’ve taken part in comes with one major problem: the conflict of interest. This most partial of creatures precludes any reasonable expectation of objectivity, so readers are warned that every aspect of the account from this point will be marked by the utmost subjectivity.

But let’s rewind: on 7 June 2019, a round table...read more

Sound space surveyor and ambient sound explorer

Saxophonist Bertrand Denzler is always working on new opportunities to express himself in the delicate balance that lies between improvisation and composition. The 55-year-old musician from Geneva, who is now resident in Paris, now intends to extend the frontiers of his artistic dialogue with others even further using “roaming residencies”. FONDATION SUISA is supporting this project financially with Get Going! funding. Text by guest author Rudolf Amstutz

Bertrand Denzler: Sound space surveyor and ambient sound explorer

Bertrand Denzler (Photo: Dmitry Shubin)

“Tireless”, “adaptable” and “industrious” are just three words that could be used to characterise the artistic craft of Bertrand Denzler. Anyone checking out his website for the first time could be forgiven for thinking the sheer number of projects and line-ups might be their kiss-of-death. Denzler laughs: “I’ve laid the whole thing out somewhat more clearly in the meantime.” In fact: on second glance, it all makes sense. And anyone taking the next step of dipping into the sounds available online will hardly be able to resist Denzler’s artistic vision. At first, the finely balanced sound sculptures seem to reveal a welcoming kind of simplicity. But in the background lurks a complexity with a tremendous pulling effect that is almost hypnotic.

“My compositions are not primarily about the narrative form, but the inner structure. This means my pieces might seem relatively simple, but they are not easy to play. The musician should not be distracted by far too many ideas, but should be able to concentrate fully on the sound and its precision,” is the way Denzler explains his intentions.

He classifies his process-orientated compositions as “spaces”. For the most part, they do not feature traditional notation, but are predetermined by their structure. “I want musicians to be involved and have to think for themselves”, stresses Denzler. He adds: “Often it is just the time structure that is specified, and not the rhythmic structure. The predetermined rules always open up lots of opportunities.”

Denzler practises this “space surveying” with the simultaneous exploration of the ambient sound with very different line-ups, including the Sowari Trio, Hubbub, Denzler-Gerbal-Dörner, The Seen, Onceim and Denzler-Grip-Johansson. At the same time, he is not averse to trying new things, including improvising as a guest musician in such line-ups as Jonas Kocher’s international Šalter Ensemble, in a duo with Hans Koch or quite simply solo.

Denzler actually considers his career to be somewhat typical of a European musician of his generation. He started out with classical music, but at the same time was listening to pop and rock in private. However, an outright thirst for knowledge also made him aware relatively quickly of the most varied ways in this world that music can be played. “And eventually”, comments Denzler, “jazz became my main sphere of activity, because improvisation, in other words implementing your thoughts in real time, fascinated me”.

After jazz came free-form music, even if Denzler is still to this day impressed by the philosophy and improvisational approach of such greats as Albert Ayler and John Coltrane and will probably continue to be influenced by them. As opposed to many improvisers who never return (if they have occasionally diverted from a compositional approach), Denzler has found a space where he can keep creating new things architecturally from the delicate balance between improvisation and composition. “In the last ten years, I acquired the feeling that I am always improvising in the same system. Suddenly, I once gain felt compelled to build structures within my music.”

Denzler’s artistic vision is not only a kind of journey of discovery in a metaphorical sense: he wants to transport this “space” to different geographical locations as a “roaming residency”, so as to meet other musicians there and create new music with them. Up to now, the project has failed, not only for financial reasons, but also because such an open project does not comply with the general conditions of traditional subsidies policies. Start-up funding from a FONDATION SUISA Get Going! grant is now making realisation possible, because, according to Denzler, “… it allows me to pursue my creativity instead of predefined conditions”. Beaming with delight, he adds that it’s as if this grant had been specially tailored for him. And in fact his definition almost reminds you of a Denzler composition, in which the structures defined by the creator open up unforeseen possibilities …

www.bertranddenzler.com

FONDATION SUISA started awarding new grants in 2018. Under the heading of “Get Going!”, creative and artistic processes that do not fall within established categories are given a financial jump-start. Our Portrait Series profiles recipients of Get Going! funding.

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20,000 Swiss Francs and an imaginary composition project20,000 Swiss Francs and an imaginary composition project To discuss artistic creation is anything but simple. That’s why Swiss association Jazzy Jams and SUISA have come up with something special in the course of the Jazz Festival in Bess (Lugano). Composer Maria Bonzanigo, from Ticino, and composers Pietro Viviani and Damiano Merzari developed an imaginary composition project in front of the audience. The result was rather fascinating and took those present on a journey into the thought-world of authors. Read more
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Saxophonist Bertrand Denzler is always working on new opportunities to express himself in the delicate balance that lies between improvisation and composition. The 55-year-old musician from Geneva, who is now resident in Paris, now intends to extend the frontiers of his artistic dialogue with others even further using “roaming residencies”. FONDATION SUISA is supporting this project financially with Get Going! funding. Text by guest author Rudolf Amstutz

Bertrand Denzler: Sound space surveyor and ambient sound explorer

Bertrand Denzler (Photo: Dmitry Shubin)

“Tireless”, “adaptable” and “industrious” are just three words that could be used to characterise the artistic craft of Bertrand Denzler. Anyone checking out his website for the first time could be forgiven for thinking the sheer number of projects and line-ups might be their kiss-of-death. Denzler laughs: “I’ve laid the whole thing out somewhat more clearly in the meantime.” In fact:...read more

20,000 Swiss Francs and an imaginary composition project

To discuss artistic creation is anything but simple. That’s why Swiss association Jazzy Jams and SUISA have come up with something special in the course of the Jazz Festival in Bess (Lugano). Composer Maria Bonzanigo, from Ticino, and composers Pietro Viviani and Damiano Merzari developed an imaginary composition project in front of the audience. The result was rather fascinating and took those present on a journey into the thought-world of authors. Guest contribution by Zeno Gabaglio

Jazz in Bess: 20,000 Swiss Francs and an imaginary composition project

Zeno Gabaglio (Co-moderator), Maria Bonzanigo, Pietro Viviani, Alessandro Zanoli (Moderator) and Damiano Merzari (in the picture from left to right) have discussed their most private creative processes as composers. (Photo: Erika Weibel

An entire evening focussing on the subject of musical creation can actually be rather boring. Especially because the topic itself creates a conundrum – comparable to the mysteries that surround each history of creation, or genesis. The explanation of musical creation usually leads to two unpleasant results: erring around aimlessly between contradictory philosophical beliefs or completely rejecting something that conflicts by nature with logical thinking and explanations.

Fully aware of this starting position, Swiss association Jazzy Jams and SUISA organised an evening dedicated to musical creation on Thursday, 25 January 2018 in the Swiss National Sound Archives in Lugano. Naturally, the question arose how you might map out such an evening without ‘dead-ending’ in the above mentioned, fateful cul-de-sac.

Spontaneous composing in front of the audience

The idea was to let three invited music authors directly dive into the subject matter; into a situation which is as practice-related as it is specific, so that there is neither room for philosophical palaver nor any moments of awkward silence.

But how? By sending each of them an invite by an imaginary committee. They got summoned to collaborate on a new project. The text that was only revealed at the beginning of the meeting was the following:

“Jazzy Jams wishes to inaugurate its new hall with a number of concerts and invites musicians from the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland to spontaneously conceive an artistic work. The event is about a performance in a modular-built and technically well-equipped room with a capacity of 400 seats. The composition budget amounts to CHF 5,000. For the actual implementation, CHF 15,000 is available. The time span from concept to implementation is nine months. There are no specifications regarding music styles or duration, and the composer shall have the entire evening to him/herself.”

The only condition for each author was to lay bare their very own creative process to the audience – in a kind of inner dialogue, but spoken out loud.

Maria Bonzanigo, Pietro Viviani and Damiano Merzari (members of the band The Pussywarmers) have generously made themselves available for this project by – in a rather unusual open brainstorming – revealed their generally most private creative processes.

Different music styles, different approaches

The result: captivating, electrifying, surprising and sometimes ironic. This was due to the fact that music genres (theatre and concert music in the case of Bonzanigo; jazz, soundtracks and concert music in the case of Viviani; independent rock in the case of Merzari) illustrated rather different ways to access the very same phenomenon which all of us – rather unimaginatively but proudly – refer to under the same term, “music”.

Certain doubts and questions arose in the course of the discussion – apart from solid technical and poetic certainties. And maybe they were the most interesting moments of the event. They revealed the creative process not only as an equation which can be solved with one single result, but also a part of your life map which you need to travel to, even though this entails the usual unavoidable surprises along the journey.

In the second part of the evening, the subject of the creation process moved a little bit into the background; the focus was rather on the question whether artistic creation can be taught. And if so, how?

Tamara Basaric of the Conservatorio della Svizzera Italiana, Giorgio Meuwly and Marco Conti of the Scuola di Musica Moderna as well as Andrés Ortiz of the Scuola di Musica e di Arti Creative were the specialist mentors (as well as authors) and provided answers in both an expert and an exciting manner.

Links
Jazz in Bess
Maria Bonzanigo
Pietro Viviani
The Pussywarmers

Guest contributor Zeno Gabaglio is a SUISA Board member, composer and was the co-moderator of the Jazz in Bess.

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To discuss artistic creation is anything but simple. That’s why Swiss association Jazzy Jams and SUISA have come up with something special in the course of the Jazz Festival in Bess (Lugano). Composer Maria Bonzanigo, from Ticino, and composers Pietro Viviani and Damiano Merzari developed an imaginary composition project in front of the audience. The result was rather fascinating and took those present on a journey into the thought-world of authors. Guest contribution by Zeno Gabaglio

Jazz in Bess: 20,000 Swiss Francs and an imaginary composition project

Zeno Gabaglio (Co-moderator), Maria Bonzanigo, Pietro Viviani, Alessandro Zanoli (Moderator) and Damiano Merzari (in the picture from left to right) have discussed their most private creative processes as composers. (Photo: Erika Weibel

An entire evening focussing on the subject of musical creation can actually be rather boring. Especially because the topic itself creates a conundrum – comparable...read more

Julien-François Zbinden: 100 years’ old!

Julien-François Zbinden is a pianist, composer, writer and … 100 years’ old. On 11 November 2017, the honorary member of SUISA will celebrate his centennial birthday. For the occasion, the guest author Jean-Pierre Mathez has been invited to review the jubilarian’s life and work.

Julien-François Zbinden: 100 years' old!

Julien-François Zbinden, former President and now honorary member of SUISA will celebrate his 100th birthday on 11 November 2017 (Photo: Yvan Ischer)

Ford Model T year 1913. (Photo: Ryan Fletcher / Shutterstock.com)

Julien-François Zbinden was born on 11 November 1917, nine years after the Ford T. He was a privileged and attentive witness to the extra-ordinary technological, artistic, moral and spiritual developments which revolutionised Man’s life on this planet during his lifetime.

His musical adventure started with his beloved piano. In his own words:

“Still today, it shares my passion for jazz music, and our complicity is enshrined in the album ‘The Last Call…?’ which I recorded when I was 93. ‘It’ is my instrument, my more than one century-old piano: a Blüthner Model 190, No. 89293, built in Leipzig in 1910, to which I dedicate this Opus 111 (titled ‘Blüthner-Variationen’, published by Editions Bim PNO67, Author’s note) which completes my series of works for the piano.”

Self-portrait, engraving on linoleum, 1937.

Julien-François Zbinden first earned his living as a bar pianist, passionately initiating himself to jazz and then to composition.

When he was 30, he started his career with the music department of Radio Suisse Romande, which he marked with his administrative imprint and open-mindedness until stepping down in 1982. Glorious years with the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne, Fanfare Perce-Oreille, classical and popular choirs across French-speaking Switzerland, stars of “la chanson française”, jazz orchestras; he participated in and hosted on-air debates with talent and respect for the opinions of others. He brought numerous celebrities from the musical world to Lausanne: the RSR archives contain a wealth of live interviews and recordings with famous artists. He opened the RSR’s doors to all genres of quality music, irrigating a pluralist culture in the Romandie and other French-speaking countries.

When he was in his mid-fifties, he passed his aviator’s licence, reveling in the emotion of his aerial arabesques and the thrill of the miniaturised view of life on earth.

Julien-François Zbinden in front of a Piper L4, initiation to landing (Glacier des Diablerets, 11.12.1975). (Photo: ZvG)

Julien-François Zbinden at the piano, January 2017. (Photo: ZvG)

On reaching retirement age, Julien-François Zbinden left the RSR and devoted himself heart and soul to composing (he would write over one hundred works), to his friends, to travelling and writing (an impressive bibliography and two more recent books), not to forget recording two recent jazz albums on the piano (TCB Montreux).

He was President of the Association des Musiciens suisses (1973 to 1979) and of SUISA from 1987 to 1991.

Julien-François Zbinden is also a valuable living memory, a well of knowledge, a man of letters who has observed and analysed his times with great perspicacity. His musical works have been played worldwide and are published by major European publishing houses (since 1988, all his new works have been published in Switzerland by Editions Bim).

We hope that the Swiss musical world, in the Romandie in particular, will not forget this exceptional artist and will continue to pass on his works to future generations of musicians and music-lovers in our country.

Read (much) more about Julien-François Zbinden: www.jfzbinden.ch

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Julien-François Zbinden is a pianist, composer, writer and … 100 years’ old. On 11 November 2017, the honorary member of SUISA will celebrate his centennial birthday. For the occasion, the guest author Jean-Pierre Mathez has been invited to review the jubilarian’s life and work.

Julien-François Zbinden: 100 years' old!

Julien-François Zbinden, former President and now honorary member of SUISA will celebrate his 100th birthday on 11 November 2017 (Photo: Yvan Ischer)

Ford Model T year 1913. (Photo: Ryan Fletcher / Shutterstock.com)

Julien-François Zbinden was born on 11 November 1917, nine years after the Ford T. He was a privileged and attentive witness to the extra-ordinary technological, artistic, moral and spiritual developments which revolutionised Man’s life on this planet during his lifetime.

His musical adventure started with his beloved piano. In his own words:

“Still today, it shares my passion for jazz music,...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

Schweizer Jazz an der Jazzahead! 2016 allseits präsent

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