Tag Archives: Music award

“Adiós”: Caribbean-style summer hit with a cembalo | plus video

At the “Swiss Music Awards” 2019, together with four co-composers Loco Escrito can hope for the sought-after concrete blocks in the category “Best Hit” for the song “Adiós”. The musician and music university lecturer Hans Feigenwinter talks about where the strengths of the song lie in a video with his song analysis. Text by Giorgio Tebaldi; Video by Sibylle Roth

Nicolas Herzig – Loco Escrito’s real name – seems to have found the success formula for summer hits. After he hit the Swiss Charts with “Sin Ti” in 2017, he outdid his success last year: The single “Adiós” stayed in the Swiss Charts for 29 weeks and climbed all the way to 4th position. The song thus counted among the three most successful Swiss tracks in 2018 and has been nominated for the award as “Best Hit” at the Swiss Music Awards.

Varied and thrilling dramaturgy

Hans Feigenwinter thinks that one interesting aspect of the song was the instrumentation of the stanzas. He is a musician himself and lectures musicology at the music universities in Basel and Lucerne. He thoroughly analyses the song in the video.

For Nicolas Herzig and co-composer and producer Henrik Amschler it was paramount that “Adiós” should remain varied and contain a thrilling dramaturgy. In an interview given in writing, Amschler stated: “Since the song does, for example, not contain a classical bridge with a change of chord after the second chorus but three parts, it was important to us that each part was special in its own way.” The various song parts have therefore also their respective and different moods, as Amschler adds: “The first section of the second part is rhythmical and animates you to dance. The first section of the third part, on the other hand, is spheric and very emotional.”

(International) songwriting team work

In addition to Amschler and Herzig, three other musicians were involved in writing the song “Adiós”. Composer Sandro Dietrich from Graubünden and Latin Rapper, singer, percussionist and music producer Lou Geniuz, aka Lou Zarra, from the same Swiss canton, laid the musical foundation which was already very much developed according to Amschler. With regards to the lyrics, Nicolas Herzig was supported by Columbian musician Jonathan Ruiz Meija. “It was therefore up to Loco and me to continue with the song, to adapt it and to complete it,” writes Amschler.

The songwriters and the producer have deliberately renounced on using too many instruments. “We had actually planned to use more instruments, for example in the chorus”, explains Henrik Amschler. “At the end of the day, however, we decided to reduce in order to provide the vocals with more space by way of various harmonies.” Nevertheless, “Adiós” surprises with interesting sounds, such as a harpsichord or cembalo-like sound – something that is rather unusual for pop music according to Hans Feigenwinter.

“Swiss Music Awards”: SUISA awards the songwriter of the “Best Hit”

“Adiós” is one of the three songs that have been nominated for the “Best Hit” at the next “Swiss Music Awards” which will be awarded at the Culture and Congress Centre Lucerne (Kultur- und Kongresszentrum Luzern KKL) on Saturday, 16 February 2019. SUISA is a “supporting partner” of the event. For the fourth time, the “Best Hit” award is also issued to composers and lyricists of the winning song on behalf of SUISA. The nominated songs are:

  • “079” by Lo & Leduc (songwriter: Lorenz Häberli, Maurice Könz, Luc Oggier)
  • «Adiós» by Loco Escrito (songwriter: Henrik Amschler, Sandro Dietrich, Nicolas Herzig, Jonathan Ruiz Mejia, Luigi Zarra)
  • «Us Mänsch» by Bligg feat. Marc Sway (songwriter: Marco Bliggensdorfer, Fred Herrmann, Marc Sway)

www.locoescrito.com
www.henrik-hsa-amschler.ch

Hans Feigenwinter comes from Basel. During his early years, he played in pop and indie rock bands. Lateron, he studied piano at the Swiss Jazz School in Berne and has since been active as a pianist and composer in various formations. In addition to solo concerts, he is currently performing in the trios Hans Feigenwinter ZINC and Feigenwinter Oester Pfammatter. He is a lecturer at the music universities in Basel and Lucerne. www.hansfeigenwinter.ch
Related articles
“079”: A tragicomic hit story | plus video“079”: A tragicomic hit story | plus video Lo & Leduc and their co-composer Maurice “Dr Mo” Könz have made history with “079”: Last year, the song stayed an entire 21 weeks at the top of the national charts – and thus broke a Swiss record. “079” is one of the three nominated songs for the “Best Hit award at the “Swiss Music Awards” 2019. Musician and lecturer for musicology, Hans Feigenwinter, analysed the hit composition. Read more
“Us Mänsch”: Last minute hit with loads of energy | plus video“Us Mänsch”: Last minute hit with loads of energy | plus video “Us Mänsch” by Bligg and Marc Sway was one of the most successful Swiss songs last year. This despite the fact that the song only made it to the Bligg album “KombiNation” last minute. Now, the song is nominated for the “Best Hit award at the “Swiss Music Awards” 2019. Musician and music university lecturer Hans Feigenwinter has analysed the composition of “Us Mänsch”. Read more
Award for songwriters at the Swiss Music Awards | plus videoAward for songwriters at the Swiss Music Awards | plus video The newcomer Nickless and the renowned producer Thomas Fessler won the first award for songwriters at the Swiss Music Awards 2016. The winning song “Waiting”, jointly composed by the two, didn’t appear out of thin air but is the result of lots of teamwork. At the occasion of the Swiss Music Awards 2017, SUISA will honour the performance of composers and lyricists with an award again. Read more
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At the “Swiss Music Awards” 2019, together with four co-composers Loco Escrito can hope for the sought-after concrete blocks in the category “Best Hit” for the song “Adiós”. The musician and music university lecturer Hans Feigenwinter talks about where the strengths of the song lie in a video with his song analysis. Text by Giorgio Tebaldi; Video by Sibylle Roth

Nicolas Herzig – Loco Escrito’s real name – seems to have found the success formula for summer hits. After he hit the Swiss Charts with “Sin Ti” in 2017, he outdid his success last year: The single “Adiós” stayed in the Swiss Charts for 29 weeks and climbed all the way to 4th position. The song thus counted among the three most successful Swiss tracks in 2018 and has been nominated for...read more

“Us Mänsch”: Last minute hit with loads of energy | plus video

“Us Mänsch” by Bligg and Marc Sway was one of the most successful Swiss songs last year. This despite the fact that the song only made it to the Bligg album “KombiNation” last minute. Now, the song is nominated for the “Best Hit award at the “Swiss Music Awards” 2019. Musician and music university lecturer Hans Feigenwinter has analysed the composition of “Us Mänsch”. Text by Giorgio Tebaldi; Video by Manu Leuenberger

Bligg and Marc Sway have already written some songs together. For the single “Us Mänsch” they took to the microphone together for the first time. Not without success: The single was awarded platinum status in 2018.

Why is the song so attractive for the audience? Hans Feigenwinter who lectures musicology at the music universities in Basel and Lucerne and is a pianist and composer himself, reckons: “There is a lot of energy, it is a very passionate rap.” In his song analysis which can be watched in the video, he recognises something solemn in the piece: “I had to think of a sermon.”

Last minute hit

Apart from Bligg and Marc Sway, Bligg’s long-term producer and co-composer, Fred Herrmann, contributed to writing “Us Mänsch”. In a written interview, Fred Herrmann described how the song was created:

““Us Mänsch” was a typical last minute hit! It was the very last song which we wrote and produced for the album “KombiNation”. Bligg said that he still had a cool idea for some lyrics with a play on words in relation to “Us Mänsch” which he was very keen to realise. Since we were already lagging behind the time schedule rather significantly, we worked simultaneously. While I worked on the composition and the production, Bligg was honing the lyrics into shape and recorded his vocals. He kept sending me new vocal tracks he had recorded which I either implemented straight away or questioned and asked for improvement. It was a real ping pong party! Somehow we had put the song together, but we found that the refrain needed to be recorded by a male singer with a raucous voice. We quickly thought of Marc Sway whom we both have known very well and for a very long time! Mister Sway came to the studio for two hours each and the refrain was ready! The beauty about composing is that every now and then, completely unpredictably, you manage to create a song where everything is just perfect.”

“Swiss Music Awards”: SUISA awards the songwriter of the “Best Hit”

“Us Mänsch” is one of the three songs that have been nominated for the “Best Hit” at the next “Swiss Music Awards” which will be awarded at the Culture and Congress Centre Lucerne (Kultur- und Kongresszentrum Luzern KKL) on Saturday, 16 February 2019. SUISA is a “supporting partner” of the event. For the fourth time, the “Best Hit” award is also issued to composers and lyricists of the winning song on behalf of SUISA. The nominated songs are:

  • “079” by Lo & Leduc (songwriter: Lorenz Häberli, Maurice Könz, Luc Oggier)
  • «Adiós» by Loco Escrito (songwriter: Henrik Amschler, Sandro Dietrich, Nicolas Herzig, Jonathan Ruiz Mejia, Luigi Zarra)
  • «Us Mänsch» by Bligg feat. Marc Sway (songwriter: Marco Bliggensdorfer, Fred Herrmann, Marc Sway)

www.bligg.ch
www.marcsway.ch

Hans Feigenwinter comes from Basel. During his early years, he played in pop and indie rock bands. Lateron, he studied piano at the Swiss Jazz School in Berne and has since been active as a pianist and composer in various formations. In addition to solo concerts, he is currently performing in the trios Hans Feigenwinter ZINC and Feigenwinter Oester Pfammatter. He is a lecturer at the music universities in Basel and Lucerne. www.hansfeigenwinter.ch
Related articles
“079”: A tragicomic hit story | plus video“079”: A tragicomic hit story | plus video Lo & Leduc and their co-composer Maurice “Dr Mo” Könz have made history with “079”: Last year, the song stayed an entire 21 weeks at the top of the national charts – and thus broke a Swiss record. “079” is one of the three nominated songs for the “Best Hit award at the “Swiss Music Awards” 2019. Musician and lecturer for musicology, Hans Feigenwinter, analysed the hit composition. Read more
Marc Sway: “You write more songs than fit on an album” | plus video“You write more songs than fit on an album” | plus video When we visited him in his studio in January 2018, the long-term SUISA member Marc Sway allowed us a peek into his creative activities and his professional life as a musician. Mid-October 2018, his single “Beat of My Heart” was released as the precursor for his next album whose creation process was one of the main subjects in the video interview. Read more
Creative teamwork at SUISA’s 2018 Songwriting Camp | plus videoCreative teamwork at SUISA’s 2018 Songwriting Camp | plus video SUISA organised the second edition of its Songwriting Camp in cooperation with Pele Loriano Productions. Like the premiere last year the camp again took place at the Powerplay Studios in Maur. A total of 36 musicians from eight different countries attended the three-day event in June 2018, creating 19 pop songs in a wide range of musical styles. Read more
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“Us Mänsch” by Bligg and Marc Sway was one of the most successful Swiss songs last year. This despite the fact that the song only made it to the Bligg album “KombiNation” last minute. Now, the song is nominated for the “Best Hit award at the “Swiss Music Awards” 2019. Musician and music university lecturer Hans Feigenwinter has analysed the composition of “Us Mänsch”. Text by Giorgio Tebaldi; Video by Manu Leuenberger

Bligg and Marc Sway have already written some songs together. For the single “Us Mänsch” they took to the microphone together for the first time. Not without success: The single was awarded platinum status in 2018.

Why is the song so attractive for the audience? Hans Feigenwinter who lectures musicology at the music universities in Basel and Lucerne and is a...read more

“079”: A tragicomic hit story | plus video

Lo & Leduc and their co-composer Maurice “Dr Mo” Könz have made history with “079”: Last year, the song stayed an entire 21 weeks at the top of the national charts – and thus broke a Swiss record. “079” is one of the three nominated songs for the “Best Hit award at the “Swiss Music Awards” 2019. Musician and lecturer for musicology, Hans Feigenwinter, analysed the hit composition. Text by Giorgio Tebaldi; Video by Sibylle Roth

How “079” found its way into the Swiss charts is already a remarkable story. In February 2018, Lo & Leduc offered the song and the respective album “Update 4.0” for streaming and downloading, free of charge, on their website – “because of joy” as they said in an interview at the time. The audience liked the song so much that it sold more and more and was streamed ever more increasingly. That way, “079” made it to number 1 of the Swiss single charts and held the top spot for 21 weeks.

The song was written by Lorenz Häberli (Lo), Luc Oggier (Leduc) and the Berne composer, DJ and performer Maurice Könz, better known as Dr. Mo. The latter wrote the melody to which Lo & Leduc added the lyrics. “The lyrics and the music were created completely independently of each other”, tells Dr. Mo in relation to the creation process of the piece in a written interview. Both elements had already nearly been finished when they were finally combined. “We had tried to combine the lyrics with another beat, respectively to write another set of lyrics for the beat”, Dr. Mo writes. “These ideas, however, were quickly dismissed. When we then combined those lyrics with that beat, we knew immediately that everything fits perfectly.”

Original, moving, somewhat absurd

Last but not least, the story that the song is about contributed to its success. “It is a tragicomic story. It is original, it is comprehensible, it is moving; it all has something absurd about it”, says pianist and composer Hans Feigenwinter who lectures musicology at the music universities in Basel and Lucerne. His analysis of the song can be seen in the video.

The fact that searching for the right words can be rather time intensive in certain cases, is shown by Dr. Mo on the basis of a specific example: “The search for a suitable personal pronoun lasted the longest. We were unsure whether the story can be understood if two different singers perform it from a first person perspective, all the while are depicting the same person. We thus also thought about telling a story about “him” so that the confusion about the personalities could be remedied. This, however, created problems with the conjugation, rhymes and emotional access. We finally decided, and rightly so, that we would have to impose the first person perspective onto the listener.

“Swiss Music Awards”: SUISA awards the songwriter of the “Best Hit”

“079” is one of the three songs that have been nominated for the “Best Hit” at the next “Swiss Music Awards” which will be awarded at the Culture and Congress Centre Lucerne (Kultur- und Kongresszentrum Luzern KKL) on Saturday, 16 February 2019. SUISA is a “supporting partner” of the event. For the fourth time, the “Best Hit” award is also issued to composers and lyricists of the winning song on behalf of SUISA. The nominated songs are:

  • “079” by Lo & Leduc (songwriter: Lorenz Häberli, Maurice Könz, Luc Oggier)
  • «Adiós» by Loco Escrito (songwriter: Henrik Amschler, Sandro Dietrich, Nicolas Herzig, Jonathan Ruiz Mejia, Luigi Zarra)
  • «Us Mänsch» by Bligg feat. Marc Sway (songwriter: Marco Bliggensdorfer, Fred Herrmann, Marc Sway)

www.lo-leduc.ch
www.drmo.ch

Hans Feigenwinter comes from Basel. During his early years, he played in pop and indie rock bands. Lateron, he studied piano at the Swiss Jazz School in Berne and has since been active as a pianist and composer in various formations. In addition to solo concerts, he is currently performing in the trios Hans Feigenwinter ZINC and Feigenwinter Oester Pfammatter. He is a lecturer at the music universities in Basel and Lucerne. www.hansfeigenwinter.ch
Related articles
Award for songwriters at the Swiss Music Awards | plus videoAward for songwriters at the Swiss Music Awards | plus video The newcomer Nickless and the renowned producer Thomas Fessler won the first award for songwriters at the Swiss Music Awards 2016. The winning song “Waiting”, jointly composed by the two, didn’t appear out of thin air but is the result of lots of teamwork. At the occasion of the Swiss Music Awards 2017, SUISA will honour the performance of composers and lyricists with an award again. Read more
Marc Sway: “You write more songs than fit on an album” | plus video“You write more songs than fit on an album” | plus video When we visited him in his studio in January 2018, the long-term SUISA member Marc Sway allowed us a peek into his creative activities and his professional life as a musician. Mid-October 2018, his single “Beat of My Heart” was released as the precursor for his next album whose creation process was one of the main subjects in the video interview. Read more
Creative teamwork at SUISA’s 2018 Songwriting Camp | plus videoCreative teamwork at SUISA’s 2018 Songwriting Camp | plus video SUISA organised the second edition of its Songwriting Camp in cooperation with Pele Loriano Productions. Like the premiere last year the camp again took place at the Powerplay Studios in Maur. A total of 36 musicians from eight different countries attended the three-day event in June 2018, creating 19 pop songs in a wide range of musical styles. Read more
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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.

Your email address will not be published.

Lo & Leduc and their co-composer Maurice “Dr Mo” Könz have made history with “079”: Last year, the song stayed an entire 21 weeks at the top of the national charts – and thus broke a Swiss record. “079” is one of the three nominated songs for the “Best Hit award at the “Swiss Music Awards” 2019. Musician and lecturer for musicology, Hans Feigenwinter, analysed the hit composition. Text by Giorgio Tebaldi; Video by Sibylle Roth

How “079” found its way into the Swiss charts is already a remarkable story. In February 2018, Lo & Leduc offered the song and the respective album “Update 4.0” for streaming and downloading, free of charge, on their website – “because of joy” as they said in an interview at the time. The audience liked the...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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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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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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“Nothing, nothing at all beats a well-written song” The international success with Bonaparte is the current highlight of the long-term songwriter career of Tobias Jundt. He penned several hundred titles, spanning a wide stylistic variety, even for or together with other artists. Born in Berne, and now living in Berlin, the composer passes on his knowledge and experience as a guest lecturer at the Zürcher Hochschule der Künste (Zurich University of the Arts) in the subject “songwriting”. An interview with the SUISA member who has been nominated for the Grand Prix Musik in 2016 and performs with his new formation, Mule & Man, at the Festival Label Suisse in Lausanne. 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. 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. Read more
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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

Award for songwriters at the Swiss Music Awards | plus video

The newcomer Nickless and the renowned producer Thomas Fessler won the first award for songwriters at the Swiss Music Awards 2016. The winning song “Waiting”, jointly composed by the two, didn’t appear out of thin air but is the result of lots of teamwork. At the occasion of the Swiss Music Awards 2017, SUISA will honour the performance of composers and lyricists with an award again.

The first award for songwriters at the Swiss Music Awards was granted to a newcomer and a “veteran”: The 21-year-old Nickless from Zurich, and the producer Thomas Fessler received the award for the jointly composed song “Waiting”.

On top of the necessary inspiration, a lot of work went into the song over a long period of time. “Waiting” reached 14th place in the Swiss single charts in April 2015 and was granted the Swiss Music Award in the category “Best Hit” in 2016.

For the first time, and in collaboration with SUISA, composers and lyricists were honoured in the course of this award category in 2016. By introducing an award for songwriters at the Swiss Music Awards, the audience would realise that songs don’t appear out of thin air but that a lot of work, heart and soul, said producer Thomas Fessler during an interview. Nickless was particularly happy about the recognition he received for the work as a consequence of receiving the award.

Andreas Wegelin, CEO of SUISA, adds: “Behind every big hit there are composers and lyricists. It is important for SUISA that the work of these authors will be honoured at the Swiss Music Awards.” As a consequence, the award will be granted to the songwriters of the winning title in the category “best hit” in 2017 – for the second time.

The following artists and songs are nominated in the category “best hit” and thus also for the award for songwriters at the Swiss Music Award 2017:

“Angelina”
Composers and lyricists: Andreas “DJ Arts” Christen, Dabu Bucher, Gianluca Giger
Artist: Dabu Fantastic

“Thank You”
Composers and lyricists: Arie Storm, DJ Antoine, Eric Lumière, Fabio “Mad Mark” Antoniali
Artist: DJ Antoine

“Monbijou”
Composers and lyricists: Joachim Piehl, Lucien Spielmann, Manillio
Artist: Manillio

The award for songwriters is granted in the name of SUISA, the Cooperative Society for Music Authors and Publishers at the occasion of the Swiss Music Award ceremonies on 10 February 2017 in the Hallenstadion in Zurich.

Nickless, website
571 Recording Studios, website
Swiss Music Awards, website

SUISA is a member of the Press Play association. The association, founded in 2012, is official sponsor of the Swiss Music Awards.

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The newcomer Nickless and the renowned producer Thomas Fessler won the first award for songwriters at the Swiss Music Awards 2016. The winning song “Waiting”, jointly composed by the two, didn’t appear out of thin air but is the result of lots of teamwork. At the occasion of the Swiss Music Awards 2017, SUISA will honour the performance of composers and lyricists with an award again.

The first award for songwriters at the Swiss Music Awards was granted to a newcomer and a “veteran”: The 21-year-old Nickless from Zurich, and the producer Thomas Fessler received the award for the jointly composed song “Waiting”.

On top of the necessary inspiration, a lot of work went into the song over a long period of time. “Waiting” reached 14th place in the Swiss single charts in...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

“Nothing, nothing at all beats a well-written song”

The international success with Bonaparte is the current highlight of the long-term songwriter career of Tobias Jundt. He penned several hundred titles, spanning a wide stylistic variety, even for or together with other artists. Born in Berne, and now living in Berlin, the composer passes on his knowledge and experience as a guest lecturer at the Zürcher Hochschule der Künste (Zurich University of the Arts) in the subject “songwriting”. An interview with the SUISA member who has been nominated for the Grand Prix Musik in 2016 and performs with his new formation, Mule & Man, at the Festival Label Suisse in Lausanne.

“Nothing, nothing at all beats a well-written song”

With his new project, Mule & Man, Tobias Jundt (lying down) can be enjoyed together with Kid Simius (standing up) during their live concert at Les Docks during the Festival Label Suisse on Saturday, 17 September 2016. (Photo: Melissa Jundt)

What does the nomination for the music award of the Federal Office of Culture (BAK)?
Tobias Jundt: I am, of course, honoured that my art is recognised and appreciated as such. Especially when you create something that is usually neither here nor there and thus cannot be squeezed into a pigeon-hole, it takes quite some time until you will be recognised as an artist with your own language. With such a huge variety on offer, it is basically impossible to compare or rate the creations of some with the works of others. But after 30 years as a songwriter, I am rather flattered that I am given the opportunity to be a representative of the cultural language of my country as one of the possible musical parts.

The BAK presents the music award 2016 in the run-up to the Festival Label Suisse. The Festival in Lausanne attracts mainly Swiss music from various genres to the stages over a three-day period. Access to the concerts is free. Why does Swiss music need a music award from the BAK and a Festival like the Label Suisse?
I think we should consider ourselves grateful to live in a country where the government takes time to honour the arts and luckily has the necessary change in the pocket to temporarily and considerably simplify the creativity of the prize winners with this award. All of the nominees would continue to relentlessly do what they do anyway, in order to face the high seas of life, even without the award. We should thankfully accept the fact that the BAK supports us with this and provides a silver-lined breeze for our sails.
Festivals are places where you can discover things. The audience discovers music bands, artists meet other artists, collaborations are forged and, somewhere, a Schwyzeroergeli fan falls in love with a Stockhausen follower. Festivals, do, however, never replace an artist’s concert experience a whole evening provides, but they are very important as events where expression can be exchanged and even collide. It is always the right choice to campaign for a broad and liberal-minded culture.

“You need stamina, a tireless will to attack and a stoic persistence when it comes to realise your artistic drive.”

You once said in an NZZ interview that it was only possible to survive in Switzerland with mainstream pop music or in one of the heavily subsidised genres such as jazz or classical music. What has to change so that the diversity of Swiss music creations will attract more listeners, both at home and abroad?
It’s a problem that a musical niche related only to Switzerland is indeed rather small, so that it cannot really be exercised as a main profession but only ‘on the side’. You therefore either have to be active in a genre where you can generate a lot of turnover, or in a subsidised sector, or tackle a bigger territory. The latter requires a lot of stamina, a tireless will to attack and a stoic persistence when it comes to realise your artistic drive. Unless the motivation for this artistic insanity comes from deep within yourself, there is no real driver for the majority of Swiss people to risk their existing quality of life. You do actually have to be a little bit crazy to want to renounce on it at least temporarily in order to plough this rather tough musical field. During my travels, I repeatedly meet very active Swiss expats. It isn’t the talent that is lacking, it is the attitude.

You have been living in Berlin since 2006 and are now settled in there. How can you ‘be’ as a Swiss songwriter abroad and how is Swiss music, in your opinion, perceived abroad?
Most people of this solar system fall in love with Switzerland and what it represents. You often forget about that when you sit on the mountain too long. If I write music for other artists in Berlin or New York, nobody ever asks me where I grew up. The aim is always the same: to write the right work for a specific phase of an artist. That involves either aspects of commercial success or artistic reinvention. And when I perform my songs as a soloist appearing as Bonaparte from Beijing to Wellington, nobody asks me where I am from either – even though I do quite like to add that I am Swiss – especially as it distinguishes me from those out there and because it is an important part of my being. In order to prevail, you need to have an alert mind and soak in and apply the various parameters of the different cultures. Everyone can do that, irrespective of where they’re from.

“I claim that Switzerland has one of the best collective management organisations in the world. SUISA is where I belong as a composer.”

You live in Germany, but you are a member of the Swiss SUISA. Why?
I claim that Switzerland has one of the best collective management organisations in the world – and that’s an opinion shared by quite a few international authors. I say this with a clear conscience and out of my own free will. I was a member of BMI in the USA in the past, and I also run a publishing company which is a member of GEMA. All well and good but SUISA is the place where I belong as a composer. I really enjoyed the time under Poto Wegener and, due to his support, I began looking into copyright more intensively. The good relations to SUISA have stayed in place and I really appreciate the mutual exchange and respect.

You lecture the subject “songwriting” at the Zurich University of the Arts. Can you learn how to write a hit? Which tips do you give students for composing on their way?
I usually advise them to forget everything they think they know. I like to ask them to write songs as humans and not as musicians. Of course, analytical and theoretical knowledge and practical techniques help us to find a quicker way out of musical cul-de-sacs. But at the core of finding ideas, there isn’t much difference between us and Mrs Mountainvalley who whistles a little melody while having a shower in the morning. You can, of course, just like in every situation in life, learn a technique – whether it’s holding a club as a golfer or using Kamasutra positions as a lover – which allows you to write good songs at any old day of the week. But there are many and enough good songs already – you need to rather try to write songs with a certain je-ne-sais-quoi: songs which still have a raison d’etre even to be let loose onto mankind in their genre, even after the life work of a, Lennon-McCartney an Udo Jürgens, an Igor Strawinsky or Daft Punk. This doesn’t always work, but that’s what the songwriter has to get up for each morning – for the attempt to write a song which, in its own way, enriches the world.

“The most important thing that still exists, especially today, is the musical idea.”

A musician on a concert stage is not necessarily at the same time the songwriter, who is often forgotten in comparison with the star in the limelight. How can composers step out of the artists’ shadow when it comes to public perception?
The question is, do they have to. I only sing the songs that I cannot expect others to perform. The psychological pressure that a front man and artists have to sustain, can – in the long run – be rather exhausting. A songwriter, however, can act in the background, sit in front of their piano somewhere, unnoticed, and simply focus on the core of the music. And believe me, the most important thing that still exists, especially today, is the musical idea. Nothing, and nothing at all beats a really well-written song which cleverly combines craft and original ideas. There may be hope for all who thought that there had been too much speak of the devil. I am rather glad that I have a dozen pseudonyms at SUISA – these are songwriter roles into which I can morph depending on the style, genre or mood and that aren’t even known to my closest friends. I like it that professional songwriting sometimes simply remains a secret between the piece of paper and myself. If a musician does something odd on stage, everybody will talk about it the next day. If a composer creates a little string quartet, naked, while eating two spoons of peanut butter, nobody cares two hoots about it. I really like that. It’s important that we as composers exchange our views and that our rights are well represented through the change of the times.

Composing music for third parties or performing with Mule & Man on stage – what’s the thrill for you of these two activities?
I did have some elitist phases in my life, where I only considered this kind of free jazz or that type of soul to be worth listening to. But at the end of the day, I am suffering from musically inflicted polyamory, and love all kinds of music with a passion, but also have to co-invent. I get satisfaction from composing string or wind arrangements, protest songs, punk chansons, film score, electronic music, experimental fiddling about with noise or country music for the deaf. I like it that you can take from this bottomless cornucopia of combinations and possibilities between the composer and the listener.

Links
Bonaparte, official website
Mule & Man, official Facebook fan page
Label Suisse, website of the Festival
Schweizer Musikpreis (Swiss music award), website of the Swiss Federal Office for Culture (BAK)

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The international success with Bonaparte is the current highlight of the long-term songwriter career of Tobias Jundt. He penned several hundred titles, spanning a wide stylistic variety, even for or together with other artists. Born in Berne, and now living in Berlin, the composer passes on his knowledge and experience as a guest lecturer at the Zürcher Hochschule der Künste (Zurich University of the Arts) in the subject “songwriting”. An interview with the SUISA member who has been nominated for the Grand Prix Musik in 2016 and performs with his new formation, Mule & Man, at the Festival Label Suisse in Lausanne.

“Nothing, nothing at all beats a well-written song”

With his new project, Mule & Man, Tobias Jundt (lying down) can be enjoyed together with Kid Simius (standing up) during their live concert at Les Docks during the Festival...read more

Label Suisse 2016: 70 Künstler, 7 Bühnen und 100 000 Zuschauer

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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