Tag Archives: Swiss film music

Swiss Congress on Film and Media Music

From 29 September to 2 October 2020, the film and media music congress “SoundTrack_Zurich” will take place during the Zurich Film Festival. Swiss film and media music professionals can use this event to expand their network, broaden their expertise and exchange ideas with experienced, internationally active business insiders. Text by Erika Weibel

Sountrack Zurich: Swiss Congress on Film and Media Music

SUISA is supporting the first edition of the “SoundTrack_Zurich” film and media music congress, the programme of which is available at www.soundtrackzurich.com. (Photo: SoundTrack_Zurich)

Composers from Switzerland and abroad will share their experience and knowledge with the audience at two nearby locations. During the event, congress participants will have the opportunity to exchange ideas with international guests of the Zurich Film Festival (ZFF) in workshops, panels, case studies and lectures on current topics of the Swiss and European film music scene.

“SoundTrack_Zurich” is closely networked with the ZFF and its guests as well as with the ZHdK (Zurich University of the Arts), where a lively international exchange on university education for film and media music professionals takes place within the framework of the “International Media Music Competition” and Immsane (“International Media Music & Sound Arts – Network in Education”).

Star guest Ray Parker Jr.

Star guest of “SoundTrack_Zurich” is Ray Parker Jr. who composed the title song for the film “Ghostbusters” and will present the world premiere of the documentary “Who You Gonna Call” about his career.

Ray Parker Jr. wrote and performed in hundreds of top 25 hits. He has composed songs, performed on stage and worked as a session musician with some of the biggest icons in the industry, including Barry White, Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, Tina Turner, The Temptations, The Carpenters and The Supremes.

Copyright issues related to film and media music creation

On the morning of 29 September, lectures and information events will also be held on copyright issues. For example, SUISA experts can answer questions about documentation and cue sheets or provide information on SUISA’s distribution system.

In addition, a panel will be held on the “Digital Challenges” of today’s age, in which IT experts will discuss with business insiders what the future digital value creation in film music creation should look like.

SUISA sponsorship commitment

“Soundtrack_Zurich” is organised by SMECA, curated by Michael P. Aust (“SoundTrack_Cologne”) and organized in cooperation with “SoundTrack_Cologne”, Forum Filmmusik, ZHdK (Zurich University of the Arts) and IMMSANE. “Soundtrack_Zurich” is organisationally and financially independent of the Zurich Film Festival.

“SoundTrack_Zurich” is to become a new hub for actors in the international film music scene. Film and media music creation also plays a very important role in the Swiss music business. For this reason, SUISA is pleased to contribute to the organisation of this event as a sponsor.

Web links to the event and the cooperation partners:

SoundTrack_Zurich
Zurich Film Festival
International Film Music Competition
Immsane.com
Smeca
Forum Filmmusik
ZHdK
SoundTrack_Cologne

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  1. Hallo Erika,
    vielen Dank für die ganzen Infos zum Event. Auf Ray Parker Jr. freue ich mich besonders.
    Werdet ihr im Anschluss wieder darüber berichten?
    Freue mich wieder davon zu lesen.
    Liebe Grüße,
    Christoph

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From 29 September to 2 October 2020, the film and media music congress “SoundTrack_Zurich” will take place during the Zurich Film Festival. Swiss film and media music professionals can use this event to expand their network, broaden their expertise and exchange ideas with experienced, internationally active business insiders. Text by Erika Weibel

Sountrack Zurich: Swiss Congress on Film and Media Music

SUISA is supporting the first edition of the “SoundTrack_Zurich” film and media music congress, the programme of which is available at www.soundtrackzurich.com. (Photo: SoundTrack_Zurich)

Composers from Switzerland and abroad will share their experience and knowledge with the audience at two nearby locations. During the event, congress participants will have the opportunity to exchange ideas with international guests of the Zurich Film Festival (ZFF) in workshops, panels, case studies and lectures on current topics of the Swiss and European film music scene.

“SoundTrack_Zurich”...read more

“Orchestral spaces” or if music becomes spatially tangible when you listen to it

In his work, composer Michael Künstle deals with the interplay between tonal dramatisation and dramatic tones. The 27-year-old Basel resident would now like to take the next step forward in his research by making the sound of an orchestra a spatial experience for the listener. FONDATION SUISA is supporting this project financially with Get Going! funding. Text by guest author Rudolf Amstutz

Michael Kuenstle: “Orchestral spaces” or if music becomes spatially tangible when you listen to it

The composer Michael Künstle (left) from Basel at work in the recording studio. (Photo: Oliver Hochstrasser)

Michael Künstle was completely surprised to win the International Film Music Competition in the 2012 Zurich Film Festival when he was just 21. “At that time, I had just begun my studies”, he comments today, adding, “I am only just starting to understand the significance of this prize now. It was a kind of springboard, also because it has always been an award for competence that nobody can take away from you”.

In the competition, Künstle was up against 144 fellow composers from 27 countries who were all set exactly the same task: composing the score for the short animated film “Evermore” by Philip Hofmänner. Anyone watching the film today can imagine what might have impressed the jury back then: Künstle came up with amazingly subtle sounds, which enhanced the story of the film.

“The fantastic thing about film music is that it is the result of a close exchange with others. A film represents an interplay between countless people and it is vital to take all aspects into consideration: camera work, use of colour and setting”, is the way Künstle explains his fascination with the genre. “The biggest challenge in a film is to say something with the music which has not yet been said in words or pictures, but which is essential for telling the story right up to the end.”

Whether it is in Gabriel Baur’s “Glow”, “Sohn meines Vaters” by Jeshua Dreyfus or “Cadavre Exquis” by Viola von Scarpatetti: the list of films for which Künstle is responsible for the soundtrack keeps on getting longer. The enthusiasm with which Künstle expresses his specialist know-how and thirst for knowledge in conversation is contagious. Also if he is talking about the greats in this field: Bernard Hermann’s knowledge of composition, for instance, or the unique capability of John Williams, “whose works clearly sound like orchestral pieces when listened to without the film, even though they suit the film for which they were written perfectly. This is incredibly difficult to accomplish, because symphonic music traditionally allows closer narrative structures than a film”.

“In contemporary music, the space is often just as important as other compositional elements, such as the subject matter or rhythm, but this essential aspect is often lost in the recording.”

Although he differentiates between concert music and film scores in his own work, he admits “that you can never fully give up one if you do the other”. Elements that he developed in collaboration with director Gabriel Baur for the film “Glow” found their way into the piece “Résonance”, performed by Trio Eclipse in 2016. “But in my concert music, it is mainly a question of compositional forms and structural ideas that cannot be expressed in the film.”

The idea for the project, that FONDATION SUISA is now going to jointly finance with a Get Going! grant, ultimately arose from another important aspect of Künstle’s creativity. Künstle follows, as he emphasises, a philosophy of the “real” which is as close as possible to an actual recital, thanks to the most up-to-date recording techniques. In collaboration with his working partner, Daniel Dettwiler, who owns the “Idee und Klang” (Idea and Sound) studio in Basel, and who, for years, has been researching new recording techniques, Künstle would like to create a spatial composition that can be listened to in a way that had not existed before.

“In contemporary music, the space is often just as important as other compositional elements, such as the subject matter or rhythm, but this essential aspect is often lost in the recording”, is the way he explains the starting point. “I want to reach a point where people listening on headphones hear the three-dimensional space occupied by the orchestra during recording, as if they could literally ‘feel’ the music.” For many years, this research and in a specific way also the conquest of these “orchestral spaces”, was just an idea for Künstle, because, as he stresses, “You can only make this happen in a studio with the best possible sound and the best microphones available”.

Thanks to Get Going!, the next step in this audiophile revolution can now become a reality and in no-less than London’s legendary Abbey Road Studios with an 80-piece orchestra. Therefore, Künstle will compose a piece in which the space where the recording takes place will play a central role. “I want to turn the composition process on its head”, is how he underscores the objective of his project. “Just like film music”, he adds. Again here, first and foremost you start with what you hear. Therefore completing the circle.

www.michaelkuenstle.ch

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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In his work, composer Michael Künstle deals with the interplay between tonal dramatisation and dramatic tones. The 27-year-old Basel resident would now like to take the next step forward in his research by making the sound of an orchestra a spatial experience for the listener. FONDATION SUISA is supporting this project financially with Get Going! funding. Text by guest author Rudolf Amstutz

Michael Kuenstle: “Orchestral spaces” or if music becomes spatially tangible when you listen to it

The composer Michael Künstle (left) from Basel at work in the recording studio. (Photo: Oliver Hochstrasser)

Michael Künstle was completely surprised to win the International Film Music Competition in the 2012 Zurich Film Festival when he was just 21. “At that time, I had just begun my studies”, he comments today, adding, “I am only just starting to understand the significance of this prize now. It was a kind of springboard,...read more

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Niki,...read more

Kandidaturen für den Filmmusikpreis 2016 der FONDATION SUISA

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“Swiss Film Music features great diversity and high quality”

The box-set “Swiss Film Music”, containing three CDs, one DVD and a book, released by FONDATION SUISA, provides fascinating insights into the history of Swiss film music between 1923 and 2012. A conversation with the musicologist and media scientist Mathias Spohr who acted as artistic director for the project. Guest contribution by Markus Ganz

“Swiss Film Music features great diversity and high quality”

Mathias Spohr, artistic director of the project “Swiss Film Music Anthology”, is a musicologist and media scientist with lecturing positions at Universities in Bayreuth, Berne and Vienna. (Photo: Markus Ganz)

Film music is usually hardly noticed. Do you think it is undervalued?
Yes, especially when it does its job really well. That’s when you perceive it hardly or not at all, because you don’t listen to it intently – and that’s usually its job. Vice versa, you often do perceive film music when it doesn’t fit that well. There are of course film music concepts which deviate from this principle.

But isn’t it exactly this kind of functionality of film music why it is often undervalued? Wouldn’t this also imply that the film music cannot work without the images?
No, this anthology contains a lot of film music without film, and I don’t think that it loses any of its impact. It’s true that you have to read up on some of the pieces what their context is. But the music works just as it is, and you realise how it’s meant to work. You even perceive the structural character and the complexity of some film scores better when you don’t watch the film at the same time; in the film it both merges together.

Does this mean that you perceive the quality of film music better without the images?
Yes but it really depends on the kind of music. There is film music which you cannot separate from the image, and there is film music which you can listen to without watching the film rather well.

You have added a DVD to the three CDs of this anthology which shows images accompanying the music of these examples. What were the criteria for the DVD selection?
There are some examples where the coordination between the music and the image is decisive in order to be able to realise its quality. This particularly affects cartoons and commercials where you have to get your point across in a few seconds. We also limited ourselves to short films for the DVD which we could show in their entirety so that the entire music concept becomes clear. With short films, it is easier to convey the cooperation between music and image than with excerpts which have been taken from an unknown context.

How did this elaborate project come about?
The FONDATION SUISA wanted to include the topic of Swiss film music in its anthology series. We have been discussing many ways to implement this idea, as it is a rather complex field. There is no style or genre “film music”, as all kinds of music are used for films, and there are few academic works which focussed on the subject of Swiss film music. The decision was made that our anthology should show the history of Swiss film music. A working group was subsequently founded which mainly consisted of music and film academic experts, plus two representatives of FONDATION SUISA and the Cinémathèque Suisse each. There were a few meetings where a concept was fleshed out.

On what basis did the involved experts select the examples?
We worked with a catalogue of criteria which encapsulated very different aspects. The focus should be placed on Swiss films and Swiss topics but not exclusively. International films where Swiss composers wrote the music should also be considered.

And then you went off to search in the archives?
Yes, I for one was often looking for historic examples in the archives of the Central Library Zurich or the Paul-Sacher-Stiftung (foundation) in Basel, as they all have music scores for films. In the majority of cases, however, the music material was no longer available because the music creation in the last 30 years has moved to computers.

But it wasn’t about specific recordings?
Yes it was. But we wanted to show examples for music scores and needed them as a basis for our comments. There are many archives for the recordings where we were looking such as the media information centre of the ZHdK (Zurich University of Arts) and the Cinémathèque Suisse.

What surprised you most when you listened through the entire material for the first time?
The huge variety and high quality, from the beginning all the way to today. It was my motivation to evidence this, especially as this is hardly known.

How does this variety establish itself? You mention in the accompanying book that you did not discover anything specifically Swiss in the film music.
What surely plays a role here is that three linguistic regions come together in Switzerland. This leads to contacts abroad where the same language is spoken; Berlin, Paris or the Italian Cinecittà as production venues also play a significant role for Switzerland.

Did you notice any striking differences compared to film music in other countries which often exhibit a much bigger and therefore more specialised film scene?
One fundamental difference stems from the fact that Switzerland isn’t centralist. In other countries there are big centres for many sectors – which consequently exert a certain attraction. In Switzerland, on the other hand, small niches can hold their ground better. You can see it in many products – not just films and film music – that they stem from a niche culture which hasn’t been sucked in by one major centre.

Has this maybe contributed to this great diversity?
Yes, it is likely to have played a role.

People often look down their noses at jingles due to their commercial character. What is striking in the anthology is that there are early examples whose music sounds surprisingly modern – how do you explain this openness?
In the time of the first TV commercials people didn’t have that much experience with this type of advertising: Musicians were given the freedom to create and experiment. Today, more people are involved in the process because the risks are higher, too. But if it serves the product, a lot is possible nowadays.

The anthology goes back to 1923. Have you found any striking turning points where music or artistic access to the musical setting has changed?
Of course there are fashion fads. Many changes are, however, also triggered by technical developments. In the early days of the sound film, music had to be recorded parallel to the dialogue. That type of music is inevitably different as if it had been recorded separately onto an audiotape, as it was the case later on. A completely new situation arose with the home studio where people can create and record music at home without any major technical efforts, first with audio tapes, later with computers. Video technology was also simplified. In this context, an important innovation was that image and sound could be recorded onto and arranged on the same carrier. All of the above has influenced film music, and of course media from radio, TV, cinema all the way to the internet.

Electronic instruments were used surprisingly early …
Yes, even in the silent movie era there was an instrument called “Russolophon” with which you could create sounds, later on, the Ondes Martenot was invented.

These were used as early as the 1920es for film music. That’s really early, if you think that it took electronic instruments so long to reach a broader audience not until so much later …
Yes, this was possible from the very beginning. It seems to be in connection with the medium film that you were more open vis-a-vis the deployment of new technology. Arthur Honegger used the Ondes Martenot several times, both as a solo and an orchestra instrument as you can hear rather well based on the example “L’Idée”. He provocatively promoted the idea that electronic instruments should be admitted to symphony orchestras – something that has only happened for a handful of projects today.

What’s important to you once you have finished this big project?
It is close to my heart that the “chapter film music” is not going to be considered as closed. I regard this anthology as a starting point and a great prerequisite to further look into film music. I would envisage that the website that has been set up for the anthology could act as the basis for some kind of film music wiki which all interested parties can contribute to.

“Swiss Film Music Anthology 1923 – 2012” Box with three audio CDs, one DVD and a 400-page book in German, French, Italian and English language. Ed. Mathias Spohr on behalf of FONDATION SUISA (Chronos Verlag, ISBN? 978-3-0340-1265-2, CHF 69).

The “Swiss Film Music Anthology 1923 – 2012” is available in (book) stores and can be ordered via the website www.swissfilmmusic.ch. (Photo: zVg)

 

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The box-set “Swiss Film Music”, containing three CDs, one DVD and a book, released by FONDATION SUISA, provides fascinating insights into the history of Swiss film music between 1923 and 2012. A conversation with the musicologist and media scientist Mathias Spohr who acted as artistic director for the project. Guest contribution by Markus Ganz

“Swiss Film Music features great diversity and high quality”

Mathias Spohr, artistic director of the project “Swiss Film Music Anthology”, is a musicologist and media scientist with lecturing positions at Universities in Bayreuth, Berne and Vienna. (Photo: Markus Ganz)

Film music is usually hardly noticed. Do you think it is undervalued?
Yes, especially when it does its job really well. That’s when you perceive it hardly or not at all, because you don’t listen to it intently – and that’s usually its job. Vice versa, you often do perceive...read more

«Die Anthologie ‹Swiss Film Music› ist glorios»

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