Nils Frahm interview, part 1 — Latter i Mørket (Laughter in the Dark)

14 maj 2014 by Søren Lund Korsgaard, No Comments »

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(Jump down to start reading the interview in English)

Net­op i dis­se dage (3. — 24. maj) spil­ler fore­stil­lin­gen, eller om du vil, det isce­ne­sat­te høre­spil Lat­ter i Mør­ket på Tea­ter Repu­blique på Øster­bro i Køben­havn.

Styk­ket er base­ret på Vla­di­mir Naboko­vs (Loli­ta) roman af sam­me navn og for­tæl­ler histo­ri­en om Albi­nus (Tho­mas Mørk), der for­la­der sin fami­lie til for­del for den unge, smuk­ke Mar­got (Cla­ra Fasting). I en bil­u­lyk­ke mister Albi­nus synet, hvor­ef­ter hun fører ham bag lyset i et bed­ra­ge­risk spil med Albi­nus’ bed­ste ven, Rex (Johan­nes Lil­leø­re).

Histo­ri­en hand­ler om men­ne­skets natur; om had, begær, ond­skab og afmagt. En natur, der kan stå i skæ­ren­de kon­trast til de ide­al­bil­le­der, vi opstil­ler for vores liv.

Dog­me­fil­mens gud­far Mogens Rukov har skre­vet manuskrip­tet, mens den ver­den­skend­te per­for­man­ce- og instal­la­tions­trup Hotel Pro For­ma med instruk­tør Kir­sten Dehl­holm (Reu­mert-vin­der) i spid­sen har skabt en meget san­se­lig isce­ne­sæt­tel­se, hvor lyd, lys og mør­ke dan­ner ram­me om tre­kants­dra­ma­et. Publi­kum ople­ver i gen­nem en ræk­ke visu­el­le og audi­ti­ve vir­ke­mid­ler, hvor­dan deres egne san­ser påvir­kes og udfor­dres i sam­spil og mod­spil med hoved­per­so­ner­nes.

Fore­stil­lin­gen er delt op i tre for­skel­li­ge ver­sio­ner af den sam­me histo­rie, hvor san­ser­ne bru­ges ander­le­des hver gang.

1. akt: Mør­ket
Rum­met er mørklagt, og publi­kum er iført hoved­te­le­fo­ner. Vi ople­ver ver­den som Albi­nus: uden syn, fortviv­let, des­pe­rat og mag­tes­løs. Mør­ket og 3D lyd via hoved­te­le­fo­ner­ne for­stær­ker de andre san­ser og ordets betyd­ning. Histo­ri­en for­tæl­les bag­læns, hvor den tragi­ske og vold­som­me slut­ning åbner fore­stil­lin­gen.

2. akt: Lyset
Rum­met ses for før­ste gang: en uaf­ven­de­lig maski­ne i kon­stant bevæ­gel­se. Rum­met mul­ti­pli­ce­res af spej­le og skyg­ge­spil der ska­ber syns­bed­rag. De koreo­gra­fe­re­de sku­e­spil­le­re for­stær­ker san­se­lig­he­den i tek­sten og ska­ber utryg­hed. Bag­grun­den for histo­ri­ens slut­ning for­tæl­les via lyden i hoved­te­le­fo­ner­ne, og sku­e­spil­ler­ne kom­mer ekstremt tæt på til­sku­e­ren. En kro­p­s­lig, san­se­lig og illu­so­risk frem­fø­rel­se.

3. akt: Musik­ken
En live pia­no kon­cert afslut­ter vær­ket, og der gen­for­tæl­les igen­nem musik­ken. Kom­po­si­tio­ner­ne afspej­ler vær­kets fata­le for­tæl­ling med smuk­ke melo­di­er, og hele krop­pen tæn­ker sig om en sid­ste gang.

 

Som det frem­går af trai­le­ren ovenover, er kom­po­ni­sten ingen rin­ge­re end den fan­ta­sti­ske Nils Fra­hm, som jeg ved fle­re lej­lig­he­der har kastet man­ge roser efter her på Musik Mig Blidt. Fre­dag den 2. maj — dagen før pre­mi­e­ren, hav­de jeg æren og for­nø­jel­sen af at inter­viewe Nils Fra­hm om, hvil­ken rol­le hans musik spil­ler i fore­stil­lin­gen — med afstik­ke­re til andre musik­re­la­te­re­de emner, her­un­der hans egen musik og lives­hows.


 

Nils Frahm interview, part 1

(read part 2 of the inter­view here)

nilsfrahm4_111213

 

How did you get involved in the play?

First Kir­sten (Edi­tor’s note: director Kir­sten Dehl­holm) appro­ca­ched me about the idea of doing music for the­a­ter and then she came to Ber­lin one day in 2012. She visi­ted me and con­vin­ced me. That was the star­ting point. Then I read the book from Labukov — Laugh­ter In The Dark and got men­tal­ly pre­pa­red for the story. But I didn’t start anyt­hing yet, didn’t pre­pa­re any com­po­si­tions on before­hand. I deci­ded I just wan­ted to be here (Copen­ha­gen) pri­or enough so I could start from scratch here. So I pack­ed some instru­ments from home, somet­hing I thought might be use­ful. I brought a litt­le more than I’m using now, so it was like figuring out col­ors and sounds and the instru­ments I wan­ted to use. I had in mind that I wan­ted to have a har­moni­um, so I found one here the first day when I came. That beca­me a big part of the sco­re. Fortu­na­te­ly it wor­ked out and eve­ry­bo­dy liked it.

I spent the nights here after the rehear­sals and just reflected about what we had done. Also it was a good deci­sion not to pre­pa­re, becau­se you never real­ly now if your pre­pa­ra­tions will be fit­ting or not. My pro­cess is usu­al­ly that I don’t wor­ry about thin­gs befo­re they arri­ve and then I make up my mind. Also that litt­le pres­su­re that you have to work under a dead­li­ne and come up with somet­hing is some­ti­mes a good thing.

 

How did Kirsten talk you into participating?

She brought a book with all the thin­gs Hotel Pro­for­ma has done in the past and obvious­ly they are gre­at thing. And espe­ci­al­ly visu­al­ly and aesthe­ti­cal­ly it real­ly reso­na­ted with what I like. I also did some research and check­ed their videos and pro­jects out and I thought “okay, this is somet­hing I want to be invol­ved in”. It was an easy deci­sion, she is just a cha­ris­ma­tic, fan­ta­stic per­son and I had the fee­ling that if I would do it, I would learn somet­hing from her. She is so expe­ri­en­ced.

 

So have you learned something from her?

Oh yeah! Yeah, yeah! Some­ti­mes it hard to focus on that whi­le you are “in it” but wor­king on a the­a­ter sche­du­le and see­ing how they cre­a­te the nar­ra­ti­ve, the sta­ge and atmosp­he­re – it’s somet­hing I can rela­te to also becau­se I try to do somet­hing similar when I sta­ge a show. I also have to think about the lights, the appea­ran­ce, the atmosp­he­re, the details, the who­le pro­duction. I think the­re are a lot of thin­gs I’ve seen here in the the­a­ter spa­ce, how they use the spa­ce, which I find inspi­ring.

I think what I lear­ned the most is how litt­le room for impro­vi­sa­tion, that the­a­ter lea­ves, which is dif­fe­rent from my show becau­se my show is about impro­vi­sa­tion. When wor­king with the­a­ter you refi­ne eve­ry litt­le detail, eve­ry litt­le move­ment and eve­ry litt­le sen­ten­ce. Eve­ry day you get a litt­le clo­ser to how it should be. You fix it. And it should be like that. That is a very dif­fe­rent way of put­ting up a show. It is so inte­r­e­sting to see how detai­led they work. If I would play a show and then watch the video and be like “yeah I should chan­ge this and this note and I will do it again” and then after one point I would say “okay, it has to be exa­ct­ly like this” – it would never occur to me to do somet­hing like that. I would always be like “okay, I want to cre­a­te a fra­mework wit­hin I can cre­a­te my magic”. That would be my appro­ach. But of cour­se when you have so many peop­le invol­ved you need to talk about the cues and so on. So it’s a very fresh expe­ri­en­ce for me to fit in this kind of machine. It’s also very inte­r­e­sting and much fun for me to refi­ne my parts and set them into sto­ne and be like “okay this is how they should be” as oppo­sed to my solo shows. That’s somet­hing I lear­ned.

 

What part does your music play in the theater play? 

She (Kir­sten Dehl­holm) said it’s like I’m sit­ting in the heart cham­ber of this play. Like if the who­le sta­ge, the who­le room is an orga­nism I’m kin­da like expres­sing the emo­tions which the actors are not allowed to show that often in the play. That’s also somet­hing Kir­sten likes about actors if they don’t beco­me over­ly emo­tio­nal, yel­ling and being super expres­si­ve. So the more expres­si­ve moments are the musi­cal moments. So you see some thin­gs which are abstra­ct put back and restrai­ned and then I fill it it up with emo­tions when the music comes.

 

So you kind of enhance the feeling?

She (Kir­sten) said that I have the gun in my hand, you know becau­se so much depend on the music being power­ful emo­tio­nal­ly. If we have a bla­ck and whi­te sche­me then I’m put­ting in the col­ors and making it vivid and live­ly. That’s not becau­se of me but becau­se the natu­re of music wor­ks that way. You just imme­di­a­te­ly rela­te to it. My role is real­ly to emo­tio­na­lize the peop­le in the play.

So she was right. I’m in the heart cham­ber. And I’m also sit­ting on sta­ge and it (the setup) looks like a big machine and I’m almost like a pup­pe­te­er!

 

So it almost looks like a heart chamber physically?

Yeah, yeah!

 

Why did you think the sound of the harmonium would fit into the whole atmosphere of the play?

It’s a good con­trast to the pia­no. The family of sounds that the har­moni­um pro­du­ces is more like a sin­ging sound com­pa­rab­le to a vio­lin, obo or a cla­ri­net. The har­moni­um enab­les me to use the tech­nique of the key­bo­ard but this sound very dif­fe­rent from the pia­no. It’s nice to have the pia­no and the synt­he­sizer, but the har­moni­um is such an inte­r­e­sting instru­ment becau­se it’s never been used for con­certs, Real­ly. The har­moni­um is a clas­si­cal rehear­sal instru­ment. It’s a home organ that peop­le had in their living room to pra­cti­ce church music and sing with the family. Basi­cal­ly it’s an instru­ment you play and peop­le sing along to it. It’s a very fol­ky instru­ment – an organ but a che­ap, dis­posab­le organ. In that way it’s not a con­cert instru­ment, it’s not loud enough, it’s very qui­et and small. But today we can use microp­ho­nes and ampli­fy it and chan­ge the sound and with all that tech­nique it sounds like a very big organ. Yet it still has this kind of spooky litt­le out of tune, very eart­hy tone, which you don’t get from a synt­he­sizer. The synt­he­sizer always sounds kind of ethe­ric and otherwor­ld­ly, whi­le the har­moni­um sounds very wor­ld­ly to me.

I wan­ted to put a con­trast to this kind of moder­ni­stic, abstra­ct sta­ge design. The har­moni­um is a very harsh con­trast, which brings you emo­tio­nal­ly home imme­di­a­te­ly.

 

You play both during the show and also in the end, right?

Yeah I have my musi­cal cues, some over­lap with the acting and some “make the acting stop”. They (Repulique/Hotel Pro For­ma) call it a con­cert in the end – I play 17–18 minu­tes, whe­re I revi­sit most of the­mes I’m been intro­ducing. It’s like a sum­m­ing up.

 

So it’s like the end titles in a movie?

Yeah, I feel like that too.

 

On your latest album – Spaces – and in live performances in general, I know that you like to adapt your musical approach according to the space acoustics and the environment. Has this affected your music in this case?

I think in this examp­le I adap­ted more to the fact that the­re is the­a­ter play going on. If I would be alo­ne on sta­ge, nor­mal­ly the peop­le defi­ne the spa­ce and the atmosp­he­re. Often I chan­ge my mind just after I said hel­lo to eve­ry­bo­dy. I hear the ini­ti­al rea­ction of the peop­le and some­ti­mes they are very vocal and in to it and some­ti­mes more reser­ved. Depen­ding on the who­le atmosp­he­re in the room I take it from the­re and may­be cre­a­te a dif­fe­rent pace of the set. May­be I feel like okay this is more like a qui­et night or this is a par­ty night. I then chan­ge the songs and the sounds accor­ding­ly.

 

But does this also apply for the setting of Laughter in the Dark or only for your solo performances?

I think it applies for eve­ryt­hing I do. Like what I said, I come here, I have not­hing pre­pa­red. Then I start fee­ling what is nee­ded. This is a very intu­i­ti­ve pro­cess. It’s also whe­re Kir­sten and I meet, becau­se Kir­sten is also very intu­i­ti­ve. As much con­trol and pre­ci­sion she uses to cre­a­te the expe­ri­en­ce, she always asks her bel­ly “does it feel right or wrong”? If it doesn’t feel right, she doesn’t do it. We sha­re this work appro­ach.

 

So it is possible that you will change a bit up according to how people react to it?

Yeah, I think we will deve­l­op the pie­ce whi­le we per­form it. I think the com­po­si­tions and their pace will chan­ge. It’s a bit like when you make a song in the stu­dio and you listen to it and you like it. Then after a coup­le of years you listen to it with a fri­end and then all of a sud­den it sounds dif­fe­rent to you. You feel like hmm it’s way too long or oh this went by fast – I should make it lon­ger. You listen dif­fe­rent­ly when some­bo­dy is liste­ning too. It’s the same with the audi­en­ce. You can play one song in an emp­ty room and then with an audi­en­ce. And then you feel dif­fe­rent about the song. This is exa­ct­ly why I feel you should be pret­ty fle­xib­le. Don’t be nar­row-min­ded and be like “okay, this is what I rehear­sed — I have to do it like that”. You need to feel good about it whi­le you play it. Only then you will have fun on sta­ge.

 

It sounds like you had total creative freedom?

That’s right.

 

Do you like that?

I also like get­ting ideas from someo­ne who gives me restri­ctions or limi­ted pos­si­bi­li­ties. This is also libe­rat­ing. I think my cre­a­ti­vi­ty is most­ly fed by certain limi­ta­tions. One limi­ta­tion is always that I don’t use play­ba­ck tra­cks. I never felt good about that. It bores me and I feel like I’m che­at­ing. So the big­gest limi­ta­tion I’m dea­ling with is that I can only do wha­te­ver I can do with my two hands at one time. This is real­ly wor­king out for me becau­se if I were to allow myself to use play­ba­cks I would be like “then I can do eve­ryt­hing – beats, who­le orche­stra etc.” That would overwhelm me so much! The fact that I can only do wha­te­ver I can do in one moment keeps me thin­king “what can I do next”? There’s always somet­hing I hadn’t thought about. I sud­den­ly, for instan­ce, rea­lize “ahh I could use the pia­no as a drum set! – and I start taking some toilet brus­hes (See this youtu­be video!) becau­se I can’t use a drum com­pu­ter. That pays back – I feel like eve­ry­bo­dy intu­i­ti­ve­ly under­stands what I’m doing the­re. It’s fun for peop­le to watch also when some­bo­dy is actu­al­ly playing music!

It’s beco­m­ing pret­ty rare the­se days becau­se musi­ci­ans get so good at pre­pa­ring their live sets. They often have one hand on some instru­ment and the other ope­rat­ing some com­pu­ter. For the stu­dio I don’t care but for the live expe­ri­en­ce I think it’s never real­ly good or ide­al. In that sen­se I’m con­ser­va­ti­ve in my way of wor­king. The­re was a good old school of musi­ci­ans per­for­m­ing and playing for the last coup­le of hund­red years and I don’t want to accept that this is over now. I still need live music. I still need peop­le to per­form.

This is also what the­a­ter makes me think about. The­a­ter is a per­for­man­ce. It’s not a movie. It’s “real” peop­le acting. If you would just put on a video you’d made and show it on a scre­en — then it’s not the­a­ter any­mo­re, it’s a movie. So I think we should think in similar terms in the case of a con­cert. A con­cert is when peop­le play – when peop­le only play back somet­hing they’ve done somewhe­re else then it’s not a con­cert. Then it’s — what is it? We should find a name for it! It’s not that I don’t like it but I think we shouldn’t call it a con­cert.

Murcof for instan­ce, an electro­nic musi­ci­an from Mexi­co, he only uses his lap­top. He makes incre­dib­le, incre­dib­le stu­dio wor­ks. I love his albums. But he is not like a “play­er” so when he plays a con­cert he brings his com­pu­ter, sits down and don’t move for one hour. He cre­a­tes the most ama­zing sound expe­ri­en­ce. It’s gre­at, it’s rewar­ding, I like it! But he doesn’t real­ly “play” so for his favor I’d like to find a new word for what he does. It’s not a con­cert it’s a “live music liste­ning ses­sion” or somet­hing. It’s kind of what cine­ma is as oppo­sed to the­a­ter.

 

I guess it’s difficult to see the playfulness in creating music when it’s done behind a screen? That’s what I think is a quality in your shows – it seems like you are playing around?

It’s a play­gro­und! I put on my own litt­le circus. I intro­du­ce all the dif­fe­rent ele­ments and items you see on sta­ge. When you (the audi­en­ce) enter the room and I’m not on sta­ge you go to the sta­ge and go like “oh this looks inte­r­e­sting, what will hap­pen?”.

I always loved that moment the most when I was very young like 13–14. After school I would almost eve­ry night go to con­certs in Ham­burg. Too see jazz bands or other expe­ri­men­tal bands. I would always come to venue ear­ly becau­se I was eager and then I would always go to the sta­ge whi­le the musi­ci­ans whe­re not yet the­re. I saw all the instru­ments, all the gear they had. All the cra­zy, bea­ten up ampli­fi­ers. Touring musi­ci­ans who’d play­ed for 20 years have very unique set ups. And it’s very inte­r­e­sting to see the­se setups as oppo­sed to one soundcard in the com­pu­ter. Then it’s like there’s not­hing to look forward to. But if you come to the sta­ge whe­re eve­ryt­hing is pack­ed up with instru­ments then you alre­a­dy imag­i­ne what they will do with all that.

That’s why I like my sta­ge setup too. I have all the­se old bea­ten up instru­ments cab­led toget­her in a real­ly mes­sy way. It’s myste­rious! And peop­le look forward to me — the “pup­pe­te­er” doing stuff with all the­se instru­ments.

Read part 2 of the interview here.


 

Udover musik­ken i trai­le­ren, kan du få en for­nem­mel­se af det musi­kal­ske udtryk, Nils Fra­hm har udvik­let ved at strea­me to skit­ser, som Hotel Pro For­ma har lagt op. Her skal det under­stre­ges, at der net­op er tale om skit­ser og ikke styk­ker, du kan høre i net­op den­ne form under fore­stil­lin­gen.

 

 

Læs mere om fore­stil­lin­gen Lat­ter i Mør­ket via Hotel Pro For­mas hjem­mesi­de.

Bestil bil­let­ter via Repu­bliques hjem­mesi­de.

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