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Gaudeamus Award 2018 Nominee

Gaudeamus Award 2018 Nominee

Matthias Krüger

“We need an erotics of music,” says the German composer Matthias Krüger (1987). “There’s this kind of sensuality in music. You have a hunch of it. It’s actually a pretty clear feeling, but you’re not able to put your finger on it. Good music offers you goose bumps, as if it touches you, a little caress. In a way it is an act of love.”

When he was young, Matthias Krüger played the recorder, the violin, the piano and the viola, but he never thought about a musical career: “I was really a movie addict. I had my own videotape archive and I made short movies in high school. I also wrote a novel when I was twelve. I never finished it, because I lost interest in the story, but I was always interested in creating things, no matter the medium. Music was there as a background wallpaper. I didn’t really pay attention to it. Until I began composing music for my own movies, I didn’t realize that I wanted to make music.”

Krüger recalls a performance of artist Tino Sehgal in the Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin, while composing Wie ein Stück Fett (Redux) (2016). It made a profound impact on his conception of human relationships during a musical performance: “I saw his show This Variation. The performance started in a completely dark room, it was pitch black. I couldn’t see anything, but I could hear people dancing and singing. At some point some twenty performers stormed out of the room into the huge atrium and started crawling over the floor back into the darkness of the room, singing a minimalist sound pattern. I was sitting on a little staircase and they had to pass by me. At some point this guy came crawling up to me and I wanted to get out of his way, but he held me back. He put his head on my knee and kept singing this simple, yet weird melodic pattern. That lasted for two minutes or so. When this moment of stillness was over he crawled back in the room. There was a kind of acceptance in there, of reality and fellow human beings. The performers offer you the opportunity of goose bumps; it feels almost like a caress, or a gift. I think that has a lot to do with sensuality.” Especially Krüger’s treatment of the voice in Wie ein Stück Fett (Redux) evokes this sensuality in his music, a voice that sings, speaks, screams, cries and mutters.

In a similar way Krüger wants to stage the human in his music. In LAL (First Draft) (2015) for example, he explicitly states that the accordionist and Turkish bagpipe player needn’t be professionally trained in their instruments. For him it is way to show the human behind the musician: “there’s no point to virtuosity for virtuosity. A highly trained musician playing very difficult scales perfectly is more like a machine. If someone doesn’t control everything, there’s real drama on stage. He or she is struggling, trying to make sense of something and taming the forces of nature. There’s an aspect of both discovery and playfulness that makes the human being reappear on stage.”

This playfulness also has another, more humoristic dimension in Krüger’s work: “Very often I end up using elements in my music that I came up with as a joke when trying things out with a performer. I did that with the solo accordion piece Die Menschen sind Engel und leben im Himmel (2017). I wanted the performer to stick out his tongue and moving it back and forth really fast while playing a trill at the same time. That was really silly and I didn’t think I’d use it. But it triggered a very strong reaction in me, it felt right using it in the end, so why not use it for real? In a way, these jokes fulfil a specific function: they create a moment of complicity between the musician and the audience, a wink of the eye, a little caress.”

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