A Pianist and Composer Martin Kohlstedt
Martin Kohlstedt is a pianist and composer, who breaks boundaries between piano/orchestra and electronic music.
What's is particular about him is his compositional and visual approach to music. A lot of his musical perspective has been influenced by the Bauhaus; a compositional style which is concrete and outright, avoiding ornaments and embellishments in his piano playing. Being from Weimar, home of the Bauhaus, and as we celebrate 100 years of Bauhaus this year, we celebrate a very special creative with this post today.
What are your greatest inspirations and influences?
I was about 16 years old; it was 10 pm on a Friday night and I just have just gotten ready to go out with a friend. I was especially stoked about the new leather jacket I had got that day. I sat at the piano in the living room and just waiting for the doorbell to ring — So I played and played and suddenly it was 4:30 in the morning; and to the present day I have no clue what exactly happened in the meantime. I played the piano, that is for sure; the next day my friend apologized for not showing up because he had to help someone with something. I got out of my new leather jacket and fell asleep. So, the urge came from the inside and I found no other way than to misuse the detuned piano in the living room to pick apart my inner workings as a teenager. The reason was seldom of the normal,”inspirational” nature but more a need to sit at the instrument to have a discussion with myself and put my thoughts into order. Basically the same thing happens on stage – with the minor difference that people can look at me doing that.
In addition to playing the piano, I started playing in 8 or so bands at the same time like a lunatic and converted all those amassed dreams and desires into hip hop riffs, funk tunes and electronic sounds together with countless, wonderful musicians. If you decorate (what does he mean by decorate? Maybe combine?) these more obvious influences with the unbridled urge to strip away the immature shell of my eternal adolescence then one has to come to the conclusion that everything I experienced and every person in my orbit is connected to and has to be accounted for in the explanation of the work I do now.
What do you think, what are the biggest challenges of the music industry today?
The ambivalence – which will, no doubt, be always part of my creations – of being the boss of your own music label where you try with all available forces, a team of friends and a ton of “gut feeling” to shield your art from the erratic bombardment of the international economy.
It’s a very labor-intensive, controlled schizophrenia that more often than not threatens to crush the freedom in music making.
I'd love to hear a bit more about your compositional style and Bauhaus influence in your work – could you tell me more, please?
For me, ultimately, it is about the never-ending process that is based on a modular concept of composition and that attempts to put emotional memories from my childhood and adolescence into new contexts. For example: If I let HAR and NAO loose on one another there will be friction; HAR, with its youthful restlessness, will not succumb to the attempt of NAO to calm or even tame it. The things happening there are completely intuitive; depending on the space, audience or time of day, the themes in my pieces will recombine and develop in a different manner every time. But what could this have to do with Bauhaus? Maybe it is more of an underlying mindset to communicate things concretely and outright, to avoid little ornaments and embellishments in playing the piano and stay as true and direct as possible while alone with yourself.
And what about the visual aspect of your work? How important are visuals for your performance?
If a collaboration with visual artists took place I always thought of the result – and the mutual creative journey to get there – as an artistic exchange: A bit like scoring a film.In my solo shows on the other hand, I try to give as little visual input as possible. There will be classic stage lighting, a lot of darkness and haze and on top of that, I sit with my back towards the audience. That way everyone gets into a conversation with themselves, without the need for obvious or conscious communication.
How was it to collaborate with the Gewandhaus choir?
Imagine that over many years you use the piano to cope with yourself and your life, – poking a stick at your subconscious, alone and weak. The addition of electronic instruments created a sort of super-ego that amplifies all the sentiments expressed through music and forces you to give answers – a valid and good first step against stagnation. And then, in the middle of your intuitive compositions 70 voices join the endeavor and give you the feeling of marching into your own subconscious with the power of a whole armada. An experience that left me addicted and longing for more...
The big task now is to establish the intimacy needed between me and the choir to be able to fully improvise and enable the scores to function modularly. But the first concerts are already unforgettable and all the ideas that surface there are completely unique. I am stoked for the upcoming tour and the next steps of such a huge project.
Anything else you would like to share that I might have missed? Maybe how is playing live different for you from playing in the studio?
A piece is always a »work in progress«. Recording the piece is like taking a snapshot of it at a certain point in time; no two recordings of a song will be the same and the development between those snapshots is the interesting part, for me at least. Playing live, on stage, is, therefore, more vivid and sometimes even unpredictable. That is what keeps me going.
Thank you so much Martin for this wonderful interview. Ive attached below tour dates and thank you to my dear Juste.
UK AND IRELAND TOUR DATES:
25 OCTOBER 2019 MANCHESTER (UK) – St. Michael’s Church
26 OCTOBER 2019 GLASGOW (UK) – The Blue Arrow
27 OCTOBER 2019 DUBLIN (IRL) – Dublin Unitarian Church
29 OCTOBER 2019 LONDON (UK) - Courtyard Theatre