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Klaus Schonning

Gender: Male
Country: Germany
Klaus Schønning Interview I first remember hearing Klaus Schønning back in 1979 when receiving a copy of his first self-produced album, LYDGLIMT (“Glimpses I of Sound”), from a friend in Sweden. I was amazed that even in Denmark, the cosmic music vibrations had been picked up on. That was followed in 1980 by CYCLUS, another self-production. Both of these albums combined the cosmic ethos of the Berlin School electronic sound with a more down to earth Danish approach. In the years since, his style has evolved into a multi-textured constellation of synthes, folk instruments and neoclassical themes. This year I was lucky to make contact with someone (thank you Susan) who knows Klaus. My first wish to know more about him and his work, led to this interview. With the release of his new album MAGIC CAFE on Sony Denmark, he seems on the verge of wider recognition perhaps? Let’s hope so as he’s certainly one of the best electronic composers of the day. This interview for EU ROCK is his first in English to my knowledge. K.S. INTERVIEW - 2/12/1993 A: I remember getting your first album some years ago and thinking—how amazing, even in Denmark there is someone doing cosmic synthesizer music? How did you get turned on to electronic music—did you start playing in rock bands, have classical training, or what? KS: Even as a child I was very interested in putting tones and sounds together in new ways, this fascination has been the driving force behind all the music I’ve composed over the years. Since I was 10 I had piano lessons, and later I studied music at Copenhagen University. I played soul and blues music with different bands at the same time, but I was primarily interested in composing music myself and experimenting with multi-track recording. When synthesizers became accessible to ordinary people, I was among the first in Denmark to buy one, that opened up a world of endless possibilities of sound. A: Your music seems to be a fusion of many different elements, who did you listen to that influenced your particular sound? How would you classify it—new age, cosmic, space music, or? KS: I listen a lot to the newer classical music, whose form and instrumentation is a source of inspiration. I listen to rock, such as Pink Floyd—I really like their use of ‘real’ sounds in their music. And I also listen to a lot of ethnic music, which gives me an idea of the original and fundamental elements in music. They are all genres which I consider exciting, and which influence my own musical expression. I regard my own music as being a lyrical, symphonic, picturesque music, where melody, harmony, rhythm and form are all considered. A music that is ‘written’ more from the heart than from the intellect. A: Once you decided to play such an experimental music, how did you manage to produce and distribute an album as most companies have little interest in noncommercial artists? KS: I financed the first 2 releases myself. I did my first recordings with instruments and a tape recorder I purchased on installment. To pay for the production, I had to play accordion on the streets in Copenhagen, almost every day, even during the winter, for two years. A: All of your albums seem to have a conceptual idea behind the music. Do the titles convey some special theme you were trying to create? KS: I always have a concept in mind when I begin work on an album. On an instrumental album I think a concept is especially important, to achieve a coherence between the different pieces. Thus LYDGLIMT (“Glimpses of Sound’) was created for a slide show about the woods and the beach. CYCLUS was built around a theme which appears in different ways in all 8 tracks. NAVASU is lyrical pictures based on an ancient myth. And LOCARIAN ARABESQUE is done from a particular tonal scale, upon which the different pieces are built. Thus I have always had a ‘title’ for my albums. A: Then there’s the SYMPHODYSSÉ series. Do you see those albums as a continuation of your earlier sound, or a new development in your musical style? KS: For a long time I have wished to compose a piece of considerably longer duration, where there would be room for each segment of the music without the feeling that one must hurry on. The SYMPHODYSSÉ series is created out of this idea to work with long, more restful sequences in a ‘new age’ character, but it is still melodic music with experimental sounds, especially in the case of the acoustic instruments. Four is a magic number for me, and just as there are four corners of the Earth, four seasons, etc., so there will also be four SYMPHODYSSÉ’s—travels through four different atmospheres and worlds of sound. I don’t see them as a musical step forward or backward, but rather something I’m doing parallel to the rest of my albums, which contain shorter, more accessible pieces. A: I’m always interested to know if musicians making such non-commercial music are able to make their living by producing albums and playing such music ‘live’. Do you give many electronic music concerts? Do you play perhaps some other kind of music as well? KS: I cannot live only from my albums, but I’m involved in many other musical connections and play everything from parlour (club) music to rock. I really love the parlour music, I play piano in a trio, with violin and a bass. We have a lot of work, and with all my musical activities together I can make a living from the music. A: I heard recently you did a big performance that gave you some major exposure, what was that? KS: Through the years I have given large concerts of my own music. I have played in Tivoli in Copenhagen several times with a large band and giant light show. I have also played in Amsterdam, Holland many times. The performance you mention was last Fall, where one of my pieces, ‘The Bells of Copenhagen’, was played by a large symphony orchestra. I played the accordion myself on this number, and it was broadcast live on TV to around 1 million viewers. A: When will the fourth installment of the SYMPHODYSSÉ albums be out? KS: Fønix promises that they will release the fourth SYMPHODYSSÉ album in early Spring. The music and master tape were ready in November 1992, but Fønix believes it best to wait until Spring to put it out. Later on, all four SYMPHODYSSÉ’s will be issued in a special box set. A: Now you have signed to Sony Music Denmark for your next album. When will it be released? What is the title and concept behind it? KS: My first Sony album is released February 17, 1993. The title is MAGIC CAFE and there is also a story behind it. Imagine yourself in a cafe surrounded by a number of things that at first glance are insignificant. But when you look at these things, they spark flights of your imagination—for example a clock, a dripping faucet, shadows, etc. So these ordinary, everyday things become a catalyst for a colorful world of fantasy. A: Perhaps in the future you might come to the USA and play a few small concerts to help people here know your music better? KS: Naturally, I dream of the possibility of presenting my music in the USA. It’s shouldn’t be impossible. At the moment I play 2-hour concerts together with a drummer and guitarist, all over Denmark. We can easily arrange the music so it wouldn’t be a great expense to come over. Archie Patterson