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15 Questions to Johannes Maria Staud

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Hi! How are you? Where are you?
Hi. I am fine. I am in Austria at the moment.


What’s on your schedule right now?
Holidays after a very busy time (I finished a piece for 2 pianos and orchestra 10 days ago).


Would you say the music scene is in a state of crisis? How hard (or easy) has it been for you finding performance opportunities and audiences for your music?
I don’t think the music scene is in crisis (it is very varied and very much alive), I think the society is in crisis if it doesn’t appreciate new things enough – but this isn’t something new. New works will be composed anyway (also without performances, this is a human necessitity)– if it is played, it is better for everybody because music is meant to be communication and people would hear something more interesting than lying politicians.


What do you usually start with when composing?
With a sketch of a few notes, with an extra-musical influence, with a vague imagination of how a piece could be .. this is always a very challenging and intriguing moment, and always a very different one.


How do you see the relationship between sound and composition?
Sound is the result, composing the activity.


How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?
Composing and improvising is as different as writing a drama or giving a free speech.


Harmony? Dissonance? The freedom to choose both, none or just one?
The question is wrong. I don’t chose, the piece or the idea of the piece wants something from me. The question is completely out of date, the relationship between both is music .


Russian composer Alexander Danilevski said: “The musical innovations of the 21st century will not be intonational ones; they will be based on developing a new musical form and dramaturgy.” What are your thoughts on this?
I don’t know what the innovations will be as I am living and creating in the 21st century. I don’t have enough distance.


How would you define the term “interpretation”? How important is it for you to work closely together with the artists performing your work?
Interpretation is very important as a performer can add something personal and unique to a piece – this is the amazing thing about different interpretations. I always work closely with performers as they know their instrument better than me – you always learn new things.


Do you feel an artist has a certain duty towards anyone but himself? Or to put it differently: Should art have a political/social or any other aspect apart from a personal sensation?
Yes it does. Creating art is always a political act. In his statements an artist always has a duty to raise his voice against injustice.


Would you say that a lack of education is standing in the way of audiences in their appreciation of contemporary composition?
No. there are open minded people with no education and so called “educated” people with prejudices and limited horizons and sensibility.


How, do you feel, could contemporary compositions reach the attention of a wider audience without sacrificing their soul?
As long as composers write for themselves (as ideal audience), a piece is honest, when they begin to write for a wider audience it turns out hollow and the soups gets sour.


True or false: The cultural subsidies doled out by governments are being sent to the wrong kind of people and institutions.
Sometimes no and sometimes yes. This is the principle of public spending for arts – when you eliminate it, also good artists won’t be supported anymore and this would be a shame.


You are given the position of artistic director of a festival. What would be on your program?
Good music.


Many artists dream of a “magnum opus”. Do you have a vision of what yours would sound like?
I don’t dream of a opus magnum. Good art doesn’t emerge with such grandiose intentions.

Picture by Philippe Gontier


Discography:
Apeiron (Kairos) 2007
Berenice. Lied vom Verschwinden (Kairos) 2003

Homepage:
Johannes Maria Staud at Universal Edition

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