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15 Questions to Bernhard Gal

img  Tobias

Hi! How are you? Where are you?
Hello. Cheers from Vienna. Sorry for answering so late.

What’s on your schedule right now?
At the moment, I am working on my next intermedia installation entitled “solo”. It consists of four ‘sound and light experience stations’ and will be presented in two Austrian cities during this summer.

What’s your view on the music scene at present? Is there a crisis?
Hmm, which music scene do you mean? There are so many scenes... Talking about the so-called avantgarde, permanent crisis has always been an inevitable and vital ingredient, hasn’t it?

What does the term „new“ mean to you in connection with music?
Well, obviously the discovery of unexplored musical ideas/ new means of artistic expression through sound. What I am interested in personally, are also new ways of musical presentation - aside from stages and traditional concert venues. This is where intermedia art and sound installations come into play.

How do you see the relationship between sound and composition?
Composition is the attempt to structure sound events over time. This can be done by composers, musicians, but also listeners. Through awareness, focus and contextualization, anything audible can be turned into music, i.e. composed sound. However, not everything audible can be turned into interesting music, I guess...  ;-)  This basic idea - or shall I rather say experience – is certainly not new (and by the way, I don’t think it was that new in 1952 either...), but my musical thinking is greatly influenced by it - it still offers a quite refreshing starting point with infinite options for a composer.

How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?
I don’t. They separate themselves from each other without asking me. Improvising can certainly fuel up my creative energy with ideas that I take further and refine when composing. Improvising can be composing by itself, but in general I feel that the better compositions are not made “in real time”, but through reflection, modification and refinement until the result seems just right.

How would you define the term “interpretation”?

The expression of an idea through the filter of personal taste, talent, mood and general influences of the current time period.

Harmony? Dissonance? The freedom to choose both, none or just one?

They are common antipodes of musical language. Being filled with varying content, being put into a new context, one can become the other.

A lot of people feel that some of the radical experiments of modern compositions can no longer be qualified as “music”. Would you draw a border – and if so, where?
And maybe a lot of people cannot be qualified anymore as people, but consumers. Just kidding. No borders, please – music is music is music. I suggest we talk about this again in a hundred years from now…

 Are “serious” and “popular” really two different types of music or just empty words without a meaning?
Those are quite unfortunate and antique terms. I’d prefer to distinguish commercial music entertainment and non-commercial art music. In a pragmatic sense, it might be important to keep a certain distinction, in order to better support the genres (and artists) that deserve (and need) it.

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?
Art has always a social and political aspect, since artists always are part of society.

True or false: People need to be educated about  music, before they can really appreciate it.
False. However, education is a good thing, me thinks. Good music can be very direct, it reaches the ears, minds and hearts of all kinds of people.

True or false: The cultural subsidies doled out by governments are being sent to the wrong kind of people and institutions.

Of course, there is a lot of rubbish being supported out there, but who is to decide what’s right and what’s wrong?

You are given the position of artistic director of a festival. What would be on your program?
Actually, I am the director of a small festival called “Shut up and Listen!”. I strive to present fine music in a comfortable environment that facilitates detailed listening and the sensual experience of high-quality sound. This year’s thematic focus will be on “field recordings / phonography / soundscape”. No stylistic strings attached though.

Many artists dream of a “magnum opus”. Do you have a vision of what yours would sound like?
Many dreams. Some visions. In connection to my statements above, I’d love to establish a permanent experience center for a rewarding exploration of our sensual capabilities, creating intense sensorial enviroments by combining sound, light, and other media. Many of my sound installations and interdiscipliary art projects already deal with this objective in one way or another.

hmm... I guess I could sound like this, and like this, and also like that.

Picture By Bernhard Gal

'Installations DVD'  (2007) Gromoga
'Installations' (2005) Gromoga
'going round in serpentines'/w. Kai Fagaschinski (2005) Charhizma
'Hinaus:: In den, Wald.' (2004) Klanggalerie
'relisten' (2001) Intransitive Recordings
'Defragmentation/blue' (2000) Plate Lunch
'bestimmung new york' (1999) Durian

Bernhard Gal

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