Our interview is arranged at 4pm. While staying at Trier (he’s going to have a second, more improvised concert the next day), Wolfram Huschke is spending his days… no, that’s not quite correct. His days are filled with practicing, rehearsals, interviews, and even preparing for more projects. So, I’m invited to General Music Director Victor Puhl‘s house where Wolfram Huschke is guesting.
After a short chat with Victor Puhl, Wolfram disappears somewhere downstairs. Then he’s back, and I must say, I wasn’t surprised at all to see Wolfram Huschke grab his Cello while I set up my MacBook. As you will see, he does not let the instrument go for one second during the interview. It doesn’t fit in terms of seriousness but I can’t help thinking of a ventriloquist with his puppet. They both are one. It is one voice that talks to you.
Q1: Musical impact
ContentSphere: You’re playing cello for four decades now. That’s quite a lot. Then there’s the scope of music you play which is incredibly wide. So, where do you get your influence from? Apart from (Johann Sebastian) Bach and (Jimi) Hendrix who you are mentioning – are there any other contemporary musicians having impact on you?
Wolfram Huschke: I think it’s much similar to Twitter [link broken 2016-03-06]: Everything tweets on the timeline. What’s music to me? There’s music in silence, here’s music right in the instrument itself, and within the atmospheric’s pressure there are tiny tunes swinging all around. Each change of condition results in different melodies.
You see, earth oscillates in G [takes bow and plays a G], which is proved. If you consider we are living the whole of our lives within this sound… actually, it is a rather unclean G coming with harmonics [he bows a ‘G’ rich in harmonics]. Again – there are melodies within. This G [bows again, this time sounding like metal, evoking a rather dissonant wall of sound], … listening to this vibration of earth rendered audible you’ll find tunes that are reminiscent of the prelude to Bach’s suite in G major [plays an excerpt]. Basically, these are tunes Bach learned from nature since he kind of resonated.
So what does modern composition mean? What does it mean being stimulated by modern composition? I think there is a wide scope that builds up…
I really don’t know. [Huschke improvises some lines] – If I would have to work that out [what he just played], or just to memorise it based on sheet music it would take me some time. Yet I’m very much into improvising. That’s why I prefer to imagine and improvise what’s on my mind.
Q2: Process of composition
ContentSphere: Listening to your works one will notice that sound architecture is an essential part to your composition and interpretation. You mentioned it before that you relate to nature a lot – your compositions strike me as dynamic and naturally grown. How does a composition develop on your side? Tell us something about the process behind.
Wolfram Huschke: It is based on repetition. When songs are evolving, I repeat them hundreds of times. If I tend to enjoy them even more so after having played them several hundred times, then maybe they will give me goosebumps. That’s when I realise that I’m going to play the song much more often.
Q3: Elements in composition
Wolfram Huschke: For example, there’s this heavy tune [unfortunately, I had to cut this – too much clippings for a simple web-mic to cope with…]. It developed for quite a long time. There are several parts. First off, there’s the groove [gets into it]. I might try and add different tempi – faster, slower. Or different techniques: the method of bowing, integrating some melody, for example [each time accompanied by a kind of decompositional playing]. You might also have a basic groove or a bassline and fills that are being added. It’s all about the highest directive that you must not bore people while playing. Make them think “Wow! What’s that!? That’s a full-blown arrangement!”
Q4: Layered compositions
ContentSphere: So you have to take several roles…
Wolfram Huschke: Absolutely. Let’s take another tune: [there he goes]. First, you are feeling the bass [plays bassline only], then we have the rest [cello] that actually includes another smart tune: [lead line]. Ok, bass is covered, melodic essentials can be found too. Additionally, there are some side notes that go along – just like those violas in an orchestra do have. Sometimes, that’s even sufficient – as long as they don’t have a fantastic solo! [smiles]
Q5: Technology as an integral part of composition
ContentSphere: The technology you are making use of or that you are even exploiting – is it an integral part of the composition?
Wolfram Huschke: [interrupts] …well, that’s always different…
ContentSphere: Or is it more like setting up the basics for the acoustic instrument, and later on building upon…
Wolfram Huschke: No. Well, that’s [reflects on it as if he tries to find the formula]… no, yes – yes, no – no, yes. Possibly I do have some fixed basics I’m trying on electric cello. Yet, it might be vice versa. I stumble upon a particular setting of my FX and it incites me to try out. Starting from trial and error, a particular development may result. This chain of action is totally unpredictable. A song may be transferable from acoustic cello to electric cello, e. g. “Whale Singings” [his cello quotes his song]. This one is as well capable of being transferred as the “Whale Hunter” groove thing is [plays again]. Here, it’s important to enable people to imagine the film I play.
ContentSphere: Yesterday, I noticed you are playing a Steinberger e-cello – though you only used it for the first song…
Wolfram Huschke: Yes. I still feel rather uncomfortable playing the six-string Steinberger with a bow, since its top (E)-string sounds really very sharp. Actually, it’s more like bowing a viola da gamba. Of course, that’s nice. I wanted to use the instrument as a part of the opening.
I intended the audience to only hear me first while I’m walking down through the seating rows. Also, it is a visually appealing teaser. If you’d do the same with a large acoustic cello you eventually risk to stumble and fall.
The strapped-on six-string is simply comfortable. It has a real deep bass. It sounds tremendous when you’re picking. It’s much like the sound of Jaco Pastorius – creamy, fretless… [Huschke plays the cello bass-like fretless style]. This one sings too: [makes the acoustic cello sing]. But the Steinberger – it is tremendous, it pushes… it’s like a massive massage to your guts. This is just great to open with: It opens doors to other worlds.
ContentSphere: And the Zeta [link broken 2016-03-06], that’s an e-cello too?
Wolfram Huschke: Yes.
ContentSphere: I mean, I browsed the web but I only found a bass of this series.
Wolfram Huschke: It’s very difficult to get an e-cello in Germany. It’s been 13 years ago now I bought this one in Hamburg. At that time, they were still distributed in Germany. Meanwhile, there are many manufacturers of electric celli. But, to find one in a store in Germany is rather impossible. Actually, you have to buy one to get one. There’s hardly any opportunity to check one out by playing.
By the way, yesterday I noticed that mine is about to go bust so that I have to search for a new instrument now.
ContentSphere: Did you know that the Zeta website features you as a user [link broken 2016-03-06]?
Wolfram Huschke: Yep, I’m up there since about ten years.
ContentSphere: You’re mentioned to play another cello model…
Wolfram Huschke: [astonished] Really?
ContentSphere: It’s the Educator e-cello.
Wolfram Huschke: I never memorised the differences. Once I owned one, but I sold it.
Reduction of means always meant a thrust to me. During my studies at university I was broke and I had to sell everything. That’s been my bass guitar, my synthesizer – simply anything. The only thing that’s been left was the cello.
At that time I transferred all techniques to cello playing: [slaps, combines slapping & fretless bass style playing, picks like a bass]. Basically, I do not need to grab another instrument. Even if I discover the cello to play guitar: [plays a lick and solos, goes into vibrato, strums rock style]. You simply don’t have to grab for this one here, or grab for this one there. It has all been transferred to cello.
ContentSphere: Did you ever play a Chapman Stick?
Wolfram Huschke: No. Because to play one affords a real unique approach.
But the tapping produces absolutely incredible recordings. In particular, if Bach is played. To play this instrument is a world in its own right.
– to be continued in parts 2-5 –