Saturday, March 15, 2014

Gunnar Geisse 13 Questions

photo: Tina Karolina Stauner

Gunnar Geisse (born July 11, 1964, Giessen, Germany) is a musician, improviser, composer, and interpreter. He moves along the cutting edge between experimental/improvised music and new music. He has developed a complex instrumental concept combining guitar and electronics/computer which he calls laptop guitar. He also plays several other string instruments including banjo, mandolin, and a variety of instruments from Central Asia, among them the Uzbek and the Persian dotâr. Gunnar Geisse has been living in Munich, Germany since 1985.

photo: Christoph Höfig

Music as an adventure, love for experiment and improvisation, vision, to bring compositional predefined shapes and spontaneous improvisational musical images – that is also to say structure and expressivity – into a dialectical relationship at the moment of performance.

Research in the field of non-linear phenomena, theory of complexity, time, structure development/patterns and simulation at the universities of Magdeburg and Munich

1995 Music award from the city of Munich
2000/2001 Scholarship for composition Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart
2001 Scholarship for music, Munich

Gunnar Geisse has played with musicians from the three major areas of his musical life: experimental/improvised music, new music, and contemporary jazz. They include:
Richard Barrett, Marty Cook, Phil Durrant, Vinko Globokar, Barry Guy, Franz Hautzinger, Jason Kahn, Thomas Lehn, Michael Lentz, George Lewis, David Moss, Günter Müller, Olga Neuwirth, Phill Niblock, Evan Parker, Giancarlo Schiaffini, Ignaz Schick, Ed Schuller, Mike Svoboda, Gary Thomas, Wu Wei[disambiguation needed], Xu Fengxia.

Gunnar Geisse has worked with or played works of Hans-Jürgen von Bose, John Cage, Peter Maxwell Davies, Fred Frith, Gérard Grisey, Hans Werner Henze, Tom Johnson, Helmut Lachenmann, Anestis Logothetis, Chico Mello, Josef Anton Riedl, Gioacchino Rossini, Dieter Schnebel, James Tenney, Kurt Weill, Jörg Widmann, Christian Wolff, and Udo Zimmermann.

photo: Rolf Schoellkopf

He has also played as soloist under the direction of Stefan Asbury, Paul Daniel, Peter Eötvös, Franck Ollu, and Lothar Zagrosek with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra (BR), The Bavarian State Opera Orchestra, the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra (SWR), the Stuttgart City Orchestra, and the Munich City Theatre Orchestra on Gärtnerplatz.

Gunnar Geisse was/is a member of the following ensembles: Brother Virus, le petit chien, ICI ensemble, Go Guitars, Berlin Jazz Composers Ensemble, Fractal Gumbo, NIE Quartett

bee & guitar pickup switches X-ray guitar photos: Gunnar Geisse

1. What was the first musical sound that you remember?

I remember that my father had a record of an Old Prussian military band and I was playing along with a drum hanging around my neck and walking around the dining table - I was totally into it, being in another world.

2. What do you expect from music?


It's an adventure to listen to it in the present, this is it, feeling alive, everything's already there and anything goes, let it flow. Awareness, allowing, accepting on the one hand, on the other hand reflection, past & future, structure & form; dualism anyway, changing life.

3. So, why do you love the guitar?

I put it down and walked away.
(see no. 7)


4. Which work of your own (or as a sideman) are you most proud of, and why?

My first solo CD "AtEM" after my climbing accident when I lost two fingers of my right hand, I didn't know if I ever will play the guitar again. I started to compose those pieces for guitar in the hospital between surgeries, writing them with my left hand and finally recording them track by track, for my own documentation purposes. It turned out to be a pretty radical turn towards something new.

5. How do you understand the relationship between laptop and guitar?

It's one instrument! Compare it with the amplifier of an electric guitar; it doesn't work without it.

6. What is the value of technique in art?

It may help you in defining what you want to say more precisely.

7. What is your relationship (or interest) with other disciplines such as painting, literature, dance, theater ...?

Life is complex, in fact very complex. It’s not just black-or-white, it's colored, beautiful and ugly and everything in between and something beyond, colours we don't understand and colours we agree to and colours we deny exist. Because art may reflect and express that complexity of our human existence and condition - it tries to get to the bottom of live - art is ambiguous by its nature, as is life.
That's what I feel, what I'm interested in, what I love, what I love to think about, what I try to express, what I'm struggling with, what keeps me alive.

8. What are the challenges and benefits of today's digital music scene? 
To cut the matter short, I think the challenge of today is to integrate the digital paradigm shift into art, into music. The benefit of it is to deal with appropriate topics of our time, things we experience every day.

9. Define the sound you're still looking for

A combination of abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz

Gunnar Geisse, Harald Lillmeyer and Adrian Pereyra

10. Why and how do you use extended techniques in guitar?

I don't use extended techniques on the guitar by itself. As regards my playing those days are over. It's like playing Lachenmann: it's great but museum. Even though I sometimes like listening to people who developed a very personalized guitar playing, thus: it's museum but great. (And I still love listening to Lachenmann.)

Which living person would you like to collaborate with?
Just a few days ago I played with Peter Brötzmann who was a major figure when I was young (and still is I guess), we listened to him in our living community at breakfast – great days. Even though I never thought about playing with him, it was a big pleasure, a dream come true, so to speak.

How do you experience time? How do you experiment with time?

I would like to answer it with a video of mine, dedicated respectfully to On Kawara's Date Paintings of the Today Series. This one:

What’s your latest project about?

I'm finishing building a virtual instrument which allows me to translate any incoming audio into music in real-time. It's pretty effective with voice, noise, sound, even music, say, transform a speech into orchestral music, classical music into a free jazz band or party noises into electric guitar music.
For a start, I call it "transphonition".


2013 Gunnar Geisse "This live event is over.", online video installation, open form series
2013 Gunnar Geisse "I WENT to the Museum of Modern Art", music video series
2012 Gunnar Geisse "MAY I ERASE ONE OF YOUR DRAWINGS" (laptop)

CDs Solo 

2011 Gunnar Geisse "MAY I ERASE ONE OF YOUR DRAWINGS" (laptop)

2010 V/A "I NEVER META GUITAR (Solo Guitars For The 21st Century)" curated by Elliott Sharp; 
        Gunnar Geisse "The Day Rauschenberg Met de Kooning" (laptop guitar), clean feed records

2007 Gunnar Geisse "MEtA AtƎM" (electric guitar/bass, signal processing, field recordings, voice), creative sources recordings

2000 Gunnar Geisse "AtƎM" (electric guitar), NYX

CDs Ensembles, Bands

2011 ICI ENSEMBLE & William Parker, NEOS/BR

2010 Achim Bornhöft/goguitars "Aceton", WERGO Contemporary Music Edition, German Music Council, Germany Radio

2010 Michael Lentz fünfleute "Immer Krisensitzung", Double Moon Records

2009 Claus Reichstaller, music to "Leichtes Spiel" Botho Strauß/Dieter Dorn Bavarian State Theater, Conception Records

2008 ICI ENSEMBLE & Olga Neuwirth, NEOS/BR

2007 ICI ENSEMBLE & George Lewis, PAO

2006 ICI ENSEMBLE "The Wisdom Of Pearls", PAO/BR

2005 SINGER PUR & Go Guitars "Electric Seraphim", K&K Verlagsanstalt Edition Kloster Maulbronn

2003 Maurice de Martin BERLIN JAZZ COMPOSERS ENSEMBLE "Transylvaniana", German Cultural Forum for Eastern Europe, CHAOS Rec.
2002 Marty Cook "Fractal Gumbo", TUTU records
2001 Adam Pieroñczyk "Digivooco" feat. Gary Thomas, PAO

2000 Drum For Your Life "Glückmann", SamaraTone

1999 le petit chien "woof.", enja records

1992 No Distance "different guitars", Outside Records

1992 V/A Brother Virus "Call It Anything" Campaign, verBra Records

1991 Brother Virus "Happy Hour" (live at Knitting Factory NYC & Munic Philharmonic), TUTU/enja records

1987/88 Gunnar Geisse "ballads", MGI records/Intercord  (CD & LP)

2010 musica viva festival munich 2008, Michael Lentz/Uli Winters "Boxgesang über 12 Runden", NEOS/BR
2010 Munich Biennale, Christoph Reiserer "Some Work", concert installation, recording of the premiere performance

Radio Plays
2013 Michael Lentz "Hiddensea", BR2 radio play composition, ca. 70 min.
2012 Uwe Dick "Sauwaldprosa", 12 episodes, director Michael Lentz, composition Gunnar Geisse, BR2, ca. 12 hours
2011 Ferdinand Kriwet "Rotor", Michael Lentz radio reading, Gunnar Geisse sampling, BR2, ca. 55 min.
2010 Michael Lentz, music to the BR2 radio play "Die ganz genaue Erinnerung", ca. 70 min.
2010 Gunnar Geisse "Zeitlupe", short radio play about the Tristan chord, SWR2, 2 min.

Book & CD

2001 Michael Lentz & Go Guitars "ENDE GUT. Sprechakte", edition selene/BR

combination tones & microtonal music:
Spektralharmonik, Klangphänomene und ihre Wahrnehmung als kompositorische Quelle und Weg zur Tonhöhengenese, 2006

photo: Rolf Schoellkopf