"Here we find three women from the improvised music scene: Annette Krebs (prepared guitar, objects, tapes, mixing desk), Anthea Caddy (cello) and Magda Mayas on piano. One ten minute piece from 2008 and a twenty-six minute piece from 2009. Improvised music of some refined nature. Piano and cello stay natural, scraping, scratching, plink and plonk, but it's Krebs's contributions that lift this up into a more abstract work, using sounds of spoken words from her tapes. The two pieces are vibrant, dwelling on improvised pieces on their acoustic instruments, as well as electro-acoustic sounds, bouncing from very soft to quiet loud, although it's never noise or full-on immersive sound. The trio piece seems a bit 'fuller' to me, but at the same time, at times, more empty, when it comes to silence. But there's never a dull moment; as a listener you always stay focused on what's happening next. Great CD!"-Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly
Interview with Magda Mayas
Berlin is clearly the starting point for your trio, but could you explain how this trio came about as I suspect that some people will be surprised by the combination of players?
Yes, we all met in Berlin at different times. Anthea and I had been playing as a duo since about 2006. Anthea also developed a performance/installation project with Annette I think around 2008. About a year later, I organised a house concert and we decided to play as a trio, which seemed very organic and easy immediately. We recorded parts of the album shortly after that.
Yes the music does sound organic, but at the same time has a kind of cut-up, disjointed quality that I find appealing. Was there a lot of post-production editing, or are the sudden changes of direction part of the group's style?
There was not much editing involved in either of the recordings, just minor changes. As for the general style - we actually never really talked about the pieces we played beforehand, but I think we are all interested in fast changing structures, so that´s rather a compositional element each of us brings into the group to a different extent.
Berlin has become a major centre for experimental music, and has attracted scores of musicians from outside - including yourself and Anthea. Could you tell us a bit about why you decided to go to Berlin, and how the music scene there has affected your music?
I grew up in Münster in Germany, moved to Berlin in 1999 and have lived there since, more or less continuously. I began my studies (Jazz piano) then and knew there was a scene for all kinds of music in Berlin and people to play with.
There were always a lot of people moving here although it seems now more than ever, which surely also has to do with the fact that you can still live here quite cheaply, compared to other big cities. And it's easy to work with other musicians, try things out and present them to an audience quickly and easily. I love the fact that there are so many "venues", places to play, and so many concerts on every night. That has surely influenced my music, being able to listen to all kinds of music every day.
Could you tell us a little bit about some of the techniques you use inside the piano? Are there things that you have 'discovered' yourself? And what draws you to work so much inside the instrument?
I started playing classical piano as a kid, then around 15 I got interested in jazz and then (free) improvising at the instrument. Playing inside the piano came quite naturally after some time, I heard other musicians use extended technique (on piano as well as other instruments) and I was interested in creating sound and the fact that that was an area I could explore on my own and still can.
I think a lot of the sounds, or how I use them, came from exploring it myself. Of course I am and have been inspired by other pianists and use some of the same techniques. I was aware of the John Cage prepared piano, when I started using the inside of the instrument, but have never played his pieces or prepared the piano in that way.
I am currently researching the influence of Cage's music on pianists today for a workshop. Most of the pianists in the improvised/ new music scene that I asked said they feel they have explored the inside piano on their own - I think that is a great deal of the value and excitement of it initially.
At the moment I use objects that I can remove quickly or use my hands and fingers to play the inside, so I have a natural piano sound if I want to. I use mallets, tape, plasticine, different metal and rubber objects, on the strings and soundboard to dampen strings or create overtones etc. I also use fishing line or bamboo sticks between the strings for more resonant sounds.
At the moment I spend more time playing inside the piano than the keyboard. I like the tension and variety of using both, the possibilities to alienate the instrument at times and use all of it, changing sounds and colours constantly.
It struck me listening to your solo playing on Heartland that the effects you create sometimes sound as if you're using electronics, so it seemed natural that you should collaborate with someone like Annette who actually uses electronics. Do you work a lot with people using electronics, or are most of your collaborations with acoustic instrumentalists? Also, I wondered if have you tried using electronics yourself to extend the piano still further, as, for instance, Sebastian Lexer does?
I haven't worked a lot with electronic musicians, or at least not continuously, but for no particular reason - I think I usually choose to work with specific people rather then look for instruments that might fit. I also don´t use electronics myself, though I'm interested in experimenting with different kinds of amplification and pick ups.
Also, I started playing clavinet/pianet about 2 years ago (an electric piano from the 60s with strings and metal chimes) and likewise extending it with different devices, preparing the strings etc. At times it sounds more like an electric guitar than a keyboard.
That is a great discovery for me, engaging with noise and more visceral sound material and it opens up possibilities in many ways. I have combined clavinet and piano in concerts when possible (it's quite heavy to travel with) and made recordings in the last years that will be out soon.
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