Interview with

Sven Helbig

Sven Helbig is part of a generation of composers that no longer acknowledges the traditional lines between the world of classical composing, experimental art and pop music. He composes choir, orchestra and chamber music for classical concert venues and goes on tour with electronic music. In his solo concerts he radically edits his orchestra compositions – deconstructs and recreates them digitally or plays them on his mallets. Hovering vibraphone sounds and Breakcore beats, opulent strings and synth surrogates are all part of his powerful musical arsenal. Sven is a „Composer in Residence” at the Deutsches Nationaltheater in Weimar, the University of Leipzig and the National University San Martin in Buenos Aires. His debut Pocket Symphonies was released on Deutsche Grammophon in 2013, to be followed by two albums this year. He just started with Pocket Symphonies Electronica, where you can listen to the live versions of Pocket Symphonies. In September his new choir work I Eat the Sun and Drink the Rain will be finished. Both albums are released on new Berlin based label Neue Meister. Sven Helbig is co-founder of the Dresdner Sinfoniker, the first European orchestra exclusively dedicated to contemporary music.

Facts

1: I don´t have facts, just a lot of doubts about nearly anything.
2: Death might be a fact and it would sure help a lot, keeping that in mind.
3: Enlightenment can just be found in the dark. At least a fact for me.

Questions

1.What is the biggest inspiration for your music?
A walk in any kind of nature is the best way to open up my mind and soul.
In general, I can´t see a straight connection between intense moments and the creative process. Experiences are the grapes that got sent into life’s barrel and if the time is right there will be a wine.

2.How and when did you get into making music?
I started constructing little radios at the age of 11. When they finally worked, I got so enthusiastic that I spend nights with my headphones on and listened to what ever came through.
I became obsessed with every little musical and technical detail I could hear, even reverbs, echos, stereo pictures.

3.What are your 5 favorite albums of all time?
1 “Donuts”, J Dilla
2 “Music Has The Right To Children”, Boards Of Canada
3 “Huge Chrome Cylinder Box Unfolding”, Venetian Snares
4 “Four Last Songs” Gundula Janowitz, Karajan, Berlin Philharmonic
5 “Ballads” John Coltrane

4.What do you associate with Berlin?
Berlin is open in all directions. It doesn’t put me in a pre-configuration, like many other city’s that have a kind of cultural dialect. Here, every day I feel like taking a white sheet of paper and start drawing.

5.What’s your favorite place in your town?
This is with no doubt a little bar called “Blue Note”. Everything is right in this place. They play always good music, the sound is great, the drinks, light, just everything. What I expect from a good bar, is that I can imagine sitting there alone a whole night.

6.If there was no music in the world, what would you do instead?
I would buy a vineyard. Any kind of agriculture is taking over my ambitions too.
Not, because I love diggin in the earth all day, but because I become more and more convinced that a healthy mind should have a strong relation to the origin of food. Alienation from natural grown food will degenerate our thoughts, culture and in a chain of events our society.

7.What was the last record you bought?
I bought Ash Koosha`s “GUUD” some weeks ago. I have been introduced by a friend to his music and fell in love on first sight. The complex layering of electronic sounds is on the same level, as the best mastered counterpoint composition.

8.Who would you most like to collaborate with?
It is a dream, that will never come true. But if I could write orchestra or choir pieces for a BoC album, that would lift me to heaven.

9.What was your best gig (as performer or spectator)?
I would choose the concert with string quartet at CAFF in Buenos Aires in 2015.
The atmosphere in the vibrant city of Buenos Aires is highly energizing any-ways and the Argentinian string quartet I was working with could play classical scores and improvise on the same high level. This was fantastic. I wrote a piece for them, called “Tres Momentos”. I still remember the sacred feeling on stage and how people from their chairs, when we were finished.

10.How important is technology to your creative process?
It has become much more important during the last years. I started reconstructing my classical compositions on stage with computers. I could not live without those transformations anymore, since they are a reflection of how we hand le tradition today. Computers are wonderful instruments and as a composer I can’t skip the most versatile instrument that exists today.

11.Do you have siblings and how do they feel about your career?
I have a sister and a brother. Both like my music a lot.

Sven Helbig is part of Neue Meister II Crossing Borders showcase on Monday, 20.06.2016 in Berlin.

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