In light of the release of Martin Kohlstedt’s latest album Reccurents, which reinterprets tracks from his oeuvre through collaborations with contemporary artists, we talked to the German experimental pianist about his recent collaboration with Sudan Archives, why his pieces are “in constant flux,” and how he thinks coronavirus will change the music industry.
How did you get into music and what were some of the first tracks you remember being inspired by?
My path into music was via the piano. Everytime I came home from school I got lost in the instrument and let my mind roam. The first music that hit me with the same kind of intensity was by Sigur Ros and The Album Leaf.
How did you meet Sudan Archives and what made you decide to collaborate with her for a track on Reccurents?
I hadn’t met Sudan in person before I decided I wanted to collaborate with her. I just had a gut feeling that she was the right person to work with for Reccurents, my latest album. I was looking to create contemporary, “zeitgeisty” interpretations of my songs, juxtaposing my usual approach of trying to create timeless pieces. I wanted to move as far from my usual musical standpoint as possible and to really re-interpret my pieces like never before. Sudan Archives was perfect for this project so I wrote to her and was extremely excited by her positive reaction.
How do your individual musical styles compliment/contrast each other?
Whether I’m collaborating with other artists like I have for Recurrents, improvising with classical choirs, or experimenting with combining traditional instruments with electronic tools, I always try to look for ways to create contrasts in my work. To me, music is about discourse, transformation, and reflection. In this sense my pieces are in constant flux. I don’t see them as fixed compositions, they develop and grow along with my own experiences or evolve through interpretations by other artists such as Sudan.
Tell me a bit more about the song AUHEJA, the track that Sudan has reimagined for your new album.
AUHEJA is the combination of two songs, AUH and EJA, which were composed ten years apart from each other! AUH was a song I played as a teenager for my mother while she was ironing in the living room. Ten years later she passed away. This heartbreaking time in my life led me to write EJA on my album Strom. In contrast to the excitable and effervescent songs on the rest of the record, EJA is quiet, somber, solemn, and empathetic. With the help of the sheer musical power of a 70-strong choir, I brought the two pieces together for my album Ströme to create AUHEJA. Giving this piece to Sudan Archives was a very big deal for me. She was finally able to perform it without the weight of the piece’s past.
“To me, music is about discourse, transformation, and reflection. In this sense my pieces are in constant flux.”
How do you think coronavirus is going to change the music industry?
The coronavirus will not stop music itself. It will, however, I’m sadly certain, bring years of change to everything around it. It will threaten and cause the closure of venues, promoters, and crews. But these uncertain times will also cause an immense wave of inspiration for musicians, creatives, and humans in general.
How did you select the tracks for this mixtape?
This interview inspired me to dig deep into the humble beginnings of my musical endeavours. As a result, the tracks on this mixtape are by a range of acts and artists that part of my musical roots and shaped me as a musician.
Martin Kohlstedt is an experimental pianist based in Germany. His latest album, Recurrents, reinterprets tracks from his oeuvre through collaborations with contemporary artists such as the American violinist and singer Sudan Archives, whom Friends of Friends interviewed last year. This interview was produced as part of our Mixtape series, in which international creatives curate playlists of music that inspires them. Head over to the Mixtape section to find out more.
Text: FvF Team
Photography: Peter Runkewitz