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The Broken Piano | RAM.2012 Salon Bruit

Release date: 21.04.13
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"I started playing the piano at the age of 6. My teacher introduced me quite early to György Kurtág's Játékok. The Játékok works clearly influenced my actual way of playing. Many pieces in the first book are to be played with palms, fists, forearms and are introducing the beginner to a really physical practice that plays with the whole range of the piano in a noisy and rich way. It's there that I've learned to enjoy the noisy potential of the instrument and the possibility to involve the body really much in the playing. Moreover, the Játékok opened me to other ways of reading music and I was really attracted to the graphic quality of the writing of clusters. As a teenager, I was introduced to Crumb's Makrokosmos and John Cage's prepared piano as well as the pieces for Toy Piano, Lachenmann's Ein Kinderspiel and György Ligetis' Musica Ricercata. Crumb's Makrokosmos was my favourite but way too hard for me to play.

When I was 13, my piano teacher sent me to Michel Massot's improvisation class that was taking place at the music school. It was a really intense experience. I was the youngest person in a group of more or less 20 musicians from every possible musical backgrounds with all kind of instruments and all kind of personalities. I stayed 5 years in this class, playing with many people every week. It took some time until I began to feel comfortable with improvising but I had really strong emotions doing this.

At 18 I entered the conservatory to study composition. After a few weeks, I stopped visiting all classes except the improvisation class of Garett List and the Ensemble “Rock de chambre” of Michel Massot in which I played the trumpet. It was a really depressing year as I realized I hated to study music in this way or maybe it was for me the confirmation that I could no longer evolve in the world of institutionalized music. I was feeling a lot of rage against this way of living music as a profession, I fell like there was no difference between this and working in an office. I was so angry that I kind of injured my arms really badly by playing and stopped for 2 full years. Afterwards, I had to find ways to play with power without hurting myself. I began to play more and more inside the piano and to use protections. I used more and more substitutes for my hands. Slowly, I began to develop this sound. I wanted to arrive to something simple but strong. It came together as I moved to Berlin, where I got more and more inspired by increasingly raw and harsh sounds and a certain fascinating aesthetic of metal and leather stuff. I got illuminated by the effectiveness of some noise performances, straight, strong, short, dirty and clear at the same time. As I went to Paris for a few days, I fell that Soulage's black pictures were illustrating how I fell about sound and it gave me the power to concentrate and focus over and over on "the grain" of the piano."


The concepts behind the sound:

I believe in Noise as a richer musical source than tones. I want to reveal the physicality of the piano as a dirty monster. I expect the audience to shiver with me thanks to the vibes from inside the piano. Music as a channel for the exchange of fluids and energies in the most direct way possible. The piano is not an instrument but a partner that helps me express the unspeakable.

I feel I want to get absorbed by and take the audience into the noise (as I feel when I listen to some concerts by others) and a wall of sound where you cannot really distinguish the sources of the sound, where everything is melting into an impossible cry, when you feel like many voices are screaming but there are no voices, when you come into trance and you begin to get sonic hallucinations, when your body shakes from the extreme loudness and power of the basses, when music is liberating destruction.
Of course these words are strong and it is probably an utopia to get there but I want to believe in it and work harder to slowly move in this direction.

My actual challenge is : working on these elements through the piano whose power is of course much more restricted than amplified machines but that I kind of "compensate" through physical action. In my music, there is no separation between body and sound, my body is the source of sound it can be as strong as vulnerable and sometimes it looks futile and absurd in a way that most pianists will disagree with.


Last time I saw you performing at K77 - Lichtblick Kino - with a spike bracelet, and instead of playing inside the cavity of the vertical piano, you played the strings into the lower part of the piano... How was the process to arrive to this idea?
NOTE: [On these specific series we projected the hands of the musicians in the screen of the small Kino on each performance. And in this case, no matter Anaïs was in the ground... kind of "invisible", the visual and acoustic "presence" was impressive.]

The process was pretty quick and natural as practically I have only owned a baby grand piano for only one year. So I was practicing for years on a straight piano and as I am more into strings than keys, I went on the ground as there is much more space to play under the piano than in the upper part.


Artists who inspire you?

When I was a teenager, I was really impressed and inspired, as I've already mentioned, by the works for piano of John Cage, Helmut Lachenmann, George Crumb, Frederic Rzewski, Béla Bartók, György Kurtag, György Ligeti, Giacinto Scelsi and of course still am. Their language constitutes the basis for my techniques and gave me the great passion for noises.

A bit later, I went into contemporary music language and I began to get interested into the playing of improvisers such as Cecil Taylor and Fred Van Hove on the piano. I both love them and their magical and brutal presence. They are masters in clusters playing and fucked up harmonies. Even though he's playing saxophone, Peter Brötzmann is a big inspiration for me too because his playing is so straight and noisy. Afterwards I got more interested in noise, harsh noise, drone and metal music.


Where are you from... why Berlin?

I come from Brussels. The scene is smaller than in Berlin but there are some venues such as Qo2, Recyclart, Nova Cinéma, Ateliers Mommens,... and others that offer regularly some interesting concerts. The musicians I knew there were more often coming from jazz music. I didn't know so many people doing electronic music. I think Berlin is one step further than Brussels. I decided to move to Berlin in 2008. I was several times in Berlin before, and once in the summer 2007 if I remember well. I went to many concerts of the "kleine Field Recording Festival". I was subjugated by the quality and the rawness of the performances. There was much more trash and action than in Brussels. I remember hearing Mattin in Alt Stralau and Sudden Infant/ Cock ESP/... at Dienstbar and of course I remember OvO playing in Tacheles. These were special events for me. The meeting of punk trash and noise. It was exciting.


And about the process of constructing your pieces and performances? We know your work is based on preconceived structures, and some kind of graphic partitures.

Yes. This is a really primitive writing system, and personal. It's not meant to be played by anybody else. There are more like "notes" for me. I use some forms as choreographies for my hands and arms. I see it more like a dance. The dance is doing the music. I often have a schema with some structure before playing solo because I want the music to be fluent but most of the time I don't play what I wrote once the concert starts because I am too much involved into the presence of sound and forget structures and plans.


Until now I only saw you performing solos. Why did you start as soloist? Normally musicians perform a lot first with many other musicians, and then, after a while they jump into the solo work.

I haven't actually started as a soloist. I played my first improvisation music concert (I mean outside of the concerts we did with the "class" that I did when I was 13) in 2005 in Brussels. It was a sextet.

Since I've been living in Berlin, I did a couple of concerts with other people. I think I began to hate jamming after 6 years playing with 20 people. I like duos, trios but it's not easy to find the persons with who you match. Playing solo I can really speak with my own language and my relationship with the piano gets closer and closer.


Projects you consider people have to listen:

There is one Italian composer I want to invite people to hear because I have the feeling he was still not enough played and heard : Fausto Romitelli. He inspired me and gives me hope concerning the evolution of written music. You must hear the piece "professor bad trip", absolutely!

From Belgium you should listen to this wonderful inside piano player Baudouin Oosterlynck: it is unbelievable!!! He was born in the forties and made some pieces in the seventies that you can listen on "metaphon". It is a gem and I am sure that too few people know him.


About your experience as musician in Berlin... was it hard to get into the "scene"?

As I came to Berlin in 2008 I had the feeling it wasn't that difficult to find a place to play. I usually don't have much problems to play in some places but there are not pianos everywhere and of course it is frustrating. The only problems I had till now is when I made this project of piano "terror" and went to hip cafés to play unannounced, opened the piano and attached myself to it. The owners kicked me out after a few minutes, most of the time. Yes, there are not thousands of spaces with a piano where you can do what I do and thus, I don't play as often as I'd like but it is part of the thing. Maybe I'll get to another instrument in a while but I still can't get rid of my relationship with this old bourgeois furniture.


What does "underground" mean for you? Important changes in Berlin you've noticed - in the last years - with gentrification and the proliferation of hipsters as organisers?

"Underground" doesn't mean so much to me. What pisses me off is that I notice many spaces open and they just have this style that "looks like" cool, creative, alternative but actually in many of these spaces people are really tight and you can forget about playing noise there because they want to stay "cosy" and "undisturbed" and this is a really sad development but on the other hand Berlin doesn't really lack space for nice venues. There are still many great things happening compared to many other European cities.


Cool sites and communities:

Venues: (some of them are closed but still...) : NK, Raum 18, Electronic Church, Quiet Cue, Sowieso, Ausland, Miss Hecker, Naheosten, White Rabbit, Fishladen, Dienstbar,... Sites: Ubuweb, Echtzeitmusik



Anaïs Tuerlinckx, 10th April 2013, Berlin





The Broken Piano | RAM.2012 Salon Bruit




Anaïs Tuerlinckx - broken piano, spike bracelet and objects.

Recorded by Anaïs Tuerlinckx at K77-Lichtblick Kino-Salon Bruit, on Friday the 17th of August 2012, Berlin. RAM #07 concert series curated by Julian Bonequi. Produced by Salon Bruit & Audition Records.

Special thanks Salon Bruit, Philip Morris & Seamus O'Donnell. Picture by Viola Förster-v.d.Lühe [ Ausland, 5 Nov 2011 ]. Design by Aniana Heras.