Studio Dan

Music, media and mankind


The Mystery Interview

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This text was written as an email interview with Daniel Riegler (Studio Dan) as part of the preparations for a text that appeared in the Austrian daily newspaper DER STANDARD on September 2. For reasons of space, as the editors confirmed to us afterwards, little of the original text could be printed. We would like to make up for this here. For reasons of media law, neither the interviewer nor his questions are mentioned. They are prefixed to the answers as headings. The answers are slightly edited and adapted to the format here.

Frank Zappa and today's music scene
DR: I think he would see that a lot of what he started—a multi-layered, networked, musical thinking—has become common sense. I think the scene (?) has become more undogmatic, at least more open, in a healthy way. Maybe he would like that.

What would he advise us to do? Maybe we should be tougher on the people who get in the way of our work, there would be a lot to complain about. He rarely minced his words.

Ingrid Laubrock and Lukas König at Klangspuren Schwaz
DR: Ingrid Laubrock and Lukas König are prototypical for this, our generation of musicians, who move freely between aesthetics and approaches. I believe that this comes from an honest openness and curiosity, a genuine looking or better listening to the world. That has a lot to do with being human, and that's why it suits us, because that's what interests us above all.

The pieces are very different in their basic sound. Ingrid's piece is a composition for acoustic ensemble, Lukas puts himself and an electronically amplified cymbal, a pinball machine and its player, the noise performer Victoria Shen, in the sonic center. What unites the pieces is that all players are very actively involved in the development of the result. The collective must carve a path through the basic compositional ideas live. Listening, reacting quickly, remaining permeable. It will be a very entertaining program, there is also a lot to see.

The importance of Klangspuren Schwaz and other major festivals.
DR: I don't want to forget at this point that we will be presenting a total of eight productions this fall. Before Klangspuren, there will be a premiere with music by Michael Tiefenbacher at the Musiktheatertage Wien (September 14-19), later concerts at Wien Modern at the Porgy & Bess, then Zappa at the Wiener Konzerthaus, and also a 'Käfigkonzert' (ann.: a concert inside a public fenced-in soccer- and basketball court called [= cage], typical in Vienna) in the 15th district and concerts in Graz.

Cooperation with large festivals and concert houses is very important for us. With them, larger-scale ideas can be initiated. Productions that we then have in our repertoire over a longer period of time. Klangspuren, Wien Modern, Porgy & Bess, Elbphilharmonie, La Strada have been very reliable partners in this respect in recent years. But working with clubs and small promoters is just as important on another level. Here you can try out new, more experimental things and implement ideas at shorter notice.

Art and culture business: concert halls, clubs, cultural policy, media, audience...
DR: One should not forget the artists as the most important actors. The scene, whatever that is exactly, is very, very active and networked. Corona has encouraged us to assert our role in society. There is really a lot going on, a lot of young (and old ...) artists who are doing super work, whether as composers, musicians or in other functions. I think Vienna has really become a hotspot for cross-genre and cross-scene thinking. People from the pop scene are drawing on experiences they've had with sound artists and serious music composers, ensembles are no longer just working off a central idea, and so on. The biotope of the art-MAKERS is a fertile one and only with our work do organizers, clubs and media do their work in the end.

With the other mentioned parts of the biotope it becomes already more difficult. The daily struggle for attention is enormously grueling. This is something that has kept me very busy over the years. Organizers and clubs are already rather difficult to reach. (Of course there are exceptions, see above). With the political actors you can at least communicate, even if not everything always goes according to plan. But especially the media have become a communicative black hole. It's not like we've just appeared on the scene, we've been doing consistently good work for almost two decades and are treated like supplicants. And yet we are the ones who deliver the topics. The CONTENT ... Of course I mean all of us artists and not me and the ensemble as such.

Where, for example, are jazz and contemporary music on ORF (television)? Also in print and radio, with the known exceptions, we are ignored. Then comes the niche-killer-argument: what we do interests too times of shrinking budgets, unfortunately, nothing to do ....

People forget that we are all in the same boat: Jazz, contemporary music, sound art, experimental etc. has never been something for a broad audience and yet there have been sensational formats in print, radio and television to convey these 'niche' oddities, and it has invariably been journalists who have been responsible for such programs and never the result of a survey of customers. And these things have made individual media what they are. USP - unique selling proposition! It's a great sell.
It is and remains a decision and a question of attitude on the part of the top management. And these people are too often too cynical. They still think they're cool when they think art is uncool.

And as far as the audience is concerned, the great audience death has failed to materialize. The audience comes and stays with these 'nichiest' things, as I could see again this year in my function at the Kultursommer Wien. But I haven't read or heard much about that either.

DR: Nothing in particular. I think we should all worry about the total desolidarization of our societies. Here you can only start on a small scale, and I think it's up to us musicians, artists, to create counter-models. That's where hope comes in ...

Dogmatic developments and liberal counter-designs
DR: Our concepts for public space, our productions for children and everything that we also place on ordinary stages clearly pursue a political agenda. We actually believe that art improves people's lives. We even believe that art will ultimately prevent or weaken these pervasive autocratic systems. Clearly: not the individual artist(s), but openness and liberal counter-movement, as you mention. And I know that the cynics smile at us for this. But they will not be right ...

Studio Dan & Daniel Riegler, Role Models and Dynamics
DR: I've been a trombonist and composer since the founding, so I'm part of the ensemble, also artistic director. There is no role model for the role I try to take in this group. For me, comparable figures are too preoccupied with themselves, end up with autocratic traits. And that brings us back to the last question ... nobody wants that. The work in a collective is—as in our case—a decades-long collaboration of people. A lot of things happen—many celebrations, many dramas—being-human all over the place.

A group is not a fixed entity, but rather a constant process. I try to keep track of this process and understand it. I love this part of my work very much, it is something that directly affects my life and the lives of many. Part of this process is that since 2022 Sidonie Forstreiter is on board and shares the artistic direction role with me. She brings a whole new perspective. So things are changing again, my role will be somewhat different in the future. Right now, the cohesion of our group is greater than ever before. Which surprises me and makes me very happy. We are prepared for the next few years.

The article at DER STANDARD.