Composer of the Week: Claes Biehl

Can you tell us a little about your background?
I initially started out as an instrumentalist (violin, piano), and for many years I performed in various orchestras and chamber groups, before composing began to take precedence. I then studied composition, music theory and piano in Cologne (BMus) and London (MMus, DMus) and am now working, among other things, as a freelance composer in Germany.

What have your career highlights been so far?
Composing my piece défraîchir for large orchestra and having it performed in London was definitely a fantastic experience. The same applies to having my music performed at venues such as the Southbank Centre or Cadogan Hall. Recent highlights include the performance and DVD production of a multimedia project (SonnenschattenMondhöfe) at the cubus kunsthalle Duisburg.

Tell us something about your current work
I just finished composing the music for Passionen, vernagelt…, a trialogue of text, music, and Günther Uecker´s Chichicastenango. The piece is scored for Kingma System flutes, accordion, harpsichord and balafon.

What projects have you got lined up for the future?
Upcoming projects include a piece for vocal quartet and ensemble, and the incidental music for a theatre production. I also plan to write a solo piece for contrabass flute.

Can you introduce us to one of your works for flutes?
I wrote sphères, déformées (for Kingma System alto flute, guitar, and electronics) right after I had developed my “dynamic tone-systems” concept, which revolves around the idea of transforming microtonal pitch hierarchies as a means of finding new and unusual ways to develop musical material. (You´ll have to read my dissertation if you´d like to know more about this.) While those transformation processes generate a strictly organized matrix which ultimately governs the work´s discourse, the resulting music attempts to evoke the paradox between an ideal state and its intrinsically impossible deformation. Overall, I´d say the piece gives off an autumnal vibe, with its lyrical, mysterious and, on occasion, elusive character – for most of the time the instruments are rather “soft-spoken”, and the electronic part – though rich in harmonic-timbral colors – remains gentle and introverted as well.

How would you recommend someone gets started on learning sphères, déformées?
Carla Rees and David Black have made several wonderful recordings of the piece, so I´d recommend listening to those to get a first impression of the music. Accuracy is essential in order to stay in synch with the electronics (normally, a click-track will be used in performance), so practicing with a metronome is advisable to get used to the metric strictness. The flute part contains a large number of non-tempered micro-intervals many of which occur simultaneously in the electronics. As with all microtonal music, a certain degree of ear-training is indispensable, so listening carefully to the electronic sounds and adjusting one´s own intonation to them is highly recommended.

What performances have you got coming up?
13/03/2016, 6pm, Kulturforum Pax Christi Krefeld, Germany: Passionen, vernagelt… Carla Rees, Kingma System flutes, Marko Kassl, accordion, Theodor Pauß, harpsichord & balafon;
18/03/2016, 8pm, Klangraum 61, Düsseldorf, Germany: Refractions Theodor Pauß, piano

Claes's website
Claes's music is also published by Augemus and Edition Avantus

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