Interview with Stefan Grasse (January 2019)
When did you start playing the guitar and why?
Stefan Grasse: I started playing the guitar when I was a little boy. I simply took the guitar of my older sister and started without a teacher. I was fascinated of the intimate, poetic sound of guitar.
What did you study and what is your musical background?
SG: First I had private guitar lessons with different teachers, later with Anatol Regnier in Munich, Germany. In addition to my classical lessons I wanted to learn improvisation techniques and how to arrange and compose music. So I studied first jazz guitar and composition, and finally classical guitar in Munich, Nuremberg and Glasgow.
What were and are your main musical influences?
SG: In Jazz it was first Joe Pass, Wes Montgomery, later Pat Metheny and especially John McLaughlin, in Flamenco Paco de Lucia and Gerardo Nuñez, in classical improvisation techniques Ralph Towner, in Brazilian music Baden Powell and Egberto Gismonti, in classical music John Williams and Pepe Romero. There are so many wonderful players and a kaleidoscope of styles…
I listened to and reviewed your record “Guitar Phase”, I found it very interesting. It seems you have a deep interest into minimal music and into Steve Reich’s music…how did you get this?
SG: I am sensitive to the meditative effect of this kind of music. I am also interested in these interlocking effects of patterns, many-layered, embedded in a pulsating polyphonic texture. I also like the non-European influences, i.e. the African influences in the music of Steve Reich or the Indian influences in the music of Phil Glass or Terry Riley.
I have seen you have recorded it with Xolo Music. Is it your record label? I have seen that you have recorded other cds with this label….
SG: Yes, I am the owner of that record company. The distributor is Galileo Music and I am very happy for this collaboration.
What does mean improvisation in your music research? Can we go back to talking about improvisation in a repertoire so encoded as the classic or you’re forced to leave and turn to other repertoires, jazz, contemporary, etc.?
SG: I think improvisation is also a part of the classical western tradition. Great composer have been great improvisers: J.S. Bach, Beethoven etc. It is a subject for organists. There so many ways to improvise, from adding some grace notes till complete new phrases to completely new concepts of music.
What’s the role of the “Error” in your musical vision? For “error” I mean an incorrect procedure, an irregularity in the normal operation of a mechanism, a discontinuity on an otherwise uniform surface that can lead to new developments and unexpected surprises…
SG: There is no error, when we are one with the music. Music is life, life is music. Is life an error? Listen to the wind in the trees, then a bird call. The bird call is an interruption of the sound patterns of the leaves. Does bird call effect a discontent? A mistake?
And what do you think is the “function” of a moment of crisis?
SG: Coming to the edge of the life, a turning point, learning from it and getting matured, calm and maybe wise. Keep in mind how fragile we are.
What are your next projects? What are you working on?
SG: I am working on a CD of my own music, containing the compositions of the recent years.
And I am working on a programme with combines the natural sound of the guitar with electronic effects. It is called „Inner Sound“.