Ritual Meets Piano

Keyboardist Nik Bärtsch is a player, composer, and improviser very much in the European classical-oriented style of jazz, but has created a language that transcends these basic categories. A native and resident of Zurich, began his nine-year-long piano studies at age nine, and also briefly took up clarinet. Listening to blues, jazz, and string quartets, Béla Bartók, Igor Stravinsky, and ethnic musics from Japan, Greece, Romania, and Sweden, have all shaped his personalized music. Nik Bärtsch currently works in three parallel musical settings: as a solo artist, with the acoustic group Mobile and with the 'zen-funk' group Ronin. Recently, he performed at the Calcutta School of Music.

                                                                 - Ronin
When did you begin to know that music would be your path?

I never thought about it. It was always my path.

It’s interesting to notice how diverse the scale of your works is. You have worked in different projects. What urges you to express yourself in different contexts?

I focus on my personal musical expression as composer and player. I mainly play with my two bands Ronin (a zenfunk quartet) and Mobile (an acoustic music ritual group) and solo. I also compose for other ensembles and work a lot with young musicians because this should be our duty when we are more experienced. I also co-founded a music club and a label for younger artists (I work with the great label ECM for my projects). All of these activities are initiatives to be independent and to create opportunities also for other musicians.

Could you enlighten our readers about your ongoing project-Ritual Groove Music?

This term describes my musical philosophy which is based on repetition, rhythmic variety, community and ceremonial organization of the concerts and work processes. We want to create a coherent dramaturgy in our shows but also in everyday work processes to serve the music.

Do you believe new approaches to classical music are the route to its revival?

New approaches in classical music are always happening. But we never had such a huge overview over do many decades and styles. This is interesting but forces us also to decide clearly where we can really contribute something essential to a certain development - an inspiring challenge.

How important are music clubs for creative expression, musical collaboration, exploration and learning?

Spaces, venues, clubs, festivals and even private initiatives are very essential to support the meeting of musicians and audience live. The live playing in front of and audience is still the main musical experience.

                                                     - Mobile
So how has the local indie music scene evolved or changed over the years?

It is very alive in Zurich and since we meet and work every week we also have a regular home base to meet and talk etc. It's important to have a community based structure for ongoing development.

How did you develop an interest in the influence and combination of music and movement?

This seems first of all very natural since a musician should move efficiently and naturally to create a clear sound. But I also always loved dance music, especially in the arts and in tribal and spiritual context. Sometimes even just the mind can dance when you are listening to a concert on a chair. With several movement techniques like Aikido, Feldenkrais or Girokinesis I tried to make my playing more natural and simple to have more capacity to listen and to enjoy live playing.

Any top tips for aspiring young composers?

Morton Feldman said it already: Believe in your composition by being clear at any price! I would add: enjoy your work as a spiritual duty to the heaven of music.


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