“Us composers, we are like surgeons for peopleʼs souls”

Romanian composer Sebastian Androne-Nakanishi attracted international attention at a young age. He moved to Switzerland in 2019 and recently joined SUISA. Text by guest author Markus Ganz

Sebastian Androne-Nakanishi: “Us composers, we are like surgeons for peopleʼs souls”

New SUISA member: Sebastian Androne-Nakanishi. (Photo: Markus Ganz)

The music of Sebastian Androne-Nakanishi doesn’t just fit into one category: Born in 1989, the Romanian composes orchestral works, chamber music and choral works as well as soundtracks for film, theatre and games. He is “a true talent who combines creativity and versatility” reads the argumentation for the 2022 International Classical Music Awards Composer Of The Year Award. Among his many awards is the “Golden Eye” of the International Film Music Competition for the soundtrack to the animated short film “Happiness” – 304 composers from 44 countries had applied.

And yet Sebastian Androne-Nakanishi is modest, even humble, in the interview. “Sometimes I feel really small by having such giants of composers behind me, whose works we are analysing during our training.” He also sometimes felt daunted at festivals for contemporary music, but only in the beginning. “There are unknown composers presenting me with such clever theories and algorithms that I can hardly wait to apply them myself. But then I listen to their music and think to myself that they avoid everything that has anything to do with terms like “soul”, “inspiration” or “feelings”. As a consequence, there is often no communication. And that’s what music is supposed to be all about.”

Search for authenticity

Sebastian Androne-Nakanishi’s credo that he was not on a journey of originality, but one of authenticity, fits in with this. “It is not a search for novelty in terms of sound, but one for the most sincere, eloquent and meaningful musical manifestation.” In the context of talking about musical poetry, Stravinsky once said originality was a monster. For Sebastian Androne-Nakanishi, originality has something dishonest about it, as it is always just a means to an end, a tool to succeed … “Authenticity, on the other hand, involves honesty, honesty in the sense of a journey of self-discovery that raises questions. Who am I? Who am I in relationship to other people? Why am I composing music while other people are saving lives?”

It is questions like these that have been on Sebastian Androne-Nakanishi’s mind all the time, ever since he was in Romania for his first year of studies. “One of my teachers, Dan Voiculescu, said that as composers, we were like surgeons for people’s hearts and souls. That was a bit too poetic for me. But, once in a while, there are people who come up to me after a performance of one of my works and admit that the music moved them, some with tears in their eyes. This kind of reaction is one of the main reasons why I continue writing music and perhaps this is what authenticity is all about.” But he does not hide the fact that composing also has a hedonistic side for him. “Of course, I love the thrill of discovery; for me composing is like writing a story that is unravelling itself to me.”

Wages for compositions

For Sebastian Androne-Nakanishi composing also signifies a struggle to “find meaning in something that is not financially rewarding. The bohemian approach only worked until I got married, became the father of a child – and moved to the most expensive country in the world.” This made it all the more important for him to find a solid solution for his earnings from copyright. “As a composer, the royalties you receive from the performance of your music are essential. After several projects in Switzerland and talking to colleagues who are members of SUISA, I realised that I also wanted to join SUISA.”

In view of the high cost of living in Switzerland, however, the pressure to accept commissioned compositions is also great, explains the Romanian in his small studio, into which the piercing sounds of the dental clinic below sometimes penetrate. “Sometimes, just like now, I’m working on five or six projects at once – it’s insane.” In addition, there is a risk that authenticity would then suffer, which he hates. “That makes it all the more important for me to connect with the person I’m working with. If it’s a movie soundtrack or music for a theatre play, it usually leads to a kind of ping-pong of ideas with the director. If it’s purely a concert piece, then I have to play a kind of ping-pong with myself.”

A nightmare for Sebastian Androne-Nakanishi is, in his own words, to bore people with his music or to use compositional effects to compensate for something that was not there. “After so much education and training, I’ve mastered so many composition techniques that it’s easy for me to make something sound complex.” In fact, not only did he study composition in Romania, Great Britain, and France, but he is also currently finishing a second master’s degree (“Composition for Film, Theater, and Media”) at the Zurich University of the Arts and attended countless master classes by well-known composers. “The greatest joy for me, however, is to combine complexity with simplicity, without falling prey to over-simplification. In other words, that joy occurs when you combine the power of simplicity with what we’ve accumulated in a century of contemporary music.”

Diversity of contemporary music

What remains fundamental to Sebastian Androne-Nakanishi is that he wants the listeners to have a reaction to his music, to not remain inert in the face of his music. “It’s also okay under certain circumstances if they get a little bit angry. But angry as a direct result of them feeling something, something that stirs the very core of their being.” The Romanian is certainly not a radical “Neutöner”, or creator of new sounds, but he did use the sound of a chainsaw in his orchestral piece “Tektonum”. “I didn’t do this to amaze or provoke people. No, in that very moment I had to deal with the musical representation of the end of the world. The entire piece is inspired by our cosmogony, and I had to ultimately represent human nature. Then, by chance, I found this chainsaw sound in my instrument library. So, I thought, yeah, that’s a good symbol for what we’re doing.”

Sebastian Androne-Nakanishi seems to have virtually absorbed the many expressive possibilities of contemporary music. With all this variety, one wonders what is typical about his compositions, whether there are any characteristic features, something unmistakable. The composer hesitates briefly and then says: “You are asking about my style. This was a scary word for me even in Romania, because I felt an academic pressure to ‘find my own voice’. I hated the term even then, because it imposed on me that I could be pigeon-holed, that my music could be labelled as ‘post-structuralist’, ‘influenced by Boulez’, or whatever. I got the feeling that I would have to choose something and then to stick to it and limit myself to that. But that’s not my thing. I want to be able to do everything, to be free. If using multiple styles automatically leads to being perceived as ‘eclectic’ or ‘volatile’ then only time will tell if the pejorative nature of these labels was justified.”

Sebastian Androne-Nakanishi’s music is like a roller coaster, his professor Joe Cutler is said to have once told him. “That was true until about two years ago. However, during my master’s project in Zurich, some lecturers made me question a lot of what I was doing. One of them told me: ‘Sebastian, some of your musical pieces are impressive. But they don’t move me.’ That came as a shock to me and made me question everything.” He said he realised that sometimes he just wanted to please his lecturers. “Stephan Teuwissen, who taught me music dramaturgy in Zurich, told me: ‘Stop looking for dads. I don’t want disciples, I want a challenging adversary.’ So, I must search for my own music in my own way and find the freedom to reinvent myself again and again. If this means that I evolve from one style to the next, then so be it. But if someone asks me what my style is, then the answer is that it is what each piece requires.”

www.sebastianandrone.com, official website of Sebastian Androne-Nakanishi

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Romanian composer Sebastian Androne-Nakanishi attracted international attention at a young age. He moved to Switzerland in 2019 and recently joined SUISA. Text by guest author Markus Ganz

Sebastian Androne-Nakanishi: “Us composers, we are like surgeons for peopleʼs souls”

New SUISA member: Sebastian Androne-Nakanishi. (Photo: Markus Ganz)

The music of Sebastian Androne-Nakanishi doesn’t just fit into one category: Born in 1989, the Romanian composes orchestral works, chamber music and choral works as well as soundtracks for film, theatre and games. He is “a true talent who combines creativity and versatility” reads the argumentation for the 2022 International Classical Music Awards Composer Of The Year Award. Among his many awards is the “Golden Eye” of the International Film Music Competition for the soundtrack to the animated short film “Happiness” – 304 composers from 44 countries had applied.

And yet Sebastian Androne-Nakanishi is modest, even humble, in the interview....read more

Endo Anaconda forever!

Poet, composer and musician Endo Anaconda passed away on 1 February 2022. The singer of the Berne dialect band Stiller Has (“silent hare”) had been a SUISA member since 1990. Obituary by guest author Jürg Halter

Endo Anaconda forever!

Writer, lyricist and spoken word artist Jürg Halter commemorates his friend Endo Anaconda in this guest blog. (Photo: Nina Rieben)

Since Endo has died, but is far from being dead, I can only write of Switzerland’s greatest dialect poet in the present tense – Endo Anaconda will forever remain as young as well as “alterswild” (name of an album by Stiller Has, “old and wild”). Life sometimes turns out to be a ghost train and Endo appears as an impressive ghost wave rider – he also swings as a singing dandy, merry as a hare, cigarette in the corner of his mouth, on the road in his red convertible on a never-ending tour somewhere between Bern, Trub, Venice, the Alabama Hills, Olten, Vienna and Wallisellen.

Endo acts as a comforting warm-hearted alpinist against adverse life and evil old age. He is a prancing troublemaker, Endo disrupts operational establishment passionately, he rocks the scene as a genuinely post-pubescent operations disruption on stilts. Endo is a highly sensitive and attentive person who interferes with wisdom. He not only notices that there is a lot wrong with our society, he can also name and poeticise it in song lyrics, columns and conversations in a stubbornly precise and painfully accurate way. But never with condescending, self-important gestures, because he knows that he, like all of us, is part of the problem of humanity. Endo has a historical awareness of our abysses. Endo shines as the maladapted in the midst of the adapted. He is incomparable as an artist. Tom Waits, Jim Morrison, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Biggie or Leonard Cohen would envy him for many a songtext. But the dialect is also a prison – Bern is everywhere? – No, thanks.

Endo’s poetry is worldly rich, he lives it and it lives him. To the last. His art, his poetry is existential, in the most beautiful as well as in the most self-destructive sense. Endo’s black humor shines in the darkness. Like the Aare in the moonlight. Behold! Archangel Endo, Archendo. Always too little or too much, but never enough.

Endo is exorbitant. Loving. Needy of love. He loves his three children, he loves women, he loves people. Endo is a generous, tender, warm embrace. Uninhibited. Endo allows injury to happen, shows his wounds, unasked – beautifully spoiled. Endo is a humane loner. A trade unionist. A crazy mocking chicken in a wolf skin. A contradiction. A grumpy tomcat. A scout sitting on hot coals. A country hunter. A lonely cowboy riding against the sun. Fleeting like a butterfly. Volatile as life … please don’t!
Perhaps Endo would call out at this point: “Laugh a little! Laugh already! I want to see you laugh for crying out loud!” Then he himself would burst into his hearty, smoky, finely rattling laughter.

Yes! Let’s be gratefully disturbed, poetically animated, that we knew and know him among us. And because someone like Endo deserves more than applause and memorial minutes, we should laugh for him now, laugh at us, for us. Defying death, laughing for life. May Endo now fly somewhere out there, through the universe, light as a feather, whistling new and old melodies. The universe in which we, the living and the dead are all and remain seekers. There is no way out because the damn universe is everywhere. My heart is bleeding – Endo Anaconda forever!

The poet, composer and musician Endo Anaconda was born Andreas Flückiger in Burgdorf in 1955. He became known mainly as the singer of the Bernese band Stiller Has – not only in Switzerland but also in nearby countries. He has been honoured with various Swiss and international awards throughout his career, such as the Salzburger Stier (1995), the German Cabaret Awards (1995) and the Swiss Music Awards (2017).
Endo Anaconda released twelve studio albums and three live albums, selling over 250,000 records.
Jürg Halter, born 1980 in Bern, writer, lyricist and spoken word artist. Regularly performs throughout Europe, the U.S., Africa, Russia, South America and Japan. Numerous book and CD publications. Most recently, the poetry collection “Gemeinsame Sprache” (Dörlemann, 2021) was published, in which the poem “Schwarze Tauben fliegen auf” dedicated to Endo Anaconda can also be found.
www.juerghalter.com
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  1. Renate says:

    Ach Jürg… Du fehlst – mir – die Schweiz ist so leer ohne Dich.

  2. mark says:

    ach ist das schön, diesen nachruf zu lesen. so richtig wortgewandte sprachkünstler, die mit ihren volltreffern das herz des schreibgegenstandes wie auch das des lesenden frei legen, als sei es das einfachste der welt, sind leider selten heute. danke jürg halter.

  3. Daniel Blatter says:

    Dieses eigenartige Gefühl, wenn sich Lachen und Weinen hin und her wechseln, kurz innehalten, und nicht wissen, ob man erfreut oder traurig ist; Dieses endlich sich wieder spüren, widerfährt mir, beim Lesen dieses Textes, bei Auftritten von Jürg Halter und bei Liedern von Stiller Has. Zum Beispiel bei „Merci“ wo zu diesem beschriebenen Gefühl, noch Ekel und Wut auf den schweizerischen Zeitgeist hinzukommt. Danke den Poeten für die (liebevolle) Treffsicherheit auf unsere Herzen.

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Poet, composer and musician Endo Anaconda passed away on 1 February 2022. The singer of the Berne dialect band Stiller Has (“silent hare”) had been a SUISA member since 1990. Obituary by guest author Jürg Halter

Endo Anaconda forever!

Writer, lyricist and spoken word artist Jürg Halter commemorates his friend Endo Anaconda in this guest blog. (Photo: Nina Rieben)

Since Endo has died, but is far from being dead, I can only write of Switzerland’s greatest dialect poet in the present tense – Endo Anaconda will forever remain as young as well as “alterswild” (name of an album by Stiller Has, “old and wild”). Life sometimes turns out to be a ghost train and Endo appears as an impressive ghost wave rider – he also swings as a singing dandy, merry as a hare, cigarette in...read more

Cla Nett: Passionate Blues musician, dedicated lawyer

On 27 September 2021, Cla Felice Nett, lawyer, musician and SUISA member since 1981 passed away after a long and severe illness. Obituary by guest author Marco Piazzalonga

Cla Nett: Passionate Blues musician, dedicated lawyer

Clat Nett was a regular visitor of the SUISA General Meeting; shown here during the 90th GM of the Cooperative Society in the Hotel Schweizerhof in Lucerne back in 2013. (Photo: Beat Felber)

Cla spent his early life in Engadine. Just before he started school, his family moved to Basel where his father began working as a teacher. After primary school, Cla went to a humanistic high school where he graduated with A levels type A (Latin and Greek). Following that, he completed law studies at the University of Basel where he acquired a “cum laude” licenciate.

Already as a teenager, Cla was a fan of the Blues, mainly self-taught how to play the guitar and started performing with his first bands. In 1975, he founded the Lazy Poker Blues Band with whom he was able to celebrate successful times in the 1980s and 1990s, both at home and abroad.

Cla and his formation played to an audience of 45,000 as representatives for Switzerland at the “Concert for Europe” in the Berlin Olympic Stadium, accompanied Joe Cocker for one month through Germany, toured the then GDR, recorded longplays in Chicago and played in clubs and at Open Airs all across our country.

Cla Nett managed to link music with his legal training. In the Board Committee and as President of the Expert Committee of Phonographic Producers at Swissperform and as Managing Director at the Swiss Performers’ Cooperative, SIG, he was able to contribute his know-how and experience. Cla also worked as an associate judge at the court of appeals in Basel.

Due to health-related reasons, Cla had been forced to take it easy over the last few years when it came to music and job. Even this year, in July, he practically fought his way out of bed to the stage of the Magic Blues Festival in the Valle Maggia in order to play with his Lazy Poker Blues Band one last time. Cla Nett leaves behind a wife, two adult children and one grandchild.

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On 27 September 2021, Cla Felice Nett, lawyer, musician and SUISA member since 1981 passed away after a long and severe illness. Obituary by guest author Marco Piazzalonga

Cla Nett: Passionate Blues musician, dedicated lawyer

Clat Nett was a regular visitor of the SUISA General Meeting; shown here during the 90th GM of the Cooperative Society in the Hotel Schweizerhof in Lucerne back in 2013. (Photo: Beat Felber)

Cla spent his early life in Engadine. Just before he started school, his family moved to Basel where his father began working as a teacher. After primary school, Cla went to a humanistic high school where he graduated with A levels type A (Latin and Greek). Following that, he completed law studies at the University of Basel where he acquired a “cum laude” licenciate.

Already as a teenager, Cla was a fan of...read more

“As a composer, you’re always a beginner” | plus video

In his composition for the project “Swiss Beethoven reflections”, Christian Henking uses the melody of the Swiss song used by Beethoven as a basis. In his six variations, he utilises different principles. Text by guest author Markus Ganz; Video by Manu Leuenberger

Christian Henking respects Ludwig van Beethoven, “this monument, this granite rock in music history”. “He is a master teacher to me again and again, independent of the aesthetics; fantastic what he has formally achieved.” As a consequence, Beethoven’s “Variationen über ein Schweizerlied” (Variations on a Swiss song) irritated him even more, as he explains in a conversation at the end of January 2020. “I really don’t understand them, thought, it wasn’t possible that they were by Beethoven.”

Since the composer from Biel and Berne could not relate to these variations, he dealt with the original song, “Es hätt e Bur es Töchterli” (A farmer had a daughter once) in more detail. But that was also rather awkward, he thought the melody was strange for a folk song, and he was also missing the elegance of the “Guggisberglied” (Guggisberg song). “At the same time, though, it holds the incredible tension of the huge tonal range. Its straightforward, pulse-like nature is also rather interesting; there isn’t really a rhythm, just those quarter notes that ‘hang about’. The song therefore has a certain emptiness and thus also offers openness.” Christian Henking thus decided to base his composition on the melody of the folk song. Then he also wrote six variations, “just like Beethoven, but rather accidentally”.

Christian Henking explains that he first analysed the melody and then cut it into individual segments. “In my first four variations I regard individual segments of the song, so to speak. The last two relate to the entire song.” He therefore stayed altogether or not altogether with the material: “In the second variation, I avoid, especially when searching for this variation, all notes that occur in the original piece.”

The basic approach was to apply different work modes, respectively different principles for each variation. The concept crystallised while composing and developed further. “I knew that I wanted to compose miniatures, short variation movements. I first wrote the 5th variation. Then I realised that I did not want to begin in such a machine-like manner, and therefore did something rather unrestricted as a contrast. One consequently affected the other. And from such relativities, many interrelations arose.”

Christian Henking very often works at the desk, and composes in his head. In order to stimulate his imagination, he often plays piano or cello. “While improvising, I often get ideas, very simple. That is my old-fashioned vein; I am really rather far away from the computer when I compose, I actually write the notes by hand onto the score sheet.” This also includes that he plays all instruments of his scores himself one time. “I like to have the instrument in my fingers. Not in order to hear its sound – I am a pianist, not a string player – but to play the fingerings, sounds and bow positions myself. Strangely, it helps me compose when I apply the haptics in this context even if it was not necessary; it provides me with a kind of grounding.”

Christian Henking selected the combination of strings trio with flute on the one hand because he wanted a small instrumentation so that no conductor was needed. He does, on the other hand, mainly find this instrumentation fascinating. “I have a close relationship with string trios per se. And then the flute joins in, as a kind of outsider, and melts with the sound of the trio.”

You must not expect a “typical Henking composition”. He rather sees “the task of a composer to look at each piece as if it was new, since as a composer, you are always a beginner”. Christian Henking has even started from scratch for each of his variations within the piece and consciously worked with different approaches and techniques: “This is what makes up the art of composing”. To start from scratch also signified to have a heap of possibilities ahead of oneself. Facing so many freedoms, one would have to reflect. He then also sees the risk to select and use a means or a method too quickly because it has worked in one place and has already been tried and tested before. “Routine is a risk and I fight against this with each note.”

During the conversation at the end of January 2020, the composition process had already been mostly concluded. “Everything is here now”, explains Christian Henking and points to numerous score sheets. “I will rethink everything again so that it is possible I apply corrections and other alterations.” Then, however, the composition will be finished into the last detail. Compared to other works, Christian Henking does not grant the performers any freedoms here.

Christian Henking was born in Basel in 1961. He studied music theory at the Conservatory Berne under Theo Hirsbrunner; Ewald Körner trained him to be a chapel master. After that, he studied composition with Cristobal Halffter and Edison Denisov, in master courses with Wolfgang Rihm and Heinz Holliger. He received various awards, among them the Culture Award of the Bürgi-Willert-Stiftung (2000), Acknowledgment Award of the Canton Berne (2002) and the Music Award of the Canton Berne (2016). He is a lecturer at the University of the Arts, Bern, for composition, theoretical subjects and chamber music. www.christianhenking.ch
Swiss Beethoven reflections: A project by Murten Classics and SUISA on the occasion of the 250th anniversary of Ludwig van Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven had not much to do with Switzerland. He did, however, write “Six variations on a Swiss song” (Sechs Variationen über ein Schweizerlied), namely the folk song “Es hätt e Bur es Töchterli” (A farmer had a daughter once). This is the starting point for the composition assignments which the summer festival Murten Classics and SUISA allocated to eight Swiss composers of different generations, aesthetics and origin.

Oscar Bianchi, Xavier Dayer, Fortunat Frölich, Aglaja Graf, Christian Henking, Alfred Schweizer, Marina Sobyanina and Katharina Weber had a choice of basing their work on the variations, the folk song used by Beethoven or Beethoven in general. The compositions were written for the ensemble Paul Klee which allows for the following maximum instrumentation: Flute (also piccolo, G- or bass flute), clarinet (in B or A), violin, viola, cello, double bass and piano.

The initiator of this project, launched in 2019, is Kaspar Zehnder who has been Artistic Director of Murten Classics for 22 years. Due to the corona crisis and the measures ordered by the authorities, it was not possible to hold the 32nd instalment of the festival in August 2020 or the scheduled replacement festival in the winter months that followed. The “SUISA day” with eight compositions of this project was performed and recorded nevertheless, without an audience, on 28 January 2021 in the KiB Murten. The recordings are available for listening at radio SRF 2 Kultur in the programme “Neue Musik im Konzert” (5 May 2021, 9pm) and will be released on the platform Neo.mx3. The project will also be documented online via the SUISAblog and the social media channels of SUISA.

www.murtenclassics.ch

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In his composition for the project “Swiss Beethoven reflections”, Christian Henking uses the melody of the Swiss song used by Beethoven as a basis. In his six variations, he utilises different principles. Text by guest author Markus Ganz; Video by Manu Leuenberger

Christian Henking respects Ludwig van Beethoven, “this monument, this granite rock in music history”. “He is a master teacher to me again and again, independent of the aesthetics; fantastic what he has formally achieved.” As a consequence, Beethoven’s “Variationen über ein Schweizerlied” (Variations on a Swiss song) irritated him even more, as he explains in a conversation at the end of January 2020. “I really don’t understand them, thought, it wasn’t possible that they were by Beethoven.”

Since the composer from Biel and Berne could not relate to these variations, he...read more

Julien-François Zbinden: an extra-ordinary force of personality

On 8 March 2021, Swiss composer and jazz pianist Julien-François Zbinden passed away. He was 103 years’ old. Julien-François Zbinden was President of SUISA from 1987 to 1991. Obituary by Xavier Dayer, President of SUISA

Obituary Julien-François Zbinden: an extra-ordinary force of personality

Julien-François Zbinden in a photo from 2000. (Photo: Jean-Pierre Mathez)

It is with great sadness that we received the news that Julien-François Zbinden had passed away. A highly esteemed honorary member and former president of SUISA (from 1987 to 1991) has left us at the age of 103. We shall always remember the sparkle in his eyes. The memory, still fresh, of his one hundredth birthday celebrated with a small circle of very close friends in the heights of Lausanne is still very much alive. What energy, what extra-ordinary force of personality. On that occasion, he stood up before his guests and gave a speech so very presidential and full of his customary wit.

Yes indeed – with his charm and conviction, Julien-François Zbinden will have marked Swiss music throughout many years. There is no need for reminder of the stylistic opening between classical music and jazz which he incarnated so well, nor of the exceptional work capacity of a man who lived for music. A man who had rubbed shoulders with the greatest: he had known Francis Poulenc, Igor Stravinsky, Clara Haskil, Django Reinhardt & Stéphane Grappelli, Fernandel and Juliette Gréco.

But he also marked SUISA very positively through his presidency and constancy. He would attend the general meetings whenever he could or, if his health did not allow him to do so, he would send us a note full of kindness and consideration. He came from a time where form and manner were guided by different codes than those practised today. A time far removed from the permanent deluge of information and demands of the present day.

Thus, conversing with Julien-François Zbinden was like piercing the veil of time and entering a lost dimension. His words were never nostalgic or distanced; on the contrary, the aviator he had been (he passed his pilot licence in his fifties) was always eager for new discoveries and experiences. His exemplary curiosity fascinated everyone he met. During his long and brilliant career at Radio Suisse Romande, he introduced his audience to every musical genre, rejecting compartmentalisation in every form.

His open-mindedness, capacity for dialogue and bridge building enabled him to succeed with brio in his presidential roles (apart from SUISA, he also presided the Swiss Association of Musicians from 1973 to 1979). Tributes are pouring in today, and quite rightly so. His presence, his care and attention, and his stimulating vivacity will be sorely missed in the Swiss music landscape.

Julien-François, our honorary member, will be with us for many years to come, alive in the memory of the rare quality of the exchanges he knew how to cultivate.

Xavier Dayer

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  1. greg says:

    henry hubert accordeoniste et moi meme greg lewis pianiste rendont hommage a monsieur Zbinden en faisant aujourd hui notre adhesion a la suisa sincere amitiés a sa famille

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On 8 March 2021, Swiss composer and jazz pianist Julien-François Zbinden passed away. He was 103 years’ old. Julien-François Zbinden was President of SUISA from 1987 to 1991. Obituary by Xavier Dayer, President of SUISA

Obituary Julien-François Zbinden: an extra-ordinary force of personality

Julien-François Zbinden in a photo from 2000. (Photo: Jean-Pierre Mathez)

It is with great sadness that we received the news that Julien-François Zbinden had passed away. A highly esteemed honorary member and former president of SUISA (from 1987 to 1991) has left us at the age of 103. We shall always remember the sparkle in his eyes. The memory, still fresh, of his one hundredth birthday celebrated with a small circle of very close friends in the heights of Lausanne is still very much alive. What energy, what extra-ordinary force of personality. On that occasion, he stood up...read more

“It would be nice if this crisis would lead to some sort of a raised awareness”

During the corona crisis, SUISA’s “Music for Tomorrow” project provides a platform for some members to report on their creative activities and the challenges they are facing during this period. This time, Zurich musician and songwriter Anna Känzig tells how it feels when one concert cancellation after the other flutters into her house and why she hasn’t lost her courage despite of that. For “Music for Tomorrow”, she exclusively performed her song “House of Cards”, which nicely describes the current circumstances.  Text by Nina Müller; video by Anna Känzig, edited by Nina Müller

Anna Känzig (35) was already very musical at a young age. She learned to play the guitar at the age of five. Later, the bass and the piano followed, and her school education also took place in the musical field. At the Zurich University of the Arts (ZHdK) she completed her Bachelor’s degree in the jazz department and since 2009, Känzig has been an integral part of the Swiss music scene. With her clear voice, the Zurich native has already thrilled audiences at the Montreux Jazz Festival, Gurten Festival, Energy Air and the finals of the Elite Model Look 2016.

She has been under contract with Sony Music Switzerland since 2014 and has already produced three albums, the first one still on the Nation Music label. She produced the album “Sound and Fury”, which also features on “House of Cards”, together with music producer Georg Schlunegger from Hitmill, and Lars Norgren, who also works with Swedish pop musician Tove Lo, mixed the album.

In 2016, her song “Lion’s Heart” was the anthem of the fundraising campaign “Every Rappen Counts”. Anna Känzig is the first woman to contribute the official song for the fundraising campaign by the SRF and the Swiss Solidarity organisation “Glückskette”.

“House of Cards”

For “Music for Tomorrow”, Anna Känzig performed and recorded the song “House of Cards”. On the play, she says: “The song actually describes the current situation very well. It is about the fact that situations can change from one day to the next and despite meticulous planning everything can suddenly be different. The song was written a few years ago and has been a fixed part of my live programme ever since.

Anna Känzig, what does your working day as a composer/lyricist look like during the corona pandemic?
I try to use the resulting compulsory break as creatively as possible. At the beginning of the corona crisis, I found this extremely difficult, as the whole situation paralysed me. Every day new concert cancellations fluttered in, and the planned single release suddenly didn’t seem to make much sense anymore. At some point I was able to free myself from this lethargy and found my creative flow again. I dug out a lot of song ideas that had been lying fallow until then and barricaded myself in my band room with them. Meanwhile many new songs have been written, at best material for a new album!

What does this crisis mean for you personally?
Due to the crisis I suddenly had to deal with myself and my work much more intensively again. The collective foreclosure triggered a creative impulse in me. Since no more live concerts were allowed to be played, personal contact with the audience broke off abruptly. Many concerts have been moved to the internet, which I personally didn’t really like. I understand that alternative forms have to be found, but especially with streaming concerts an essential part of cultural enjoyment is lost for me. In the meantime, smaller concerts are allowed again, and I notice more than ever that this exchange of energy between musicians and audience is simply irreplaceable.

How can the audience support you at the moment?
In quite a classic way: Buying albums and songs always helps. Of course, this does not always have to happen via the large platforms. It helps us most when the music is bought directly from us, via our webshop, or upon personal request. Streaming is also possible, but here the revenues per stream are very low. Social media certainly also play a role in supporting the artist. A Like is not a payment, but the attention and sharing of contributions in social media helps us to expand our reach and, at best, to gain new fans.

Would it help if people on Spotify and Co. streamed your music more often?
Streaming helps to a small extent, sure. But it would be much better if people would consume the music on platforms where they can buy the individual tracks. It would be nice if this crisis would raise awareness and people would be more willing to pay for the consumption of culture again.

In your opinion, what positive things could the current situation bring about?
I hope that the lack of cultural experiences and adventures triggered by the corona crisis will create a new hunger for live encounters among people and that something like a concert visit will be much more appreciated again.

What do you want to give your fans to take away from this interview?
I am looking forward to welcoming my fans at a live concert again soon!

www.annakaenzig.com

“Music for Tomorrow”
The Covid-19 crisis has hit SUISA’s members particularly hard. The main source of income for many composers and publishers has completely been lost: Performances of any kind have been prohibited by the Federal Government until further notice. In the coming weeks, we will be posting portraits of some of our members on the SUISAblog. They will tell us what moves them during the Covid-19 crisis, what their challenges are and what their working day currently looks like. The musicians also performed and filmed their own composition for the SUISAblog at home or in their studio. SUISA pays the musicians a fee for this campaign.
Related articles
Information on live streams for SUISA membersInformation on live streams for SUISA members The corona measures led to a loss of performance and earning opportunities for music creators and to a painful loss of live music for music consumers. Live streaming therefore enjoys great popularity, especially in these times, and takes on a pertinent role in the cultural industry. Read more
Kety Fusco: “This situation will put everyone – musicians, technicians, insiders – to the test”“This situation will put everyone – musicians, technicians, insiders – to the test” With the “Music for tomorrow” project, SUISA aims to support its members in these difficult times. We offer artists a platform where they can talk about their current situation while in lockdown and present one of their works. The prelude is made by the Ticino composer and harpist Kety Fusco. In a written interview she talks about her everyday life in lockdown and why not that much has actually changed for her. Read more
Why SUISA members should also consider joining SWISSPERFORMWhy SUISA members should also consider joining SWISSPERFORM Composers and lyricists who are SUISA members and are also active as artists and/or producers and whose performances are broadcast by Swiss or foreign radio and TV channels are entitled to receive a remuneration from SWISSPERFORM. For all those authors-composers-artists/producers, a membership with SWISSPERFORM is thus a necessary addition to their SUISA affiliation in order to safeguard their rights and the full remuneration they are entitled to. Read more
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  1. Guten Tag Nina,
    danke für deinen Beitrag! Ein sehr wichtiges Thema was du da ansprichst. Es war und ist auch immer noch für uns alle eine schwere und ungewohnte Zeit.

    Liebe Grüße
    Christoph

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During the corona crisis, SUISA’s “Music for Tomorrow” project provides a platform for some members to report on their creative activities and the challenges they are facing during this period. This time, Zurich musician and songwriter Anna Känzig tells how it feels when one concert cancellation after the other flutters into her house and why she hasn’t lost her courage despite of that. For “Music for Tomorrow”, she exclusively performed her song “House of Cards”, which nicely describes the current circumstances.  Text by Nina Müller; video by Anna Känzig, edited by Nina Müller

Anna Känzig (35) was already very musical at a young age. She learned to play the guitar at the age of five. Later, the bass and the piano followed, and her school education also took place in the musical field. At the...read more

Willy Viteka, the successful music publisher and music producer has passed away

Willy Viteka, an entrepreneur who made a significant contribution to the Swiss music industry as a classical producer-music publisher, passed away on 19 May 2020. Obituary by guest author Stephan F. Peterer

Willy Viteka, the successful music publisher and music producer has passed away

Willy Viteka was a long-standing member of SUISA both as an author and as a publisher. (Photo: zVg)

Born in Madrid on 6 November 1949, he discovered a great enthusiasm for the various arts at an early age and studied art, literature and music with determination. He built up his extensive knowledge and network in the music industry by working in important locations of the western music scene and thus was able to gain extensive experience. In particular, he used part of his “journeyman years” in the 1970s, which were particularly important for the music scene, as a studio musician, producer, author and editor in London, which had a special influence on him.

Producer, publisher and entrepreneur

After his years of travelling, he settled in Switzerland in 1976, together with his beloved wife Olivia, from where the committed couple built up and ran their company, Viteka Musik AG, which included both their own labels and musichouses. But Willy also remained connected to his original home country. In particular, he carried out his production activities in his favourite place, Mallorca, and built a second home together with Olivia. It is there they were always to be found in the music studio.

Within the scope of his entrepreneurial activities, he specialized, in addition to his own music production, in the classical activity of a sub-publisher in Switzerland and had many important works in his catalogue: among others by Kylie Minogue, Milva, Rick Astley, Bananarama, Donna Summer, Cliff Richard, Aitken & Watermann and many more.

Great commitment to the Swiss music industry

Willy Viteka recognised early on that music publishers and producers not only have to be creative and entrepreneurial, but that they also have to fight for an economically viable environment. Although there were already a large number of associations in the music industry in Switzerland at this time, he was unable to find one as a “production-oriented publisher” and immediately sought like-minded entrepreneurs to found a new association together with them. This is why one might as well call him the creative father of the SVMV, the Swiss Association of Music Publishers, which he presided over for 27 years. In 2019, he was appointed honorary president for his great services. He was also intensively involved in the founding of the ASMP, the “Association of Swiss Music Producers”, which he chaired simultaneously to the SVMV.

However, the work was not done with the establishment of industry associations, as these also required activities to achieve the desired effects. This includes exerting influence in important bodies of the Swiss music industry, in a large number of ad hoc commissions and above all in the legislative authorities. Mutual training and exchange between entrepreneurs and, in particular, the training of young people in the sector also became an important activity, as there were no specialised schools and universities for these professions in Switzerland. For example, Willy organised training events over the years together with members of the board of the association he initiated and with the constant help of his wife Olivia as secretary. These culminated in the two-day music symposium in Fürigen, which became the most important annual professional event in the music industry calendar.

With the revision of the copyright law in the 1980s and the resulting establishment of neighbouring rights, Swissperform was subsequently founded, in which Willy was involved as a delegate from the very beginning. He was also a member of the Expert Committee of Phono Producers for several years. For many years, he has also participated in the copyright discussions of the Institute of Intellectual Property (IPI), as well as in the development of standard contracts for music publishers, sub-publishers and producers.

Died at the age of 70

After being hospitalised due to an accident, Willy Viteka was, on top of that, infected with Covid-19. Although he was still cured of the virus itself, he was so weakened by the disease that he succumbed to pneumonia at the age of 70, which he contracted during convalescence.

We will remember Willy as an extraordinarily good-natured and warm person, who with his approachable manner and great dedication has forged many friendships in the Swiss music industry and beyond.

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Willy Viteka, an entrepreneur who made a significant contribution to the Swiss music industry as a classical producer-music publisher, passed away on 19 May 2020. Obituary by guest author Stephan F. Peterer

Willy Viteka, the successful music publisher and music producer has passed away

Willy Viteka was a long-standing member of SUISA both as an author and as a publisher. (Photo: zVg)

Born in Madrid on 6 November 1949, he discovered a great enthusiasm for the various arts at an early age and studied art, literature and music with determination. He built up his extensive knowledge and network in the music industry by working in important locations of the western music scene and thus was able to gain extensive experience. In particular, he used part of his “journeyman years” in the 1970s, which were particularly important for the music scene, as a studio musician, producer,...read more

“The crisis feels a little like being in a rehab clinic to me”

During the corona crisis, via its project “Music for Tomorrow”, SUISA is providing a platform for some members to report on their work and the challenges they are facing during this period. This time round, the Valaisian musician and songwriter Tanya Barany tells us why she hopes that people in this crisis have focussed their awareness of things like care, appreciation, solidarity or reflection and exclusively performs her song “Cotton Clouds”. Text by Giorgio Tebaldi; video by Tanya Barany, complemented by Nina Müller

“Dark like my British humour, but with a touch of fresh mountain air,” is how Tanya Barany describes her “Dark Pop”. Born and grown up in the Upper Valais, Tanja Zimmermann, that is what she is actually called, found her way to music at an early age: “I’ve been singing, dancing and performing all my life. The stages have simply become a bit bigger over time,” she says in a written interview. “What was once my bed has mutated into a Gampel Open Air stage.” Her musical career began with her first solo appearance with guitar at a children’s hit parade at the age of 11. At the age of 14 she founded the girl power trio Labyrinthzero, with which she released her first EP with her own compositions and played over 150 concerts at home and abroad.

Found a musical home

Decisive for her musical career was the encounter with Jonas Ruppen, who plays keyboard in her band and creates the videos: “He showed me the world of Radiohead, James Blake, etc. – and suddenly I had found my musical home!” The two have been playing music together for ten years now and work together on the overall concept of “Tanya Barany” – Tanya as songwriter and Jonas as video producer.

She began her musical education in 2014 by studying music at the Zurich University of the Arts, where she says that she was able to benefit from great teachers. “At the same time, I learned how to use the recording program LogicX, which took my songwriting in a completely different direction – my ‘Dark Pop’ saw the light of day!”

The debut album “Lights Disappear”

In 2019, Tanya Barany’s debut album “Lights Disappear” was released. Several performances on stages at home and abroad followed, e.g. Gampel Open Air, Zermatt Unplugged, Swiss Live Talents or at the Blue Balls Festival.

Besides her project Tanya Barany, she is a full-time studio singer and musician, songwriter, lyricist and vocal coach.

“Cotton Clouds”

For “Music for Tomorrow” Tanya Barany performed and recorded the song “Cotton Clouds”. She says the following about the work: “‘Cotton Clouds’ describes the feeling of immersion in water where suddenly everything around becomes silent; where suddenly another world appears. One the one hand, the water walls are depressing (almost oppressive), on the other hand they remind us of the security of an embrace. ‘Cotton Clouds’ is my unreleased hidden track. Like my songs on the album ‘Lights Disappear’, ‘Cotton Clouds’ grew out of the dark corner of my heart, but the track didn’t find a place on the album. I had composed ‘Cotton Clouds’ on the piano at that time; I prefer to play the piano alone for myself, without anyone listening to me. I chose ‘Cotton Clouds’ for ‘Music for Tomorrow’, because I want to invite the audience into my little lounge and take you on a little personal journey … :-)”

Tanya Barany, what does your working day as a composer/lyricist look like during the corona pandemic?
Tanya Barany: At the moment, I have more time to convert my song ideas into finished songs. Therefore, I try to generate as much output as possible – not only for me as Tanya Barany, but also as a ghostwriter for other artists. My partner, David Friedli – also a musician and composer – and I often write together. We move in all possible style directions – from folk to rock to pop to electro pop to soul etc. – it’s really fun!

What does this crisis mean for you personally?
The crisis feels a little like being in a rehab clinic to me. I don’t really want to be there – I miss performing live, cultural life and even planning ahead – who would have thought – and I can’t wait for normality to return.
On the other hand, this crisis also brings something valuable with it: Time! The world just seems to revolve a bit more slowly. Suddenly I am allowed to concentrate on things that are not necessarily on my having to do list but on the nice to do list – that feels incredibly good! This time has made “Reboot” possible, now I feel much more energetic and creative than before the crisis.

How can the audience support you at the moment?
My audience can best support me by telling all my friends and relatives about my music and telling them to buy the “Lights Disappear” CD! :-) Dark songs help through dark times … :-)

Would it help if people on Spotify and Co. streamed your music more often?
When selecting live acts, the organisers look at the number of “listeners” on Spotify, YouTube etc. Therefore, it is surely an advantage if my music is streamed regularly on these platforms. It is also nice to see that my songs are even heard on the other side of the world! But to support me as an artist directly, I am always very grateful for purchased music on iTunes etc. or directly at concerts.

What do you think the current situation could bring with it?
I very much hope that people’s awareness will be sharpened somewhat – on all levels! A little more care, appreciation, solidarity, reflection – that would do us all good!

What do you want to give your fans to take away from this interview?
Dear fans, although it seems to be quieter around Tanya Barany at the moment, I’m working diligently in the background on a new concept, so that it will be even more cracking afterwards – so enjoy the calm before the storm! :-) I am already looking forward to presenting you new songs! Thanks for your support so far! Take care <3

www.tanyabarany.ch

“Music for Tomorrow”
The Covid-19 crisis has hit SUISA’s members particularly hard. The main source of income for many composers and publishers has completely been lost: Performances of any kind have been prohibited by the Federal Government until further notice. In the coming weeks, we will be posting portraits of some of our members on the SUISAblog. They will tell us what moves them during the Covid-19 crisis, what their challenges are and what their working day currently looks like. The musicians also performed and filmed their own composition for the SUISAblog at home or in their studio. SUISA pays the musicians a fee for this campaign.
Related articles
Information on live streams for SUISA membersInformation on live streams for SUISA members The corona measures led to a loss of performance and earning opportunities for music creators and to a painful loss of live music for music consumers. Live streaming therefore enjoys great popularity, especially in these times, and takes on a pertinent role in the cultural industry. Read more
Kety Fusco: “This situation will put everyone – musicians, technicians, insiders – to the test”“This situation will put everyone – musicians, technicians, insiders – to the test” With the “Music for tomorrow” project, SUISA aims to support its members in these difficult times. We offer artists a platform where they can talk about their current situation while in lockdown and present one of their works. The prelude is made by the Ticino composer and harpist Kety Fusco. In a written interview she talks about her everyday life in lockdown and why not that much has actually changed for her. Read more
Why SUISA members should also consider joining SWISSPERFORMWhy SUISA members should also consider joining SWISSPERFORM Composers and lyricists who are SUISA members and are also active as artists and/or producers and whose performances are broadcast by Swiss or foreign radio and TV channels are entitled to receive a remuneration from SWISSPERFORM. For all those authors-composers-artists/producers, a membership with SWISSPERFORM is thus a necessary addition to their SUISA affiliation in order to safeguard their rights and the full remuneration they are entitled to. Read more
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During the corona crisis, via its project “Music for Tomorrow”, SUISA is providing a platform for some members to report on their work and the challenges they are facing during this period. This time round, the Valaisian musician and songwriter Tanya Barany tells us why she hopes that people in this crisis have focussed their awareness of things like care, appreciation, solidarity or reflection and exclusively performs her song “Cotton Clouds”. Text by Giorgio Tebaldi; video by Tanya Barany, complemented by Nina Müller

“Dark like my British humour, but with a touch of fresh mountain air,” is how Tanya Barany describes her “Dark Pop”. Born and grown up in the Upper Valais, Tanja Zimmermann, that is what she is actually called, found her way to music at an early age: “I’ve been...read more

“This crisis is indicative of a sick society”

Today, in the context of our “Music for Tomorrow” project, we are introducing Swiss jazz and improvisation musician Cyril Bondi, and his piece “We Need to Change”. In a written interview, Cyril tells us why he believes that politics and not the virus are responsible for the current crisis. Text by Nina Müller; video by Cyril Bondi, edited by Nina Müller

Cyril Bondi, age 40, describes himself as an experimentalist who loves working with others. Jazz and free jazz are the preferred domains of the Geneva-born musician. He describes improvisation as the backbone to his music. “Improvisation has allowed me to play in different contexts and to feel as much at ease in a jazz trio (Plaistow) as in experimental/traditional music (La Tène), in a pop/rock duo (cyril Cyril), or working collaboratively on a multitude of projects with “d’incise””, he tells SUISA in a written interview. Cyril’s music regularly oversteps the musical boundaries that society has erected over the years. “I have always tried to develop new things, new concepts, to play my instrument differently, to deconstruct it, reinvent it, seek new sounds, new textures”, Cyril says, explaining his musical evolution.

Bondi composed the piece “We Need to Change” exclusively for “Music for Tomorrow”. Before the lockdown, he was occupied with writing several pieces for his next solo album. He had to interrupt his projects because of the coronavirus. When he received the invitation to “Music for Tomorrow”, he realised how much he was aching for a change. Working on the piece was an intense experience. “Intense because I saw it as an opportunity to express a feeling related to what we are experiencing, this curious blend between the clear evidence of a collapsing society and the denial thereof”, Bondi explains. ”I feel this tension deeply and the creative space I plunged myself into enabled me to express it my way”. Moreover, because he normally works with a band or an orchestra, it was unusual for him to work alone.

Cyril Bondi, what are your workdays like during the corona pandemic?
Cyril Bondi: My workdays are generally organised around my family. I have three children at home, so I constantly have to look after them, help them with their homework and keep them occupied. If I want to get some work done, I have to get up early or devote the evening to work on my various projects. There’s no denying it, the pandemic has hit cultural circles with full force, and musicians even more so, underscoring the precariousness in which they have been living for years. I therefore spend much of my time handling concert cancellations and re-schedulings and checking the different aids and grants available. I am also a member of the FGMC, the Geneva federation of creation music, which brings together professional musicians of all genres, from hip hop to contemporary music, and which is trying to put forward common claims for an industry devastated by the pandemic. As a result, I don’t have much time left for my artistic work; at a certain point, I needed to get back to composing; I plunged into new pieces without knowing who I was writing for or why, apart from the need to delve back into creation. I’m also trying to get ahead with recording the Cyril Cyril (pop/rock) album and my own solo album (experimental).

What does this crisis mean for you personally?
This crisis is indicative of a sick society. We are in this situation not because of a spreading virus but because of the political choices our societies have made. Public services and hospitals are being dismantled, forests destroyed, we are exploiting, plundering, and consuming. Personally, I try to read, keep informed, have discussions with others, listen to music. These dark times make me realise just how much we need culture, the arts, and artists to inspire us, to make us dream, help us escape and make us think. We have never needed them as much as we do now.

How can the public help you at the present time?
People must be aware of the state of emergency impacting the cultural industry and stop thinking that they are contributing any aid whatsoever from behind their computers or smartphones. They must buy records, support the live artists they like, listen to the musicians living around them, and above all support the concert halls, theatres, and festivals as soon as they are allowed to re-open; because my greatest fear is yet to come. People are afraid to meet each other, touch each other, hug each other, kiss each other, dance with each other… how can we be expected to share a true moment of music?

Would it be helpful if people streamed more music from Spotify and Co.?
I think anybody would say the same: companies like Spotify, Youtube, and Facebook are looking to make as much money as possible by exploiting other people’s resources. I am one of those other people. They will never give me a penny of what you consume.

What positive effects might the current situation have in your opinion?
My hopes lie in the collective experience we are living through. Are we intelligent enough to realise that a world with fewer airplanes and cars, with more nature, a less hectic rhythm, more time spent with the family, and greater solidarity is a world where hope can be born again? This capitalist society is leading us to our downfall – we must take the opportunity to invent, create, and conceive a new world. This may be naive, but I believe that everyone today can understand this message.

Do you have a message for your fans?
Listen, sing, dance, and go out!

www.cyrilbondi.net

“Music for Tomorrow”
The Covid-19 crisis has hit SUISA’s members particularly hard. The main source of income for many composers and publishers has completely been lost: Performances of any kind have been prohibited by the Federal Government until further notice. In the coming weeks, we will be posting portraits of some of our members on the SUISAblog. They will tell us what moves them during the Covid-19 crisis, what their challenges are and what their working day currently looks like. The musicians also performed and filmed their own composition for the SUISAblog at home or in their studio. SUISA pays the musicians a fee for this campaign.
Related articles
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Penny-pinching in digital music distributionPenny-pinching in digital music distribution Business in the online sector has been subject to constant change – not only for copyright societies. In the second part of the interview, SUISA CEO Andreas Wegelin reports on the status quo and provides an outlook on the scenarios that are being discussed. Read more
“Répondez-Moi”: Third Swiss ESC song from the SUISA Songwriting Camp“Répondez-Moi”: Third Swiss ESC song from the SUISA Songwriting Camp With “Répondez-Moi”, Switzerland is sending a French-language entry to the Eurovision Song Contest for the first time since 2010. The song was written by Gjon Muharremaj (Gjon’s Tears) and SUISA members Alizé Oswald and Xavier Michel of the Duo Aliose together with Belgian producer Jeroen Swinnen at the SUISA Songwriting Camp. Read more
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All comments will be moderated. This may take some time and we reserve the right not to publish comments that contradict the conditions of use.

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Today, in the context of our “Music for Tomorrow” project, we are introducing Swiss jazz and improvisation musician Cyril Bondi, and his piece “We Need to Change”. In a written interview, Cyril tells us why he believes that politics and not the virus are responsible for the current crisis. Text by Nina Müller; video by Cyril Bondi, edited by Nina Müller

Cyril Bondi, age 40, describes himself as an experimentalist who loves working with others. Jazz and free jazz are the preferred domains of the Geneva-born musician. He describes improvisation as the backbone to his music. “Improvisation has allowed me to play in different contexts and to feel as much at ease in a jazz trio (Plaistow) as in experimental/traditional music (La Tène), in a pop/rock duo (cyril Cyril), or working collaboratively...read more

Remembering an extraordinary person and gifted musician

The pianist Willy Bischof was an established figure on the Swiss jazz scene and made his mark on the programmes of Radio DRS as music editor and programme director. In December 2019, the long-standing SUISA member died at the age of 74. Obituary by guest author Pietro Schaller

Willy Bischof: Remembering an extraordinary person and gifted musician

Willy Bischof at Studio Mulinetti in Genoa on the occasion of the CD production of “A Pianist In Parisˮ in September 2004. (Photo: Pietro Schaller)

Dear, caro Willy

In 1968, I saw and heard you for the first time – as pianist of a quintet in a dance hall. As guitarist and trombonist, I played in a dancing band, too. I made the decision to “get outˮ in mid-May 1978. Trigger for this was a contact to Radio Bern, which produced a live recording of our band in July 1974 in the Kursaal Bern – Georges Pilloud was the initiator.

At the end of May 1978, I contacted you at Radio Studio Bern, “Do you need an archive staff member?ˮ “No! A producer is urgently needed, come to Bern, details will be discussed later.ˮ The first meeting with you took place in the radio play studio. You at the Steinway Concert Grand piano. “Do you know Cantaloupe Island?ˮ I asked, you played it right away. Perhaps this was the prelude to our long-standing relationship.

Monday, July 3, 1978 was my first day of work at the radio studio in Bern. No sign of Willy. I was on my own, because your workplace was at the Montreux Jazz Festival – together with Ruedi Kaspar. For several years you were the “Radio dream teamˮ in Montreux – unforgotten are your multilingual interviews with world-class musicians. At that time, I did not know that you had made a brilliant coup years earlier by acquiring the broadcasting rights for all live broadcasts on Radio DRS2.

The following 2 months were a crash course in “how Radio DRS worksˮ: Departmental structures, reading and interpreting minutes of meetings, as well as ways of speaking and sensitivities of media workers. Whenever the “regularˮ working hours were exceeded, these extra lessons were moved to the garden of a nearby pub.

Your plan was to manage the programme area of entertainment music at DRS1. Together with Ruedi Kaspar you invented “5 after 4ˮ, the first radio show with pop and rock music. Polo Hofer was a discovery by the two of you, and your presence on this show was the cornerstone of Poloʼs career and of dialect rock.

Your specifications for a balanced DRS1 music programme were easy for me to meet. Like you, I was not afraid of any kind of music: in our opinion, it had to be well played and sound good. There were numerous records of almost every genre, and all the music editors maintained extensive archives of their own. I didnʼt know at that time that you had established a free sampling service through your excellent relationships with the record industry approximately 5 years earlier – a classic win-win situation. Without this coup de main, your ideas of a successful DRS1 radio music programme would have failed – simply because the desired music repertoire would not have been available.

Your appointment as “Chief of Entertainment Music Radio DRS1ˮ occurred in 1978. In the following year, your new place of work was Studio Zurich, Ruedi Kaspar “dislocatedˮ to Studio Basel. The fact that this was the prelude to DRS3 was unknown to me. However, inside the radio it was suspected that a 3rd radio programme could be in the planning phase. In autumn 1982, I followed your call to move to Studio Zurich to build up the “Zurichˮ part of the music editorial department. With the success of Radio 24 (start of broadcasting 28.11.1979), Radio DRS increased the implementation speed.

On 1 November 1983, SRG General Director Leo Schürmann symbolically pressed the start button: DRS3 broadcast for the first time.

The following 5 years were the most successful years of DRS3, despite some major differences of opinion between the three editorial offices in Basel, Bern, and Zurich. As “Head of the Music Departmentˮ, you mastered these difficulties with great expertise, caution and gentle pressure.

In 1988, he moved from DRS3 to DRS2. It is possible that recurring discussions of principle on the subject of “musicˮ as well as overflowing meetings and bureaucracy left their mark. It may also be that your love of jazz and music-making as a member of the DRS3 management team had been neglected. The takeover of the “jazzˮ department was the prelude to the establishment of the CH jazz scene, which became a valuable platform with studio sessions for young talent and lesser known formations. For Radio DRS2, this was an important undertaking, which also established the station as an institution for the promotion of culture.

1991 was the birth year of “Apéroˮ, the radio show on DRS2, which you conceived. On the occasion of an annual studio party in Studio 2 in Zurich, you played a Duke Ellington Medley on the concert grand piano, which made everyone present – radio director Andreas Blum was also present – realise that you were a brilliant pianist.

I have always been a big Hazy Osterwald fan. My idea was to re-produce the jazz repertoire of the Osterwald Sextet with an identical formation consisting of you and former DRS band musicians. Together we discovered more than 70 recordings of Hazyʼs best formation from 1951-1964 in the Zurich radio archive. Jazz of the highest level in excellent recording quality, produced by Radio Beromünster in the studio in Basel with Eddie Brunner as sound engineer – former member and later band leader of the famous Teddy Stauffer Band. With your help, a significant document of Swiss jazz from the years 1951-1964 was produced in 1994, the CD box set “50 Years of Music with a Touch of Swingˮ was a great success.

Our intention to realise a production with the post-produced “Hazy Osterwald Jazz Hitsˮ was not executed after careful consideration: Sound, charm, groove of this epoch were too unique and could not be reproduced … A wise decision and a reference to the great recording technique of Radio Beromünster and the producing of Eddie.

In November of the same year the “Berner Song Daysˮ took place in the “Bierhübeliˮ. Your formation, the Willy Bischof Jazztet with Hazy Osterwald, Willy Schmid, Peter Schmidlin and Stefan Kurmann, founded in 1993, was invited as guest of honour. Radio DRS1 recorded the concert. The subsequent CD “Swiss Airˮ is still available today.

In 1998 you were awarded the long overdue “Prix Waloˮ for the radio show “Apéroˮ.

Willy Bischof warming up in the studio. (Photo: Pietro Schaller)

In 2004, I had the idea to produce a recording with you as a solo pianist. The planned location was Studio Mulinetti in Genoa. Versions of Italian classics such as Roma Nun Faʼ Stupido Stasera or Estaté were up for discussion. No persuasion was needed on my part – you were immediately enthusiastic about the project. We assembled the repertoire together. Victor Eugster from “Activ Recordsˮ financed the project. The production date was the end of September 2004. However, shortly before the recording date you changed your mind: “I would rather record French chansons in my own versions – a CD title is already available – ʻA Pianist In Parisʼˮ … Suitable chansons were quickly evaluated. I travelled to Camogli – 30 km east of Genoa – at that time my second home to prepare the production.

The session was successful – all participants got along very well and you played superbly as always. I remember that this was perhaps one of your lucky musical moments.

Your retirement in 2005 encouraged me to retire a year later as well. In the following years, our meetings became rarer – I learned through the grapevine that your health had become unstable. Our last personal contact was on the occasion of a concert I organised with your trio on 21 January 2011 at the Hotel Palace Lucerne.

What remains is the memory of an extraordinary person and gifted musician. You didnʼt strike me as a superior. You were a friend.

Addio Willy

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The pianist Willy Bischof was an established figure on the Swiss jazz scene and made his mark on the programmes of Radio DRS as music editor and programme director. In December 2019, the long-standing SUISA member died at the age of 74. Obituary by guest author Pietro Schaller

Willy Bischof: Remembering an extraordinary person and gifted musician

Willy Bischof at Studio Mulinetti in Genoa on the occasion of the CD production of “A Pianist In Parisˮ in September 2004. (Photo: Pietro Schaller)

Dear, caro Willy

In 1968, I saw and heard you for the first time – as pianist of a quintet in a dance hall. As guitarist and trombonist, I played in a dancing band, too. I made the decision to “get outˮ in mid-May 1978. Trigger for this was a contact to Radio Bern, which produced a live recording of our...read more