Name: Bernhard Schimpelsberger
Occupation: Composer, percussionist
Current Project: Glansvit on Geist im Kino, an imprint of Phantom Limb.
Recommendation:Tigran Hamasyan by Luys I Luso. A stunning album of ancient Armenian chants, rearranged for piano and choir. Sensitive music that bridges ancient and contemporary.
When did you start composing - and what or who were your early passions and influences?
I wrote my first composition at the age of 15, It was a tune for a small jazz ensemble. In the following years, I focused more on becoming a drummer, a performer so to speak. Composition returned a few years later when I started to collect and incorporate more tuned percussion instruments from all around the world into my setup, that’s when people started to request me to write music for them. It was a gradual transition and now I enjoy a good balance between scoring and live touring. My early influences were jazz which we played at home with my family. After meeting my rhythm master Pandit Suresh Talwalkar (a legendary tabla player in India) and studying in India I was strongly influenced by Indian classical music and the possibility that lies in connecting it with Western music.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
Studying is immensely important. I consider myself an eternal student of music. The moment we stop being curious and humble, growth stops and arrogance settles in. Since I studied in the ‘Guru Shishya Parampara’, the traditional way of learning Indian classical music I was accustomed to learning by copying without asking too many questions. This approach I still enjoy. It is the rewarding process of learning and feeding the artistic self with new influences. After that, just get to work and let the influences settle and digest and eventually they will come back to you in an organic way that enhances your entire perspective of art and music.
What were some of the most important creative challenges when starting out as a composer and how have they changed over time?
Rhythm is often considered an accompanying element in music that does not have the capacity to shape music in its entirety. At the beginning of my journey, I was faced with disbelief that a percussionist could also write melodic music. The more I wrote, the more people could feel the emotional impact of my music and started to believe in it more. At this moment in my life, I have a very satisfying record of projects that I have realised. People can access them and make up their own minds if the rhythm is strong enough to produce the music they would like to commission.
Tell us about your studio/work space, please. What were criteria when setting it up and how does this environment influence the creative process? How important, relatively speaking, are factors like mood, ergonomics, haptics and technology for you?
I love to have a work environment that lets me react instantly to my moods and inspiration. I have a small studio at home in which I constantly change the setup. Depending on what I am working on I set up instruments, synthesizers or sometimes even wood cutting tools to manufacture new instruments. As artists, we are constantly accessing a huge pool of ideas. Sometimes it is important to be able to capture them quickly. Not because they are necessarily ’the best’ ideas, but because of the genuine connection we feel in their moments of birth. This connection gives you immense joy and further inspiration to create and build. I like my set up to help me to capture these moments.
Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
One of the best parts of my work is that I do not have a fixed routine. Literally every day is different. Of course, that can be a blessing and a curse! In general, though I work dedicatedly on each project for a good junk of time before moving on. That gives me the chance to dive into the creative headspace and stay there for a few days continuously. One thing I love to do is organizing my diary. That way I make sure I have enough time for each project, and I don’t have to cut the creation by jumping into another one too sudden.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
To be honest I have not found an answer for this yet. It can be so many things. Sometimes you must be vulnerable and access something deep inside of you. Other times you simply have to keep working on an idea until it starts to shine. If we give them up too early, many ideas die a premature death. It is amazing to see that when you stay focused on an idea and you keep digging and polishing after a while you are presented with a little gem, a diamond that smiles at you.
Could you take me through the process of composing on the basis of one of your pieces that's particularly dear to you, please? Where did the ideas come from, how were they transformed in your mind, what did you start with and how do you refine these beginnings into the finished work of art?
In Glansvits ‘Enlightenment,’ I wanted to create an uplifting moment that contained hope and divinity yet acknowledged Glansvits violent suicide. For this, I choose a melody that repeated itself in a circle infinitely. It never arrives, it never stops. It simply keeps moving. After I composed the melody, I created many layers underneath and above. These layers are like the engine that takes the melody to new places.