Name: Lucie Horsch
Occupation: Recorder player, multi-instrumentalist
Recent Release: Lucie Horsch's Origins is out via Decca.
Recommendations: A Song - A Baroque piece by Telemann, a suite of movements called Les Nations. He imitates the sounds of different countries, and the movements are titled so. There's the Turkish, the Russian, the Portuguese. All these different styles, it's really such amazing music and I think everybody should know it.
An Album - This is a very famous album; if people don't know it, they have to listen to it! The self-titled collaborative Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong album featuring the song 'Can we be friends?'. I think it's maybe a nostalgic choice because I've been listening to that since I was 10 years old, but their collaboration has this perfect dialogue. Musicians reacting to each other and taking inspiration from each other. Having a musical conversation together. I just love how they how they interact on this album, it's such joyful music.
If you enjoyed this interview with Lucie Horsch and would like to know more about her work, visit her official homepage. She is also on Instagram, and Facebook.
When did you start writing/producing/playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
I've been making music from as young as I can remember. More officially, at five years old, I started having music lessons for the recorder and singing in a children's choir.
My earliest musical influences actually came from my home; I grew up in a very musical family. My parents are professional cellists, and my older brother plays the violin. Everything happened in the living room in our house, so I would hear them practising in the background whilst I would be drawing or something.
My father plays in the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, and I was able to go to a lot of concerts there. It's kind of an unusual influence because it’s of such high quality. I wasn't aware of that until I got older, then I realised I’m so lucky to be able to cycle for 10 minutes and listen to the greatest concerts.
When I listen to music, I see shapes, objects and colours. What happens in your body when you're listening and how does it influence your approach to creativity?
When I listen to music, I enter into a trance of sorts. I always try to let the music guide and surprise me.
I think it's a real challenge for a musician to listen without expectation because often, you may have an idea of what will happen or where the piece may go. I always try to be as open-minded as possible and experience the music as if I’m hearing it for the first time. So that's the main thing I try to do when listening. That's what I hope for when I'm on stage myself - that the listeners come with an open mind and want to be surprised by the music.
Creatively, as much as possible, I try to make music spontaneously and react to the musicians playing around me. That's why I love playing music with others. I think that's something an audience can feel: the energy of something happening in the moment as well as the artist's attentiveness.
How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?
It's interesting because I have become more and more aware of the fact that I started very young. It was very natural because everybody around me made music, so I was initially just copying. You imitate the people around you, and where I grew up, everybody was busy with music professionally. So, if I made music, I did it seriously.
I guess this does create some identity questions later on. Who am I doing this for? And you do have to search for your own approach to things and to find your personal voice. In that sense, that's why the recorder was really my saviour. I chose this instrument because my parents didn't know anything about it, and some people didn't take it seriously. I think it was kind of an act of rebellion. Maybe that made me more motivated.
One of the biggest challenges I face is staying true to myself and my relationship with my instrument because as long as that relationship is stable and strong, it doesn't really matter what's happening around you or the expectations of others. I really love my instrument, and that's such a strong feeling, so it doesn't matter what other people think.
The biggest challenge I've found is finding time for things. Even if you have just one instrument, you always feel like you should be doing more. I have this times three because, in addition to the recorder, I'm a pianist and singer. I also have so many different interests and hobbies, so dividing my time between the three different instruments and all my other interests is challenging.
Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.
I'm always afraid to identify as something - maybe because I've spent my entire life trying to shake off labels that others put on me. I guess we all have this struggle in our lives that often, for practical reasons, we have to be put in a box which might not reflect our complete identity.
There's this friction between the identity the outside world has of you and your actual identity; that's a hard thing to accept. I think my actual identity is that I'm inquisitive and try to be as open-minded as possible. Not to limit myself by saying I identify as a recorder player. Even that is already such a narrowing label for me.
I would say I'm a musician or even just a human being trying to do something valuable.
What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?
Music and art are both definitely forms of expression. The most important thing for me is that music and art should move a person in some way. If it doesn't move me, I'm not interested in it, or maybe I don't even consider it art. It doesn't need to be emotional per se, but it has to have some effect.
I'm also trying to put that in my own music. I think the key is putting as much of yourself as possible into your work, which will translate into others being able to connect with it. It's mysterious and scary because we can't experience something in the way someone else sees it or feels it.
I think that's why we need art because, as humans, we fear being alone in the world, and art makes us realise that other people are experiencing the same thing.
How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?
I've been thinking a lot about the conflict people find between music of the future and continuing traditions because I don't think they should be in conflict with each other. Innovation should always be grounded in some kind of sense of history or an awareness of the current situation.
I think that the word originality is really a problem; we all feel we have to be unique or stand out. The most beautiful thing about humanity is often what we share. As long as we react to what is happening around us, I think that the most useful way to create new things or a future is to really consider how we could do things better or how could take inspiration from what's already around us?
Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?
I became aware from a very young age that it's not so much about the quantity of time you spend on practicing but the quality of your practice. A Cliché that's often mentioned but has been very important to my life. I think the most important virtues for me would be focus, discipline and dedication to whatever you're working on at that moment. As long as you have these, then you will improve gradually over time.
I don't know if it’s a tool but having great teachers or a support system is crucial. People who can offer you their honest opinion, and you can trust their judgement. Also, having a balanced sense of self in the mind that you can be self-critical, but you can also appreciate what you're doing.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.
It's quite a hard thing to answer because I've got such an unstable life. Often, as a musician, you're travelling and can never do your routine. I'm an advocate for not having a routine and being okay with that. If I'm at home usually, my ideal morning routine would be some kind of physical activity because after being active, I love just spending the whole day inside. If I don't move my body in the morning, then it won't happen.
The most important thing in my day is trying to find time to practise my three different instruments, and actually, the older I become, the more I love practising because it's the one part of my day where I can connect with myself. It feels like meditation because I come with whatever I have. That's what people say about yoga, right? You come to the mat with whatever you have and leave feeling slightly more grounded in yourself. That, for me, is my music practice.
I think it's something special about musicians; they're confronted with themselves every day. You have to measure yourself to your own high standards. Self-reflection is a big part of it.
The rest is filled up with the business side of things, emails, rehearsals, meeting composers, or planning a recording, and I'm still studying for a master's degree in fortepiano and a degree in voice. So, I sometimes also have subjects at the conservatory that I have to attend.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?
My new album Origins is the project I've been busy with for the last two years, and it's been quite an interesting creative process. I'd say I'm an intuitive artist in the sense that I always start by trying to find something that speaks or fascinates me in the repertoire. I have to find a spark or connection with it.
So, the first thing I did when choosing the repertoire was deep dive into listening to as much of it as possible. Soaking up all the different styles and finding something I'm really passionate about. Then I structure this; I made a lot of mind maps for Origins and the album's concept. Thinking about how I can relate these different types of repertoires to each other.
A large part of this is the preparation itself, finding ways to translate a particular style on my instrument. That was fascinating because some of the styles are, in a sense, not natural for the recorder.
For example, the Piazzolla, the style of tango, is not something that has ever been performed on a recorder. I had to find a way to express this tango language on the recorder. I took a lot of inspiration from the other musicians involved in the album; for example, Carel Kraayenhof, the bandoneon player, is really an expert on this. He spent his entire life playing just this music and discovering the language of Piazzolla. We had long sessions where we listened to a lot of music and then tried to play together, and he had very strong ideas about what the music is about. "It's about timing. It's about percussive effects."
So, I then tried to translate that into the recorder, which actually worked really well because there's this directness in my instrument that I love. You can make the percussive effects with the direct articulation that the recorder has.
There are two elements in any creative process of mine and in Origins. I have to be really alone for a lot of it and completely close myself off from the rest of the world to find my own interpretation, then come out of this and spend a lot of time connecting with other musicians and being very open.
Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?
What is fascinating about music is that we can all experience it together, but not in exactly the same way. I love the communal activity of going to a concert with a group of people, being in a concert hall, and having a shared experience. Whilst the same time knowing that every single individual in that hall is having a slightly different experience.
This ties into the last question and how I'm a bit of an einzelgänger regarding my music process. It's important to find the balance between closing yourself off from the rest of the world to find your own interpretation and then going out and trying to connect with people. You need to be strong in your own inspiration, so you're not too vulnerable to outside criticism.
People always have opinions about whatever you're doing, so you need to believe in yourself and what you're doing because otherwise, you will be destroyed.
How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?
I immediately feel a little bit bad when I think about the role of music in society because it could be a much more important one than it already is. I can only speak from personal experience but playing an instrument as a child was such a valuable way of gaining confidence and having something stable.
I think we sometimes forget how important art is. Over the past few years, with wars and the covid virus, it feels like there's no place for music or art; it's all about life and death.
But I believe that the arts are very much connected to the meaning of life, and if we forget music and art and its importance in society, then we forget the purpose of life.
Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions has music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?
It's a cliche, but sometimes there's a reason for these one-liners. Music takes over when words fail to explain. We use music at funerals or in moments of celebration because we can connect through it universally. Listening to music reminds me of the beauty in life.
As a child, at a concert at the Concertgebouw, I remember thinking to myself, I don't want to forget this feeling. This beautiful music was written, it's being performed, and people are touched by it. This is something really important and valuable. Even as a child, I felt in awe of music and how big of an effect it can have.
How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?
There's definitely a connection because so many composers were scientists. I think music and science are both ways humans try to make sense of the world and find patterns in things.
Perhaps it's also because it's bound to time.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you feel as though writing or performing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
In a sense, you could say the craft itself makes it an art form. If you were to train for years and really specialise in the art of making a cup of coffee, in principle, it could be a powerful expressive outlet. If I think about my life, I spend hours every day working on this craft, learning my instrument, and that, for me, makes it an art form.
I think the difference with music is that you can put your whole personality into what you're doing, and perhaps by making a cup of coffee, you wouldn't be able to express yourself as much. It's a more complex craft.
Music is vibration in the air, captured by our ear drums. From your perspective as a creator and listener, do you have an explanation how it able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?
Actually, I don't. Maybe I like it so much because that's the mystery; I'm constantly fascinated by it. We all take our own meaning from something that's vibrations in the air. It's incredible.