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A Fireside Chat with Wolfgang Fuchs

By Published: February 21, 2004

AAJ: Is the well starting to run dry on the European government subsidies?

WF: Yeah, in all European countries, in the rich, West European countries, the funding goes down and down and down and it will be less and less and less. The European musicians maybe didn't learn to work without this, to get funding from other places or private persons or to go to sponsors. They have to learn it and so I think in USA, they learn it from beginning on because they have to learn it or it is like in Italy and in Spain, they have to learn it very early to find money from other places and institutes. It makes it easier for the moment, but not for the future. Then it is more difficult because there must be another thinking that you have when you don't have this money. You expect it because they give much money for cultural activities, but when they don't do it for the next years, then we have to learn how can we do a festival now or how can I can bring 'b' or small groups to other countries. It is difficult. First, it was easy, but it is also difficult.

AAJ: In country and abroad, you present numerous workshops.

WF: Yes, I am doing it. There are two things. First, it has to do with the money, of course, because as you know, the organizers here can't pay very well and often, it's just door money you will get, but you have to pay for your flight to come from Europe to USA and back and so it helps with the workshops because people pay directly to me, the participants pay directly to me, so it helps to pay for my basic traveling expenses. The other thing of course is I am always interested in meeting new and of course, younger players and to work with them. I do not really feel like a teacher. I teach through the years, clarinet and saxophone, but it is not really that I feel like a teacher. It is the confrontation with new people for me that I didn't meet before and their thinking and their way to deal with musical problems. I have meet in two or three years a lot of younger players, younger than me at the Bay Area and now also in LA and they are very interested and they know nearly all the stuff which happens in Europe, all the players, nearly everything. They are very interested in doing this European kind of improvised music and they also have to do with the traditional jazz players, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk.

AAJ: What initiated the Total Music Meeting?

WF: As far as I know, it started end of Sixties, done by a kind of collective with Jost Gebers, Peter Br'tzmann, Alex Schlippenbach, Peter Kowald, and they started it in Berlin and they asked for money and they got it and also the label FMP. The situation two years ago was that we had to realize that Jost Gebers stopped the festival. He went to the government and said that he stopped the festival and he did not need money anymore for this. When we heard this, it was unbelievable because he cannot stop a festival and we cannot do it as a private party because for the last ten, twenty years, he did it with money of the government, so it was a public thing. I talked to Helma and some other musicians and said that we have to continue it and this is what we do since and we are fighting very hard for money every year and I think it works quite well. We try to bring some new ideas in it for the festival and it works as you can see from the program from last year. I brought also my new trio with Damon Smith and Jerome Bryerton (Three October Meetings) from the Bay Area.

AAJ: So is the Total Music Meeting without government sponsorship?

WF: We still have some because Helma wrote a lot of letters and she went to the government and said that this must be continued. It is not a good idea to stop it and so we still get a little, but Helma also pays a lot of her own money from her own factory to do it and now we are looking for other possibilities to continue it and work together with other people, who are interested in continuing the Total Music Meeting. It works in this way and all the musicians we invite know about the situation and they are coming so that the festival can be continued and they really play for low fees. This is the only way we can do it and we did it.

AAJ: You play numerous reed instruments, akin stateside to Vinny Golia.

WF: Yeah, I know him. I like three, the contrabass clarinet, bass clarinet, and sopranino saxophone. The thing is, I started with tenor saxophone, which was my first reed instrument and also as I mentioned before with the B flat clarinet and then I found sopranino and I was very interested. Then I came to the bass clarinet and this means that I had to leave the tenor saxophone and of course, from the bass clarinet to the contrabass clarinet, it is easy to go. So in the meantime, I worked very hard on it over the years. For me, these three instruments are one. Of course, I have to change and interrupt my playing when I go to the next instrument, but for me, it is really like one because I have to whole range from very deep tones to very high tones and incredible possibilities with all the sounds. I cannot say I like this or this. I was also thinking about putting one or two away because it is easy to travel and to carry the sopranino and not the big cases of bass clarinet and contrabass clarinet, but I cannot do it. It turned out that it's one, one in three cases.

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