Stephan Micus: Solitary Pursuits
Micus performs in concert rarely, usually doing no more than 10 or 15 concerts each year. Rather than putting together an ensemble, however, to reproduce his recordings, Micus views the performance as an entirely separate experience. "I perform solo," Micus explains, "and obviously there are many of my compositions that I cannot perform on my own. So the concerts are somewhat different than the albums. Nobody would get a shock when they see my concerts because they are of the same feeling, the same world that the music transmits. What is different is that I either play one instrument solo or I play an instrument and sing with it. Each concert I also do two pieces where I have a very simple accompaniment on tape which I recorded myself, and usually I play flutes on top of this. I have some arrangements for more complex pieces where I make an arrangement to do it in concert in a slightly different way than on the album. Some pieces I play in concert that are not on any album. But usually it's not such a problem as many people might think who have never seen a concert."
While some artists who perform so rarely might consider releasing a live album, this is something Micus says will never happen. "For me the beauty of a concert is that it happens once and then it's gone forever," says Micus. "As a musician who works in the studio, it would not make sense to make a live album from a concert because I feel these are two quite different things. I like to play concerts, it's very important for me to have it as a change from the studio work where you're on your own for weeks and months, and you don't get any real feedback. It's very important to have this communication with the audience, and spend this time together with the audience in concert and feel that there's something happening, a connection, a direct communication and feedback."
Regardless of the project, Micus treats it as a whole; a complete entity; a story arc that has a beginning, middle and end. "I definitely try to visualize each album as one creation," Micus explains. "Perhaps some of my earlier albums didn't have so much of a concept as a whole; rather they were collections of different pieces which I had at the moment. But later on, and certainly now, I had this idea of looking at an album as a whole; that it should be like a journey, with a beginning, taking the listener somewhere and also bringing him to a certain place in the end. So I definitely try to achieve this and I want to avoid the concept of just putting together some compositions that don't have anything to do with each other."
While Micus is already working on the next project, it's too early to divulge much about it. "I have three pieces," Micus says, "but it's too early to speak about them. I can only say that I have certain ideas of what the instruments will be, but there are many things to investigate; I'm really at the very beginning and it might develop in many different ways. But travel will definitely be involved. I am going to Burma for the fourth time. I do two large trips every year. Many times there's a specific instrument that I want to study or acquire; sometimes there is music that I'd like to hear, but that's becoming more and more difficult as many of these cultures are disappearing."
While there are many artists who pursue the genre called "World Music," few are as ambitious as Micus in bringing together the sounds of different cultures and different times. And while others look for ways to meld the ethnic music of various locales with a more western approach, Micus stands alone in creating a sound that exists beyond genre, creating instead his own distinctive avenue that combines intriguing textures, richly-layered tapestries and a deep spirituality that transcends temporal concerns and religious specificity.
Implosions (JAPO, '77)
Till the End of Time (JAPO, '78, reissued ECM, '93)
Koan (ECM, '81)
Wings Over Water (JAPO, '82)
Listen to the Rain (JAPO, '83, reissued ECM, '93)
East of the Night (ECM, '85)
Ocean (ECM, '86)
Twilight Fields (ECM, '88)
The Music of Stones (ECM, '89)
Darkness and Light (ECM, '91)
To the Evening Child (ECM, '92)
Athos (ECM, '94)
The Garden of Mirrors (ECM, '00)
Desert Poems (ECM, '01)
Towards the Wind (ECM, '02)
Life (ECM, '04)