Sebastian Hanusa

rarescale's Artistic Director, Carla Rees, talks to German composer Sebastian Hanusa ahead of the UK premiere of David, Hanns und Hilde at The Forge Camden on 7th January 2015
What is it that appeals to you about writing for the bass flute?
It is the extraordinary rich sound of the bass flute; there are many different facets of sound which overlay in the timbre of the instrument.

What attracts you to rarescale as an ensemble?
I am fascinated by the unique “sound” of the ensemble; that is a mixture of the very specific combination of instruments, and the awareness that, when you have the opportunity to work with the musicians of the ensemble, the experience of the music becomes deeper.

Tell us a little about your experience of working with rarescale.
My collaboration with rarescale has had the character of a “blind date”. I was invitated to write a piece for the ensemble for two concerts in Mönchengladbach/Düsseldorf in autumn 2014 (for the festival Microsoundworlds), but I did not have the opportunity to meet the musicians face to face. So I reconstructed my own image of them and their way of playing via emails, recordings and a great deal of imagination. It went well – we spent a nice evening together last autumn.

Who are your main influences?
One important influence is the spectral school. I owe the music of Grisey some of the most impressive experiences of my musical life. Although I think that my own way of dealing for example with microtonal material is much more “fringy”. Besides this, I am deeply ensnared in the German tradition from Bach to Lachenmann, like Feldman and Nono, but also a lot of electronic stuff. And I'm now in my 11th year of working in several opera houses, so there is also a sort of a long term affair with music theatre.

Who inspires you?
I think that I am mostly inspired not by people but by “constellations” – such as music history, the context of certain composers with their work in their time and how it relates to our time; these sorts of cultural discourses. And this always in relationship to a specific situation in the here and now which combines the occasion and the people I am writing for with my own constitution. In this way I would analyze at least the way I am working in the context of the creational processes of the last few years.

Tell us about the background of your piece – how did it come to be written and what’s it all about?
It is inspired by some scattered impressions of Berlin, the town where I am currently living in, and to which I have a longtime biographical connection. And for sure it is not about Berlin, as it is a piece of “absolute” music, that deals with different layers of sound and their combination.

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