Apr 22, 2015

PREVIEW: Nils Frahm on tour

'Encylopedias regular hmm and haw over whether the piano is a string instrument or a percussion instrument. In the hands of classical German pianist Nils Frahm, it is both. In 2011 Frahm made an important discovery. Recording late at night and trying to do his neighbours a favor, he damped  the sound of his piano with a thick layer of felt and placed his microphones so deep inside as to be almost touching the strings. The results were quite literally breathtaking: on the subsequent recordings, released on his 2011 album Felt, you can hear not only Frahm’s breathing but the creak of floorboards beneath his feet, together with the delicate rustle and scrape of ivory against wood, wood against felt, felt against steel  — the secret sonic life of the piano revealed. Frahm is not the first to experiment with mic placement; in his recordings for Blue Note, engineer Rudy Van Gedler took such care with his mics that listeners today could be mistaken for thinking Thelonius Monk in their living room. But Frahm is the first to pursue mic placement to so intimate an end, seeming to place your living room inside his piano, like Pinocchio inside the whale. You seem to be listening to it from somewhere deep inside it’s ribcage, hearing not just the note but the complex relay of levers, hinges, rails, flanges, pins and hammers responsible for sounding it, thus bringing to light a secret kinship between the piano and instruments like the guitar or harp in which fingers come into direct contact with strings. The human touch loses any sense of metaphor; shed of some of it’s concert hall formality, the piano suddenly seems thrillingly intimate, modern.' — from my piece on Frahm for Intelligent Life

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