to my life
Music was always an important
part of my life, both as a listener and as a person actively playing music
instruments. My interest was and still is very broad regarding music styles and
interpreters. The same ist true for the instruments played by myself. The
consequence: I never was "good" at any one. But I enjoy music in all its forms.
It started in early primary
school when I took lessons in recorder flute for many years. Even today I still
play recorders (made by
Huber, Switzerland). But then, at a performance,
I heard a solo cellist. The sound of this instrument touched and fascinated me
so much that I started to play the violoncello and joined the classical
orchestra of my school. I also played the guitar and some
accompanying songs in youth groups and camps. At that time we sang a lot (and
very loudly): old student songs, chansons, folk, spirituals etc. Lessons in accordeon
and later in electronic orgue and piano opened up the world of folk music, swing and
dance music. In my own teaching of religious education in schools and with my confirmands, I used Orff instruments and made my students improvise
over Psalms and create
biblically inspired sound worlds. Two harmonicas and often also my good old
Höfner guitar regularly accompanied me for
romantic evenings on canoe trips and on
journeys to other continents.
of the Norwegian
YMCA Ten Sing movement, its
introduction in Switzerland and later the support of its development all over
Europe brought me in contact with contemporary rock and pop music and the related youth cultures. Today, I firmly work in
our church for the promotion and development of a broad range of popular and
in worship and
other church activities. I carry responsibilities for the
Popular Church Music Department, the
Evangelical Church Music School and the
Music Academy St. Gallen. Our church
offers today the only state certified professional music education for popular
church music in Switzerland.
For the significance of music for myself you may also read my speech: "Musik
verbindet Menschen von Seele zu Seele" ("Music connects people from soul to
soul"), my text "Musik berührt die
Menschen in ihrem Herzen" ("Music touches people in their hearts")
and my tribute to Peter Roth
"Din Atem trait min Gsang" ("Your Breath
Carries My Song“).
My love for the saxophone
started in the middle years of my life
My love for the
saxophone started in the middle years of my life.
Again, it was an experience
with people that awakened the passion in me. On one of my
bicyle trips in Southern
Europe, I visited in Spain
the concert of a young teachers' saxophone quartet. They played tunes from
Johann Sebastian Bach via Isaac Albéniz
Gillespie and others.
And like at my first encounter with the cello, I was thrilled
by the deep, resonate sound of the baritone sax. That's what I needed to learn!
I looked for a saxophone
teacher, started to play the tenor sax, soon after also the baritone,
excursions to other sax types, especially the soprano.
I play for my own enjoyment and with friends almost everything from Evergreens and Standards via
Gospel, Blues, Swing and Be-Bop to Elton John, Robbie
Williams and Rainhard Fendrich. A for me new and exciting field was and remains
free improvisation, with which I'm still struggling heavily.
fascination of vintage saxophones
As always with me, with this
new theme a whole new world opened
up for me. In musical terms the World of the
famous jazz giants, their styles and
recordings, today on CD easily
accessible in fine sound quality. Then the richness of jazz and contemporary harmony. But also the exciting history of the saxophone
as an instrument - and the fascination
of awesome vintage horns. I
for example own a gold plated Martin Handcraft baritone
saxophone (deep Bb), born 1925, and a Conn C-Melody from the twenties. - A great musical world!
My re-discovery of the banjo
A live encounter with
and his virtuosic playing on a 4-string Plectrum Banjo reminded me some time ago
of the banjo playing attempts in my youth. I started to study the fascinating
history of the banjo: From its origins in West Africa and its travel with the
slaves to the USA, over the reduction of the 5-string banjo of the 19th century
to the 4-string rhythm banjo, played with a plectrum, in the early New Orleans
Jazz and in the Dixieland music, the 5-stringers in the American Old Time Music
(Frailing, Clawhammer styles), the development of the three-finger Scruggs-style
in the developing Bluegrass music of the late 40s, the banjo use in the folk revival of
the 60s (Pete Seeger), up to modern interpreters like
Béla Fleck or the
(grown up in Switzerland), who very creatively make use of the banjo
in all kinds of musical contexts and styles.
As always, only listening and reading was not
enough for me. That's the reason why I, besides playing on several guitar types, also
returned to the banjo - among them a
Deering Tenbrooks with a
Jens Krüger tonering made by Rüetschi in
Switzerland. Occupying myself with American Old Time Music, I also came in
contact with George
Orthey, a great pioneer of the diatonic Autoharp, a genuine and very special American instrument.
Banjola - a fascinating, recently developed instrument
Studying the banjo and its history brought me in
contact with Edward Dick, a luthier in Colorado. Since the late 90s he is under
the name Banjola
developing a kind of banjo with a mandolin body, sometimes adding a 6th string.
Edward built me a gorgeous 6-string banjola with nylon strings and a spruce top
from Bergün in the Swiss mountains (Graubünden). It is a wonderful instrument with a
- despite its comparably small body - full, complex sound and a relaxing, even
meditative character - ideal for late evening and night hours. You can see me play
Ukulele, Guitar und Hawaii
Thanks to the banjo and the banjola I found the
way back to the guitar. After a bicycle accident in 2003, I believed that I
would never be able to play a guitar again due to a remaining limitation in my left
ellbow. But these two instruments, held quite vertically for that reason, proved
to be a kind of physiotherapy, and things improved. Changing to a classical
guitar posture and adding some other tricks, I was able to return to my guitars.
The positive thing is that all these string instruments, from the violoncello to
the banjola and the banjo are related with each other and have similar tunings.
Thus, interchanging between them is not that difficult - if one sets the expectations
at a realistic level. A critical audience of course cannot be made happy with
that kind of music philosophy and level of mastering the instruments. But
standing ovations are not
the goal of my musical explorations.
Studying various American roots music styles and
re-activating my guitars, I discovered the various styles and instruments of
traditional Hawaiian music:
There is the small and often underrated Ukulule,
a Hawaiian development inspired by the Portuguese Braguinha, brought to the Islands by
Portuguese immigrants in the late 19th century. It at present is experiencing a
great renaissance. A small ukulele is often accompanying me in vacation or in my
backback when hiking in the mountains. I'm a special fan of
Herb Ohta jr. and his
great ukulele music. My favorite ukuleles are made by Kristen and Joe Souza (Kanilea).
There are the Hawaiian Steel Guitars (lap steel und pedal
steel). They immediately evoke images of Hawaii or of Country and Blues
music in probably most of us.
And there is - my present favorite music - the melodious Ki Ho'alu
Key Guitar). It is played "nahenahe" (soft and sweet) with a lot of
and feelings). In earlier times this way of playing the guitar - brought by
Latin vaqueros to the Big Island in the 19th century - was passed down only within the own 'Ohana (extended
family), often considered a family secret. In Slack Key you lower (slack) one or several guitar strings compared
with standard tuning, and you play in open tunings (e.g. Taro-Patch = open G) or in a
big number of other tunings like Wahine or tunings with the name of one of the
famous Ki Ho'alu
Masters. I'm a fan of Ozzie
Keola Beamer and among the
younger musicians of
Patrick Landeza. I also make use of their teaching material.
Native American Flute (Siyotanka,
What do you do musically, when you come
back from work late in the evening, too tired for a concentration
demanding musical instrument or even more the need for sheet music? - But
feeling inside yourself a longing for your own, healing and harmonious
My answer: Native American Flute, the flute of the native North
American peoples, in Lakota called siyotanka (prayer, love flute) or
hokagapi (to make a voice). It's an instrument tuned mostly in minor pentatonic
scales. But you can also play chromatically on it. Available are these
flutes in all kinds of keys, from contrabass to soprano. Made with
simple to extremely precious kinds of wood, enhanced by simple
ornamentation up to artistical master works. My favorite sound
comes from cedar, tuned to middle-low F#-minor or low E- or D-minor.
Such a flute can be played quite easily, but it's so expressive! In my
case, they are a great complement to my recorder playing and related to the saxophone.
For me, playing a Native American Flute is
something very different from playing other instruments. Of course,
you can interpret all kinds of compositons or traditional Native
American tunes on it. But this flute really starts to live when you simply
improvise, shut down your thinking, express your feelings. Or
when you go out into nature and start to speak with the birds and
with mother nature. The Native American flute is more than only a
means for producing sounds. Like now other instrument it has a soul of
its own. The music of the flute is seeking you, you only need to
lend her your breath. Also, her soulfull and healing tones always
express something of the beauty, the wisdom and the enormous tragedy
of the Indian peoples (read "To Make A Voice" by
This experience stimulated me to study anew and in
more depth Native Americans' lives, religion and history, deepening
the knowledge I had from intensive reading in young years and during
my University studies.
You can listen to this music also on CD. For example
to the solo recordings of
Looking Wolf (Kalapuya),
Keith Bear (Mandan-Hidatsa),
Robert Tree Cody
(Dakota/Maricopa) or of Grammy Award winner
(Seminole/Aleut). The most
prominent Native American flutist is
R. Carlos Nakai
Doc Tate Nevaqueya (Comanche),
Kevin Locke (Lakota)
Tom Mauchahty-Ware (Kiowa) were and are most important for keeping
traditional tunes at life.
Artists of a younger generation, trying to explore also new paths,
include Jonny Lipford und
If I let play simple
Native American Flute music on CD in my sleeping room for some minutes,
I wake up some hours later, and the flute is still playing. Musical
magic, and a door opener for spiritual experiences.
Great creators of such flutes are for example
Flutes can also be found on the websites of
and many others. I have a great F#m and a Dm-flute made by
Littleleaf, living in the Warm Springs Reservation in Oregon. The
instruments are made from 500 year old Pacific Northwest cedar tree. The picture below shows
my one of a kind E-minor cedar flute, made by
(Oregon Flute Shop),
Oregon. On these and other websites you can also find easily
understandable instructions on how to play this humble, but so soulful
A very special recorder has been developed by the Swiss musician Alf
Jetzer: The "Erdklang-Flöte"
("Earthsound flute"), available at
It has a personality und minor pentatonic tuning similar to a Native
American Flute. Alf Jetzer also expresses my own thoughts with his
related philosophy of "Befreites
Musizieren" ("liberated making music").
What a great world of music!
What a most beautiful, constantly new wonders opening world is the world of
music! - If you dare to follow its paths playing, listening, reading...!
One of my Native American Flutes, Cedar Mallard in
E-minor, created by Ted Calavan, Oregon
Sie Ihre Grüsse! - Leave Your Foot-Prints!
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