As a saxophonist and composer Unterkirchner navigates between different styles and projects. Rooted in the improvised music he builds his own personal style by bridging between musical genres and cultures, people and stories, old and new. His environment characterizes him and has always influenced him. From Carinthia's Lavant Valley he moved outward to learn about other people, the valley, small villages, the Monastery of St. Paul with its kraftdurchdrungenen walls and corridors, then over the mountains beyond the far reaches of the world. Much has this left its mark on him; tracks that now find themselves in his music.
Mr. Unterkirchner was kind enough to respond to our request for interview:
You are a saxophonist. What other instruments do you play? Describe the emotions created by the various instruments.
I play the guitar and the piano, both mainly for composing. I also love to play the clarinet in my own way. In addition, I like playing different kinds of percussion, flutes, whistles, kalimba and so on. I like a very child-like way of playing and trying out instruments I’m not familiar with. For me, it’s like playing in a sandbox. But I definitely focus on the family of saxophones. Each of those instruments, alto, soprano, tenor, baritone, is different to play.
Your music seems to be deeply influenced by both rural and urban experiences. Tell us about that.
I consider the rural part as my roots, that’s where I come from. This is very much in tune with my love for nature and silence, my general romantic approach towards life. By the way, I love so many romantic composers. But I also enjoy inhaling the atmosphere of a town, the multicultural of different people and styles, art and history.
You recently worked with well-known musician James E. Moore. Tell us about Moore and your experiences with him.
I have known James’ compositions for years and I liked them very much. Last year I was asked to play at the well-known classical music festival in Lockenhaus, Austria There I had the honor to play with James, which was, for both of us, I may say. a very touching and intense moment of music and life. Maybe there was some kind of congeniality. So I was very happy to be able to play another concert with him last December. He is a very spiritual man and musician, with both his feet on the ground, but highly sensitive. For him, relationship is more important than performance. So, working with him feels very easy and natural. He gave me a lot of encouragement and affirmation for my playing and composing.
You have had a number of joint projects with the folk musician and multi-instrumentalist, Hubert Dohr , who is from Carinthia’s Lavant Valley. How does your work with Dohr compare with your work with Moore?
I have known Hubert Dohr for many years, we are from the same Valley, the Lavant Valley in Carinthia in the very south of Austria, close to Slovenia and Italy. He is a folk musician, so when playing with him, it is not so much about notes and lead sheets, but I enjoy the down to earth approach of his style. James E. Moore has a lot of classical and musical education and background, but at the same time the ability to forget about theory and notes when he plays. His music and compositions have a lot to do with improvisation and living at and in the moment.
No matter who I am playing with, for me it’s about opening up the mind and ears and just letting it flow. Of course musical diversity helps.
We admire your musical diversity. You created the music for Draw Against Forgetting. Tell us about that documentary and what was going through your mind as you composed the music for that film.
It started with a visit to the painter and artist Manfred Bockelmann, who showed me his first touching portraits of children who were murdered by the Nazis. He told me, “I want to get these children back out of the darkness.” It was heartbreaking for me to look into the eyes of these innocent children. I felt the desire to support this project. About a year later, producer David Kunac told me about the idea to make a film about Bockelmann’s project and asked me to write the music. The film documents the creation of the series. In powerful pictures, carried by the intensity of the artist’s undertaking, this film bows to the countless children who were murdered by the Nazis, and with distressing stories at the same time reminds us of those who survived and still live with the incomprehensible past today. My first musical layouts were influenced by my inner shock reaction and so the music was a very dark resonance to the portraits. Director Bärbel Jacks helped me understand the aim of the film and so the music started to contain hope.
What are your next projects?
A CD project with the wonderful Swedish opera singer Malin Hartelius, together with cello and harp. Some concerts with the wonderful Austrian-born singer Ute Gfrerer, who lives in Boston. A CD project with compositions inspired from Christine Lavant, an awesome sensitive poet (1915-1973) from the Lavant-Valley.
If your music is a gift to your fans, what do you must want them to say about that gift?
I see my musical talent as a gift from heaven, so I just want to pass it on. If my music finds its way to the hearts of the listeners, well, that is all I can ask for.
Unterkirchner studied at the Art University of Graz, concert skilled saxophone classical and IGP focusing Jazz. He also studied at Conservatory Klagenfurt, jazz saxophone with artistic diploma. Both studies were completed with distinction. He has received a number of prizes: Gold Medal from Global Music Awards, Gold World Medal at the New York Festival for film music for Draw Against Forgetting. This interesting artist is a freelance musician and composer.
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