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Michael Thieke

Michael Thieke was born 1971 in Düsseldorf/Germany. He moved to Berlin in 1993 , since 2000 he lives also part time in Rome. In his first years in Berlin he played among others in duo with Swiss reed player Gregor Hotz and in Billy Bang’s BOBBI group, that for a period performed regularly on monday nights in Berlin’s Jazz Club A-Trane. Moreover he attended the Hochschule der Künste Berlin studying music with Denney Goodhew, Jerry Granelli and others.

In 1999 he co-founded the band Nickendes Perlgras together with the drummer Eric Schaefer and the formerly Seattle based trumpet player Michael Anderson. The music of the group consisted of subversive, complex compositions that oscillated between powerfull playing and almost chamber music, trying to create a grotesque and surreal poetry within the borders of Jazz. The group existed until 2007 and released two CDs (Meat HatKonnex/Berlin (D) 2005 and Die hintere VaseJHM/Cologne (D) 2000), made numerous concerts and Radio Productions, for example at Festival de la Cité Lausanne (CH), Contemporaneamente Lodi (I) and ZJFT Festival Groningen (NL).

In the same year the band Dok Wallach was founded, dedicated to music by Charles Mingus (with Daniel Erdmann, Johannes Fink, Heinrich Köbberling). Inspired by Steve Lacy’s School Days Project the band focusses only on Mingus, in order to get profoundly into his compositions by rearranging and decomposing the original material. In 2006 the band recorded three concerts at Lisbon’s Hot Club de Jazz that were released as Live In LisbonJazzwerkstatt(D) 2009.

The clarinet duo The International Nothing with Kai Fagaschinski started in the year 2000 as an improvising project. In 2002 they shifted the project towards the composition of pieces that are focused on tone material in a kind of pipe-organ style, making it sound like one instrument, or more than two, through the comforts that multiphonics and difference tones offer. The pieces have a warm and slowed down quality and might be associated with electronic music. Their way of composing can be described as “empirical” as the music isn’t developed in the head of one musician; it relies more on the ears of both, and a process of trying, failing, changing and developing ideas during numerous rehearsals. In 2006 the first CD Mainstream has been released on the japanese label ftarri with Derek Shirley, Margareth Kammerer and Christian Weber as guest musicians, and a remix with additional vocals by Christof Kurzmann, which was followed by the CD/LP Less Action, Less Excitement, Less Everything in 2010. After many years of withdrawn work they played in October 2007 their first duo concerts since 2002. The Duo performed its music so far in Austria, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, Switzerland and U.S.A., including Donaueschinger Musiktage (2007), Darmstädter Ferienkurse für Neue Musik (2012), Metéo (Mulhouse 2012), Konfrontationen (Nickelsdorf 2008), Festa Em Serralves (Porto 2010), Experimental Intermedia (New York 2009) and MaerzMusik (Berlin 2009).

In 2002 Michael joined Gebhard Ullmanns The Clarinet Trio, that at this point already had existed for several years. The new setup of the group released 2004 the CD Ballads And Related Objects on Leo Records, followed up by the CD 4 on the same label, and performed numerous concerts all over Europe , for example at the Festivals of Brugge (B), Münster (D) and Long Arms Festival Moscow (RUS), in 2010 the trio toured in the USA. Also in 2010 the trio started a cooperation with the french Trio Des Clarinettes consisting of Jean-Marc Foltz, Sylvain Kassap and Armand Angster, playing at the Minsk State Philharmony (Belarus) and at festivals such as Jazz d’Or Strasbourg and LeMans Festival.The double trio will record a CD in 2013.

Also in 2002 the band Hotelgäste was formed with the two Berlin based Canadians Derek Shirley (bass) and Dave Bennett (guitar). The collective works on the creation of multilayered, slow moving soundscapes with a slightly hypnotic feel. In this band Michael started to add the zither to his instruments and uses also field recordings. The Group released the CD: Flowers You Can Eat (2005) and the LP: The Whispering Land (2009). In the same year another trio got together, consisting of Christian Weber (bass) and Michael Griener (drums), named TGW, a band rooted deeply but not only in the free jazz continuum. Up to now the trio released the CD: The Amazing Dr. ClitterhouseAyler Records/Gusum (S) 2007.

In 2004 and 2005 Michael released three CDs on the potuguese label creative sources: with the band Schwimmer (with Alessandro Bosetti, Sabine Vogel, Michael Griener) the CD 7x4x7, followed by the quartet recording Kreis with the Lisbon based musicians Ernesto Rodrigues, Guilherme Rodrigues und Carlos Santos and the solo CD Leuchten in 2005. These CDs represent Michael’s interest in the more silent and sparse aspects of sound production, especially on his solo recording. Michael plays regularly solo, in places such as Angelo Mai/Rome, Cave12/Geneve, Theaterkapelle/Berlin or Downtown Music Gallery/New York.

In the 2004 Michael founded Michael Thieke Unununium (with Luca Venitucci, Derek Shirley, Eric Schaefer), which released its debut CD Where Shall I Fly Not Be Sad, My Dear? on charhizma in 2006. In 2009 the band was enlarged by Martin Siewert, Christian Weber and Steve Heather and recorded in cooperation with the german radio station SWR.

Christof Kurzmann (laptop/voc) and Margareth Kammerer (guitar/vocals) had appeared already as guests on the first CD of The International Nothing. These initial collaborations made them to go for more. In 2004 they started to work on a program in quartet format, named The Magic I.D., which includes duo, trio and quartet pieces. The result is a mixture of strange songs and instrumentals that do not care about their categorization with terms like experimental, pop, abstract, melodic a.s.o.. The first CD/LP Till My Breath Gives Out was released on ErstPop (USA) in January 2008, followed by the second CD/LP Sleepless I Feel/I’m So Awake on staubgold in 2011. The band has played on festivals such as Music Unlimited Wels (A), Angelica Bologna (I), Musiche Possibili Ivrea (I), and Jazz A Mulhouse (F).

In Switzerland Michael became part of Paed Concas project Migraton (with Paed Conca bass/clarinet, Frank Crijns guitar, Fabrizio Spera drums). The project is a film documentation with live music, written around the topic of migration in Switzerland and Europe in the last 50 years. Politics in Europe is today, as it was in the past, producing and amplifying a feeling that sees migration as a threat, and the film confronts this with material of the different realities of migrant’s lifes in Europe. Film and music were developped simultaneously, using pictures and films in a chronological collage. The project toured in Switzerland, Austria and Italy, playing concert spaces and also for political initiatives. In 2009 a new composition of Paed, entitled Porta Chiusa, again with the focus on migration politics, was premiered, followed by a three week tour in Japan in 2010, and concerts in Lebanon in 2012, for example at Irtijal Festival in Beirut. The project consists of Paed Conca, Hans Koch and Michael.

Since 2000 Michael lives part time in Rome/italy that lead to various cooperations. Among thes are the band Spirit Songs (with Mike Cooper, Elio Martusciello, Luca Venitucci, Fabrizio Spera), playing songs of the ononymous Mike Cooper solo CD Spirit Songs in an improvised setup and the Antonio Borghini Malebranche (with Antonio Borghini bass, Luca Venitucci accordion, Francesco Bigoni reeds, Fabrizio Puglisi piano, Pasquale Mirra vibraphone, Cristiano Calcagnile drums), that released the CDSix Dances Under in 2009, and the iato orchestra of the roman iato collective. Other cooperations include Alberto Braida, Roberto Bellatalla, Edoardo Marraffa, Sabina Meyer, Antonio Iaselvoli and Michele Rabbia.

In 2007 Michael joined the Uli Gumpert Workshop Band (CD: Suites). The band played concerts at Goethe Institut Rome, Philharmonie Berlin, Deutsches Historisches Museum Berlin, jazzwerkstatt festival New York, and others.

In 2009 the group The Pitch was founded, with Koen Nutters (bass), Morten J. Olsen (vibraphone) and Boris Baltschun (reed organ). They have created a very personal musical language and a body of work ranging from quartet music to extended, large scale ensemble pieces involving guest musicians and further conceptual elements. Improvisation is an important element in their music, which is used as a generative device within specific shapes, structures and ideas for different pieces of music.Their piece ‘Frozen Orchestra’ focuses on slowly changing textures, pitch-set constellations and the subtle blending of instruments. Previous versions of ‘Frozen Orchestra’ have included Lucio Capece (bass clarinet), Chris Heenan (contrabass clarinet), Biliana Voutchkova (violin), Johnny Chang (viola), Okkyung Lee (cello), Nils Ostendorf (trumpet), Robin Hayward (tuba) and Valerio Tricoli (revox tape delay). As a Quartet they are currently engaged in what they call ‘Liquid Music’ which focusses on Pattern based structures and more rhythmic interplay in an environment of prescribed pitch combinations and specific kinds of interaction. The band toured Switzerland, Belgium, France and Holland in autumn 2009 and again in 2012. The concert in Brussels was released as an LP on gaffer records, entitled Transposition Zero. The Pitch Frozen Orchestra played several festivals, for example at GAS Festival Gothenburg and Sonic Acts Festival Amsterdam and at Platform Project Moscow.

In 2009 Michael participated in the first concert of the Splitter Orchester, curated by Clare Cooper, Clayton Thomas and Gregor Hotz, at the Asien Pazifik Wochen in Berlin. In 2010 the orchestra rehearsed regularly once a month at Wabe/Berlin, in november 2010, after a full week of rehearsals the orchestra, in a version consisting of 24 players (featuring Werner Dafeldecker, Burkhard Beins, Axel Doerner, Anthea Caddy, Ignaz Schick, Robin Hayward, Morten Olsen, Mario de Vega, Penelopex, Biliana Voutchkova and others), presented a concert at Radialsystem Berlin with improvised and structured material. In 2011 the orchetsra reherased monthly, and presented a concert at Wabe with the full orchestra. In 2012 the orchestra was invited to play a composition by Matthias Spahlinger and own material at the Darmstädter Ferienkurse für Neue Musik.

Also in 2009 a new trio called Der lange Schatten was founded with Antonio Borghini on bass and Havard Wiik on piano. The band is working on material for a first release, that has been be recorded in 2012 at bau4 in Switzerland. The same year the trio did a radio live recording for the SWR radio, and concerts in Norway, Germany and Switzerland.

Also in 2009 Michael Thieke started a new project dedicated to the film Cowards Bend The Knee by Guy Maddin. The idea of the project is either to do screenings of the film with live music, with different group setups in different cities; or to create the music without the film but with the intention to use it for this project, researching Evan Lurie’s saying: “The truth of film composing is that every piece of music works with every piece of film. But—and this is a big but—every piece of music changes every piece of film.” The ten episodes of the film have exactly the same lenght of six minutes and nine seconds. The music of the live screenings is fully improvised. The only limit for the music is to respect the structure of ten episodes of the film, in order to create ten songs or compositions, each of 6’09” length. All screenings/concerts will be recorded to set up an archive of possible soundtracks for the film. This collection should enable the spectator to create his own personal version of the film music, either by choice or randomly. Screenings have involved up to now Mike Cooper, Luca Venitucci, Magda Mayas, Christine Sehnaoui, Burkhard Beins, Hans Koch, Paed Conca, Hans Falb, Tony Buck, Martin Brandlmayr, Martin Siewert and Christof Kurzmann.

In 2012 Michael founded a new duo with violin player Biliana Voutchkova. They work on improvisations focussing on microtonality and intimate, slow moving soundscapes, that sometimes have a rudimentary melodic character. The duo played concerts at Reheat Festival (A), as well as in Germany and Italy and recorded at ausland in Berlin and is currently working on preparing these for a release.

Other projects including in the last ten years include Rupp/Thieke/Jennessen (with Olaf Rupp, Uli Jennessen), Eric Schaefer’s Demontage (with Michael Anderson, Daniel Erdmann, Eric Schaefer, Johannes Fink, CD: Demontage, and Cut + Paste Poetry), Gebhard Ullmann’s TaLam, Borghini/Calcagnile/Thieke (with (Antonio Borghini b, Cristiano Calcagnile dr). Apart from these working bands he participated in numerous setups of improvised music, and collaborated with choreographer Toula Limnaios, played a radio presentation at RAI/Italy with singer/songwriter Vinicio Capossela, cooperated with composers Jamilia Jazylbekova, played fire estinguisher in a Sven Ake Johansson piece at Akademie der Künste Berlin and performed pieces of composers such as Antoine Beuger, Matthias Spahlinger, Christian Kesten and Michael Pisaro. He made radio recordings for Radio France (F), BBC (UK), RAI (I), WNUR (USA), Blue Lake Radio (USA), Radio Liban (RL), and the german radio stations RBB, SWR, BR, DeutschlandRadio and WDR. Michael’s work has been supported by foundations such as Goethe Institut, Berliner Senat, Bundeskulturstiftung, Hauptstadt Kulturfonds, Stiftung Musik, Pro Helvetia, SKE Stiftung and others.

In the course of the years Michael held workshops and lectures in the universtities of Ann Arbor (USA), Bucknell College (USA), at the State Conservatory Minsk (Belarus), the Darmstädter Ferienkurse für Neue Musik (D) and was Visting Artist at The School of the Arts Institute of Chicago (USA).

See also
Klingt.org: 10 Jahre Bessere Farben (mikroton cd 5 | 6)
Echtzeitmusik Berlin (mikroton cd 14 | 15 | 16)
Nachtlieder (mikroton cd 31)