Home Masthead Gunter Hampel at 80: Still Ahead of Time

Gunter Hampel at 80: Still Ahead of Time


JdG: What about when you are making a record? Do you write with a concept of the record in mind?

GH: There is not ONE way, there are another thousand ways sometimes , or mostly i go these days in a studio and pick out tunes we have been playing for years, or a month or I bring in a tune. I remember a big band recording and i was writing a new tune in a car when we were driving to the concert or recording. it is never a routine, it is like a woman birthing a new born. Each of my tunes is like having a boy or girl born or a new tune, song, structure for a tune or instructions, mostly there is a vision and I can hear a tune like in a dream, before i write it down, there is no recipe, life is not a pre-set programme, life comes around a corner and BANG! It hits you, it is all over sudden THERE it is, present…!

JdG: Do you write alone? Or is there is a special someone (living or dead) with whom you collaborate when you write/sketch musical ideas for yourself and others to play?

GH: As a matter of fact, writing, we mean composing is individual. Sometimes i am forced to write some new music but mostly I am prepared and write actually ALL the time, regardless if i record it or not. first comes writing and then playing, or first comes playing a concert and improvising and that what a composition should be for, combining the group to a unit and then do the rest ad hoc, there is not one way, there are always hundred and thousand ways, regarding the tempo and the length. Sometimes we start a concert improvising before we play a tune, thus bringing our true feelings to the stage of now and not pre-set arrangements. There are no rules to life or composing or playing a concert other than what YOU and each one for the group feels. A tune can just be a conversation, or a conversation can be a collective. I have lots of birds around my house, they hear me playing the piano, the flute, the bass clarinet, the vibraphone, they sit in the trees and take up my pace and are challenging me, or I hear the birds and play some of their whistling, the other day came a little bird to me, i had been watching building a nest underneath the roof. He was not singing like other birds, he was only saying : zip-zip-zip-zip-zip, 5 zips and then he was waiting for my answer so I did with my mouth , not with an instrument, saying -zip-zip-zip-zip-zip and he looked at me and I saw him watching me and after a few days, believe it or not, I was tying after working all day in the evening sun, he came close, sitting 30 centimetres on a piece of wood, tuned his face around, came close, and looked me in my eyes and started to talk zip-zip-zip.zip.zip.

He blew up his cheeks and kept on talking to me, and was looking straight into my eyes, his hairs raised up, he was talking and talking was saying zip, zip… He understood what he was saying so I spoke human words to him and thanked him to communicate with me, my heart still sings form the communication and attention. I have been talking to the birds all my life, now I am almost 80 (the interview was conducted on the 27th of August, my bird warmed my heart. The other day he came to my open garage where I have stored some of my belongings; just stood there and watched me, no talking, but he communicated without talking, we looked at each other in silence, what communication… because the silence is as an important tool as sounds or language or collective and is based on feelings, communicate with your feelings, notes or an instrument are just tools for communicating within a group of 2 to 20. That bird knew it. Staring at each other, first talking, and then just looking at each other and be silent and feeling the essence in silence. That is how I communicate within my band. Not with rules or pre-occupied set ups. The silence, even the bird knew it, is part of showing the love for each other, giving each other space to (just) BE!

Raul da Gama is a poet and essayist. He has published three collections of poetry, He studied at Trinity College of Music, London specialising in theory and piano, and he has a Masters in The Classics. He is an accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep technical and historical understanding of music and literature.


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