DEEP INSIDE Magda Mayas (Interview)


This week a DEEP INSIDE and extensive interview with Magda Mayas, the young Berlin based composer and piano player who’s revealed herself as one of the most engaging and interesting figures in the new experimental music scene.


Forging links and collaborating with many other maverick artists such as like cellist Anthea Caddy and guitarist Annette Krebs, australian drummer “maestro” Tony Buck (Spill Duo), clarinetist Laura Altman and accordionist Monica Brooks (Great Waitress Trio), and french-lebanese sax player Christine Abdelnour Sehnaoui, Magda Mayas pursues her exploration and investigation “inside” and “outside” the piano alongside the recent discovery of the clavinet-pianet suggestive timbres combined with manipulated noises, objects and electroacoustic devices. Furthermore she has performed and toured worldwide with a bunch of impressive improvisers and composers, namely Peter Evans, John Butcher, Jim Denley, Phill Niblock, Andrea Neumann, Axel Dòrner, Phil Durrant, Thomas Lehn and Tristan Honsinger.


Among her latest projects and releases you can’t miss to check and listen to the couple of albums “Fluoresce” (Monotype Records, 2012), and “Stockholm Syndrome” (Al Maslakh, 2012), both credited to Spill duo with Tony Buck, the crackling and chanting “Thread” (Another Timbre, 2012), wherein she joined forces with Annette Krebs and Anthea Caddy, the chamber impro-noise soundscapes of “Lucid” (SplitRec, 2011) by Great Waitress Trio and the amazing “Myriad” (Unsounds, 2012), a multiple live recording performance along with saxophonist Christine Abdelnour. Magda Mayas’ extended tecniques and peculiar approach to piano give as a result an hyper-dynamic palette and a wide range of sounds, oscillating from gentle introspection and unusual intensity to traslucent noise and deconstructive notes plenty of textural richness. Avoiding any sort of predictability, Magda Mayas has succeeded in creating a very intriguing music language packaged with extreme sensitiveness, sense of challenge and brave imagination.


DEEP INSIDE: “the same questions for different views on music and the inner side of own life”


How did you start playing music and what were your masters in the beginning?

I started playing music when I was six. My first instrument was the violin, but I changed to piano a few years later. As my parents are both musicians, classical string players, and my brother and sister played instruments too, I was kind of surrounded by it, so it came naturally.


According to your view, what’s the main feature of your music?

I guess / hope its colourful and richness.


What memories have you got when thinking about your first album or project as a leader?

The first album, or group that I worked with intensely in improvised music was a quartet with Morten Olsen,dr, Koen Nutters, bass, and Carlos Galvez, bcl. I learned a lot in this group, my vocabulary extended and I learned to react fast and developed techniques that are very useful for me today.


What are the highlights of your career so far?

I can’t really answer that, there are a lot of concerts, moments, people I met, that are very important to me, and I can’t really compare them.


Who did you most enjoy collaborating or playing with?

I think it’s people and projects that I work with intensely now and since a long time, like Tony Buck, Christine Abdelnour , and the band “Great Waitress”. But also a concert I played with Jim Denley, and just last week with Laura Altman and Phil Durrant will stay in my memory for a long time.


How do you pick and choose your collaborators and partners? How do you decide the instruments or the kind of musician you need?

I don’t really pick musicians or instruments, it’s more about the individual people. And it mostly happens organically, without making a conscious decision, it just works or doesn’t.


Improvisation, composition, experimentation and tradition. How do they go together in your music and which of them do you seem to prefer?

I do mostly improvise, but I think all those four elements go together and are not separable. Of course I make conscious decisions about the structure of the piece, while I play or sometimes before, and although I love taking risks, nobody is free of tradition, or let’s say experiences that you made before you play.


In your own view, what is special or different in your latest albums “Fluoresce” (by Spill duo with remarkable drummer/percussionist Tony Buck) and “Myriad” (duo project with Christine Abdelnour Sehnaoui) compared to the previous projects and recordings?

The duo with Spill, Tony Buck, was formed in 2003. So we have been working together for a long time. The album “Fluoresce”, is a studio project, with overdubs and a couple of recordings featuring different instruments, like clavinet, organ, harmonium, tabla, made with a certain piece or structure in mind, that we composed and overdubbed afterwards. So it is different to the other two albums we made, which are basically recordings of live concerts. I also think it goes into different areas, musically maybe a broader spectrum of what we like to do, noise and grooves or a pulse and a wider sound pallet.

The duo album with Christine is our second album, and I think it shows very well how we work together, in a live context, how our sounds and musical ideas overlap.


Have you got any remaining musical aspiration or goal that could fulfill yourself as an artist?

Of course. I want my musical experiences and vocabulary to expand and widen and go into different areas, maybe even different art forms/ interdisciplinary art collaborations and experiences.


What is special these days in your life?



What do you usually like doing when you don’t play (family, food, books, friends, cinema, sports, hobbies, travels, whatever)?

I love food , and I love cooking. And cats.


What kind of message do you wish to deliver or communicate by your music?

I think in performances, concerts, it’s always about creating something together with the audience in a particular space and room and moment of our lives. It’s not only me or the group producing the music, it’s everything and everyone around us to a certain extent. That might sound very esoteric or abstract, but I do often experience it like that, as a process of giving and sharing and creating.


What does you mostly scare when you’re playing?

I can’t say that I am ever scared when I’m playing, sometimes nervous, and often excited. I guess not playing or performing as well as I could, which happens of course, scares me a bit.


What was the the worst place wherein you played and performed live and why?

I don’t really remember a specific place, more the atmosphere, when the music is misplaced, not strong enough, or the audience doesn’t care, that feels terrible.


What was the best place wherein you played and performed live and why?

Again, not a particular place that I remember. Maybe the first time I went to and played in Beirut, seven years ago was a very emotional experience for me, and the concert and audience made it into a beautiful experience.


What’s your most relevant defect as a musician?

Maybe others can judge that better than me… always being open-minded to a situation and having less preconceived ideas of music and musicians is something I want to work on.


What was the worst thing or experience happened to you during your career?

Luckily, I have only experienced it twice so far that musicians or colleagues were misogynistic, sexist or patronising to me. That was very disturbing.


And what was the best or the nicest one, instead?

Many beautiful playing experiences, and incredibly welcoming and generous people and hosts. It happens quite often, in our scene fortunately.


What kind of music or artists do you mostly like listening to?

It’s too many to mention, I go through phases where I listen a lot to for example blues music, North African music, noise music, The Swans, Scott Walker , Derek Bailey, Prince …


What are, in your opinion, the most interesting or innovative musicians playing around at the moment?

Wow… I don’t know, there are so many around …


Influences, models, inspirations. Who did help you to find your own voice, style and direction?

That’s hard to tell, I don’t think there were specific musicians whose influence I can trace, theres many of them. I think in general it’s not so much about somebody’s music influencing you though, that as well, but for me it was people that encouraged me and supported me to find my own way. Family, teachers, and musicians I play with.


What was the turning point in your career?

what turning point? 😉


Where do you see yourself going next? What are your upcoming projects and future plans?

I have a lot of travelling planned for next year, also going to Asia for the first time. I’m very curious about my experiences there. And I also want to widen my skills on the instruments I engage with besides the piano, the clavinet, organ etc and maybe engage and experiment with different kinds of amplification for the piano.



Magda Mayas: