November 21, 2017
Insider Interview with Studio Dan
Dan Riegler
Dan Riegler

On Friday, December 1 at 7:30 the contemporary music ensemble Studio Dan makes their U.S. debut at the Austrian Cultural Forum New York. We spoke the group's founder Dan Riegler about this upcoming concert.

Question: How and why did you create Studio Dan? Is there a core group of performing artists, or does the group change depending on the project? Are the members of the ensemble composers as well as instrumentalists?

Answer: Studio Dan was created when five of my friends and I came together and founded the JazzWerkstatt Wien festival. That was in 2005, and since then the JazzWerkstatt has become one of Vienna´s most active young jazz initiatives of the past few years.

Some of the founding members of Studio Dan are still with the group. We started with a line-up of 16 to 20 people, but have since downsized the group to about 10 core members and some associates we work with regularly. Many of the members are composers as well and all of them are versatile improvisers, so we can cover a wide spectrum of the contemporary musical praxis.


Q: I’ve read that you explore the borders between various contemporary genres - from jazz to contemporary classical. What does that mean? What does a typical Studio Dan concert sound like?

A: As stated above, we started as a jazz oriented collective, but there were always people from other areas of Vienna´s diverse musical scene. Our sound is influenced by new music specialists, classical orchestra players, improvisers or people coming from different pop scenes. There might not be such a thing as a typical Studio Dan concert. The most typical thing about our group is that you always get something different. Our programs are widespread, and we play anything from the music of Elliott Sharp, George Lewis and Friedrich Cerha to music by Frank Zappa, Julius Eastman or Vinko Globokar. I mentioned the most well-known composers to exemplify this statement, but it is essential that we are working with many young composers from all over the place, both geographically and aesthetically. We also have played music by great young composers like Caitlin Smith, Mirela Ivičević, Oxana Omelchuck, Johannes Kreidler, or Christian F. Schiller, whose world premiere we will play at the ACFNY.


Q: How did you discover Christian Schiller (and his music)? What excites you about his music that you chose to play his piece?

A: Christian was one of the first composers I worked with when we were both students in Graz. He was studying with Georg Friedrich Haas at that time, and I was a jazz student, more interested in contemporary music. My first band was a strange collective of two trombones, bass clarinet, bass and drums, and I asked him to write for that group. Together with Peter Jakober, another great Austrian composer who was also a student at the time and was commissioned by our group, they decided to split the band into winds and a rhythm section. Peter wrote for two trombones and bass clarinet, Christian for the rhythm section. We needed to rehearse separately, because the two composers wanted us to play the pieces simultaneously at the premiere for the first time. It worked out great!

This is a typical Christian Schiller experience. He always works in a way that you would not think of and that surprises me. He is a highly original thinker and composer and I think he only wants to get something out, when he really thinks it is worth it. That is why he really is an insider tip. I think he should be featured much more.


Q: What should audiences listen for in this piece for two harmonicas and ensemble by Christian Schiller?

A: That is very easy! The piece will take you and carry you away, there will be no questions. It is about sound and experience in time. Just bring open ears and an open mind, and you will be rewarded.


Q: Tell me about the sound installation HOMO FABER and your collaboration with the visual artists Krüger & Pardeller. How did you conceive of this music? What do you hope audiences will get out of hearing this music in concert version, opposed to seeing the installation in the original space?

A: HOMO FABER was initiated by Doris Krüger and Walter Pardeller. They were commissioned by the 21er Haus (one of Vienna´s most important contemporary art spaces) to develop an exhibition with material of Fritz Wotruba and their own work. Wotruba was one of the most influential sculptors of post-war Austria. Using unheard recordings of Wotruba´s lectures and spoken manifestos, they have assembled a so called "spacial audio play". Additionally to their own spoken comments on their work as artists and their approaches, they wanted music to be the third part of the setting. It was then that I came in and composed the music for their installation as well as the music for 5 live-performances within the exhibition over a period of 6 months. Both works are going to be presented at the ACFNY on our December 1st show. Of course the original objects and exhibition displays cannot be part of the show, but instead they will be presented in a photo show.


Q: This is your US debut. How do you expect American audiences to react differently from those in Europe?

A: Our debut, yes indeed! We are very excited about that fact and funny: we might already have bookings in Philadelphia for June 2018. As for the audience: we will see. I think New York's New Music scene is very exciting and I hope we can bring something that is new to some extent. We are always interested in not repeating things that are common within the scene anyway. But of course, we always also play better known music in order to give the audience a clue where we might start and roughly what they can expect.

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