Nils Frahm knows his way around a grand piano. And a space echo. And a Moog. The Berlin-based pianist bridges the worlds of electronic and contemporary classical music, performing solo symphonies from a command center of keyboards and effects.
Austin Chronicle: Describe your musical background.
Nils Frahm: My background is not so much classical. I think of myself more as a jazz musician, but my voicings and harmonic developments resemble a classical tone, because I leave out all the weird notes that jazz is famous for.
AC: How did you get into electronic music?
NF: My brother played me trance music for the first time when I was 10. My father didn’t like it. He said I couldn’t listen to it because my brother blew out his speakers. I liked it even more then, because it was forbidden. Then when I was 14, I started sneaking into parties. That music became a three-dimensional way of life.
AC: What’s the inspiration for your live setup?
NF: When I was young, I saw the Portishead live concert DVD and they had an orchestra and organs and space echoes, and the drummer was playing jazz style. That was the most shocking thing for a 14-year-old looking for something else and thinking it’s not there. It was there, and even better than I thought.
AC: Why do you think there’s such a crossover between electronic and classical music?
NF: People who’ve listened to electronic music for some time are ready for more of an organic feel and emotionality, as opposed to just an acid-trippy thing like it was 20 years ago. I always loved the fusion of electronic music and jazz, or the spirit of dub, so I think there’s still a lot of possibilities for machine-made music to be emotionalized.– Dan Gentile