Nils Frahm, born in 1982, had an early introduction to music. During his childhood he was taught to play piano by Nahum Brodski – a student of the last scholar of Tschaikowski. It was through this that Nils began to immerse himself in the styles of the classical pianists before him as well as contemporary composers. Today Nils Frahm works as an accomplished composer and producer in Berlin. In early 2008 he founded Durton Studio, where he has worked with Peter Broderick and Dustin O' Halloran amongst other fellow musicians. As the curator of the Swedish boutique label Kning Disk's Piano Series, Peter Broderick invited Nils to record a new album of piano improvisations – the result is 'The Bells', which will now be released on the London-based label Erased Tapes worldwide. Perhaps the most stunning aspect of what on the surface appears to be an entirely pre-planned and composed body of work comes with the discovery that these pieces were in fact improvised. These two friends share a common affinity in that they both possess an absolute mastery of melody, composition and performance – able to deliver with devastating effect.
The modest Mr. Broderick states 'I remember thinking to myself as I lay there stunned, that I could spend ten years trying to write an amazing piece of piano music, and still it would never be half as good as these improvisations!' Recorded in a rented, beautiful old church in the heart of Berlin over two nights, Nils 'just played' with the occasional instruction from Peter 'I spouted "Make a song using only the notes C, E, and G", or "Make a song that you could imagine me rapping over the top of" (Track 8 – 'My Things'). At one point I was even inside the piano, laying on the strings, asking him to make a song called 'Peter Is Dead In The Piano'. The resultant work 'The Bells' shares the same excitement and air of playfulness.
"I first met Nils after playing a concert in Berlin in early September, 2008. We had exchanged a few emails prior, in which we had agreed to swap some records in the mail. He came up to me after the show with a beaten brown package, which he had tried to post to me two times, but both times it was returned to him because I was out on tour when the postman tried to deliver it. At any rate, that night he handed me the package containing his first lp Streichelfisch and four cd-r’s of unreleased material.
Later when I was getting in bed at the hotel, I pulled out my discman and popped in a disc of his that was labeled »Tonalagia: Piano Improvisations«. I laid back and pressed play, thinking I would fall asleep to the sound of some nice piano music. But the sound I heard was more than just nice. It was absolutely breathtaking, and it kept me awake staring at the ceiling until the cd was finished. Then I pressed play again. I had to hear it again. I think I managed to drift off at some point in the middle of the second listen, but I remember thinking to myself as I lay there stunned, that I could spend ten years trying to write an amazing piece of piano music, and still it would never be half as good as these improvisations! The next day I wrote to Nils and told him that very thought, and proposed the idea of him contributing to the solo piano series on Kning Disk.
A couple months later, in mid November, I flew to Berlin to meet up with Nils and to witness the recordings of what was to become The Bells. We rented a beautiful old church in the heart of Berlin for two nights, with a wonderful old grand piano and the most amazing natural reverb I’ve ever heard. We set up (actually Nils did most of the work while I ran around the church trying out the huge pipe organ and harpsichord) two microphones on the piano, and three more out in the room to capture the sound of the church. And then Nils just played. I laid down on a pew in the middle of the big room and listened to his playing in the same position I had heard it for the first time, on my back, staring at the ceiling.
Occasionally I arose and asked Nils to amuse my ears by making him improvise with different rules I spouted out off the top of my head, such as »Make a song using only the notes c, e, and g« (this one will be available as a bonus download track), or »Make a song that you could imagine me rapping over the top of« (track no. 8 – »My Things«). At one point I was even inside the piano, laying on the strings, asking him to make a song called »Peter is dead in the piano«. Those two amazing nights in the church left us with five and a half hours of recorded material, and together Nils and I have compiled what we think are the best pieces into this 40 minute collection. The role I played in putting this album together was a very small one, and yet somehow I feel more proud of this music than anything I have ever created on my own. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I have."
February 9, 2009 .