Hindustan Times New Delhi (February 1985)

Percussion with vigour and imagination

by Saloni Kaul

Creative German pianist of a strength and caliber, Klaus Runze`s Metaphrasis, an aural and visual performing act with piano, tape and percussive painting as he called it, won the attention of a handful of specialists and intrigued others as his multi-media composition evolved as a dialogue with himself, between the fixed and variable in music, between the created and the process. There was no tonal centre, he abandoned all orthodox ideas of harmony, melody, rhythm, determining principles of structure, yet it was far from random. Employing techniques as a textual principle, the chromatic output louded with its emotional intensity. His art was a process not a fixed creation, expressing and controlling several aspects of human sensation within the performance situation.

Multimedia composition has been in vogue for long, from Scriabin`s Prometheus, poem of Fire where he called for projection of colored lights pairing them with specific chords, or the architecture-music union achieved by Xenakis, experiments of Varese, Cage, Tudor, using materials, paintings, projections, even reading lectures from step-ladders – Runze`s sounds to be enjoyed for their own sake were accompanied by a certain visual activity (including a man filming the show) creating textures and timbres. Later, his percussive painting was accompanied by the music he had just created, interweaving several stimuli perspectives. Quite an event at the Dheli School of Music sponsored by the Max Mueller Bhavan, who at last seems to be back on the music road in a big way.

Runze`s open form with its balance between control and the lack of it, took off to plan. A working chart showed us the overall pattern clearly. He opened with a percussive improvisatory dynamic search for a scale, exploring the entire range of the keyboard. He then played against a tape of wood percussion with vigour and imagination creating keen counter point. He went on to draw upon Cage`s controlled chance, theories aiming to free sounds from the composers control, playing upon the insides of the piano in dialogue with the opening improvisation. This fascinating interplay had a great energy and resonance as in the Sordino Supremo section where prepared piano strings weighed down shadowed and illuminated the wood-percussion-plus-piano-play mixing, creating a web of textual contrasts and timbral shadings. The grand finale was his wild percussive painting to his music as he attacked, struck, beat and scraped his canvas with colors. Needless to say, you` be wasting your time if you attempted to seek a direction or musical rationale behind all this.