Listen/Watch: Piano/Electronics Improv from German Castle

Electronic music producer/performer Rodi Kirk and pianist Aron Ottignon record in the Schloss Reichenow castle in Germany.
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You can put as much love and attention into your recording space as you want, but it’s never going to be as cool a neo-Gothic castle with a moat. Sure, there’s nothing particular about a castle that you’d want to emulate in your space, but if you had access to one, wouldn’t you want to record music there?

***Photos and video credit: Maya Röttger***

That’s exactly what electronic music producer/performer Rodi Kirk and pianist Aron Ottignon did recently in the Schloss Reichenow castle in Germany near the Polish border. They took a respite to the castle to capture an improvised electro-acoustic performance for the first installment of their “Spaces” series. Future Spaces editions may take place in an unfinished Berlin airport or a cabin in the woods.

Photo credit: Maya Röttger

Rodi Kirk also teaches “technomusicology” at the dB’s Music Berlin audio school, where he has access to the Antelope Audio Zen Studio audio interface with 12 commercial-grade mic preamps and near-zero latency. So they took it along and set up all 12 mikes along with a grand piano, effects, melodica, MIDI controllers such as the Novation Launchpad Pro, Ableton Live, and other synthesis and processing goodies.

“The idea of our ‘Spaces’ series is visiting unique locations… and experimenting and improvising,” Rodi said. “I’m reacting to what Aron is playing on the piano by sampling on the fly and using granular synthesis; he’s reacting back to what I’m doing; and we’re both interacting with the acoustics of the space itself.”

The Zen Studio interface had a great reputation at dB’s Music Berlin for its pristine AD/DA conversion, and its portable 1U rackmount size made it just right for the job. They also routed some of its outputs back into the mixer for live mixing and processing.

Photo credit: Maya Röttger

“We tried to employ creative microphone placement to capture the space in an interesting way,” Rodi said, “so having 12 quality preamps with a transparent character across all the input channels was perfect. The architecture and acoustics of the environment become like a third participant in our process.”

The resulting music proves to be very dynamic. It moves through many stages of intensity, mood and texture. All the while it very much fits the pleasant ambient/experimental mold, where you can put it on as productive background music for working and every so often direct your attention back at the video to see what the musicians are up to.

There’s more than an hour’s worth of material on YouTube split across four videos. The full Spaces 1: Castle album is also available on Bandcamp for 4 Euros.

Here’s the “official” video first, which shows you what’s happening, followed by three more, which contain just music. We’ll keep an eye on this Spaces series to see and hear what develops next.

***Photos and video credit: Maya Röttger***

Aron Ottignon, Rodi Kirk - SP 1.2 (Official Video) - Spaces 1: Castle

Aron Ottignon, Rodi Kirk - SP 1.1 - Spaces 1: Castle

Aron Ottignon, Rodi Kirk - SP 1.3 - Spaces 1: Castle

Aron Ottignon, Rodi Kirk - SP 1.4 - Spaces 1: Castle