Alpha Forum with Hubert von Goisern

Bayerischer Rundfunk 18th November 2010 | Text & Photo: © Bayerischer Rundfunk
Hubert von Goisern

Jürgen Seeger: Welcome to today's alpha-Forum and welcome to Hubert von Goisern, my studio guest.

Hubert von Goisern: Hello.

Seeger: Hubert von Goisern, there is no need to introduce you to a large audience, but there are still perhaps some people who don't know you so well. You are one of the most noteworthy Austrian musicians of our time and the representative of so-called new folk music and alpine rock, genres in which traditional folk music, rock music, jazz reggae, soul etc meld together. However what is especially evident with you is that you search for connections, that you look for the foreign, that you have travelled a great deal. A new book by you about your travels in the Danube countries has recently been published: down the Danube to the Black Sea and up the Danube and along the Rhine to Rotterdam. Other journeys have led you to South Africa, Canada, the Philippines, Tanzania, Tibet, Egypt, Cape Verde, Senegal, Burkina Faso and Mali. But in fact everything began in the brass band of your home town: it began with music, with the knowledge of tradition and connection to homeland. So how did things begin with music? You started with the trumpet.

HvG: Yes, that was my first instrument. I've wanted to be a musician for as long as I can remember, but my parents couldn't finance it. They couldn't buy me an instrument or pay for a teacher for me. So it was left entirely to me. When I was 12 I made an effort and went to the brass band alone and said: "I'd like to learn the trumpet!" I am eternally grateful that they gave me a trumpet that didn't cost me anything and I was assigned a teacher. I had the great good fortune of having a highly musical teacher who also had the necessary gentleness. That is, he never put pressure on me when I didn't practise. And I was very, very lazy: I actually barely ever practised and only ever wanted to just play. So all these etudes and so on that I was meant to study really suffered. But not once did he say: "Now make an effort, you could do better!" No, he was always happy with what I did. He sat at the piano and accompanied me. These lessons were only ever music for me, only ever playing music and a wonderful experience. At that age it was actually the only thing about which I had no worries: going to trumpet lessons. School was otherwise unbelievably stressful for me.

Seeger: Was it compensation for school?

HvG: It was a pure joy. I don't know if it was compensation. I otherwise spent a lot of time in nature and music was in compliance with my dreaming self too, while school is not for dreamers.

Seeger: Many instruments followed the trumpet, including the accordion.

HvG: Yes, but that only came very, very late. And it was a "ziehharmonika" rather than an ordinary accordion. The accordion is this instrument with black and white keys like a piano, while a ziehharmonika has buttons and, at least in the case of the one on which I learned, is diatonic. That is, different sounds come from it when you press it together compared to when you pull. It's a bit like a harmonica strapped to an instrument with bellows. But I rejected this instrument until I was 35 or 37. Even then I only picked up this instrument because I wanted to break it.

Seeger: Why?

HvG: I hated it! For me it was the epitome of what was dusty and stuck in the mud, an instrument from which only the same music ever comes. But I wanted something different: I've always looked for new sounds, I wanted to hear and do something new. It seemed to me to be impossible with this instrument. Completely intoxicated - I had drunk a lot of schnapps - I wanted to break it. I was alone in the house and I thought: "I'll get hold of it and rip this bloody thing apart. But then in trying to rip it the wildest sounds came out of this instrument and I thought: "Well why has nobody ever played like this on this instrument?" You can really play music on it!" Then I really dragged it into this one drunken night and the next morning stood on the street with it and play street music. I was overjoyed to have discovered something where I immediately noticed that many people felt the same as me: they see this instrument, hear this sound and the shutters come down because they don't want to hear it. Why? Because we grew up in a time when completely different music came from the radio. And then there are all these funny folk musical trappings with this instrument! So it was a taboo to even engage with this instrument - except if you were right in this ghetto of tradition. But when you were outside this ghetto it was taboo to engage. But when you did, those in the ghetto scolded you for seizing "their" tradition. And those who were outside the ghetto said: "If you're going to do that, get into the ghetto, for you don't belong among us any more! We don't want anything to do with it!" But of course it is great fortune for an artist if he can break a taboo, a taboo where people part ways. And so I stayed with this instrument and thought to myself: "I'll show them that folk music can be more than funny swaying to and fro to the music and always talking about how wonderful things used to be."

Seeger: That was some kind of ecstatic experience that led to a sudden complete change in attitude towards this instrument. It was really a discovery for you from one moment to the next. Discoveries seem to reside in you, for example when ones looks at all of your travels: you really let yourself in for a great deal. You travel to distant lands and get involved with the local cultures and musicians, with whom you go on stage to improvise, willing to take risks. When did you discover this desire for the foreign and for the experience what is foreign? Were you still in Goisern?

HvG: Yes, it began in Goisern. I started for example when I bought a record and blues music came out of the speakers. They were records by Alexis Korner, Howlin' Wolf and Taj Mahal, music from the late 60s and the beginning of the 70s. These were something exotic for me.

Seeger: So it was a kind of music that brought with another foreign culture.

HvG: Yes. Or think of the music of Ravi Shankar, where it is quite extreme: it's Indian music, ragas and so on where you realise that it has nothing more to do with our music. What happens with this music is so modal and not as harmonised as we know our music to be with its cadences. And then I discovered Miles Davis. I was completely finished because I thought: "That's it!" Even though I didn't understand what he'd done at all, or what had happened in this music. But it electrified me and I wanted to suss it out. I can still remember well that I listened to this live double album by Miles Davis for two years and for two years I didn't understand what it was about. It just electrified me, but I couldn't work it out. But then one day it clicked and I knew how you had to play in order to get exactly this feeling. But then of course I couldn't find such people at home and so I set off into the world.

Seeger: How did you come to leaving for South Africa for example? Your first big journey was in 1972 wasn't it?

HvG: It was 1974. I just wanted to leave, I didn't care where I went. I just wanted to get out and away and see other countries and another continent, hear another language too and become acquainted with other mentalities. Because I knew as much that what I knew from home couldn't quite be right. In Goisern things were very Catholic: not necessarily in a religious sense, but with regard to everyday life. Despite the Protestant superiority there, people were more papal than the pope: "The way we do it is right and everything else is wrong!" While you're young you feel that this can't be right. And you can only verify this by getting out. So it didn't matter to me where I went: it was easier to emigrate to South Africa than anywhere else. That's why I ended up in South Africa.

Seeger: How long did you live there?

HvG: Four years. I was crazy after three and a half years, I couldn't take it any more because I couldn't see any prospect. It was also the time of apartheid, where blacks and whites were extremely divided. I really tangled with everyone in the company where I worked, because I organised sports events that brought blacks and whites together. It was a really big company with about 200 employees. The fact that I did this really went down badly with a lot of people in this company, which in turn really made me angry. At some point it was then simply so unpleasant that I thought: "Either I must now join one side or the other, or I'll really become someone who makes bombs and blows something up." Neither one nor the other was a prospect for me and so I returned.

Seeger: What job did you do back then?

HvG: I trained as a chemistry laboratory technician, because my parents, my father in particular, did not tolerate me wanting to earn my money as a musician. And I was a well-adapted kid, even in puberty. In spite of every revolt and fight that I had with my surroundings it was still important to me that I lived in harmony with the people who were close to me. When I realised that it was no longer possible, I left.

Seeger: What did you experience musically in South Africa? I can imagine that there were influences that found a way into the music that you later played.

HvG: It wasn't really the case, as apart from the time before I was 12, it was the only time in my life that I didn't give two figs for music. Like my parents, my wife at the time saw music as a threat to the relationship. She didn't want me to perform music and so I left it for her sake. It was three and a half years in which I didn't play music. Of course I listened to music, but South Africa was not an open country back then: you couldn't go to a pub and fall into the music of another continent or another country. Where I was allowed to go western music was to be heard - like here, at the most with somewhat different taste. I found it all very uninteresting. You weren't allowed to go where it would have been interesting, because it was too dangerous, or forbidden.

Seeger: When did you begin to make musical journeys of discovery? To which countries did you go?

HvG: I didn't search so consciously, i didn't say to myself: "So, now I'll go here and there to listen to how people play music." When I went somewhere else for me it was about this attitude to life that was to be found in another country and not so much about the music that was played right there. Because I think that music is basically an expression of an attitude to life, much more an expression of a tradition that has developed somewhere. The whole thing is naturally very closely interwoven, but I simply travelled to look around and also to learn English properly. I went to Canada: I was very close to Chicago there and thereby what was happening with blues. But the city of Toronto, in which I lived for two and a half years, was, as great as I found it, not really a city of culture; it wasn't a city that made me think: "Things are really happening for me here! I can really get involved." I mainly spent the time there practising a great deal and in teaching myself harmonics and so on. I prepared myself so to speak for the time in which I could finally say: "Now I'm a musician!" But back then I just got odd jobs, I sold Austrian skis to Canadian skiers. I just got jobs here and there.

Seeger: But as a musician you then moved into the world, to Egypt for example, to Cape Verde, to Burkina Faso and so on. As a musician you looked for contact with other musicians there.

HvG: Yes, that's right. A crux was perhaps also my time in the Philippines. That was after my time in Canada: before I returned I made a detour to the Philippines. I only wanted to stay there three weeks, but then stayed more than four months. I lived with people there in a very simple way: in stilt huts with no electricity or running water, which you could only reach on foot. In these four months I became acquainted with music the same way it must have been at home before there was radio. That is: if there is to be music, then you must make it yourself. You couldn't switch something on to get sound, to have music on in the background. The people there played a lot of music and I played a lot too: I sang a great deal with these people, I sang them my songs, my folk songs. Something happened to me. When they said to me: "Come on, sing us something from your homeland", I naturally went back to folk songs, even children's songs. If you're asked to do that you don't sing a song from the Beatles, as much as you identify them with this time and this 60s attitude to life, it's not the music you want to present. I much rather wanted to present myself with folk songs. Something really happened inside, time and again it clicked in my way of thinking. There in the Philippines I discarded a little of my rejection of and shyness before my own tradition. I told myself: "When I go back, I'll have a better look at it and try to penetrate the roots and not stay standing on this superficiality." Because back then there were already things like "Musikantenstadl" and these folksy and schlager things and I really couldn't get on with those. And the so-called "purists" and two hundred percenters at home were the very ones who wore their hats with the chamois tufts low over their eyes, put on lederhosen and were simply unpleasant to me. I didn't feel happy in their society: it wasn't mine. With music too they were completely intolerant of what was for me the smallest modification of any phrase. I just thought to myself: "Then just play it the way you think, but I'm having nothing to do with it!"

Seeger: So you were abroad when you first went to your own roots, brought what was your own to mind and played your own traditional music so to speak. The others, those with whom you played music there, presumably did the same thing. What encounters took place? Was it for example a very exhilarating and simultaneously very spontaneous encounter of the musical kind?

HvG: Of course I was mainly interested in their music: I wanted to learn their instruments. They were basically only instruments carved out of bamboo. There were no guitars, but rather all kinds of flutes and so on. There was also an instrument they called a "bamboo guitar": it was simply a thick bamboo trunk, which had bamboo strings. You could get five, six, at the most seven different sounds from this instrument with bridges. It was pentatonic music. I found it interesting. And because I always said: "Sing me something! Sing me something! How does it go exactly?" I didn't learn just their songs. For they came to me and said that I should sing them something from my home and teach them a song from my home. So there was this exchange, an exchange in which there was nothing unpleasant: it was all very, very open. My encounter with the Kalingas was perhaps interesting: they're headhunters - headhunters still existed back then - right up in the north of Luzon, the main island. When I was in Manila I heard that original music was still to be heard there. Apart from that Ferdinand Marco's dictatorship still reigned in the Philippines at that time, which in turn meant that there were still lots of Communist rebellions against this regime. It was from this area in Luzon that these rebels always struck out and raided something. But strangely I had absolutely no fear of it. If my son were to say to me today that he wanted to go to such a region, I'd say: "No, please, do you have to? Aren't there other beautiful places that are not as dangerous?"

Seeger: I imagine your father would have said that to you then too.

HvG: He had no idea, but like I said, I had no fear: I didn't feel the danger. And when I don't feel a danger, it isn't there for me. I just trust myself and trust the people in this world: no matter where I go, the majority of people, really more than 90 per cent, are well-disposed towards one another. There are a few hotheads everywhere certainly, whom you don't want to run into at night.

Seeger: What fascinated me was an episode from the film Grenzenlos, which documented your journey through Africa and which was also released on DVD. This episode was about Burkina Faso and all that can stand behind traditional music there. The musicians there are something like medicine men, being responsible for the rain.. So they play to bring on the rain with their instruments. It is quite a different dimension of music.

HvG: I think that music basically has a magic of which people are conscious - here too. It's that way even with something like the Salzburg Festival: the music exudes a magic, people go to a concert to be enchanted. Here it is all very regimented: music is only in this and this place, at this and this time and only in this and this form. On a continent like Africa music is in contrast much more strongly interwoven with everyday life. There for example you don't have this situation in which you have the stage as musician, as actor, while below sit or stand the people who are drawn in by the music. Instead music is always interlocked. That is, music is played when there's an occasion, but not because someone says: "We'd like to hear some music now, so let's go to a concert!" There's no concert form, music instead has a function. Music has a function here too, but this function is covered and hidden under many layers that overlay the music and it is hidden by the related money-earning too. I wouldn't say that the art or the magic of the music is corrupted, but it is simply laden with a great deal of unnecessary things. Of course in Africa the musicians don't make the weather with their balaphones either, they call the rain to a time in which it must come.

Seeger: You profited from this too, as this concert took place right when the rain was to come.

HvG: Exactly, we came right at the time for the mango rain. But then that connected us with the musicians there: we were really part of this magical culture, because right as we played there came a downpour.

Seeger: You said that you travel the world with a kind of confidence, for example travelling to an area in the Philippines that was haunted by terrorists. There are people who see it very differently: there are people who have fear of what is foreign. You yourself have campaigned against xenophobia, in Carinthia for example against the local right wing populist politicians. You like what is foreign, the treading of new terrain and meeting the new. Can you understand people who are afraid of it?

HvG: Yes, I can understand it well, because man is creature of habit and anything that takes you out of your routine immediately quickens your pulse. I think the older you get the more afraid you are of too much commotion. You'd just like to trust that when you go around the corner, the tree will be there just like yesterday. If it is cut down, you get upset. But if you're young, at the most you think: "Look, they've cut down the tree. Well, another one will grow. They will have had a reason and there are thousands upon thousands of other trees." Everyone is certainly shaped by personal encounters and experiences, but I can't imagine that someone who hasn't had a bad experience with something foreign, or a foreigner could be xenophobic. I think this fear can only develop when there has been a previous unpleasant encounter. But we live in such a social exchange and an exchange of knowledge and even today there are a few people who have possibly had bad experiences and now think they have to tell everybody that the world is the way they see it. I myself don't want to go out into the world and say: "I've had no bad experiences, so it's not possible to have a bad experience." But it is the case that you can have bad experiences at home with your neighbour. I know many people who have been at odd with their neighbours for generations. There is actually this mistrust because something happened two or three generations ago, so the grandchildren still mistrust each other, because they are told: "That lot over there are that way! You have to watch out for them!"

Seeger: Where does this trust come from for you? Is it something you picked up at home?

HvG: Yes, at home. But I don't have a basic trust of everybody. For example I don't trust teachers. Instead I have a basic mistrust of teachers, whereby I should look to myself and say: "Fine, you've had bad experiences with teachers, but that doesn't go for everybody."

Seeger: There are just certain experiences that lead to such judgements.

HvG: Exactly.

Seeger: Since you have been politically engaged against right wing radicalism and against the ostracism of foreigners, I ask: what can be learned from your personal experiences? How can trust and confidence be built with people who are afraid of what is foreign to them? Is it down to a lack of information, knowledge, unavailable education?

HvG: It certainly has something to do with education. With me it is the case that I was the one who went out into the world. That's not for everyone: most of my friends stayed at home. I chose myself to go towards what was foreign. Nowadays it is simply so that what is new gets everywhere in this globalised world; people don't even need to step outside the door, what is new penetrates every seam, crack and pore. It may make you uncertain, but it is simply a fact and here education plays a role, that we live in a world that is very, very strongly interconnected. The world has always been interconnected and to carry on as though we weren't previously dependent on one another is wrong. It was this way before, like the saying goes: when a butterfly beats his wings here it can cause an earthquake somewhere else in the world. But we didn't know, we didn't have the information about how for example we could only buy bananas so cheaply because people were dying in the Caribbean, because they were working on banana plantations with a load of pesticides and because those who worked on such plantations earn less than a starvation wage and so on. Nowadays however, we know that and so we can't carry on as if it is possible to turn back time and return to this naïveté. We have lost this naïveté: it hurts, but you must look it in the eye and deal with resources with great responsibility. That includes the treatment of people, that you understand that people leave other places. I left and was caught by other people somewhere in the world, because they said to me: "Good, now you're here with us. So, here's a job, you can rent a house." So I was always helped by other people in other countries and on other continents to get my feet on the ground. Naturally that leads me to think: if someone comes to us today and there is a job for him and somewhere for him to live, then he should work here and live here. Should he not be allowed to because some law or other forbids it? No, I've never understood that. Before my first journey I wanted to go to Germany. But at the beginning of the 70s it wasn't possible for me as an Austrian in Germany to get a work permit as a chemistry laboratory technician - at least not without a crazy amount of bureaucratic effort, without stress with the authorities and so on. Because I had a job that wasn't really interesting to the German employment market and there were still simply these borders between the countries in Europe. You couldn't go from one country to another and work.

Seeger: You have said that you put yourself in areas of political tension, like in South Africa for example, with the apartheid system, or in the Philippines in this region of revolutionary movements. But you have also made contact with the Dalai Lama and consciously placed yourself in a area of political tension. You have visited China, you have visited Tibet occupied by the Chinese and you have visited the Dalai Lama in exile. Where do you see your role as a musician, possibly communicating a political message?

HvG: That has nothing to do with me being a musician, but rather with my opinion that each person has a political responsibility. When you're in the public eye as much as I am and enjoy such a standing, then I have the feeling that I must take account of the fact that I think about this or that and talk about my experiences too and not just write. I am not someone who wants to express everything in songs. I'm not even a political songwriter, I don't like that. I don't like being presented a political message through a song. I always think: it hurts the music. Music is much greater than politics can ever be. But politics is part of our life. I understand when someone says that he doesn't want to have anything to do with it. But it is simply a fact that everyone has something to do with it: you can't get away from it!

Seeger: So as a musician you have the feeling of having a kind of public responsibility - including for what you do and say with music.

HvG: Yes, but that has nothing to do with my being a musician. I don't want to use the attention I receive to play one song after the other. But that wouldn't be any different if I was a sculptor, gardener or teacher. You have your experiences and pass them on - be it only in your family, or among your friends - and in so doing exchange opinion. The only difference is that when we sit here in the studio people can't talk back. But when for example I'm visiting somewhere and the talk is about Africa, or the situation in Tibet, then people can ask questions and say for example: "I don't believe that it's the way you say it is." And I can react to that. That's the only difference between people in the public eye and those who are not. But the subject as such is the same for everybody: forming our cohabitation in such a way that everyone has enough to eat, everyone has a roof over their head, that everyone has a certain security in life. Ok, when it's completely safe then it gets dull and stifling. But everyone has to feel that for themselves. I'm not someone who'd like to live on an island on which nobody lives but me. I like to live in a community, I like travelling, I like going somewhere where other people live, I like listening to their stories. And because I like all that I want us all to get on well together and for this mutual ignorance or even xenophobia not to reign that means to me: "Leave me in peace! Go home again!"

Seeger: You don't want to sit alone on an island - unless it is perhaps a Danube island, where we would be quasi on the map with your last project. That was a journey on the Danube with a concert ship. First of all you went downstream on the Danube to the Black Sea and then up and along the Rhine Main Danube Canal to Rotterdam. This journey has also been documented, there is a new book by you with the title Stromlinien, in which you describe this journey, I think in a wonderful and very exciting way. This project was realised in conjunction with the European Capital of Culture Linz 2009. Now the documentation is available: both in book form and on DVD. How did you come up with this idea of sailing up and down the Danube?

HvG: I must make a small correction, because you said it was my "new" book: it is my first book!

Seeger: It is your very first book?

HvG: Yes, otherwise someone might want to find and read my previous books. But there aren't any, this is my first.

Seeger: This book developed from the logbook you wrote during this Danube journey.

HvG: Exactly. About half of what is in the book is what was to be read in my blog that I wrote online during this trip. I then took it offline and wrote some more reflections that make up the other half of the book. I actually left the logbook untouched, although I often thought: "Really you could strike this or that now." But I wanted to leave it in so that you can experience how things went for me in that time. And instead of striking out passages I added my reflections from the distance, when I could regard the journey with more calmness and without the vehemence of the actuality of the events of the day. I had the idea of making this journey - and this is written right at the start of the book - when I visited Tanzania twice in 1996/97 and found a situation at Lake Tanganyika in which people were very afraid of each other. It was at the time of this great African war, when all these atrocities were taking place in the Congo, Burundi, Rwanda. At that time Tanzania was one of the few countries in Africa, if not the only country, that wasn't involved in this war. For this reason Tanzania had taken in more than a million refugees in the region of Kigoma, who lived in various camps. I visited these camps because I was interested in what happened in such a refugee camp, how people lived there. It was very upsetting. But in all these camps I met musicians too - as is sometimes just the case, because there are certain energies by which people are drawn together and meet without it being arranged. I organised a little festival, although people said: "Don't do it! You can't bring these different ethnicities together in one place, these people will descend on each other." I didn't have this fear at all and nothing happened, instead it was a great festival of encounters. It was an unplugged festival so to speak, there were no microphones or loudspeakers. So for that reason these concerts were only audible and comprehensible to a few people. I think there were no more than 300, 400 people at this festival. But at that moment I made the decision to do something big: I wanted to go round this lake with a ship and play music with musicians from all these countries and ethnicities. I had the dream that they would make music for each other, play for each other. This ship music tour then always haunted me. Then sometime a friend said to me: "Do it on the Danube! Try it out and see what it will be like. You can sail the ship and play music." That was at a time when the EU was expanding to southeastern Europe, two years before Bulgaria and Romania joined. It was also the time when you only ever read these horror stories in the media: "If these countries join, everything will fall apart! If we open the borders in this direction, all these people will come to us and take our jobs from us and then ..."

Seeger: There it is again, this fear of what is foreign.

HvG: Exactly. I thought to myself: strange, there is however still apparently the need for us to instead do something together. So I got going and had the good fortune of finding sponsors. "Linz09" generously gave 1.2 or 1.3 million Euros to convert this ship. Then it really became a huge project. At the beginning, when I made the first calculations I thought I'd end up with a figure of between 300,000 and 500,000 Euros.

Seeger: Ultimately it wasn't just one ship, but three, with which you travelled.

HvG: Yes, but the complicated part was building something like a floating village. I simply wanted everyone to come onto the ship, that we could really be an island you could enter: I wanted to create a kind of musical village in order to sail through Europe together and get to know each other. It really proved its worth, as the time kind of stood still when we were on this ship. Of course one day followed the next, but it was such slow progress that time really seemed to stand still: we travelled at an average speed of 15 km/h, sometimes we were moving forwards at only 5 km/h - and sometimes even slower. If we were going fast, then we might have reached 20 km/h. But nonetheless we sailed across Europe and back. We covered 12,000 kilometres in two summers, played 50 concerts and, I think, brought many people closer together. Because I said previously how afraid we were of this EU expansion to southeastern Europe: on my first preparatory trip in 2006 - so a year before Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU, a year before I did my actual tour - I asked people on the street in Bulgaria and Romania whether they were pleased that they would be a member of the EU next year. One in ten at the most said that it was great and they were pleased. Everyone else all said: "Hmm, it's not right to me, we're afraid of you/" I then asked them why they were afraid and said it was super for borders to fall at last. But they answered: "When borders fall, when everything is open, then you'll come and take from us the very last thing we have too." So I was hearing exactly the same thing as I had heard at home. Though we always spread that "those people down there only want to come here!" People were giving the impression that everyone in Bulgaria and Romania was in the starting blocks, waiting until they could finally take our jobs from us and the shirt from our back.

Seeger: A fantastic project! That was "Europe in flux" so to speak. You were the border opener and though the Iron Curtain no longer existed, nonetheless still had borders to overcome.

HvG: Yes, definitely.

Seeger: Finally I would like to take up something that was a theme in the European Capital of Culture year Linz 2009. That is the theme of "Acoustic City Linz": Peter Androsch, who organised this acoustic city in Linz tried to bring our attention to the fact that we live our lives constantly surrounded by sound: we are for example surrounded by sounds in the shopping centre. That is, we are surrounded by a kind of musical environmental pollution. In contrast to this he propagated silence in the capital year, he created places of silence in Linz. What does silence mean to you as a musician?

HvG: I consider silence to be something great.

Seeger: Do you need silence again to find inspiration?

HvG: Music wouldn't be music without the breaks: it would really be unbearable. The breaks make the rhythm, that is it doesn't really make the music, it makes the rhythm. There is much more music than there are breaks in the music, but it is these pauses that give the whole thing the phrasing, the rhythm, the pulse. Without these breaks the music would just be an acoustic sameness that pervades, a continuous sound, a cacophony. Yes, it is these spaces in between that are very, very important, enabling us to communicate with each other.

Seeger: Where do you find your inspiration and silence?

HvG: Silence is difficult to find. But it is definitely still possible. I'm not saying where, otherwise everyone will go there and I won't find the silence any more. But everyone can and must find the silence for themselves. In the city for example there are the churches. I left the church, but I sometimes visit churches because this silence is still there.

Seeger: Hubert von Goisern, many thanks for this conversation. Unfortunately we must stop here, although it would certainly be very interesting to talk further. Thanks to the musician, new author and border opener Hubert von Goisern. Ladies and gentlemen, a very good evening to you. Thank you.

HvG: You're welcome.