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Memories of special events, encounters with great composers, anecdotes, preferences, reading, friendships... Subjective impressions...


Pierre Boulez' cycle Pli selon pli occupied me throughout my student days: I listened to this 70 minutes of music up to three times a day, with great admiration. In college, I wrote a term paper about it after a visit to the Paul Sacher Foundation, where I learned for the first time in my life what it means to draft a large work. Years passed before I was finally able to hear the work live. Similarly, for a performance of Répons I had to be patient for a long time. In the Zurich Central Library there was a recording with an excerpt lasting a few seconds (Entry of the soloists), which electrified me.

Boulez's texts, particularly Penser la musique aujourd'hui, Jalons, long stimulated my early thinking.

It was not until many years later that I had the chance to get to know him personally. I promised him a complete performance, that of Pli selon pli, which we were able to make possible on November 7th, 2003, the day before Grisey's Espaces acoustiques were performed at the Tage für Neue Musik Zurich. Boulez himself stood at the conductor's platform; it was one of the last full performances of Tombeau under his direction. A legendary interview with him took place right before the concert.

My work Esquisse : « le froid » is dedicated to the memory of Pierre Boulez.


Brian Ferneyhough's music was present during several years at the Tage für Neue Musik Zurich, notably in 1996 where we performed his largest cycle, Carceri d'invenzione. All three Time and motion studies could also be heard. 

I often met Ferneyhough, particularly when I was rehearsing the opening piece of the CarceriSuperscriptio for solo piccolo – for tHEL danse. I remember a rehearsal with him at Ircam, in the driest acoustics. I had rehearsed the piece with a special metronome app I had programmed myself. Suddenly Ferneyhough pointed out that I played some tenth notes too fast. My obvious disappointment was misplaced, he was right: "If someone takes the trouble to study my work carefully, then I can expect every accuracy..." said he…



From Cassis to Marseille - relaxation and exercise in the Calanques

Calanque de Sugiton, near Marseille.jpg
Marseille Sunset over Les Goudes.jpg
Near La grande Candelle, direction Morgiou.jpg


In the summer of 1997, Gérard Grisey was working in the Grisons on his last masterpiece, the Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil. He needed an assistant for three days who was familiar with the Ircam programs. So I was his assistant for some calculations of spectral transformations, and middays also his cook. On this occasion I promised him to have his cycle Les espaces acoustiques performed in its entirety, a promise that I was able to fulfill as artistic director of the Tage für Neue Musik on November 8, 2003 with the Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra.


A great friend for many years. Mutual visits, his music at several editions of the Tage für Neue Musik Zurich. This certainly helped him to resume composing after his illness and to write many new works. In preparation for "his" festival, 1999, the joint stay in Paris: rehearsals of his String Quartet no. 3 – Dialektische Fantasie, with the Quatuor Diotima. The incredible performances of Epiphyt (Sylvie Lacroix and Klangforum Wien) and of the Violin Sonata with David Alberman, at the festival.


Memories of many moments together, at the Zurich New Music Days – Mouvement (- vor der Erstarrung), Gran Torso and Reigen seliger Geister (the difficult decision to start the performance with the Berner Streichquartett despite the noise above the concert hall), later Staub pour orchestre etc. –, in Stuttgart, and 1999 in Baden: I wanted to climb the Lägern (Jura chain of hills near Baden), but I didn’t have my hiking boots with me. Lachenmann went to his car and offered me his. But they were way too big for me...



The Glarus Alps, especially the region around the Fessis Seeli, as a source for new strength and ideas...

Sight from the WAGETEN over the Walensee, 2022.jpg
In the snow near Gufelstock.JPG
Fessis, sight from Gufelstock.jpg


During my time at Ircam, several visits with Kaija Saariaho in her apartment next to the Center Pompidou to plan her works for the Tage für Neue Musik. Her orchestral work Verblendungen was part of the first concert that the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich contributed to this festival, in November 1996. With Kaija having to leave the festival early, due to other commitments, I had the pleasure of assisting with the electronics for the pieces Petals and la Terre (Door).


Stockhausen's early writings about music were of great importance for my work. How time passes by…  a fundamental text on new music. I met him personally at rehearsals for MIXTUR in Cologne (Ensemble Köln, Robert HP Platz). At that time I was engaged to operate the "Brass Ringmodulator". When he exclaimed that "the man on the ring modulator was no good", that "one couldn't hear anything of the modulation", luckily I was able to reply that the rehearsal had started before the modulator was wired up...


Twice I had the pleasure to program Stockhausen's music in concert, KREUZSPIEL with Ensemble S Zurich and MANTRA at the Tage für Neue Musik. 

Unfortunately, I didn't realize until late how important his monumental work LICHT is. Until 2018 I missed all (first) performances of it. Only after a performance of TRANS (2018) and the performances of "AUS LICHT" in Amsterdam (2019) did I realize that this music is one of the most comprehensive ever written. I had been taken in by stereotypes and prejudices against Stockhausen over the years. Today I consider him the greatest composer of modern times. He also shares his birthday with Claude Debussy, every August 22nd...




The local recreation area since my childhood

Walensee, lake shore near Murg.JPG
Walensee, lake shore near Quinten.png
South Sea paradise near Quinten.JPG

The writer who, from 1991 onwards, determined my entire work – my complete compositional thinking has been inspired by her texts. I got to know them and all the modern poetry contemporaneous to them in 1989 during my year at the Université d'Aix-en-Provence in a seminar given by Jean-Marie Gleize. In Gleize's revue NIOQUES I was allowed to publish the first sketches of a planned work, right next to a text by André du Bouchet. After reading it, Anne-Marie Albiach got in touch with me; a long friendship began. I recorded her private reading of important texts, « H II » linéares and UNE GÉOMÉTRIE 


A funny memory: our escapade to the Cité de la musique – Boulez conducted Répons – where Anne-Marie set off a fire alarm with her cigarette during the intermission...


The planned work – « monstrueuse vécut dans le cadre » la mémoire, commissioned by the Ensemble Intercontemporain – it was realized and premiered at Ircam in 2004. The cycle « une géométrie » followed 2005-07, and 2016 Esquisse : « le froid ».  

The greatest admiration I have ever had for any artists is for Stéphane Mallarmé and the composer Claude Debussy – the opera Pelléas et Mélisande is simply a Wonder of the World. Their influence on my thinking and sensibility is immeasurable and allows no room for further discussion.

Just one thing: I am fortunate to know personally the main Mallarmé expert, Bertrand Marchal, and I always congratulate him on Mallarmé's birthday every March 18th... His book La religion de Mallarmé is the sum of all Mallarmé knowledge .


I am linked to the poetry of Charles Racine by a long and deep friendship with his widow and editor, Gudrun Racine. Her trust in my work has supported me since 2006. Two works of my opus are based on Racine's concise texts, « lueur de lettres » and « chant de lettres ». His conversation with Jean Daive in the France Culture program “poésie ininterrompue” is legendary... I was allowed to publish it embedded in pictures with my music.


There is a company, Racine Café, based in Geneva. It produces sublime, intense coffee (“Notre café – un instant de poésie”). This coffee wasn't sold to private individuals until 2022, but the company – their chief: a melomaniac – allowed me to purchase it privately before this date... Now it's available for everyone.


Parallel to Jean-Marie Gleize – 1989 at the Université d'Aix-en-Provence – his wife Joëlle Gleize held a seminar on Claude Simon's Les Géorgiques. This great novel became the starting point for my triptych « les géorgiques »« tellement froid que » (géorgiques I)« comme si le froid » (géorgiques II) and « n'était le froid » (géorgiques III)

I met Simon – arranged by Lucien Dällenbach – after one of his performances at the ETH Zurich (1996?) and told him about my project. But he wasn't interested... In 1998 I wrote an article commissioned by DU magazine to appear in the January 1999 Simon issue. However, it was deemed too demanding for DU readers and was not published.

For me, Claude Simon is the greatest novelist of modern times.

My closest friend since the early days in the Academic Orchestra. One of the moral pillars of my work, in all respects. He finds the most hidden corners of the internet: information about Debussy, Mallarmé, Stockhausen, everything that interests me, or does not yet interest me, ranging from his suggestions about Miles Davis to Arno Schmidt (when will Markus finally read Zettels Traum?). Travels with him to Metz (1989, Boulez: Éclat/MultiplesLe visage nuptialLe soleil des eaux… but not Pli selon Pli, as we hoped), Stuttgart (Lachenmann, The Little Match Girl), Lille (2022, Stockhausen, FRIDAY from LIGHT) and Schiltwald, in honor of our shared admiration for Hermann Burger. There is a curious anticipation of Markus in Burger's Die künstliche Mutter...

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