Since his début in 2011, German pianist Oskar Schuster has released two full lengths LPs and two EPs. Following up on his Tristesse Télescopique EP (2015) which featured a lot of electronics, the musician returns to solo piano with Singur (self-released – April 2016) and seven new compositions that were more than likely triggered by the purchase of a “new” piano towards the end of 2015 – an instrument that was made in 1905 that is.
The music of Berlin-based pianist Oskar Schuster is closely associated with objects such as antique instruments or automated vintage toys that are operated by intricate spring mechanisms or by buttons and keys. Complementing the piano, music boxes, typewriters, analogue cameras or antique clocks have all featured as rhythmic instruments in Oskar Schuster’s previous albums.
With all the “ambient” noises generated by the various keys and mechanisms in action deliberately left as is, Singur is a short yet very compelling “bedroom classical” EP featuring piano only. In under 2mn, “Gizeh” for instance epitomises the musician’s approach – a stripped-down lullaby-like melody which keeps playing in the listener’s mind for the rest of the day.
This approach stems from an urge to reconnect with the physical side of music with all its imperfections. The creative process also fills the void left by the gradual disappearance of the physical support in favour of the digital and the virtual.
This is particularly true when it comes to photography. Over the last twenty or thirty years, we all have accumulated thousands of digital pictures on now obsolete hard drives, memory sticks, CDs, laptops, desktops and phones. Unless these files were backed up, transferred on new devices or printed on paper, retrieving them is proving increasingly difficult because technology has moved on faster than we can deal with it. In other words, the advent of the digital age has had a direct repercussion on how we deal with personal memories and archives. Archiving memories is no longer as straightforward as keeping a collection of old photographs in a shoebox.
Thus, it comes as no surprise that Oskar Schuster’s music is intrinsically linked to nostalgia – there are a lot of waltz rhythms and minor keys – and visual arts. The compositions themselves are elicited by old photographs or video footage, and every release to date has been accompanied by limited editions of hand-printed designs or hand-stamped artwork, “a self-developed photograph that will fade over time when exposed to light” (Tristesse Télescopique), booklet cards or sheet music books – all made and printed by the musician himself.
For me personally, art is something that can help humans connect to spheres that are more and more neglected in our societies. Western societies are very rational whereas art and especially music cannot be explained rationally. It’s something mystical, helping people to feel a certain connection to the universe and its wonders which they have lost nearly entirely in their lives. Oskar Schuster