Improvisation and Collaboration: Ralph Heidel on Making “Moments of Resonance”

Moments of Resonance, the debut album from Munich-based saxophonist and composer Ralph Heidel and his band Homo Ludens, is the sort of work that eludes easy categorization. At times, Heidel’s work finds a fine middle ground between minimalist composition and post-rock; at others, there’s a more lush and sweeping element to the music. I talked with Heidel about the album’s genesis, the role of improvisation in his music, and more.

Listening to the compositions on Moments of Resonance, I can hear both live instruments and programmed sections — “The Flood” comes to mind in particular. When you’re working on a piece of music, does one generally come first?

Actually there is no “general” workflow, which is transferable for all compositions. But the origin of each track is the piano, then I’m thinking about orchestration, programming, sound design. Looking at “The Flood” in particular, I had this little theme and the rest came by itself, when I jammed around with my bass player and close friend Sven Holscher.

When you’re performing live, do you generally leave room for improvisation?

Yes, I play several improvised saxophone soli in my live show. It’s very important having free moments in a live situation. It keeps the show fresh and is never the same. I also have the pleasure that my string players can improvise and each band member has a jazz background. So they get their spots too.

Where did the title of Moments of Resonance come from?

The german sociologist Hartmut Rosa writes about resonance in one of his books. I think it’s not just very helpful for each individual person, but for the whole society. I, as a composer, could transfer his term “resonance moments“ perfectly on my creative (and sometimes not so creative) work. Breaking it down – on every composition on the album I had a resonance moment. It’s not esoteric, but a mindset.

How did your collaboration with Josin on the song “Pictures” come about?

I’m am a huge fan of Josin’s music and art. I listened to her music quite a long time, when my track developed. I thought that Josin would fit perfect on this one – so I asked her.

Listen to her new album In the blank space, it’s wonderful!

A look at the album’s track listing reveals seven songs with titles in English, and one with a title in German. What prompted that decision?

The german title is an excerpt of a lyric by Austrian artist Gustav. I adore her lyrics and translation wasn’t an option.

To what extent did the songs on Moments of Resonance evolve from playing them live to recording them for the album?

I just had one concert, before I decided to record them. Some of them (“Sweet Dark Moves,” e.g), were never played live. So actually I wrote them on paper, like they are on the album. My band Homo Ludens really killed the scores in the recording. They’re so good! After the recording a long sound design journey began.


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