Jürg Frey was born in 1953 in Aarau, Switzerland. Following his musical education at the Concervatoire de Musique de Genève, he turned to a career as a clarinetist, but his activities as composer soon began to dominate his activities.
Frey developed his own language as a composer and sound artist with the creation of wide, quiet sound spaces. His work is marked by an elementary non-extravagance of sound, a sensibility for the qualities of the material, and precision of compositional approach. His compositions sometimes bypass instrumentation and duration altogether and touch on aspects of sound art. He has worked with compositional series, as well as with language and text. Some of these activities appear in small editions or as artist’s books as individual items and small editions. His music and recordings are published by Edition Wandelweiser.
Frey has been invited to workshops as visiting composer and for composer portraits at the Universität der Künste Berlin, the Universität Dortmund and several times at Northwestern University and CalArts. Some of the other places his work has developed are the concerts at the Kunstraum Düsseldorf, the Wandelweiser-in-Residence-Veranstaltungen in Vienna, the Ny music concerts in Boras (Sweden), the cooperation with Cologne pianist John McAlpine, the Bozzini Quartet (Montréal), QO-2 (Bruxelles), Die Maulwerker, incidental music, as well as the regular stays in Berlin (where during the last years many of his compositions were premiered).
Frey is a member of the Wandelweiser Komponisten Ensemble which has presented concerts for more than 15 years in Europe, North America and Japan. Frey also organizes the concert series moments musicaux aarau as a forum for contemporary music.
“My training followed two different lines: one was the regular training in a music conservatory to become a classical clarinet player, the other is all the rest, which happened at the time more or less outside of the institutions. Let me speak now about my very first composition. Significantly, it’s difficult to say if this is a piece of music or a piece of art. The title is Stück 1975 (for private or public performance) and it consists of 41 sheets of very different quality in terms of size, material, texts, graphics et al. No staves and no pitches, no instrumentation, no duration, no rules for contexts, but references to relationships with styles, fonts, paper qualities.”
Re: extra-musical aspects, i.e. things occurring in the political world and how the music relates to it or is shaped by it.
“With respect to general political music, I can’t remember any so-called political music making an impact on my life. For instance, Christian Wolff’s music: I agree with him in many aspects of his political stance, but his music did not sharpen my mind in this respect. But his work as a composer is inspiring to me, how he works with ensembles, notation, scores, relationships, – and if this can be seen as a ‘political’ aspect in his music, I’m fine to call it political.”
Inspiration for the album Grizzana
“The work of Giorgio Morandi has been part of my own work for many years, and for a long time I was looking for a possibility to express my respect to the painter. Morandi’s painting is figurative painting, but at the same time, he works with aspects of abstract painting. So you can see him also as an abstract painter who works with objects. To make a link to music, I can understand a melody as like a figurative part of a painting. Similarly to how you can remember melody as a “thing“, as a motif in music, you can see on the canvas a bottle, a house. So on the other hand, in music the sound can be seen as an equivalent to abstract color.
“The pieces on the Grizzana album are not connected as one complete group other than that all composed in the last few years, but some of them are connected and composed in parts and subgroups.
“Some of the pieces have more than just a musical background, and two personalities are important in this context: one is Morandi, the other is the Swiss poet Gustave Roud. Both artists have similar biographies and in their work, both concentrate on a few topics to discover essential dimensions of human life. Morandi’s work focuses on still lifes with bottles, and landscapes, which are also important for me. Gustave Roud recognized the existential dimensions in the daily life of his friends, in the finest nuances of the weather and changes of the atmosphere of the landscape, and he made these perceptions the basis of his literary work.
“The other works on the CD are composed for different occasions: A Memory of Perfection was a suggestion of violinist Erik Carlson. Area of Three and Ferne Farben were first performed during Wandelweiser weeks in Neufelden (Austria), and Fragile Balance was written for Nomi Epstein and the ensemble a.pe.ri.od.ic.”