The music of Stefan Schönegg’s Enso ensembles is marked by a friendly seriousness and a great calmness. Since launching the project back in 2016 Schönegg recorded five albums for different instrumentations and worked on his very personal take of chamber music in between Improvised Music, Neue Music and Sound Art, heavily inspired by Schöneggís practice of Soto-Zen. With his newest iteration Enso: Strings & Percussion he masterfully reduces and concentrates his musical ideal to its purest, most elegant manifestation yet.
Schönegg is a bassplayer, improviser and composer from Cologne and founding member of impakt, a musiciansí collective for improvised and contemporary music.
1. Wherever you go, there you are.
2. Some of the best things in life are for free.
3. Cultivating slowness is hard but worth it.
1. What is the biggest inspiration for your music?
There is a certain sweet spot when my mind and body feel completely at ease while playing. It usually happens while improvising, when there is a certain space happening, an alertness for every detail, everything seems to fall into part. The music to me just feels very right in moments like these, as if it was not me or the fellow musicians playing, but the music plays us. If this happens on stage there is a chance that this kind of energy overreaches into the audience and the whole room is just feeling music together. And when the last note is played, there is a moment of silence you can nearly grasp – I could stay in this forever. Right now this is why I keep making music and this is the feeling I am searching for. If I get inspiration for that anywhere it would be in nature, in silence and in my meditative practice.
2. How and when did you get into making music?
There was just one point when I was 7 when I decided I want to be a musician. I don’t know where that came from, but after some detours I ended up with the double bass and here we are.
3. What are 5 of your favourite albums of all time?
I obviously can’t decide on THE 5 favourites, but I have been listening to those a lot at some point:
Barre Phillips – Call Me When You Get There
Stefano Scodanibbio – Voyage That Never Ends
Paul Bley – Open, to Love
Joshua Redman Elastic Band – Momentum
Paul Simon – Graceland
4. What do you associate with Berlin?
Overwhelmingly big, busy and vibrant. Also uncomfortable winters. I lived there 2007-2010 and everything changes SO fast, it’s crazy.
5. What’s your favourite place in your town?
My place, my terrace, the park nearby, the beach at the Rhine and the LOFT.
6. If there was no music in the world, what would you do instead?
Something else. I have no idea. I learn Shiatsu now!
7. What was the last record/music you bought?
Tim Bernardes – Mil Coisas Invisíveis
8. Who would you most like to collaborate with?
Right now I am working with pianist Marlies Debacker and percussionist Etienne Nillesen and we meet regularly and play. I enjoy that very very much!
9. What was your best gig (as performer or spectator)?
One summer some years ago I heard Marc Dresser play solo in the garden of Sebastian Gramss, birds were singing and wind was rustling through the trees, that was pretty special. Apart from that I enjoy each concert where I feel that the audience and the performers connect in presence.
10. How important is technology to your creative process?
Very little and currently I don’t feel the urge to change that.
11. Please tell us a little bit about the development of your latest album “Enso – Strings & Percussion”.
I got the chance to invite some people to Cologne to play at the festival Cologne Jazzweek. I knew and admired the work of cellist Judith Hamann, violinist Kari Rønnekleiv (one half of the string duo “Sheriffs of Nothingness”), percussionists Toma Gouband and Etienne Nillesen and I was super happy that they wanted to participate. I always look for people with whom I can realise my vision as described above and I think it was a perfect match. We just had a very chill week of playing, drinking coffee, eating together (check Bai Lu noodles if you ever come to Cologne!), enjoying september sun in Cologne. It was really a lot of fun and very easy-going. After the concert we recorded two days in a very special brutalistic church which maybe gave the recorded music a kind of darkish coat. I wrote some parts and concepts which ended up on the album in the end, but we also improvised a lot. Few weeks ago we met again to play a release concert at KLAENG Festival in Cologne and it was a lovely evening, I am quite happy!