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It is probably true to say that composer Ron Grainer was one of the most underrated composers of film and TV music of all time, his output was great and always in my very humble opinion excellent.





Grainer was born in Queensland Australian August 11th 1922. He inherited his musical interests from his Mother who played piano and the young Ron Grainer soon became addicted to the instrument himself beginning to play at the age of 2 years. He was hailed as a musical genius and soon began to perform at concerts and recitals locally in his home town of Atherton from the age of 6 years. Grainer also showed interest in the violin from the age of just 4, and would practise constantly. By the time that Grainer had reached his teens he had become well versed in piano and also violin during his childhood his parents and teachers would not let him partake in any sports or games because they feared that he would injure his hands or fingers, thus possibly putting an end to his career as a musician, consequently he was at times a lonely child, he concentrated on his music and also would immerse himself in academic pastimes and lessons and excelled in maths.


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He began to study at the Sydney Coservatourium of Music under the watchful gaze and guidance of Sir Eugene Goosens, but these studies were soon to be brought to an abrupt end with the outbreak of WWll, Grainer was conscripted into the Australian army and served fighting against the Japanese, it was during the war that he was seriously injured and received a crush injury to his leg, he did not loose the leg but it resulted in painful surgery and also years of further treatment.  After the war ended Grainer returned to the Sydney conservatorium and continued to study, but he decided to concentrate upon composition rather than carry on with his violin and piano studies. After completing his studies and also meeting his first wife Margot he relocated to England in 1952, at first Grainer found work as a pianist and toured the country as part of THE ALIEN BROTHERS AND JUNE, where he came into contact with various other performers and artists, Guy Mitchell, Frankie Laine and Al Martino to name but a few and soon made a name for himself as a pianist. It was during this time that Grainer began to make his first recordings, at first this was as an accompanist working with various vocalists. He started to become interested in unusual or vintage musical instruments and after a while started to write music especially for them, and wrote a jazz ballet score which included the Ondes Martinot.

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 Soon Grainer started to become a regular musical director for the independent television channel in the U.K and also become a much in demand pianist working for the BBC. In 1960, Grainer composed the now well known theme for MAIGRET, which starred Rupert Davies and for this employed a line up of unusual instrumentation, that included harpsichord and banjo. The theme that Grainer penned for the series was a chart hit when recorded by Joe Loss and his orchestra. After the success of Maigret, Grainer began to compose theme s for television on a regular basis, COMEDY PLAYHOUSE, STEPTOE ANDSON the latter’s OLD NED theme garnering the composer an Ivor Novello award in 1961. Film score commissions soon followed Grainer working on various productions during the early part of the 1960,s, which included, LIVE NOW PAY LATER, THE MOUSE ON THE MOON and A KIND OF LOVING.



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In 1963 Grainer received a commission to compose the theme for a “children’s” science fiction series entitled DR. WHO, this again was a huge success for the composer and the basic theme is still being utilised by the series today and is probably one of the most familiar and popular themes from TV ever written.

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The rest as they say is history, Grainer becoming a busy but still in many views an underrated composer and musician. He divorced his first wife Margot in the early 1960,s and moved with his new partner to the Algarve because of his failing eyesight, later he moved to Albufeira and started an organic farm. But he still continued to write music and work on various projects among these was the musical ON THE LEVEL, and later in 1967 he returned to TV with his infectious theme for MAN IN A SUITCASE and also in the same year penned the unforgettable theme for THE PRISONER and worked on the score for TO SIR WITH LOVE. 1968 was also a fruitful year for Grainer with him working on ONLY WHEN I LARF,THE ASSASINATION BUREAU and the film version of LOCK UP YOUR DAUGHTERS, which was based on the original stage show that contained music and lyrics by Laurie Johnson and Lionel Bart with Grainer providing the score. Grainers musical talent was undeniable and he continued to work steadily through the 1970,s providing the soundtracks to numerous films and also composing haunting themes for TV as well as working on theatre productions and BBC adaptations of books and plays.


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In 1971 he scored the Charlton Heston sci movie THE OMEGA MAN, which also brought much acclaim from critics, peers and fans alike. He passed away on February 21st 1981, in Cuckfield Hospital Sussex England he was 58 years of age.  



There has in recent years been a veritable onslaught of movies of the shock/horror variety. THE CONJURING,PARANORMAL ACTIVITY and SINISTER to name but three. These horror fests and others like them have in effect given the horror genre more credence as they are not just slasher tales or things that go bump in the night fests, but they contain storylines(some based on true events) that require a certain amount of thought and concentration from watching audiences, so in effect they have been instrumental in aiding the evolvement of the genre. Along with these thinking mans tales of horror also comes a new direction in the musical scores for these types of films and the score for OCULUS by the Newton brothers is certainly no exception to this trend. OCULUS contains a vibrant and pulsating soundtrack which is a mix of sound design synthetic and symphonic, the composing duo who have become ever more active over the past 5 years in the writing of music for films and have produced a score that is edgy, foreboding, harrowing, apprehensive and just downright scary. The fusion of both synthetic and symphonic elements within the score is seamless and highly original, the music and musical sounds although being atonal and at times quite harsh still retain elements of melody which do rise to the surface giving the listener a respite from the fearsome and malevolent sound that is achieved throughout the majority of the work. The score comprises of metal scrapes, off key instrumentation and a constant pulse that runs throughout the work representing the ever present mirror. Track number 4, YOU PROMISED ME is one of the more calming interludes, strings perform a slow adagio that is short lived but also highly affecting, creating an atmosphere that posses a slight touch of melancholy and relays a sense of solitude or reflection. This theme or at least a variation of it returns in track number 33, A MOTHERS EMBRACE, on this occasion it is introduced and interspersed with more ominous sounding music but the theme rises and swells becoming more romantic, emotive and fulsome. Track 35, is a little more up tempo but still retains the rich darkness and fearful atmosphere of the score, re mixed by Paul Okenfold, OCULUS-REMIX, is an interesting take on certain elements of the main score, children’s choir being brought into the equation to lend an even more sinister air to the proceedings. The Newton brothers have certainly created a soundtrack that is attention grabbing and also a score that has a unique and individual sound to it. Okenfold also worked on the final track on the CD a vocal which is performed by Greta, this is an enticing and also a little bit of an unsettling listen, but saying this it is probably a cue that will be returned to many times, it is haunting and infectious with a slight offbeat backing, the composition building and moving slowly but surely to its conclusion. The soundtrack Cd is made up of a number of short and sharp cues all of which combine to make up a really chilling but attractive listening experience.







The score works superbly in the movie and as a fan of quality film music I have to say it certainly has more than a few glorious moments away from the images it was intended to enhance. Available on Varese Sarabande.




Born Agnes Elizabeth Lutyens on July 9th 1906,in Bloomsbury London. She began her musical studies in Paris and then continued these at the Royal College of Music.  She was to become the first Female composer to write music for films in Gt Britain. During the early 1930s she made various attempts to break into the world of film scoring, but it was finally via the efforts of Muir Mathieson that she actually became involved in film music, it was because of this well know British movie music icon that Lutyens was given her first scoring assignment in 1944, this was not a full motion picture score however, but was for a Royal Air force newsreel film for which she provided a march entitled BUSTLE for WAAF,s. The march which was similar in style to the quirky theme and scores that Malcolm Arnold composed for the St Trinians films was received well.


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It was at around the same period that Lutyens also composed music for Crown Film Unit productions in which the composer decided to give the documentaries she worked on music that has more of an epic sound abandoning at this time her normal 12 tone style approach to composition. After this she became in demand and worked on a further four documentaries and with these completed she was commissioned to work on numerous short films. Her approach to scoring films was somewhat different from other composers working in film during this time, Lutyens preferring to wait until the movie was completed or in its rough cut stage before even viewing it and then deciding what music should be provided, her outlook and opinion of music in film was that it should not be overpowering or overbearing but should underline and maybe punctuate discreetly. Whilst other composers at this time such as  Bliss, saw music as a more integral component and also an equal part of the film making process with composers being involved at times long before the cameras had started to roll. In 1960, Lutyens began to work more regularly on actual movies her first foray into this area of music for the moving image being DON’T BOTHER TO KNOCK, it was at this time that Phil Martell began to work with Lutyens and he would conduct the majority of her work for the cinema and was of the opinion that She had a natural flair and aptitude to create music for film.



It was Martell, who eventually mentored Lutyens and guided her in the art of film scoring and at times was the voice of restraint when Lutyens occasionally employed a more experimental style. But it was her 12 tone system that attracted Hammer films to Lutyens as a composer as her sound and style proved to be more than effective and the collaboration between Hammer and the composer was a very productive one and it is probably true to say that it was Elizabeth Lutyens music for horror films that brought her recognition and also monetary security. DR TERRORS HOUSE OF HORRORS, THE EARTH DIES SCREAMING, THE SKULL and TERRORNAUTS all benefited from Lutyens original and distinctive sound. She passed away on April 14th 1983.









I was prompted to write a review of this soundtrack because I noticed that it has been released on a download on I Tunes. Although I am not a great fan of downloads I suppose it is a way of getting the score to fans who use this service and like to store their music on PC,s, I pods and I pads etc.



Originally released in 1968 A PROFESSIONAL GUN or IL MERCENARIO was directed by renowned Italian film maker Sergio Corbucci with actors Franco Nero, Tony Mustante and Jack Palance taking the principle roles. Set at the time of the revolution of 1915 in Mexico it was an entertaining and explosive story which although filmed as a spaghetti western was in fact somewhat controversial and contained various political undertones. It belongs firmly within the category or sub genre of the ZAPATA WESTERN that became an essential and also an important part of the wider spaghetti western genre, there were a number of examples of these politically slanted tales, DUCK YOU SUCKER, A BULLET FOR THE GENERAL, TEPEPA, THE FIVE MAN ARMY,THEY CALL HIM HOLY GHOST and COMPANEROS among them. Like so many Italian produced westerns A PROFESSIONAL GUN contained a musical score that was not only a background to the films storyline but also is the work of two of the spaghetti westerns most prolific Maestro’s, Ennio Morricone and Bruno Nicolai, both composers were tutored during the early stages of their careers by Godfreddo Petrassi and it is thought that this is why their composing styles and also their experimentation with musical sounds was so similar.

When the soundtrack to IL MECENARIO was first released on a French United Artists long playing record, both Morricone and Nicolai were given joint composing credits and this was also the case on the German LP release, however the two albums were different in content each recording having a slightly different opening cue and having totally different art work, with the German release having inferior sound quality. When the score was released on CD for the first time it was a fusion of both the French and the German releases, but still the sound quality was rather lacking, plus the composing credit was altered to read music composed by Ennio Morricone, no mention of Nicolai as co-composer(which is something that has happened on numerous CD editions of older Morricone scores in recent years). This sadly is the case on this latest edition on the GDM club label, Nicolai given a conducting credit on the back cover of the CD, a plus on this release is a credit to the talent and input of Alessandro Alessandroni who made such a great contribution to this and many other works within the spaghetti western genre via his guitar playing his haunting whistling and his distinct sounding choir, Il Cantori Moderni.

R-3101272-1356553262-4506The score opens with a pulsating and highly infectious samba infused composition that is introduced by slightly discordant sounding brass flourishes that are supported and enhanced by shouts and shrill whistles and punctuated by percussion and harshly strummed guitar, this introduction builds to a crescendo of sorts and gains momentum as it segues into full on and fast paced samba beats which act as a background to flyaway strings that purvey a sound that is full of patriotic atmosphere with Mexican sounding choir embellishing and carrying the composition along. BAMBA VIAVACE is an energetic and highly charged piece that is a perfect opener for the score and sets the scene for what is to follow. The score for IL MERCENARIO is basically a collection of themes, which relate to the main characters within the movie, it is a clear and effective use of the motif style of scoring which Morricone utilized within many of his soundtracks for Italian made westerns, the opening cue being the theme that accompanies PACO the poor peon who is elevated to a Simon Bolivar status with the help of a foreign Mercenary. Morricone and Nicolai taking it to a greater and more prominent degree within this particular assignment.
Track number two, ESTASI is the first time that we are introduced to the theme that accompanies Franco Nero’s character the Polish mercenary the Polack, which is heard almost every time he is on screen or is about to enter the scene, Alessandroni’s distinct and descending whistle is introduced by a single strum from a guitar and then is interrupted by an upbeat organ solo that is accompanied by guitar, this combination plays out a section of what will become the theme for Curly the villainous and sadistic character portrayed wonderfully by Jack Palance, this theme soon evaporates and we return to a whistling solo which on this occasion ascends the musical scale and then further establishes the Mercenary theme punctuated by echoing percussion and sporadic castanets with underlying strings adding depth and further substance to the composition. Track number three, is the first of the Mexican vocal tracks that appear on the soundtrack which are in effect source music IL MECENARIO (sueno Mejicano 1) is a very laid back almost lazy sounding vocal, there are two other vocals on the disc. Track number six, IL CANTO A MIA TIERRA (song to my land) and track number 9, IL MERCENARIO (sueno Mejicano 2). The theme for Franco Nero is more or less the foundation of the score and Morricone and Nicolai fashion the remainder of the work around this, creating what is now regarded as a veritable masterpiece from the genre of the Italian made western.

A-299238-1340790575-8643As well as the central thematic material for the main characters the score contains a sprinkling of fiesta or Mexican mariachi flavoured cues with a Vienesse style waltz making an appearance in track number 10, FIESTA (Valzer) which was used for the wedding of Paco and Columba (Giovanna Ralli). The score ends with a crescendo of a composition IL MERCANRIO (L’ARENA) which is heard during the final showdown between Curly and Paco in a bull ring, with the Polack acting as a referee of sorts. Alessandroni’s distinctive whistle, Soaring trumpet, strident and infectious sounding strings combine with choir and punctuation from electric guitar to make this a classic and powerful piece that enhances the scene and creates tension and drama. IL MERCENARIO is indeed an outstanding and entertaining work and a soundtrack that stands head and shoulders above the many other examples from this collection of original but at times quirky motion pictures. I cannot recommend this soundtrack enough, if this is a score that is not in your collection, why not?



Marcel Barsotti, award-winning film composer, born on 05/02/1963 in Lucerne (Switzerland), for years one of the most successful film composers in Germany. After studies in composition at the renowned conductor George Byrd Marcel Barsotti studied at the Richard Strauss Conservatory in Munich composition, piano and clarinet, also, he completed training at the pop music which won the Grammy Award composer Harold Faltermeyer.

Now, after more than 60 film projects, 21  Soundtrack publications, various pop albums and several chart entries Marcel Barsotti is also committed to music festivals, film academies and is Europe seminars and workshops for film music . In 2002 Marcel Barsotti published the first comprehensive CD Rom encyclopedia “Ethno World” for ethnic instruments, which is now used worldwide by renowned film composers and musicians.




One of your first scoring assignments was for a TV movie entitled, BRUDER AUF LEBEN UND TOD, which was in 1995, how did you become involved with this movie?


I introduced myself at the advertising agency Daydream in Munich, who tried to convey jobs to newcomers. I took part in a pitch for a Pro7 movie I unfortunately did not win. But the producer was very pleased with my work, after which I was allowed to participate in a second pitch. That was the movie ” Brüder auf Leben und Tod”, my ticket to the film music industry.


One of your most recent scores is also for TV, INSPEKTOR JURY-DER TOTE IM PUB. Your music has been issued on Compact Disc; do you have an input into a CD release as in what music will be used?

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My only influence is that I’m trying to convince the film production companies to release a soundtrack. But since it becomes harder to publish film music on CDs, I often have to establish contacts. For example, I was able to convince John from Alhmabra Records to release a soundtrack after he was delighted with the main theme to the jury. Unfortunately, the times of successful soundtracks are over. From “Sommermärchen”, 2006, I could sell 25,000 copies, today, soundtrack sales only move in a small four-digit range.


When scoring a motion picture as in a feature film, do you approach it in a different way from when you are working on a TV series or a movie made for television?



Yes, I do. The movie for me is still the supreme discipline of composing music. Great pictures, cinema-grade images and usually more elaborate screenplays with longer film shooting time, give the motivation to take especially in the music more time to develop consistent themes, to realize real orchestral recordings and also to realize a much more complex music mixing. All of this does not exist in the fast moving TV business. Nevertheless, I think some movie is a mediocre TV movie that does not belong to the cinema and some TV movie such as “Die Hebamme” would have certainly also cinema potential in my eyes.



What is your musical background, did you start out as composer of music for film, or was this something that you moved into from other areas of music and what musical education did you have?


From an early age I have self-taught myself  the piano-organ, and guitar. I have listened to other music and always reenact it. That was easy for me, so I had quickly discovered that reenacting is not very satisfactory for me. So, I already wrote with 10 years my first compositions, which I recorded secretly in a music store on an organ with a tape recorder, which were my first demos. After that, I studied in Munich at the Richard Strauss Conservatory in composition, piano, clarinet and conducting. But it was very hard for me notes to learn in only 10 months until the entrance examination to learn Sheet Music and to play classical works. Until then, I couldn’t these things.


What are your earliest recollections of music or your first encounter with a musical instrument and are you from a family that is musical in any way?

My first encounter was the drums. We always had music in our circle of friends, including Hazy Osterwald. When I was four years old, he took me on the stage at a concert in Switzerland. Hazy was a good friend of my mother and had with “Kriminaltango” a worldwide success. I played together with his drummer a simple four-four beat. I can no longer remember, but my mother said to this day, I would have kept the rhythm. After that, I discovered in his recording studio the vibraphone, a polyphonic instrument and knew from that moment: “I will musician!” (I was still four years old)



In 2009, you scored POPE JOAN, what size orchestra did you utilize for the score and how much time were you given to write and record the score?



Overall, I had eight months for the score, which is a lot of time these days, but I also needed because the movie appeared in the theater in a 135 minutes version and on TV even in a 180 minutes version. So, I had to write for the TV version new cues or had to remodel other. That was a lot of work for 90 minutes of music. On the BluRay there was also another “end credits”. The orchestra consisted of 70-80 musicians and a 40-man choir, plus a few soloists.




DIE HEBAMME is a TV that you have been working on, at what stage of production do you prefer to become involved on a project, do you think it helps to have a script and begin to get ideas before any footage has been shot or is it better you personally to become involved at the rough cut stage of proceedings?



Sometimes I find the work on the rough cut dangerous because you write something that is not explicitly for the image. It can also create something which stands out from the image. The music then takes on a certain amount of independence and so tries to go a different dramaturgical way. In “Die Hebamme” I immediately started with the rough cut because I had only four weeks time for the music, after all, is a 120-minute historical thriller. But I always read the script before I start with a movie. The reason is: if I don’t like the script, then I’m not doing the film. I don’t want work as a film composer, just to earn money and make every job. At the time as I came into the industry, I also have not worked that way. I prefer to wait a bit until a project comes along where I can make a musical statement, which is part of my person.



When writing for a movie do you try to in the first place establish a central theme, or do you tackle larger cues first and then move to smaller cues and stabs leaving any core theme till last. Or if you start with the central theme is it easier to develop the remainder of the score?



I often start with the main theme because it’s the greatest challenge. Without the main theme the movie has not the same effect. Isn’t that right, I find no approach to the movie. After that, I start with the other themes. Sometimes a “side theme” became a main theme, for example at “Der Bibelcode”. The great archaic main theme not even stood at the beginning of the movie. The editor said “here in the second part is a fantastic theme, which I would love to have at the opening credits.” The good man was right.



When working with a director on spotting a movie do you find it difficult at times if a director who has little or no musical knowledge attempts to talk to you in musical terms rather than relay to you what emotions he would like underlined or evoked within a scene?



It depends. I would prefer a director who has good knowledge of music and music mixing and who is able to temp the movie perfect, and can verbalize. A director who sometimes even has no idea of music in the film is often horror to me, then I start experiments which fail at the end or the director immediately says to all: “I think that’s great,” then I have already no longer a challenge. As I said, just to make film music to make money never was my intention; I need the pressure, the challenge in the music. There are not worse things than the Daily Music that I could never do.




Do you think it is in any way possible for a good musical score to help a movie that is not good?



A bad movie remains a bad movie for me. The misconception of editors and producers, “please help us with the music to enhance the film,” is simply wrong and not possible. A bad movie is beyond redemption for me, just as it is in bad film music. I am currently watching in the German Film Academy, the films for the German Film Award. For example, there is a movie that has a really good story, but is so mercilessly clogged up by the music and is dramatically interpreted wrong that you have absolutely no more fun with the film. This is the flip side, the worst thing that can happen.



Is it important that you orchestrate all of your own music, or is this not possible at certain times on specific assignments because of time restrictions?

I orchestrate everything myself until now it was always time for that. But of course my orchestrators help me complete the fine-tuning, sometimes there are only nuances. The layout should sound like the orchestral recording.



Also do you conduct your TV and film music, or is this not always possible?


Very early I did it. But I prefer to sit in the control room with my score reader and hear relaxed the recordings.



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How many times do you like to look at a project before starting work on the music?



Sometimes I watch the film very often, especially movies (cinema) to better prepare me for the work. For reasons of time, I look at a TV film only once and start immediately. For reasons of time, I look at a TV film only once and start immediately. I don’t start a film that I have not seen. If I do not like this movie, I don’t want to realize the project.



What composers or individual artistes would you say have influenced you or inspired you?



Ennio Morricone, Hans Zimmer and John Williams have particularly influenced me. The first music that I heard was the soundtrack from “Secret of the Sahara” from Ennio Morricone; I was emotionaly impressed. Then at 24 I heard the music from “Green Card” by Hans Zimmer. From that time I knew I would be a film composer. As a teenager, I always went to the Star Wars movies and I already knew the best thing about the movies is the music, so Williams became the Grand Master of all music for me. However, I especially love the old film composers, particularly Bernard Hermann.



You are a very busy composer, because you are working on so many projects do you ever get the composers equivalent to writer’s block, where you are just stuck on a certain piece or section of a score, if so what do you do to remedy this?



Long question, short answer: no, I’ve never had writer’s block (and Marcel just knocks on wood)




What do you think is the purpose of music in film?


Music has only one meaning in the film for me to emotional accompany the film and its story in an honest and constructive form, without the music takes up the story. This is perhaps the most difficult challenge in the music, which also does not always succeed. Whether Underscoring or over scoring that does not play such a significant role. I think the transportation of the emotions in the film about the music to the audience, must succeed smoothly without bringing the audience into trouble like “”I was negatively manipulated by the music because of that, I don’t like the film”. At the latest then this is bad film music.

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Do you have a preference for any particular orchestra or even recording studio?


An “A orchestra” is of course always an outstanding orchestra, such as the NDR Orchestra, the Munich or Berlin Philharmonic. But I also like the orchestras in the abroad, they have sometimes such a warm string sound, which I love very much. If I could choose: then I would use the orchestra from London or the Boston Symphony.

How do you bring your ideas to fruition, by this I mean how do you work them out, keyboard, piano, etc etc?


This is very different. Sometimes with the piano or the guitar. But sometimes I start with drums or percussion, which I usually record live in my studio or with another solo instrument such as the clarinet, marimba or bouzouki. I have over 40 instruments in my studio, which I play myself, which is much more fun as to work with samples But the piano is my main instrument, from which I start to build the arrangements.


What are you working on at the moment, and what do you do musically away from film?

Now, after five films one after the other, I will take a longer break. Besides I am currently building with my partner Stefan Brodner the music company RAVENRED (, where artists write for us songs and source music for TV and movies, a kind of Production Music Company, similar to Hans Zimmer. At this time, 18 artists working for us and we have already contributed songs for over 20 films last year. I love this company concept because I come in contact with artists and musicians and do not spend so much time alone in my studio. Our artists realize albums for Universal Music which we write. As a producer in this company complex I feel very well and can therefore look from the outside at music and judge it. Then I start with my second company ETHNIC WORLD just the realization of “Ethno World 6”. 17 years ago I had the idea to record ethnic instruments and musicians around the world and to provide a music software (with samples). That’s why I was often in Asia, to hear these instruments and to buy them. Meanwhile, we have recorded over 200 instruments, and every three years we publish a new software update. These collaborations with artists around the world, is a mental and refreshing addition to my life. Or I like to go on vacation with my family, as so often in Asia.



Many thanks to Marcel Barsotti and also my personal thanks and gratitude to Anne  Kahnwald  and  Oliver Pöllendorfer who so kindly translated the interview for me.