Victor Kraus and Martin Frink are two of their generation’s best percussionists, a well-oiled percussion duo. In 2006, the two musicians created the one-of-a-kind ensemble KrausFink Percussion. The duo's outstanding musicality, coupled with their virtuosity and a particularly high degree of versatility and flexibility have made KrausFinkPercussion sought-after performers at an array of festivals across Europe. Here are some excerpts from an interview conducted by Bernard Weis, Philosophyteacher at Lycée Classique de Diekirch, Luxembourg.
BW: Which of your shared experiences was the most memorable?
MF: Since we are involved in a number of different musical projects at the same time, there of course are also very different projects that stick with you. The first experience that comes to mind is a performance in Saarbrücken. We played in front of a sold-out crowd, performing a piece that we had just arranged shortly beforehand. Nothing is more exciting than "trying out" a new arrangement in front of 1,300 people. Everything went without a hitch and we shared an amazing moment. We had another particularly enjoyable performance during the Karlsruhe Silent Movie Days, where we provided live accompaniment for a 100-minute movie by René Clair, improvising almost the entire performance. It was as if we were able to keep the flow going the entire time, not losing it for even two seconds during the entire experience. Playing was so awesome that I felt like I played with an enormous grin on my face the entire time. [VK laughs]
VK: Since Martin just mentioned improvisation: We recently participated in a film production by Vogl & Hentschel film atelier in Munich for which we also chose to improvise. It was so unforgettable, since I saw that our collaboration – in place for over four years now – also bears fruit in this spontaneous form of making music. You know your partner, you can feel and even smell him. This spontaneity is very exciting since you have to listen to each other very well, much more than when you play from a score since it is created in the moment.
BW: What role does KrausFink Percussion play in your lives?
MF: It plays a major role. I had always envisioned playing together with someone in an ensemble in the long run and I really want to take advantage of this opportunity. That's why everything that has to do with our duo is so important. I’m a long-term planner and I assume that I’ll keep doing this as long as I possibly can unless something totally unexpected comes up.
VK: From a professional point of view, KFP plays a very important, if not the most important role to me. This is the aspect in my life where I am challenged the most as an artist. And I’m also my own boss. Of course there are two of us, as equals, but there is nobody above us [laughs].
BW: So being your own boss is important? [MF nods in agreement]
VK: It’s nice to be in charge of your own project.
BW: What do you wish for in the future?
MF: On the one hand, I wish that the development our duo has made will definitely continue in the same way and that an even more fruitful and more successful collaboration will result from this than it already has. On the other hand, I have a general desire for the music scene, that more walls will be torn down and that more tolerance among musicians would prevail. The fact that there is some intolerance on the part of the audience isn’t that surprising, since getting rid of it is a long-and-drawn-out process. You would think, though, that among musicians, intolerance would be a non-issue, but in reality, it’s actually extremely widespread.
Even though making music is universal, all kinds of music are pigeonholed and there are very specific music genres that you identify with exclusively. As a hip hop artist you have to wear baggy pants, as a heavy metal fan you have to wear black T-shirts and have long hair and as a classical musician, your hair has to be combed and parted, and you need to be dressed to the nines when you appear on stage.
This ties in with the fact that I strongly oppose the separation into entertainment and serious music, which are higher up in the hierarchy than the music genres. My credo has always been and continues to be: Serious music should be entertaining and entertaining music must be performed seriously, whereby serious and entertaining have to be defined more precisely. Those who feel at home in classical music should know that there are high-quality musicians and music in all other music genres, ranging from techno to folk music. At the same time, someone who feels at home in popular music should know what it means to play chamber or classical music: interpreting compositions from sheet music. Those are two very different cups of tea, but you should certainly have a certain degree of background knowledge when it comes to different types of music.
VK: People often look down on those who play “written down” music, saying, "There is no creativity since everything is in the music already." But you could compare this to acting: Actors also have their script and the role that they need to interpret. When it comes to recitals, we are executing artists.
In the recent decades, percussion has been liberated from its role behind the scenes. To me, it's important for people to get to know percussion and find out how fascinating the entire percussion repertoire and all of the percussion instruments and sounds can be. The percussion duo as a form is truly fascinating and still in its infancy. This is an adventure, both for us and for others. I would enjoy sharing this discovery with people.