“Like a Big Playground” – Little Rosies’ Kindergarten

Little Rosie's Kindergarten (c) Hans Klestorfer

On their second album “Jeder gegen Jeden” (Listen Closely), the great Viennese large ensemble LITTLE ROSIES’ KINDERGARTEN carries the listener back to the magical times of childhood with their elastic acoustic dérives, when the boundaries between playful seriousness and serious play were only formed by fences of fantasy. It is a pleasure and captivating to follow the agonal lightness and sophistication within the box of sounds that this very anti-authoritarian shelter of  exceptional romping talents is creating collectively. On two tracks, the impulsive language artist CHRISTIAN REINER has also joined them, masterfully surrendering himself to free association in word and sound. Michael Franz Woels played the curious kindergarten inspector, asked most members of the large ensemble a few questions separately, and found out who the great inspirer is, what an ideal kindergarten might be like, and where a cocoa beverage was warmed up for you.

What memories do you have of your kindergarten days? What would an ideal kindergarten be like for you?

Judith Schwarz: I remember many role plays that we simply made up. I always wanted to be the “mom” or the “heroine”. The ideal would be to have a lot of free time with the other children, because when you play and do whatever comes to mind, that’s when your imagination really gets going.

Robert Schröck: I was the first in my group to make a paper airplane!

Helmut Mühlbacher: I probably put paint all over myself and certainly had a lot of fun doing it!

Johannes Bankl: A feeling of security and creating worlds together at play.

Anna Anderluh: My kindergarten memories are terrible. In the ideal kindergarten, no one is there to tell me to shake hands, but you’re allowed to romp and make noise and kick the balls out of there.

Simon Frick: I remember some of the children, the caregivers and the place, and the feeling is quite positive. Children should be welcome there as they are and be able to develop playfully.

Werner Zangerle: It was a small kindergarten in the countryside and Aunt Resi was strict, but nice. The cocoa in the little tetrapaks was warmed up, and that was no longer the case in elementary school; quite a step backwards. It was almost unthinkable to leave the group room and go out into the hallway; you had to summon up all your courage. With my children it was quite different, the kindergarten was an open house where the children were encouraged to look into every corner.

Lisa Hofmaninger: Playful learning and the carefree approach of getting to know and exploring foreign things with incredible curiosity are important. Not questioning anything you are doing at the moment: the so-called “tuna-fish principle”. My ideal kindergarten consists of a motley bunch of different characters who are so diverse and yet all cooperate. It allows each child to explore and recognize his or her strengths. It is directed by warm-hearted kindergarten teachers who occasionally steer the bunch in a certain direction, because sometimes a clear instruction is needed to form a strong common focus. It has a huge garden for physical romping and dancing.

“ONE FLOATED OUT OF TIME WITHOUT UNDERSTANDING”

Lukas Leitner: My sparse kindergarten memories are not very specific: all objects around me were oversized and invited us to play. For me, an ideal kindergarten is a place of boundless interactive creativity and playfulness.

Philipp Kienberger: I don’t remember anything in particular. After all, it wasn’t about anything at that time. Fragments: crying fellow children, St. Martin’s celebrations, carnival, running around outdoors, picking flowers. We were floating out of time without any understanding, giving in to every impulse and simply didn’t know any better. Actually, we knew nothing. But this can only be defined from today’s point of view. Children should not be put under pressure in a kindergarten, but simply allowed to be. I live in Hütteldorf next to a kindergarten, where the children are running around in the garden all the time. That actually looks pretty ideal to me.

Little Rosie’s Kindergarten (c) Hans Klestorfer

Little Rosies’ Kindergarten pieces always create an amazing pull that captivates the listener. Babies are something like mini-trance experts for me. They seem to be constantly fascinated by the world around them and hypnotized by sensory stimuli. What personal trance experiences have you had – with or without music – in your life?

Judith Schwarz: Almost every day when I’m practicing. It has something very meditative for me.

Werner Zangerle: My experiences happen probably mainly when making music, when suddenly everything becomes very clear, you’re not thinking anymore, you’re just doing it. My meditating experience goes a little bit in that direction, but less “trance-like”.

Anna Anderluh: Sometimes I get lost in music, so that I forget everything around me. That feels like a trance experience to me.

Philipp Kienberger: For me, suction is the basic principle of every artistic creative process. I can only perceive a piece of music, especially one of my own, to be a good piece if it grabs my attention when I’m listening to it and if I feel the need to keep listening unto the very end of it. The search for these feats is ever-present for me and I very much hope to experience it at least once a day. It’s about a kind of abstract counterpoint for me. A white wall is a counterpoint to the painting that is hanging on it. It’s the same with silence and music, and more, with the listener and the music. It’s about two entities facing each other and inevitably getting into an endless exchange with each other. It gets even crazier when a third or fourth entity is added, or when one system turning on itself comes into contact with another. Then questions are asked, then things begin to live, then suction comes into being, for me.

Simon Frick: When making music, especially when improvising, a trance-like state sometimes sets in. Otherwise I had trance experiences for example while doing sports, through experiences in nature and meditation.

Helmut Mühlbacher: The discovery of Jimi Hendrix was a trance moment, from then on I started to play guitar.

“WHEN HEARING COMES SO STRONGLY TO THE FORE THAT IT COMPLETELY OUTSHINES SEEING”

Lukas Leitner: For me, deeply felt music and trance often go hand in hand. There are and were many trance experiences in the context of music – whether as a musician on stage or as a listener in the audience. Regarding live situations, a concert with Little Rosies’ Kindergarten and musicians of the Euregio Jazz Ensemble comes to my mind, at what felt like 2,000 meters above sea level, as part of the South Tyrol Jazz Festival. During a saxophone solo based on a ritual groove, the location – a large former wooden barn – literally began to glow.

Johannes Bankl: I experience my trance quite often when improvising on stage, when hearing comes so strongly to the fore that it completely outshines seeing, the room disappears and you suddenly don’t seem to play your own instrument yourself anymore.

How and when did you come together as a large ensemble? What is the attraction of making music in this configuration for you? You are all active in other music projects as well?

Robert Schröck: Flexible sound design and performance formations. Feeling good as an appreciated individual in the collective.

Lisa Hofmaninger: Every rehearsal is like a class reunion. Everyone brings experiences from other projects and artistic edges. Every single voice and opinion is important in the collective and is heard. The line-up allows for a lot of possibilities of romping about in terms of composition and improvisation.

Anna Anderluh: It’s very interesting compositionally what you can do with such a big band. So many colors and such a strong energy. When everyone cooperates, it simply takes you for a ride.

Simon Frick: I joined later, a little over a year ago. For me, it’s a coherent, refreshing coming together of different characters.

Werner Zangerle: I also joined relatively late. Judith Schwarz asked me if I wanted to join. The kindergarten is simply a great body of sound, great instruments, unbelievably great musicians, super people. I’ve learned a lot in and with the band, and I also think it’s wonderful that everyone can make their input with a personal voice. Still, it’s also challenging in a good way.

Helmut Mühlbacher: Lisa Hofmaninger asked me in 2016 if I would be interested in playing in an impro collective. The project didn’t have a name yet and was only in its formative stages. Little Rosies’ Kindergarten is like a big playground for me. Everything is allowed and even desired – that’s extremely appealing to me, especially because I am able to interact with 13 musicians and always can discover new facets in the music.

“BETWEEN CONTROL AND CHAOS, WITH COMMON APPROACHES IN MIND”

Lukas Leitner: The origin of the band lies in an ensemble in which some of us had participated towards the end of our music studies at the Bruckner University in Linz. There, under the aegis of Andreas Schreiber, we played the music of Frank Zappa and combined it with free improvisation. We then decided to keep this spirit going with our own compositions and founded Little Rosies’ Kindergarten in Vienna shortly afterwards. What makes making music in that large ensemble special for me? The unique sound world that is created when 13 musicians with similar ideas are making their own music together. The sonic result is so eclectic, ranging from subtle and intimate to effervescent and highly energetic.

Johannes Bankl: I joined the project just before the first album. It’s a wonderful bunch of creative and lovely people. Everyone has a very individual approach to music and comes from a different direction. Together we’re often creating a sparkling creative atmosphere and quite an energy that is discharged while we are playing.

Philipp Kienberger: After the very successful final concert at Bruckner University, we were all extremely enthusiastic about this combination of written music for large ensemble and free improvisation. Judith Schwarz then took the initiative and drummed us all up outside the university and the kindergarten came to life. The first concert took place in 2017 and it was pretty quickly clear that we had found a very exciting configuration. It’s not a big band that works with the typical sections, but with a bunch of creative soloists. Since there are also 13 composers, a great wealth of sounds and new ways of making music quickly emerged. Each member is active within the music scene in a wide range of projects and versions thereof. This makes the kindergarten not so easy to organize, but at the same time it now feels like a kind of home base where everyone meets from time to time bringing along their new experiences.

Judith Schwarz: I am very happy about this kindergarten, and about our development into a real band, where everyone is contributing and is proud to develop something together with their colleagues. The sound of this great ensemble is full of life and of each individual’s creativity: Between control and chaos, with common musical approaches in mind. Since there are hardly any ensembles of this size – where there is no “boss” – it was very important when creating the ensemble, to drum up a community of creative individualists who, in addition to their independence, are also team players and have understood the power and potential of a collective. We have definitely achieved that.

Cover “Jeder gegen Jeden”

Your first CD was produced during a live performance, the second album was recorded this year at the premises of the ORF Funkhaus. What were the big differences for you personally in the process of creating the album?

Judith Schwarz: Yes, it was a bit different. Both have advantages and disadvantages.
During the live performance we were in our familiar field. We all heard each other well and could really feel the collaborative sound while playing. Still, the new album offers, besides a musical development, a great sound quality and a best-of of our studio days.

Robert Schröck: Both processes have their charms. The uniqueness of the live take with an audience gives it a quality that, even with the one or other “mistake” in the performance, does not diminish its quality. A studio production simply offers us the possibility to try out various things in order to come close to an imaginary or even real ideal of a sound concept.

Johannes Bankl: Both album recordings were as energetic as a concert. The current album “Jeder gegen Jeden” was preceded by intensive touring and concerts, so some of the songs had already been played live and developed further and have thus gone through a maturing process. You can feel that. The moment after the recording session is real nice, when you are experiencing the music as a listener only, for the first time.

Helmut Mühlbacher: Studio 2 in the ORF Funkhaus has a very special vibe, and it was very inspiring to make music there. We were also able to take a little more time with the pieces and respond better to the individual songs during the recording session.

“WE WERE ABLE TO CREATE A MUCH MORE DETAILED AND SHINY SOUND”

Lukas Leitner: The first album was a successful snapshot; complete with the energy of a live performance. The second album had more lead time and was created with more attention to detail, both before and after recording it, and this was to the benefit of the sounds of the individual instruments and sections, but also of the respective mood of each piece. In addition, our ensemble sound has developed a lot since the first recording.

Werner Zangerle: Preparation time was much longer. We were able to play some of the pieces live several times, so of course they matured. And as a band we have also grown together incredibly since the first album.

Philipp Kienberger: The first big difference is of course that we were allowed to record at the Radiokulturhaus, and Studio 2 there just sounds incredibly good. Because of that, and also because of better separation, we were able to create a much more detailed and shiny sound. While the music we are making is clearly live music, I still feel that we owe it to the listener of the CD at home to provide the best listening experience possible. The option of improving the final result, at least to a small extent, in post-production, by using different takes, is already a good thing, and we also spent a lot of time on that. But it was very important for us to keep the live character, which is why we didn’t use any overdubs at all and all solos and impros were created in the moment.

Your current video is dedicated to “The Great Inspirer”. Who or what is that?

Lukas Leitner: For me, that’s the muse behind artistic ideas, behind creativity. It’s not easy to conjure up musical ideas and then develop them into a finished product. So the song is a kind of homage, a reverent worship of the muse, I would say. Only Clemens (note: Sainitzer), the composer of this piece, knows what it this.

Anna Anderluh: For me it sometimes sounds like John Zorn and Cobra. I don’t think I was there when Clemens explained it (laughs).

“IN THIS SENSE, THE PIECE IS ALSO A PERSIFLAGE OF THE HECTIC MUSICAL DEVELOPMENTS OF CURRENT TIMES”

Philipp Kienberger: The name is a metaphor. You can understand the video as a dedication to the music, and to the idea itself, but that’s only part of it. To be quite honest, the title came about because everyone in the band is a big anti-fan of British musician Jacob Collier. After all, there’s artistic freedom and everyone should be allowed to do what they want. But this music of Jacob Collier, which is based exclusively on technical skills, can unfortunately not be approved of and I also can not support the trend that this anti-musical jumping around on stage, and losing oneself in the production of super elaborate and information overloaded YouTube videos, is seen as the current musical optimum. In this sense the piece is also a persiflage of the hectic musical developments of current times. The middle part, where we are hopping in a totally incoherent way from one music to the next, is supposed to reflect this feeling. We are losing our concentration, just like our internet-burned brains, and a hullabaloo emerges. But what remains is the hope for music.

Can you briefly tell us something about the titles of the pieces on the current album “Jeder gegen jeden”?

Lisa Hofmaninger: “Friday 2015” is my personal reminiscence of the terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday, Nov 13, 2015. I spent my Erasmus semester in Paris at that time. The different emotional states and feelings I experienced during this semester are reflected in this piece.
“imizamo yethu” is inspired by the impressions and images that a trip to South Africa left in me, it means something like “our efforts” and is the name of a township near Cape Town.

Werner Zangerle: I originally composed the piece “Urban Gardening” for our collaboration with the Jazzwerkstatt Südtirol. The title refers to gardening, of course, but it’s also about life in the city; more generally about the coexistence of different cultures and life philosophies. This is exactly what happens in the piece, different elements which sometimes fit together more, sometimes less, are put together, piled on top of each other. That doesn’t always work out smoothly, it’s dynamic, massive.
“Panto” I recorded back in 2012, it was the title track of the second album of my Werner Zangerle Quartet. It’s influenced by the older Paul Motian Quartet and by Bill McHenry albums, and what fascinated me especially, was this free flowing and melodic thing. Panto is a frame form for spectacles, and Pan means all-encompassing. I expanded and rearranged the piece for Little Rosies’ Kindergarten. It’s about the juxtaposition and superimposition of relatively independent elements.
“Nachtlied” was composed for my children. “Fürchtet euch nicht” is a phrase that would have had its place at the very beginning, if there were lyrics. There is a lot of love in the melody. Musically, I was inspired by a piece by drummer Doug Hammond called “Closing Down,” which has a similar simple and repetitive bassline and a plain, but beautiful melody.

Judith Schwarz: I wrote “Calling for Strength” during my Erasmus stay in Basel. A time full of ups and downs. After a very unpleasant breakup, I felt very lonely there. But in one of the practice rooms on the campus I tried to bring out the strength in this feeling and hammer it into the piano, and that’s how the leitmotif of this composition originated.

Philipp Kienberger: “Solo!(2)” came about because I wanted to write a piece in which everyone is a soloist. At the same time, it also questions the modern form of jazz improvisation, which often functions according to the principle of higher-faster-further. Each musician has only one measure, and must give it all! But the piece was also born from the memory of a project with the Christoph Cech Jazzorchestra Project, and is thus a kind of mental assemblage.
The piece “Kran” is dedicated to Christian Reiner. It had been planned for a while that he would be part of the album production, and I wanted to write a piece that would keep pushing itself upwards through repetition and by adding layers, with Christian as the leading voice. It was created when we were stuck in a traffic jam on a German highway for several hours with Little Rosies’ Kindergarten last year. The title “Kran” has nothing to do with the traffic jam however, but, loosely based on Hazel Brugger, I took the first word that came to mind and whose sound I liked.

“BUT AFTERWARDS WE ARE NICE TO EACH OTHER AGAIN”

What meaning does the saying “everyone against everyone” have for you?

Simon Frick: That can happen at an impro …

Robert Schröck: For me it’s sort-of a game, or a quite common perception in many a performance practice.

Philipp Kienberger: Everyone against everyone also means everyone for everyone. A conflict arises from two parties. At the same time, what arises between these two parties would not be there without these two parties. What is the big difference between everyone against everyone and everyone for everyone? For me, it’s pure music.

Anna Anderluh: My free associations are: battles in the sandbox, snail fights, Black Friday.

Judith Schwarz: I see it as a total counterpart to the way we are working. We are looking after each other very well and are trying to allow everyone to develop their own voice. Yet, there are game situations where an “everyone against everyone” moment and therefore a push is asked for. But after that we are nice to each other again (laughs).

Little Rosie’s Kindergarten (c) Hans Klestorfer

Helmut Mühlbacher: The album cover describes it without words. In general it is an absolute miracle for me that we managed to record and release a complete album in times of a pandemic.

Lisa Hofmaninger: Exactly what our cover depicts: Teasing is a sign of affection.

Lukas Leitner: For me, the saying is primarily an ironic commentary on the competitive and self-marketing pressures of our mediatized society. Everyone is thinking more and more about his or her own advancement, especially in art and culture. We are creating a certain antithesis here with the idea of a collective. But actually the title goes back to a trite comical situation during the recording of the album at the Funkhaus (laughs).

Johannes Bankl: The name came about during an intensive rehearsal. It describes very well the energy and mood when we’re working together on the music, in the most positive sense!

Werner Zangerle: It’s about predatory capitalism: eat or be eaten. That’s pretty much the opposite of what we want, but it came up at some point, just before a piece was counted in. The joke that we are “really turning into solid concrete” a rather fragile piece now, falls into a similar category.

As a musician, how can you best keep your “inner child” happy?

Anna Anderluh: For me, tinkering with music – without immediately seeing a purpose behind it – is important, but also taking breaks, and doing something completely different from making music.

Simon Frick: By always carrying on the search …

Johannes Bankl: The important thing is to listen, to watch, to read what other people have to say, if they are able to express themselves. Whether musically or as an author, speaker, actor, painter, or simply as a person. When you can feel people through their art, that often becomes a strong inspiration.

Lukas Leitner: That is a challenge that one is constantly faced with. There are probably no generally valid solutions for this. I would say that a circle of creative people around you helps just as much as being honest towards yourself and your own “inner child”. However, the framework is certainly also important, i.e. the available free time, the premises or the existence of concerts, in order to have goals.

“OFTEN THE MOST CREATIVE AND LASTING TIME OF ARTISTIC CREATION COMES AROUND WHEN ONE IS SPREADING ONESELF TOO THIN”

Helmut Mühlbacher: I would say not to put too much pressure on oneself and to have fun with it.

Werner Zangerle: Stay curious, listen to new things, keep approaching seemingly familiar things with an open mind. When practicing, but also when playing, always leave room to try things out, to be spontaneous, to make mistakes.

Lisa Hofmaninger: Letting the current emotional state speak through the music. Soaking up external impressions like a sponge.

Philipp Kienberger: To be kind. And to surprise oneself or others. Doing the same thing every day is deadly. And by no means to believe that writing e-mails and staring at Facebook will make you more creative. Go out. Be stupid. Don’t take yourself seriously.

Robert Schröck: Discipline and order. Carrot and stick (laughs).

Judith Schwarz: Trying to follow your gut feelings. Dwelling with what inspires you at the moment, and always drifting a little. Often “spreading oneself too thin” is the most creative and lasting time of artistic creation, even if you often don’t realize it until much later.

Thank you very much for this polyperspective interview!


Michael Franz Woels

Links:

Little Rosies’ Kindergarten

Little Rosies’ Kindergarten (Facebook)

Listen Closely

Translated from the German original by Julian Schoenfeld