There is no word that describes the urgent desire to explore, to travel, to see the world better than the German word ‘Wanderlust’.
My path has led me to Berlin, where I am meeting a very inspiring person for my first interview ever. His name is Oskar Schuster, a young German composer with a warm character and a soft voice.
It is cold when I arrive in Berlin, the snow gives every street a touch of magic. It makes me think of Oskar’s album Sneeuwland (snowland), which I discovered by chance when listening to piano music on youtube.
At first I thought the composer was a Belgian or a Dutchman, because of the Dutch title, but I was quite surprised to find out that I was mistaken. It made me curious to know more about the artist, so I sent him an e-mail and he invited me to come to Berlin.
I am excited and a little nervous the moment I press the doorbell with the name ‘Schuster’. An old wooden staircase leads the way up to the second floor, where Oskar welcomes me in his little appartment.
In the small hallway I am invited to take off my shoes. The wooden floor creaks at some places, the ceilings are very high. Two colourful paintings -art works from his mother, as he tells me later on- contribute to the cosiness of the place.
Apparently we are both a little shy.
‘Would you like a cup of tea?’
I describe to him how I discovered his music and how I was intrigued by the fact that he had used a Dutch title for his album.
‘Why did you choose this title?’
‘A friend of mine from the Netherlands once told me that she has this imaginary place in her head where everything is quiet and pretty, where she can be at peace. She calls it sneeuwland. I really like this image and also the sound of the word.
Some people even think I am Icelandic, because I have quite some compositions with Icelandic titles. But I use a lot of other foreign languages too, such as French and Finnish.
The reason I do this is because most listeners are not familiar with these languages and I want my titles to leave space for imagination, I want them to pay attention to the sounds and the atmosphere it provokes rather than to search for meaning.’
‘Do you make the video clips that go with your music yourself?’
‘Not all pieces have a music video, but the once that do have, I edited myself. For Valtameri for example, I have used some stretches of little unlicensed films from the 60’s 70’s and 80’s that I put together in slow motion. For Damascus I worked together with a friend. It is a kind of stopmotion clip that I made with an analog camera.’
(scroll down for the links to these music videos! 😀 )
‘You are fairly fond of old things, aren’t you? Analog cameras, old pianos, a gramophone, we can even hear the sound of a typewriter in a couple of your songs. What is the charm of old stuff?’
He smiles when I ask him this question and takes a sip from his tea before answering.
‘I don’t know actually… My music is nostalgic. I want to provide a counterpart for the modern technology, for the modern things that always have to be perfect. I like to work with old things, because they have a soul, they allow you to make something imperfect, even magical in a certain way, because it doesn’t seem to belong in this world.’
A cat is mewing at the door to be let in. Kafka is the name. The silky grey cat walks into the room in a very elegant way and seats itself at our feet.
‘Kafka is one of my great sources of inspiration. Many people only think about dark horror stories when they think about Kafka, but I often think his work is very humorous. His novels are so absurd, they provoke a dreamlike world and that’s what I use in my music.’
‘If you had to name one artist which influenced you the most, who would it be?’
‘That’s a difficult question to answer. I guess inspiration is the combination of many different experiences in life. I think I am influenced by a lot of artists, but probably the most direct influences in my music are Beirut and Yann Tiersen. But also Chopin, which I played a lot when I was 15, 16 years old and the Beatles have left a great impression on me.’
‘Would you like to play a little piece for me on one of your pianos please?’
‘Yes, of course. Which one would you like to hear?’
‘Matilda is one of my favourites.’
‘In what way, according to you, can art “feed” us?’
‘There are many ways to approach the concept of art. I think that it is different for every one of us. For me personally, art is the way to express myself, to create something beautiful and meaningful. It represents a compensation for something that society couldn’t give: life can be very boring sometimes, that’s why you need music to add some magic. You could even call it a spiritual experience.’
‘Are you religious?’
‘Not in the traditional sense, but I believe in a kind of connecting energy. I think it is important to explain the world to yourself in some way, it doesn’t matter how, as long as you provide some explanation for yourself.’
‘How did you start your career?’
‘I studied musicology at the university of Munich and after that I applied at the university of arts in Berlin, but they did not accept me, because my music didn’t fit in. I don’t regret it, because I think it would have been too academic for me, my art is more a spontaneous expression.
In september 2011 I released my first album Dear Utopia, on which I had been working for two years. In 2014 my next album came out, called Sneeuwland. It is the album which I am most satisfied about. You can hear in my first album that I was still experimenting, searching for my style and I guess in Sneeuwland I have found my own sound. My last album Tristesse Téléscopique came out in september 2015.’
‘Can we expect some more art of you in the future?’
‘It is a dream of mine to once publish a novel actually! Next to music, I also love to write and draw, but for the moment I want to stay focussed on music. There is still inspiration left for a new album…’
‘I am very curious! I have got one last question for you: What is you favourite dish in the world? 😉 ‘
‘I am fond of the Vietnamese cuisine! Tofu, noodles, I love it.’