My interest in creativity extends beyond my work as a counter-tenor. I am also captivated by the world of the moving image, and compose my own music. You can view my short films – often inspired by my travels – in this section. My musical compositions range from short pieces to elaborate recordings – one of my favourites, Never Again, was recorded at the famous Abbey Road Studios. You can listen to it here.
As a teenager, I experimented with my father’s Telefunken and ASC tape recorders, buying my first synthesizer at the age of 17. In the early days of electronic pop-music, I started to program songs on a Commodore 64 alongside a Sequential Circuits Model 8 sequencer and a Roland TR 707 drum machine.
My musical influences and heroes are Howard Jones, OMD, New Order and the Pet Shop Boys. Together with my friend Lars Janzik, I performed for about three years in the pop-duos ‘Generation’ and ‘Key Zero’ in local rock-festivals. We recorded an entire album, of which only two songs were released.
During my studies at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, a world famous school for medieval, renaissance and baroque music in Switzerland, I joined the Elektronisches Studio of the Basel Music-academy. For seven years, while pursuing my countertenor studies, I worked in the electronic studio under the direction of composer Thomas Kessler, programming my own music as well as assisting visiting composers in the realization of their live electronic compositions.
Together with Thomas Kessler and the other members of the studio, I engineered the concert amplification of visiting musicians, such as Ravi Shankar and Ali Akbar Khan, in the Stadtcasino in Basel. After finishing my studies and leaving the Elektronisches Studio, I built my own modest home studio, slowly expanding my equipment collection and developing a passion for microphones.
In Basel I composed and recorded music for the Midsummer’s Night’s Dream performance of the Stuttgart Ballet and worked on a CD project for Deutsche Grammophon, together with the fashion designer Wolfgang Joop.
After living in Basel for 20 years, I moved back to my hometown, Kiedrich. There, I realized my dream of converting an old winery into a professional recording studio. In this space my wife Tamar and I prepare recordings and develop musical concepts. We also develop ideas for future recording projects with our musician friends, including Edin Karamazov and Michael Wollny.
On a flight from Ljubljana to Frankfurt my suitcase was lost with sheet music, concert suit, shoes….everything. The airline was´t too helpful and after declaring the suitcase a total loss, reimbursed only the „used value“ of everything. I didn´t buy used underwear, second hand shoes and concert suit though and lost half of the value of all these items. As a little „thank you“ gift I wrote this little song for them. Google "Adria Airways song“ and you´ll find it on top of the list. ;-)
I love folksongs and frequently try to integrate folk elements in my own songs. For this one I kept the drums as simple as possible and I hope that I´ll get a chance to record the song with real instruments rather than the ones created by my computer.
Here is another folksong text with a newly composed arrangement. There are more than 70 versions of the „Barbara Allen“ theme and the first one I heard was sung by Alfred Deller. Again I will need to invite some instrumentalists to overdub the strings, bassoon and clarinet parts. The „plug in“ sounds give an idea how it could sound.
This is a balad I wrote after my father died the working title was „The dead“ after James Joyce´s shortstory from his „Dubliners“. I told my friend Assaf Beiser a few stories about my father and asked him to write the lyrics for this song. I think he caught the everlasting pain of losing a parent beautifully with his words.
Sometimes I sing baroque music and i think „this could be a pop song“. Especially repating bass patterns and "falling fifths“ sequences evoke this sentiment. For „La solitude“ I used Marc-Antoine Girard de Saint-Amant´s poem „La solitude“ and picked a few verses from it. Henry Purcell did the same in his song „Oh Solitude“. The original french poem has 17 verses and would make for a very long song.
For this song I combined short phrases from Handel arias for the lyrics and wrote this monumental arrangement with large string section, trombones, oboes and electronic beats and sounds. Frank Zabel arranged the song for symphonic orchestra and I had a blast singing it live with Roland Kunz and his band.
With a little bit of an autobiographical tendency „Pretty baby“ is a song I wrote about 17 years ago and the issues mentioned have thankfully been solved through meeting my amazing wife Tamar. Somehow she redeemed me from the curse that whatever I did was „noticed but just not enough…“ As my old friend the pop producer Burkhard Lasch says:“If you haven´t experienced it, how do you want to sing about it“.
A few years ago I recorded my wife Tamar and our friend, the singer Yael Zvi in our studio in Kiedrich. One of the songs was by Sasha Argov and that was when I heard first about this Israeli composer. Argov's songs are a beautiful mix of art songs with folk elements. He died in 1995 but his songs are still living on in the israeli music tradition. I learned the lullaby „Shir Eres“ phonetically, since I don´t speak hebrew yet.... The words are by the famous poet Nathan Alterman and talk about the moment when everybody goes to sleep. It´s a great joy to sing this song in concert and to hear the audience join in singing at „ve haililu...“ since most Israelis know the song.
Alongside my love of music and audio recording, I’ve always been fascinated by various electronic gadgets. When I was a child, I loved capturing our family holidays on Super 8, and taking photographs using my father’s Canon camera.
When I started to get paid for singing concerts, the first thing I bought was a Sony CCD V-600 video camera. At the time “Hi-8” was the format for the ambitious amateur, and the camera recorded many student-concerts, as well as the parties afterwards.
Over the years I have regularly updated my video equipment, and the next big step came when I saw the “film look” that could be achieved by using a depth of field adapter.
I shot a documentary, The Animal in You, with my friend Mariano Wainsztein, a filmmaker from New York. We used a Sony HVR-V1, a Redrock Micro M2 DOF adapter, plus two JVC GY-HM 100 handheld cameras. Our small team travelled to Basel in 2011, where we interviewed Richard Levitt, my singing teacher. The documentary was directed and cut by Mariano, with Patrick Becker as a location sound engineer. I was both in front of and behind the camera.
The soundtrack was edited and mixed in my studio in Kiedrich, and in 2012 the film was selected by the “National Board of review” (Student grand award) as well as the “New Filmmakers New York” and screened twice in Manhattan.
On the few occasions when my concert-schedule permits some time off, I go traveling with my Sony FS-100 camcorder. I record short clips, and combine that with my own compositions or music from my colleagues.
In February 2013, I shot a video clip for Idan Raichel´s song: In stiller Nacht, which features my vocals, accompanied by Tamar Halperin on piano.
I’m excited about a few upcoming filmmaking projects, including a documentary about the Jewish author Gerson Stern. This acclaimed writer lived in my hometown, Kiedrich, and managed to escape to then Palestine before the holocaust.
While on tour in the US in December 2012, I came up with the idea to make a video clip for the recording Tamar and I did of Schubert´s ‘Ave Maria’ (Wanderer: DECCA). We invited people on the streets of Manhattan to sing the opening phrase of this beautiful song. Incredibly, EVERYONE we asked knew the melody and tried to lip-sync the clips to my voice. Our friend, the film director Mariano Wainstzein assisted us with filming on the beautiful Sony FS100 camera.
During my second invitation to sing with the Metropolitan Opera I bought a new video camera at BH Photo Video, my favorite store in New York! For the first time I could record video with a Super35mm sensor that gives the shallow depth of field look that film cameras have. From the top of my apartment building, South Park Tower on 60th Street, I managed to get beautiful panoramic shots of Manhattan´s skyline. The camera is strong in low light conditions, which enabled me to shoot at night without getting a grainy image. For the soundtrack I chose Renée Fleming’s incredibly beautiful recording of the Jimmy Webb song ‘The moon’s a harsh mistress’ from her CD, Haunted Heart. I played the clip for her when we sang together in Handel’s Rodelinda and she liked it!
After living in Basel for 20 years, I moved back to my hometown Kiedrich in 2007 to reconnect with my parents and family, but unfortunately that year my father passed away. He loved our little village and its late medieval church, and enjoyed singing and playing the organ there every Sunday. The old churchyard is just across the street from the house I grew up in and I decided to film my first clip there after coming home. At the time you couldn’t get any affordable large sensor camera, so I purchased a depth of field adapter, the Redrock M2. This device, in combination with a Sony HVR V1 created a monstrous contraption, but enabled me to get the film look I was after. The music was composed and recorded by me in 1998 for a dance theatre production of Shakespeare´s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ with the Stuttgart Ballet.
While working in Salzburg in 2012 singing Handel´s ‘Giulio Cesare,’ I rented a beautiful apartment in the Bruderhof and noticed that the Sebastiansfriedhof (cemetery) was just a few steps away. I took my camera and spent a few quiet hours there. Reading the inscriptions on the tombstones, I saw how many children were buried there. Some parents lost four or five children to disease. I filmed with a macro lens and a tilt shift adapter and tried to capture the sadness of the place. I chose Schubert´s ‘Death and the Maiden,’ a recording from my Wanderer CD for the soundtrack.
When my friend Idan Raichel invited me to sing a German song on his latest album, Quarter to Six, I was thrilled to record the vocals and the piano part in our studio in Kiedrich. He knew that I was an amateur filmmaker and asked whether I could film a video clip as well. With the help of our friend Lars Böhm, Tamar and I filmed the clip in our studio, and in Frankfurt, deciding to incorporate split screen elements, which meant it was more of a challenge to edit
In 2000 I recorded one of my own songs, ‘Never again,’ in London’s famous Abbey Road Studio. My record label, DECCA, was incredibly generous in coordinating the string arrangement for this ballad. When the jazz combo members arrived, they had a 5 minute sound check and we recorded two takes, and after 20 minutes everything was done! In 2009 I visited friends in Basel and filmed this handheld clip in their beautiful garden on a sunny day in May.
Tamar and I were invited to play a Christmas concert in Schloss Elmau last year. We decided to film another video clip as a Christmas greeting to our friends all around the world like we did in New York before with the Ave Maria clip. However when we went to film, there was no snow in sight to give our clip that nice winter atmosphere. Fortunately I discovered a Final-Cut plug-in from Pixelfilmstudios called Pro-Snow. All the snowflakes you see flying around in this clip are created by this CGI effect! :)
While working with the magnificent Kings College Choir under Stephen Cleobury in Cambridge for a St Matthew Passion by Bach, I used a couple of free hours to walk through this beautiful town with my Sony NEX6 (a small photo camera that shoots video quite beautifully as well). I tried to capture the sights of Cambridge through the reflections in windows and discovered a new way of looking at things indirectly. The song is called ‘All through the night’ and was composed and recorded by me in 2012.