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Swiss harpist takes dim view of music industry

Switzerland's leading harpist, Andreas Vollenweider, is sceptical about the music industry Keystone Archive

One of Switzerland's best-known musicians, the harpist, Andreas Vollenweider, says he has become increasingly disillusioned with the music industry.

This content was published on May 18, 2001 - 16:24

Vollenweider told swissinfo that new technology is having a corrupting effect on music because it enables the industry to manipulate sound in ways that distort reality.

Nowhere is this more apparent, he says, than in the production of "live" music, which he says is often not live at all.

"Many concerts are not played entirely live, because there's a lot coming from machines. Some of the most wonderful opera singers can jump around and be extremely visual because they don't even sing. This is because the music industry is behind them."

Vollenweider says he has been fortunate in his dealings with the music industry because: "I was more like a pet for the music industry. I was never really of value to them, and so they never really hindered me and told me what to do."

He says the goal of his music is entertainment, but also to make his listeners think about themselves. "I'm trying to invite people to come to another place where they can explore their own imagination, and therefore get to know themselves much better. But I also need the music to survive."

Vollenweider, born in Zurich in 1953, is the son of Europe's leading organist, Hans Vollenweider. He discovered the harp in his 20s, and shortly thereafter built the world's first electro-acoustic harp.

For him, music is not something one creates, but rather something one discovers, in the same that way a sculptor chisels away at a block of wood or marble to reveal a figure within.

"I don't plan my life and I don't see myself as a composer. Music has to compose itself, in the sense that something comes your way through spontaneous playing."

In the course of his 25-year career, Vollenweider has produced some 12 albums, which have sold over 10 million copies. He has received numerous awards, including a Grammy and the World Music Award in Monaco.

Vollenweider's first public performance was at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1981. The following autumn, he released his second album, "Behind the Gardens, Behind the Wall, Under the Tree", which put his distinct sound on the map.

by Jeff Nottage

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