Composer Nils Frahm pushing musical limits

German composer Nils Frahm will perform to sold-out shows in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.
German composer Nils Frahm will perform to sold-out shows in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.

German composer Nils Frahm has an uncomplicated goal as he plays to a string of sold-out shows along Australia's east coast.

The Berlin-based performer, who has gained global notoriety for seamlessly blending electronic and acoustic instruments, wants to push music to its limits.

"I try to explore the far edges of the musical universe," Frahm told AAP in Canberra.

"I am sometimes maximising things to new heights and sometimes reducing them to almost silence. Some pieces are long and repetitive, others are short and have lots of change."

Among Frahm's earliest memories is a house filled with instruments - with a piano, guitars, shakers, bongos and harmonicas all within easy reach.

"Using instruments was like using toys," he explains of an upbringing perched alongside his father at the piano.

The classically-trained pianist grew up in Hamburg, close to Berlin, as techno music began to take hold.

"It was pretty exciting, what came out of this, because all of a sudden it reminded me of nothing I'd ever heard before," he says.

In his mid-teens, Frahm discovered experimental bands like Massive Attack and Portishead blend technology with composition.

He was hooked.

Asking Frahm to describe his musical influences is a question fraught with danger.

"I could but it's too long and we don't have the time," he says, explaining the short-list would comprise several hundred tracks.

Among his heroes are American jazz pianists, Jamaican dub pioneers and classical and electronic musicians from across the globe.

Frahm crafts his performances knowing audiences will listen most of the time without interruption.

In contrast, his records are designed so people can sit down and listen to them in full, or play them in the background.

A key focus of live shows is maximising what Frahm describes as music's dynamic range.

"You can make the piano sound really quiet, so people will become really quiet, and then make the next thing really loud and people will think it's awesome," he says.

"When you do the same thing on a CD people will probably just set the volume to low after the first loud moment, and leave it there for the rest of the record, which basically means they don't listen to the end."

Frahm composes new music when he has the time or urge but says it doesn't come by sitting in a park and imagining melodies.

"I compose when I play," he says.

For now, his focus is not on what comes next but a worldwide tour with dates booked until April 2019.

UPCOMING SHOWS

12.10.18 Hamer Hall, Melbourne (SOLD OUT)

13.10.18 Hamer Hall, Melbourne (SOLD OUT)

14.10.18 Sydney Opera House, Sydney (SOLD OUT)

Australian Associated Press