© 2019 by MAX RIEFER

BIOGRAPHY

 

 

On the search for a new musical language in the intercultural and interdisciplinary environment of Southeast Asia

 

Percussion in the 21st century has endless options and varieties of sounds due to the seemingly unlimited accessibility of arts and culture of our globalised times. This freedom comes with a very high need for responsibility and self-reflection for percussion performers and composers. Living and working in the intercultural and, traditionally interdisciplinary, environment of Southeast Asia, German Percussionist Max Riefer dedicates his life to create a new musical language in this area of conflict between tradition and experiments.

 

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He discovered his passion for new music at the age of 16 after listening and performing Edgard Varèse's iconic milestone "Ionisation" and Alban Berg's Opus 6. Subsequently, he founded his first New Music Ensemble at the age of 18, still with the dream of becoming an orchestra percussionist. However, by enrolling in the Percussion Performance and Education Program at the Freiburg Music University (Germany) to study with Prof. Bernhard Wulff, Prof. Taijiro Miyazaki and Pascal Pons, he got in touch with the vast and rich percussion repertoire of the 20th and 21st century.  Being fascinated by experimenting with instruments, acoustic and electronic sounds, preferably as soloist or the intimate environment of a small chamber group, he choose to change his career focus. 

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Inspired by concert tours to China, Mongolia, Vietnam and Thailand with the Freiburg Percussion Ensemble, his first long intercultural encounter were two semesters of studying at the Toho Academy (Japan) with Prof. Yoshiyuki Tsukada, Yasue Sawako and Prof. Kyoichi Sano.  From there, his interest in the intercultural work field emerged and finally led to regular projects in Southeast Asia and Japan. 

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After obtaining his German Diplom, he first served as a lecturer of the Percussion Faculty at the Conservatory of Music Lugano (Conservatorio della Svizzera Italiana), Switzerland from 2010 to 2012, and gave masterclasses, workshops and lectures at the Birmingham Conservatoire (UK), The Janaček Academy of Music Brrno (Czech Republic), Musikhochschule Freiburg (Germany), Tokyo Ongaku Daigaku (Japan), Ueno Gakuen (Japan), The Mahidol College of Music (Thailand), the University of the Philippines Manila, and the Shanghai Conservatory of Music (China) among others.  

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In 2015 finally, he decided to make his main area of research his new home when he was appointed as "Director of Percussion Studies" at Universiti Teknologi Mara UiTM Faculty of Music Selangor/Malaysia and coach of the New Music module „Opus Novus“ at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music Singapore.

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Since then, he has explored the existing percussion repertoire composed by Southeast Asian composers and  commissioned and premiered new works by composers from Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines.  His current projects deal with experimental music approaches that stem from traditional music performance practices, like exploring the boundaries and possibilities of Gamelan instruments or the use of electronic sound production in combination with local instruments. 

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In addition to collaborations with universities, his performance activities in the area include participations in festivals such as SIP Festival Jakarta (Indonesia), Cracking Bamboo (Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand), Gongs & Skins (Myanmar), Soundbridge (Malaysia), Sounding Now (Singapore). He further is the curator of the concert series "Connecting Beats Malaysia" in Kuala Lumpur with invited guests from Germany, Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, the USA and Singapore.  

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Besides his endeavours in Southeast Asia, he has performed at international festivals like MaerzMusik (Berlin), Tokyo Experimental Festival (Japan), Wien Modern (Austria),  2d2n Odessa (Ukraine), and the Soundways Festival (St. Petersburg, Russia) among others. 

 

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Being active as soloist and chamber musician, Riefer has played major works with renowned fellow musicians like Steven Schick, percussion (Luciano Berio - Linea) or Julian Steckel, violoncello (Mauricio Kagel - Match) . He further collaborated with and premiered solo works by composers like Wen Deqin, Keiko Harada, Ivo Medek, Dieter Mack and Peter I. Edwards, with whom he also forms the duo for percussion and electronics "Zero Crossing". He is also the percussionist of the Singapore-based new music ensemble "Wu Xian". 

Riefer's concerts were recorded and broadcasted at radio stations such as the DeutschlandRadio Kultur, DLF, Saarländischer Rundfunk, SWR 2 (all Germany), and BBC 3 (United Kingdom), he has also played with Ensemble Modern (Frankfurt) and Zeitkratzer (Berlin).

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Max Riefer has received several awards and scholarships including those from the German National Merit Foundation, the Lions Club of Saarland, the Arts Foundation Baden-Württemberg (all Germany), Toho Orchestra Academy of Japan, and a residency-scholarship by Tokyo Wonder Site, Japan. In addition, he has earned several awards such as “Culture-Prize granted by the Cutural Minister of Saarland”, a special award from the Fritz-Neumeyer-Academy, the “Gustav Scheck Award” earned with the Freiburg Percussion Group, and a national first prize in the German music competition “Jugend Musiziert.” 

 

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After focusing mainly on instrumental-acoustical projects, Riefer has broaden his sphere with intercultural and interdisciplinary projects involving dance, acting, electro-acoustical music and video as well as composition. 

 

He is an endorser of Vibrawell Mallets and Pre du Rhin instruments.