Stephan Micus is a man to be envied. Whereas ordinary mortals have just one life, he seems to lead three different ones all at the same time: one to travel, another to study and learn and a third to record a whole string of CDs of his own compositions. And he does all this without losing any of his tranquillity. His music is resounding proof of that.
Many of his instruments, most originating from Asia and Africa, represent age-old music traditions that are in danger of dying out. Viewed in this light, Micus' compositional oeuvre can be regarded as the Noah’s Ark of sound.
Pick up a copy of his latest release – On the Wing – and listen to Ancient Trees for its wonderful combination of six shakuhachis, two sattars (a bowed instrument used by the Uigur people in Western China) and four mandobahars (an extremely rare bowed bass instrument from India). Agonisingly slowly, Micus lets his instruments feel their way within a polyphonic sound structure. Together they create an extraordinarily beautiful, lament-like story, in which each musical phrase seems to end in a question mark. The final result is a far cry from the traditional music of Japan, Western China or India. Instead, the coarse-grained sound of the instruments seems to have been devised specially for this composition.
Or take the heartbreakingly beautiful Winterlight on the same CD, played on three sattars. Characteristically, the sattar sound has an unprecedentedly large harmonic spectrum, produced by ten sympathetic strings. Winterlight sounds like an ancient prayer for many voices, reminiscent of Russian Orthodox Church music. The multitude of harmonics (overtones) gives the poignant melody a dazzling charisma.
His music has lost none of its innocence, but has gained much in terms of wisdom. His solitary lifestyle and tendency to work alone have enabled him to develop his own very distinctive sound, averse to any whims of fashion.
Stephan Micus deserves a place of honour among contemporary composers, a laurel wreath for his passion for experimentation and a deep bow for his solo craftsmanship. Saskia Törnkvist, Parool, Netherlands
Stephan Micus (sattar, mudbedsh, classical guitar, nay, shộ, hné, suling, Tibetan cymbals, gongs, hang, 14-string guitar, steel string guitar, shakuhachi, mandobahar, sitar)