Behind the piano: Kaleidoscope of Colours

Behind the piano: Kaleidoscope of Colours

A while back I wrote about the track Mimosa by the German artist Kaleidoscope of Colours, and now it’s time to get to know the person behind the name a bit better!

What’s your real name? 
My name is Susanne Geisler. I’m a songwriter and and neoclassic composer, but a lot people know me from my artist project „Kaleidoscope of Colours“, under which I compose and perform neoclassical and minimal piano pieces. 

How did you come up with your artist name?
I’m a synesthete, which means, when I listen to music or play my piano I immediately perceive colours, that are evoked in my brain. A lot artists have it – Pharrell Williams, Lady Gaga. But because I had difficulties with traditional note reading, I startet my own way to compose – entirely on base of colors. My projects name is related to something Tori Amos once said, when she was asked how she would describe music (she is a synesthete as well), and she said something like „ … I’ve never seen the same light creature in my life. Obviously similar chord progressions follow similar light pattern, but try to imagine the best KALEIDOSCOPE ever!“ I was so impressed by her biography and life, that I decided to use it as artist name. I knew from a very early age that I have that colour thing going on, but I didn’t knew that it was something special.

Where are you from? And where do you live?
I grew up in Eastern Germany. I live and work in Berlin, which has a huge vivid neoclassical scene. People like Nils Frahm, Hauschka or even Max Richter, for whom I worked a few years, live here, getting inspired by the city. 

How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
More than 25 years now.  I also play the guitar and sing. But honestly, I wouldn’t see myself as piano player. I see myself as musician. I keep it with Victor Wooten and what he said in his book „The music lesson“: that we are not pianists or guitarists or singers, but musicians. The music is already inside us and our instruments are what they are: tools to express ourselves. 

Tell us about how you started playing music. 
When I was about 8 years old, I discovered my parents’ guitar and just started jamming, and when I was 14, I got a keyboard, with which I started playing my favorite songs from the radio by ear. I am entirely self-taught. I have always been able to memorize tones and sounds, but it was many years later that I really understood that I associate music with colors and that the colors are the reason for my good orientation. I remember myself sitting with my guitar and keyboard, it were calm, happy moments, everything felt natural. I had access to me. I didn’t have that when I was among other people. I was quite shy and an introvert nature, struggled with playing roles. Its like this with music until today. Thats why I became a musician. 

How long have you been making piano music?
I startet pursuing a professional career beginning of 2016. The piano is still my favorite instrument. The variety of the sound range also including its body has expanded incredibly in the last decades, from Prepared Piano, John Cage to Hauschka or Nils Frahm with the more percussive and experimental parts. I am always surprised to discover new sides at this instrument. 

Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself
I don’t remember a specific moment. I think it just happened naturally, when I started playing around with all my favorite songs. I started imitating, then jamming, becoming more free, and with jamming you automatically generate own ideas and then you use what you like most to develop further ideas. And at some point I don’t even need that. Now I just get inspired by nature and our environment, melodies, stories, feelings. I know a lot people started like I did. That’s how we wake up our creativity. Its like a muscle that needs to be trained. But it started with simple imitating, jamming, trying etc. 

What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
I like Yann Tiersen and the way he just does his thing, with the way he writes piano pattern. He is one of the most authentic and innovative composers I know. His ideas and hand pattern revolutionized the modern contemporary piano compositions. But also Philipp Glass using polyrhythm for piano or Hauschka, using the piano as percussion instrument. I wish there would be more women among the composers in this genre though. Its still mainly men who are present and visible. 

Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano? Your own or someone else’s? 
Not a song, but certain colours and shapes, which I guess can be named as certain inversions of Major 7 Chord progressions. It start in my brown scale (Bflat major – my favorite scale) and then just follow certain colour hues. Scales, chords, notes, they all have certain colours and I just start painting 😉 

What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
The rules of music notation! Definitely! I struggle a lot with that. I’ve read that Tori Amos was kicked out from school, because she struggled with reading it too. Maybe its a synesthetes thing.  Its like I have to learn a new language, every time I write for orchestra. I found a way to colour it, so that my brain understands it faster. I’ve read an article that in Japan they have made tests, using colours and shapes for writing down a song of the Beatles. It turned out that people who failed or had difficulties reading the traditional note system, could read the notes much faster. Maybe worth a try to open the rules for written music a bit. It hasn’t changed since Renaissance.

How do you record your music?
I work in a collective here in Berlin. I often work with my friend and producer Maxi Menot, one of the few female producers. And I have a little studio where I play and record ideas on an old steinway. For my upcoming EP I went to Lake Stechlin, which is the clearest sea in Northern Germany, and recorded several sounds to include it on my new EP.

Whats your take on sampled instruments?
Everything that helps us expressing our ideas and pursuing our creativity is worth using it. The market has developed very fast in the last years and sampled instruments help us creating, expanding our ideas, especially when you don’t have access to certain resources. I know, a lot people probably see that differently but for me its not so much about the tools or instruments we use, its what we use them FOR. For me it’s the creative result that matters. 

Anything else you want to share? 
Thank your for this great interview. I really enjoyed these questions!

The last question is asked by my 6 year old son:
Where do all your songs come from? 
Haha, that is a great question! From inside myself, I guess. First I get inspired by my environment, sounds, noises, stories and then I try to „translate“ it into my music, using my feelings and the inspiration. Its one of the best ways to spend your life time 🙂

Thank you Susanne for sharing your story with us!

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