Notes from the Unexpected: Daniel Nufer and Pile of Books

Pile of Books shop window detailText and images by DB Miller

On a quiet Zurich cross street, where the most colorful buildings resemble skin tones, Daniel Nufer stands on the sidewalk with a cigarette in hand. As he talks to a young couple from the apartment block next door, he begins edging backwards, past the glass storefront and vintage suitcase stuffed with books, until he reaches his ashtray. It shows signs of earlier use which, by extension, suggests the table and empty chairs aren’t there for show, either. The whole scene is dated, almost pastoral, and for a moment I am confused. Because the last time I checked, I lived in a city of bankers and the year was twenty-fourteen. Continue reading

Skipping the barrier

Text and images: DB Miller 

On the dark patch of pavement between the club and a line of shopping carts, my friend and I take a moment to talk strategy. The crowd is thinning, but we’re pretty sure the band has not yet left the building. We’re also pretty sure that if two starry-eyed, rain-soaked brunettes ask a roadie about the band’s plans tonight, it won’t look good.

The stage: blue light

Earlier, about the time I figure Stereophonics are rolling into Zurich, I am one big knot of words. It’s hot, almost too hot to eat, but I’m darting around, tripping over lyrics, discussion prompts, biographical minutiae and the black pug we are dog-sitting. Her snorts compete with my one-two’s as I test the pocket recorder, and her unflinching bug eyes close in like the heat – like the words. I don’t even think about the music.

In her memoir, Patti Smith describes the pull, way back when, “to infuse the written word with the immediacy and frontal attack of rock and roll”. I’m no rock and roll star, but I need the attack as much as she does. For the moment, I’m still on the other side, locked out, and stuck inside the noise of my own head.


As the evening nears, I try to be optimistic about my chances of an interview with Stereophonics’ lead singer Kelly Jones for this very publication. The odds are long, but we’ve been hoping the musician-writer-director will want to share his perspective on storytelling in diverse creative formats, or just, you know, talk. After some Continue reading

In Conversation: Ludwig Wicki

Libby O’Loghlin talks to a man who gets to wear a Star Trek uniform to work

April, 2013

Ludwig Wicki portrait by Libby O'Loghlin

Ludwig Wicki. Image courtesy: Libby O’Loghlin

Ludiwig Wicki grew up on a farm in Kanton Luzern, where he began his musical life playing the trumpet and trombone.

Wicki travels widely as Founder and Conductor of the 21st Century Symphony Orchestra, a 150-piece orchestra and choir, acclaimed for their ‘Live to Projection’ performances with movies such as Lord of the Rings, Gladiator, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Star Trek.

Tell us a little bit about what being a conductor involves.

As conductor, I lead a big group of strong individuals and very good musicians through a musical score. That means I show them the way. They have the music, and they need someone who can give them the tempo and coordinate things. I’m a coordinator and a creator, and I can shape the music. When I conduct very flat and boring, and then the concert will be boring. When I give passion and tension, or go forward and backward to make it lively, then the orchestra go with me and the audience experience that.

It’s also the job of the conductor to prepare the music properly, to hear what’s wrong, to find problems, solve them, to keep the musicians working, practising properly. Sometimes you have to be a bit direct, to give them deadlines. That’s the game.

What attracted you to film projects in the beginning?

The film music! I love it. Often the music is for me more impressive than the film. If you come from that direction, you can see that our first dream (as the 21st Century Orchestra) was to perform film music live, as music.

In fact, that was the idea at the beginning. Then we [with Pirmin Zängerle, business partner] discovered Lord of the Rings and through that we came to the idea of screening complete films with live soundtracks. That’s special. There are the two mediums and also the challenge to bring so many things together: the score, choir, orchestra, and the film … all this, it’s a very special moment.

People often think film music is not as good as concert music but that’s not true. When you take the film out, a lot of pieces work on their own, and are very good compositions.

I attended the first performance of Star Trek in Luzern in April this year and was blown away by the power of the choir and orchestra’s performance. To what do you attribute the power of live performance with film? Is it any different than, say, downloading a film from iTunes?

picture of Star Trek Live to Projection ticketsYes, yes! It’s much different. That’s the luck we have with this kind of project. First of all, you hear the music much more in front of the movie; in the movie itself, the director and mixer often take down the music because they love special effects and dialogue. But we care about the music, and that means that often the music is extremely powerful, and Continue reading