Berlin‘s finest in clarinet entertainment since 2000

reviews on live concerts

La Presse
[…] Deux clarinettes
Le concert qui suivit fut remarquablement subtil: sous la bannière The International Nothing, deux clarinettistes allemands cultivent un jardin zen parsemé de sonorités minimales et horizontales, desquelles émergent de superbes harmoniques. Exercice très difficile à mener pour obtenir des résultats aussi concluants. Bravo à Michael Thieke et Kai Fagaschinski, véritables chercheurs de la clarinette, concepteurs brillants, modestes et autodérisoires si l’on s’en tient aux titres de leurs oeuvres – The Dark Side of Success ou encore Less Action, Less Excitement, Less Everything. Ha ha! […]
by Alain Brunet in his article “FIMAV: nouveau chapitre d’un même livre” about the Festival de Musique Actuelles de Victoriaville 2015 (Canada, May 17, 2015)

Downbeat
[…] Another intriguing theme this year had to do with the unusual—and unusually sensitive—pairing up of like instruments. We got an initial taste of this concept with the refreshingly soft and low-key festival debut set by the German clarinet duo wryly calling itself The International Nothing. Calm as the sound of these virtuosic and masterfully controlled players may be, what Michael Thieke and Kai Fagaschinski have wrought here—in a project on the fringes that dates back to 2000—is something very special to behold. Intimately inflected textures, harmonies and overtones combine on compositions with particular goals. “Pop Music,” for instance, keys off of percussive effects, while “Amongst Dissidents” artfully explores the subtly rhythmic beating tones between the closely tuned clarinets. The reedists ended their set with a minimal, melancholic piece reminiscent more of 20th century composer Morton Feldman than anything in the jazz clarinet cosmos. But somehow, The International Nothing resonates well within a jazz context—or at least a jazz setting with FIMAV’s broadly spun aesthetic.
by Josef Woodard in his article “Victoriaville Festival Unites Jazz, Rock, Avant- Garde in Quebec ” about the Festival de Musique Actuelles de Victoriaville 2015 (USA, May 21, 2015)

Stuttgarter Zeitung
[…] Der Auftritt des Duos The International Nothing (Kai Fagaschinski und Michael Thieke) dekuvrierte lässig die Bemühungen solcher elektronischer Hilfen, ohne die die meisten Komponisten auch des Mainstreams – ängstlich bemüht, auf der Höhe der Zeit zu sein – nicht auszukommen glauben. Allein mit zwei Klarinetten und ausgetüftelten Überblastechniken, der Erzeugung von Mehrfachtönen und Partialklängen boten die beiden das Gleiche, was aufwendige Elektronik bei anderen leistet. Der Stückverlauf mag formal einfach sein, aber die passionierte Stille ihrer drei Gemeinschaftswerke beeindruckte nachhaltig. Einher geht diese Radikalität mit einer Verweigerung, Handel mit der Kreativität zu treiben. Fagaschinski, ein Autodidakt auf seinem Instrument, erklärte, dass sie ihre Stücke nicht verlegen lassen wollen, auch nicht wünschen, dass sie nachgespielt werden. So viel künstlerische Freiheit hat ihren Preis: Freimütig bekennen die zwei in der Programmbuch-Biografie, als Nachtwächter und Hausmeister ihren Lebensunterhalt zu verdienen. Es wirft ein Schlaglicht auf die prekäre Situation vieler Komponisten. […]
by Götz Thieme in his article “Klarinette schlägt Laptop” about the Donaueschinger Musiktage 2007 (Germany, October 23, 2007)

Ravensburger Stadtmagazin
[…] In der schummrigen Christuskirche dann klingt es nach reiner Elektronik – doch spielen Kai Fagaschinski und Michael Thieke “nur” Klarinette. Die komponierten Stücke sind mikroskopische Forschungsarbeiten zur Klangverschmelzung – bewundernswert, wie die beiden mit Doppeltönen, Schwebungen, feinsten Farbverläufen spielen. Künstlerisch auf höchstem Niveau – aber immer noch kein Jazz. […]
by Sebastian Pantel in his article “Musik in Zeiten des Krieges” about the NOWJazz concert series at the Donaueschinger Musiktage 2007 (Germany, October 22, 2007)

Esslinger Zeitung
[…] Konventionell tönte in der runden Christuskirche auch das Duo „The International Nothing“ nicht. Die beiden Klarinettisten Kai Fagaschinski und Michael Thieke interpretierten ihre drei Stücke ungemein homogen und filigran: faszinierende Harmonics und Mikrointervalle wie im gemeinsamen Atemzug. […]
by Hans Kumpf in his article “Jazz bei den Donaueschinger Musiktagen” about the NOWJazz concert series at the Donaueschinger Musiktage 2007 (Germany, October 24, 2007)

Geht doch, wenn man will.
comment by Björn Dirlack on their concert at KuLe, Berlin, October 15th, 2007.

Improjazz
Kai Fagaschinski et Michael Thieke forment The International Nothing. Deux clarinettistes unissent leurs microtonalités lentes et infinies. Les Notes s’échappent, se répercutent, s’incrustent jusqu’á l’obsession. C’est aussi une autre forme de délestement. L’auditeur rejette ou admire. Le set semble court et on les quitte en suivant le mouvement méme de leur hypnotique musique : avec lenteur et délestement. Décidément !
by Pierre Durr in his review about the “Musiques Innovatrices Festival” 2010 in St. Etienne (France, October 2010)

A Spiral Cage
Returning to the Chapel for the first night of the second half of this years SIMF, brought new visiting musicians and a new format. The first night would be three established duos from the visiting musicians. The first of these was The International Nothing, who in lieu of an official introduction explained to us that this project was for composed music and that they’d be playing six compositions tonight. Kai expressed some amusement in playing composed music at an Improvised Music festival. Kai also explained that part of the theory behind the group was to work out pieces in such a way that it the sounds would work together as a whole. The six pieces spanned the entire history of the group, with the first being (I’m fairly certain) the opening track on their album Mainstream. The pieces are usually long held tones that weave in and out from the two clarinets and do create this effect of a single instrument, like a pump organ say, with a key held and then another pressed, then the first released and so on. Really hypnotic and fascinating, though my experience with the album was that the tunes in this vein felt a lot alike. In this set though only the two oldest tunes had exactly this structure the other four, two of which were quite new and untitled varied in ways from this formula to provide a lot of interest. The second piece worked in a lot of natural gaps, nice incorporating the sounds from in and outside the chapel. A later piece featured “lyrics” in Morse Code, that one of them would create with small short (and long!) events over the sustained tones of the other. Another piece was only a couple of minutes long and was made up of short alternating melodic fragments. The final piece, titled Sleep, was long overlapping stretched out melodic elements that really evoked its name, though it’d be an uneasy sleep. I really enjoyed this set and it was one that I was initially uncertain about as I’d found their album a bit mixed.
by Hatta in his review about the “Seattle Improvised Music Festival” 2009 (USA, February 2009)

All About Jazz
The music that Kai Fagaschinski and Michael Thieke play is formal but strangely elusive. As the clarinet duo The International Nothing, they released mainstream on Ftarri in 2006, with some tracks augmented by guest vocals, guitar and bass. That project was extended in 2008 with the The Magic I.D. quartet’s Erstwhile release, a set of unusual songs with the two clarinets at the center. But at Experimental Intermedia (Mar. 6th), the duo played alone, even announcing that one of their delicate compositions was written with lyrics which are to be mouthed, not sung. The six pieces they played were very measured, phrases seeming to last about as long as a lung’s worth of breath and finding new variation with the next shared exhalation, creating a very pleasing regularity. Despite the dissonant harmonies and ‘wrong’ fingerings, there was a strong structure to the music. They weren’t concerned about counterpoint—even pitch seemed, in an odd way, secondary; the Webern-esqe pieces were more about volume and duration and about projection and expansion. That quality, which makes them work so well as a foundation for working with other musicians, also was responsible for creating a Cage-ian sense field at Phill Niblock’s Centre Street loft. The intense listening makes one intensely aware of the room: the light traffic outside, the stereoscope of clattering heating pipes. They didn’t quite sound like a duo, nor quite like solo or trio; their unison lines and multiphonic accents were too fluid to count.
by Kurt Gottschalk about The International Nothing’s concert at Experiment Intermedia, New York on March 6th, 2009 (U.S.A., March 2009)

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