Olec Mün is an Argentinian, Barcelona-based composer and musician. He studied piano, jazz and harmony with professors such as Nicolás Guerschberg, Francisco Sicilia, Guillermo Romero and Paula Suarez. According to the press release, during his twenties he visited India and Africa, where he got immersed in their culture and felt a strong calling to aboard music from a premodern approach, which consists of considering music as a functional tool to connect with the invisible world, and not only as an entertainment discipline.
He has announced the release of a new album. Reconcilation will be out on September 25th via Lady Blunt Records and it was mastered by Home Normal boss Ian Hawgood. Pre-order is available here. It is a systemic piano work in order to heal the wounds inherited by war, persecution and segregation.
Grandson of four Jewish refugees who escaped the Second World War and emigrated to Argentina, he is the first one in two generations to settle back in this part of the world. Eighty years later, Olec Mün returns to Europe and the Reconciliation project emerges as a necessity of his Soul. The album is the outcome of his past, his memory, his roots which are transformed through composition.
Today we have the pleasure to premiere the track “Exile” which reveals the essential lines of the sound. Listen below and check our talk with him; he details the new album and much more.
Can you tell me about your new record “Reconciliation”, and the process behind creating it?
Looking back at the whole process of creation, I realize that music, once again, has served as a vehicle of healing, a platform where I was able to explore within. Last year, I moved from Argentina to Europe. I wanted to reconnect with this part of the world that my grandparents had to leave as refugees 80 years ago. Although this was my intention, I never suspected that an album would be the result. For about five months, almost everyday I went to a piano and sat down for a couple of hours. I always meditated for about twenty minutes. (When you pay for a practice room for two hours, not playing for twenty minutes is a lot!). During these meditations I recalled in some cases and invoked in others. Connecting with the grandparents I know is one thing, but to connect with the grandparents I never met is a more metaphysical, esoteric experience. After these meditations I just played and let the melodies unfold. Sometimes I found myself having to stop playing because waves of emotions would come across and overwhelm me. Every time I did this, it was painful and healing at the same time. My grandparents escaped from Nazism, but most of their families were killed in concentration camps. It was as if I recalled that pain, guilt, segregation every time I played this music. I often asked myself: “Why am I doing this?” There were moments when I felt the pain was too much and tried to think of another project. But I always came back to it. The sensation was that there was something bigger than me happening. I was being able to give voice to endless feelings that my grandparents and so many people in their situation could not express. I felt I was not only being of service to my own story, but my whole family tree was healing, and as we know life is a hologram, meaning we carry the whole in the part; if I heal, my family heals, and the whole world heals as well.
So there was no idea of a record at first. It was just this exercise that I found so moving and powerful. It was after a couple of months that I realized I was composing a record, and that the pieces were so coherent between them. Almost without consciously searching for it, I suddenly realized there was a solid structure, a unifying and powerful idea, a message and a sincere intention.
Sometimes when we make music, we are not sure if it is worth making an album with it. In my case, I always ask this question: “Is it helping me reveal something of myself?” If the answer is “yes”, then it is worth sharing. There was no doubt about this album. I am now a more complete person and I owe that to Music.
This album tells the story of your grandparents. What are your most vivid memories of them?
My childhood is full of memories with my mother’s parents. Practically every Saturday of my life, until my young adult days, were spent at their house together with my parents and my brothers. My grandmother Jetty is a one of a kind chef. Every lunch is a banquet. When we were kids, she also made us sweaters and fixed our clothes. My grandmother used to pick me up at school and we would go and have tea or an ice-cream. She would also help me with my French lessons. Jetty is incredibly generous. There is always a reason for her to give some kind of present. It was on her piano where I learnt my first melodies. She brought this piano to Argentina all the way from Vienna, but that is a whole story on its own.
My grandfather Freddy is the best storyteller I ever met. He speaks slowly and everyone stops to listen. We can listen to his stories over and over again. There is always something new to reveal about his life. When I was young I used to watch one football match after the other in his company. Jetty brought us sandwiches and ice cream in the intermissions. I think that is probably one of those childhood scenes that today are synonyms of happiness. I admire them both deeply. They emigrated when they were 6 and 9 years old, brought by their parents, without a penny, without speaking the language, with the pain of leaving everything behind, and they were able to build beautiful and prosperous lives full of love and abundance.
My two other grandparents from my father’s side, I never met. I wish I would have met them because I always felt there was such a big part of my story missing. The fact that they were almost a generation older than my other grandparents, and emigrated already married, made their story much different. Their dreams and plans of life were violently taken away from them, and they certainly had difficulties in starting again and leaving the past behind. This is why they barely talked about it with my father, so there is not much information about them to grasp. Nevertheless, during the composition of the record, I was able to connect with both of them in a spiritual and systemic way. I was able to listen to them through their melodies, and offer all my gratitude and admiration for their strength and their resilience. I had many insights when composing “Reconciliation”, but probably the most profound is this connection I gained with Dora and Richard, my grandparents whom I never met.
The Artwork is powerful. How did you choose it?
At first, I developed the artwork with Paloma Arbol, who apart from being my partner, is a photographer I admire deeply. We were both studying Kaballah at the time, which is the mystic hebrew tradition. The vase for Kaballah is a powerful symbol. It states we are mere vases holding light as the primordial energy. The interior path in life is to make your own vase bigger in order to be able to hold more light. We translated this symbol to the project.
My grandparents’ vases were shattered when they had to flee from Europe. Composing this music and coming back to their hometowns with the sincere intentions of a reconciliation is a way of putting back together the pieces of these vases, restoring their capacity to receive light again and shine.
On the other hand, there is the idea of the shape of a kite, which is also present along the whole work. This shape was reached by printing a map and joining the dots of the different towns and cities where my grandparents are from (Germany and Austria) together with Buenos Aires in Argentina, which is the place that received them and where my parents, my brothers and I were raised. So the record is also a way of joining these dots and closing the cycle. It is a symbolic way of returning.
We then presented this idea to Lady Blunt Records and they really resonated with it, so in collaboration with them we were able to reach the final outcome thanks to the work of their Graphic Designer Alessandro Lugoboni. I am so happy we were able to work as a team and that we are now sharing it with all of you.
Considering the relationship with your instrument, what is your way to give new shape to the sound and what is your idea of experimentation in art?
I can’t separate experimentation in life and experimentation in art. I find that every move I make in life is inevitably felt in the art I make. Music is an indicator for me. If I feel my music is turning monotonous and automatic, it means that I am being monotonous and automatic. If I read new material, learn new things about life and about myself, then the music that comes through me will inexorably be new and fresh. So I try to be always in search of new perspectives in life. Now, speaking specifically about the piano, we could say we are at a very good stage of our relationship. We had some rough times but I think distance has worked out positively for us. When I had my piano at home, I was all over him and it was difficult for him to ask me for space. (I had an arm injury which served me well as a message!) Now that I moved to Spain and I do not have a piano of my own (yet), I have to practice in a room I rent for a couple of hours a week. The concentration and focus I reach in that time, I had never experienced with my old piano. I think it has to do with age as well.
What has been really helpful for me as well, without doing it consciously, is the practice of other instruments. I play the frame drum, the kora, native flutes, tibetan bowls, and experiment with my voice and its overtones. I find that when I go back to the piano after practicing other instruments, I have learned something new that can be translated to my piano music.
Are you interested in doing soundtracks? What is your relationship with cinema and visual art?
I would love to do soundtracks! It is a dream I have in my bucket list, and I am certain and confident that it will soon be a fact. I have shared my music in short videos and documentaries but I haven’t done a big project yet. I know my music is really visual, since silence plays a very important role in it. When there is this sense of space in music, images tend to suit really effectively. Also, many times, when I compose, I can see scenes within. It is not easy to explain, but it’s as if the music unfolds a cinematographic scene, a movie played only for me. I know that as my artistic path develops, I will be able to share more and more of these movies in my mind.
I love how music transforms visuals. A game I love to play is to put my music as the background of random videos. Suddenly the pace changes, and the visual gains a new poetic level.
How are you living these strange times and what are the main concerns as an artist?
These are strange times indeed. All my plans for 2020 were left aside. I was going to attend an artist residence in Italy which had me really excited. This was obviously cancelled. I was also organizing a tour around Germany and Austria to present “Reconciliation” and that was also put on hold. I must clarify that I know other people are living really hard times, some facing death, and many more facing the fear of death (which is much more painful), so my musician problems are meaningless beside them. Nevertheless, regarding my concerns as an artist, I only hope we can go back to playing live soon. I have realized in these months, how I need to play live. It is not me, it is my Soul that needs it. It’s this necessity of sharing our gifts. We all need to get back together and look at our faces again, without screens as interfaces. I hope all this ends soon, and if it doesn’t, I think we will have to go over the definition of “health” and start having deep debates and decisions about our lives as a global community. These are times to question everything we believe to be true about us and about the world.
On the other hand, the part of me that is always looking at the bright side of life, decided that if I couldn’t go to the residence in Italy, I would make my own artist residence at home. So I disciplined myself into a beautiful composition and practice routine, which has been a real success for me. I have composed more music in these two months than ever in my life! So when this is all over, I will definitely start recording a new album. I know this is the case for many artists in many disciplines. So just as life is cyclical, after this period of incubation, new art will emerge, stronger and more powerful than ever.
Ritual question. Have you seen or heard anything good recently?
For me, nothing beats a beautiful piano. I am listening to Keith Jarrett´s latest release, “Answer me”, looping it once and again, waiting for the next pieces to be released. I’ve also been listening a lot to Nils Frahm’s “Wintermusik”. My latest discoveries are composers Jacob Cooper and Rauelsson. I really recommend checking them if you don’t know them.