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Nils Frahm

We showed him the piano; it was as if we were introducing someone to him to the first time. He lifted the lid, hit a couple of keys, smiled and murmured, “He’s got character”. Later: “He’s unpredictable. I like it”. He played a little more, and called out to us once more: “Hmm… there’s a slight chance that I might break it. I get excited sometimes.” We didn’t tell this to our hosts; instead, we crossed our fingers.

He opened the piano, placed some felt behind the hammers. He barely spoke, but when he did, it was always with deliberateness and calm. We were ants scurrying around him, preparing the material, while he had already begun a long conversation with the old piano.

There were books on all the walls, and a striking period staircase. The people sat down on the settees,  also at his feet, though he already had begun to play. Others convened on the staircase, close to one another, pressing up against the bars that left just enough space to see Nils’ fingers touching the keys, his shoulders quaking and eyes slowly closing.

Time has stopped.  Not a sound except the piano, no movement in the room. No one dared. Some held back coughs, not blinking out of the fear that a single bat of the eyelid would break the moment open, bringing everyone back to reality.

One of the children present nodded off on the sofa, lulled by Nils’ playing, deep in reveries that we all eventually fell into, one after another. The kind of dreams one can have while still awake, yet never wanting to wake up from. Nils’ performance was a soothing voice, a hypnotizing pendulum that took us there.

Sometimes, as if everything had become too tranquil, Nils Frahm would tear open the dreamlike atmosphere that he himself had created. Like when he started to hammer one key, just one, with fervor and metronome-like control. The repetition of a singular tone was like a trance, a pulse that was extended with flair on the Fender Rhodes to his left. We could have just filmed his fingers. We could have focused on the life he gave to the felt-covered hammers and his chords. Watching him sweat, a result of the élan given to his pieces.

I don’t believe we have ever filmed such an intense connection between a musician and their instrument.