1/2 in Tbilisi — Interview #12 — Reso Kiknadze
Who are you?
I am Reso Kiknadze, Georgian composer, saxophone player, computer musician and, at this time, rector of Tbilisi State Conservatoire. Music is actually my “second life”. I first studied classical philology and was about to go to Jena, Germany. They had a very good school for classical philology there at the university. But it did not work, my family didn't conform to the Soviet government. But I remember, I was not very sad about it. My mother had bought me a saxophone and it changed my life... I finished my studies, got a good philology diploma and became a musician.
What makes you or made you do what you do?
I have spent the twenty most intensive years of my life in Germany. When I was still living in Germany, I got a place of assistant professor at the Ilia State University in Tbilisi. I was commuting between Georgia and Germany, planning to relocate my main activities little by little to Georgia. Three years ago my mother died and I felt this as a signal that this ‘bit by bit’ would never work. I had to return immediately.
I came back to Georgia two years ago. Several jazz clubs offered me the possibility to play. It was somehow sad not to have made this step ten years ago. The situation at that time was more unstable so it would have been much easier to change things… And at last, this offer to take over this job at the Conservatoire. I was just asked and I felt I could not say no. This was a chance to take the musical education in Georgia into a new direction.
What is your dream? Or your ambition?
I have a beautiful house in Kakheti which my parents bought and rebuilt when my son was two years old. This is at the border of Georgia and the best place for me to keep my living as I would dream of: watching things, listening to sounds, not getting angry or anxious about something and keep studying. That’s much more important for me than being active in some social or political or educational way.
Could you tell us a childhood memory?
My very first two musical memories: Schubert’s Impromptus Op. 90 no.4 and Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf, when the cat is nearing up to the bird…
Two early electroacoustic memories: there was a radio wire in every house with one station only. Every evening I used to listen to a bedtime story, ending up with a kind of lullaby; it was so loud that it distorted the sound. The other sound is a mix of a drone from a high voltage bunker, not far from our soccer ground, with birds tweet. I can’t consider myself being a musician from my early childhood, but I was listening a lot.
What do you do when you don’t do anything?
I love not doing anything, but I can’t imagine being in a state of complete inactivity. In this ‘not doing’, a lot of ideas and memories rise, even when you’re asleep. You realize you miss your friends, you call them and they come by and you talk about everything and nothing. All my youth, I used to sit and work on a big table full of guests, my friends, my parents’ friends. I was writing parts of my scores, my father-in-law was drawing at the same table, people were coming and going. There was wine, food, chess, discussions, jokes… Working and relaxing at the same time. I would love to keep on doing that.
What is the place in Tbilisi you like the most?
This city is full of memories and love stories. I have loved Tbilisi all the time, even when it was half destroyed. Some people are trying to make the city uglier and uglier but it doesn’t happen. They have built tasteless buildings but the city still remains authentic.
Could you tell us a Georgian personality you find inspiring?
My teacher, Mikho Shughliashvili. He was one of the most important composers. He was the main avant-garde composer in Georgia, despite the lack of information and the overrunning socialistic force in aesthetics at that time. He passed away in 1996 and he still keeps inspiring me in every work.
What inspires you?
For composition I could take anything as an inspiration, because I am not a traditional music writer or music thinker who gets some melody, then writes it down and arranges it for some ensemble. I think art begins in the very first spontaneous vision, in something quite extraordinary, seen in something quite common. It can cause a need or an urge to make this vision visible to others.
Do you see any relationship between your work and the city of Tbilisi?
I see a connection with playing jazz. Playing in this city is completely different than playing in Berlin or in Lübeck or somewhere else. We speak Georgian, so we play something which was born in a completely different linguistic context. Jazz is based on jazz standards and these are actually the songs that everyone in the USA knows. But nobody really knows them in Georgia. We are playing with these standards because jazz musicians play them.
Jazz is also the people you play with. The three young guys with whom I recently created a band, are very talented and energetic. They have a strong vision and somehow they give me an impulse to play better. They are giving the different kind of inspiration that I am searching for. I could not live in a place where I could not play jazz.