The Cadence Questionnaire
compiled by Bob Rusch

Name; date & place of birth; completion date of questionnaire
John Wolf Brennan; February 13, 1954, Dublin, Ireland;
Weggis, Central Switzerland, February 20, 1999

1.) Your most pertinent biographical facts or points of reference.

Being born in Ireland, then moving to the Continent and spending most of my schooltime in Switzerland, I was exposed to a hefty cultural shock at an early age. My mother was a professionally educated singer, covering a repertoire from Schubert to Hugo Wolf and Richard Strauss, throwing in the odd Irish folksong; my father was a very good amateur pianist. This background and the rock music of the late sixties/early seventies provided a fertile soil

2.) Your most pertinent artistic facts or points of reference.

Studied piano with Eva Serman (from Hungary, hence my love for Bartók) at Lucerne conservatory, composition with James Wilson (Dublin), masterclasses in composition with Edison Denissov, Ennio Morricone, Klaus Huber and Heinz Holliger. Workshops with Tim Berne, Don Friedman, Ray Anderson, Joëlle Léandre, Karl Berger, Nana Vasconcelos a.o.

3.) Your preferred venue for performance (clubs, concerts, recording studio, etc.)

Clubs: Porgy & Bess, Vienna; Knitting Factory, New York. Concerts: Queen Elisabeth Hall, London; Studios: Bauer Studio, Ludwigsburg/Germany; Hard Studios, Winterthur/Switzerland

4.) Your major artistic achievements.

To survive half a lifetime with this crazy idea of an uncompromising new soundscape between contemporary classical and contemporary jazz music. To keep the international quartet «Pago Libre» together for 10 years.

5.) Future artistic goals.

To survive the other half.... a truly sustainable development would mean: to be able to continue this work, and thrive on it. To write an opera (based on W.H.Auden‘s «The Age of Anxiety». To carry on with «Pago Libre» for at least another decade

6.) Your major turning point(s), personal and/or professional.

meeting my future wife, Béatrice Wolf, a classical pianist, in 1984. Conceiving, writing, performing and recording my first solopiano album «The Beauty of Fractals» in New York City in 1988. The birth of our first daughter Móreen, 1992. Living and working in Ireland 1993. The birth of our second daughter Enya, 1995. Spending half a year in London, 1997

7.) How do you relax?

Swimming in Lake Lucerne, cycling, mountain trekking, jogging, going to the Sauna, reading a good book (right now: the Swedish author Henning Mankell, Paul Auster, Nicholson Baker, Samuel Beckett, Robert Walser, Daniil Charms)

8.) What is the best way to communicate with you?

From a distant place: by email ( or maybe visiting my homepage (; from within a closer circle: over a cup of caffe latte or on a long walk

9.) Outside of music, what is your major passion or interest?

Literature, film, theatre. Visual Art: Paul Klee, Man Ray, Wassily Kandinsky, Mark Rothko, Henri Matisse, Cindy Sherman, Andy Warhol, Hans Arp. Futurism, Cubism, Dadaism

10.) What is your major musical irritant?

96,3% of today‘s musical production

11.) Who are your heroes, or what are your major sources of strength or inspiration?

The other 3,7% – personalities like Gianluigi Trovesi, Kenny Wheeler, Dave Holland, Alfred Schnittke, John Cage, Györgi Kurtag, Henry Cowell and Henry Cow. Counterparts and friends like Alex Cline, Gene Coleman, Tscho Theissing, Arkady Shilkloper, Daniele Patumi, Robert Dick

12.) The artistic achievement you feel best about to date.

Some of my latest albums: «The Well-Prepared Clavier» (solopiano); «HeXtet» with Julie Tippetts, Evan Parker, Chris Cutler a.o.; «Aurealis» with Robert Dick and Daniele Patumi; «Pago Libre: Wake-Up Call/Live in Italy», «Moskau-Petuschki», «Shooting Stars & Traffic Lights»

13.) What is most relevant to your artistry?

Honesty, conZENtration, poly-encoding (tying up and weaving more than one knot into every composed, improvised or comprovised piece of music), endurance, persistence, calculated ecstasy

14.) What is the most neglected area in your business?

Promotion, distribution, date management

15.) What sustains you personally and/or artistically?

A kind of primeval trust into the nature of our sisyphus-like human condition has generated enough thrust to keep the rebel going, at least so far

16.) What makes you feel good and/or successful?

A knot-knowing smile on the face of the listener

17.) Preferred geographical place to live.

Central Switzerland – at the crossroad of four great European cultures: French, Italian, Austrian and German

18.) Do you feel you have power in your business? In what areas?

The greatest power comes from being able to decide, from following three tiny words: “just do it“. Of course, the opposite is equally true: saying NO sometimes is a very powerful (and artistically essential) move

19.) Where is the power in your business most centered? Can you, or do you, reach it?

I‘m constantly puzzled by its presence or absence – it seems to be either in you or far out in the next galaxy. Since there is no Scotty to beam me up, I find myself relying on an old, time-honoured, but arduous virtue: patience

20.) What would you like the public to most understand about you?

That good music needs special attention to the fourth dimension to grow on you
and in you: time.

February 1999
john wolf brennan

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