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Bold as Light

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Bold as Light
Bold as Light


Stephan Micus has a special and intense relationship with the countless instruments he plays. Many, a number of which come from Asia or Africa, represent age-old musical traditions, some of them dying out while others have congealed into the stuff of museum exhibits. But in Micus' hands they come alive again. His 19th recording for ECM, 'Bold as Light' focuses especially on two wind instruments, the raj nplaim from Laos and the nohkan from Japan, as well as many male voices, all sung by himself.

The Bavarian multi-instrumentalist experiments with new sound possibilities and often plays the instruments in ways other than those he was taught by local players during his distant travels. Improvising, he comes up with the most surprising combinations of instruments, whose melodic lines he plays separately into a multi-track recorder. The resulting polyphonic structures are staggeringly and mysteriously beautiful.

Micus' three main sound protagonists on this new recording are the raj nplaim (a free-reed pipe made of bamboo) from Laos, the nohkan (a Japanese bamboo flute), and the many male voices, which are all sung by Micus himself. He drew inspiration for the multipart vocals from the intriguing polyphonic singing of Georgia and Bulgaria, which since the early Middle Ages has shaped the style of everyday singing as well as the liturgy of the Orthodox Church. On the very last track, the interwoven vocals make way for the Japanese sho (mouth organ), thus joining different aural worlds in a total sound whose divergent timbres have surprisingly much in common.

Each instrument, of course, represents a culture, an aesthetic and (religious) world of thought. The knowledge of this not only adds an extra dimension to the music but also at times helps clarify the mutual relationships in sound.

Personnel: Stephan Micus (raj nplaim, bass zither, chord zither, bavarian zither, nohkan, shô, voice, kalimba, shakuhachi, sinding)


  1. Name
  2. Part 1 - Rain: 6 raj nplaim
  3. Part 2 - Spring Dance: bass zither, chord zither, bavarian zither, nohkan
  4. Part 3 - Flying Swans: sho, 17 voices
  5. Part 4 - Wide River: 4 raj nplaim
  6. Part 5 - Autumn Dance: nohkan solo
  7. Part 6 - Golden Ginkgo Tree: kalimba, shakuhachi
  8. Part 7 - The Shrine: 6 raj nplaim, 15 voices
  9. Part 8 - Winter Dance: bass zither, chord zither, bavarian zither, nohkan
  10. Part 9 - The Child: 8 raj nplaim, sinding
  11. Part 10 - Seven Roses: sho, 19 voices, raj nplaim
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