Finding Harmony where it is most deeply concealed 

That has become one of my mantras. I am Max Kelm and I graduated this year in Composition for Film & Theater at the conservatory in Arnhem. When you read that, you might think of Hans Zimmer scores with huge orchestras and big drums and epic melodic lines, but I am paving a completely different way. I am not a Hollywood-style composer! I aim to be innovative in what I do and I’m trying to create a completely different concept of live music presentation. Originally, I was born and raised in Germany (Essen) and came to the Netherlands in order to study. Now, 4 years later, I moved to Cologne to fulfil my visions and to earn a living with my music.

Spatialization of sound

I am very interested in the spatialization of sound and telling stories with my music. So for my final audition, I had the idea to let the audience move around while the musicians are dispersed across the concert hall – like an exhibition for your ears. In total I had 27 musicians: two pianos, four strings, two accordions, two drums, one crystal bowl and one full choir. Additionally, I built my own surround system with 8 speakers which I triggered live during the performance using the DAW (Digitial Audio Workstation) Ableton Live. I integrated field recordings I gathered on vacations and journeys over the past three years, such as recording an ocean of cowbells while hiking through the Alps, or an acoustic journey from a chaotic urban environment towards nature and its peacefulness. I wanted to emphasize the amount of impulses crashing into our brain systems daily, caused by the acceleration of almost all procedures in daily life, leading to sensory overload. We are living in a time where burn-outs and depressions are getting more and more common and I wanted to make a statement – “People, slow down! Just take some rest and listen to yourself!” The longing for nature and calm was an essential topic that I wanted to highlight in my performance. In total my piece had a duration of 50 minutes.

In the picture above you can see that I am holding up a sign with the letter B. The composition of the piece was based on both improvisational parts and written parts played by the musicians, as I conducted them. Due to this concept, I was able to make the development of the music very dynamic and fluent by giving cues individually, for groups of instruments, or even for all musicians at the same time.

My time at ArtEZ

What I love about the school and the teachers is that they support you in anything you want to do. Although you are in charge of your own progression, they will provide you with all the knowledge you need.

When I started studying, I was super excited to finally have been accepted at an official Bachelor degree program in music. I expected it to be beautiful and horrible at the same time and I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but now that I have made my way, I can guarantee – it is totally worth it. In the course of studying, I struggled a lot with self-esteem. My bubble popped and all of a sudden I was surrounded by so many talented people. Which is great, but I had to face myself and my weaknesses. Constantly pushing myself out of my comfort zone became normal. It happens of course that you compare yourself to your fellow students. But stupidly, I could only see my flaws and not my strengths. I almost quit. But something inside me didn’t want to quit, although I was mentally in a shaky state. And I am so glad I didn’t. I had a very great time at ArtEZ with highs and lows, with laughter and tears.

2015: Introduction Week
2019: Graduation Party

At this point I would like to give a piece of advice to all of the students currently studying at ArtEZ or any other school. You might sometimes find yourself thinking: “I’m not good enough, others are better”; or maybe you feel you’ve lost your way and ask yourself “What the hell am I doing here? I don’t know what to do…”

Don’t give up!

It’s totally OK to lose your way sometimes. It’s totally OK to doubt yourself. To reach a clear view, you sometimes have to overcome difficulties, even if that means slowly crawling outof the hole you have dug for yourself. It feels very unpleasant, but in the end you will be rewarded. Fight for it! And try to develop a healthy attitude towards comparison. We are all here to learn from each other. It is an awesome opportunity to have such a creative environment with all these talented people around you. Always keep in mind: comparison is the thief of joy 🙂

What’s next?

I want to continue with my improvisational spatial sound concept, improve it, find subsidies and then perform it in different locations in Germany (NRW) and the Netherlands. The video below contains a little fragment of my final exam presentation. We are in an urban environment and slowly all the impulses are turning into chaos. We are approaching a spate of sound which suddenly implodes. Please do not spread the material, I am only providing it especially for this occasion. Thank you 🙂

I am a member of the band Plattentektonik, playing the keys. Luckily all of us moved to Cologne so we can still realize this project. Our lyrics are in German and we are composing our own music. It is difficult to explain what style of music we’re playing, so I would love to invite you to click on the video below and to listen to our piece “Elysium”.

I love to work interdisciplinary! So I am in touch with two choreographers from Belgium (Nathalie Vermeiren & Danielle Huygen). They call their collective “Detached Separation” and are creating a dance performance of about 40 minutes in length. It is about the alienation of movements, inspired by boxing and one’s isolation in aggression. We are still in the creative process, but in the video below you can see and listen to our current outcome.

Since I am also a composer for media, I am creating the music for the gay web-series “KUNTERGRAU”. Soon I am going to compose for season 3. In KUNTERGRAU, coming out is in the past, while sex and love are mundane. A group of five gay friends between 17 and 24 deal with everyday problems and experience the meaning of love, sex, and friendship. In the video below you can see the first episode of season 2, for which I composed a pop song together with the lovely Daria Assmus.

Well, that’s it! My next update is coming in two months and I am excited how things will turn out. Thanks for your attention – en tot ziens!! 🙂

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