What happens to you, when the rehearsal room or the concert hall go pitch black?Temporarily eliminating vision as a sensory input will inevitably shift your focus to your other senses: hearing, feeling and smelling.This shift of focus will profoundly affect the way you– listen to music– relate to your instrument, when performing alone or in a group– interact with others (e.g. your fellow musicians, the audience)You are forced to leave your comfort zone. A challenge that seems insurmountable at the beginning turns into a completely new experience: Your attention shifts from what you can’t do to an enhanced perception of your own body, your instrument, the input of your fellow musicians and your surroundings.I’m a pianist and blind from birth. For quite a long time I’ve been intrigued by the question of wether musicians, expressing a form of art that is mainly auditive, are actually aware of how they make use of their senses. What tools can be used to help them determine their optimal, very personal balance between listening, watching and feeling?My ‘Musical Dark Lab’ offers a unique setting for answering these questions within the context of musical education.
Every student receives a mask as used on airplanes. In addition, the windows in the rehearsal room are covered and the lights turned off making it impossible for the students to see their instrument, microphone, charts, their fellow musicians, their teacher, visual musical cues, or their audience.Being an expert in getting by without relying on the sense of sight and focussing on alternative sensory input instead, I use my skills to effortlessly move around in the room and address the needs of individual participants.Working with a wide range of ensembles at music academies and musicians from diverse musical backgrounds who meet each other in my workshops, I experience the positive results of the approach of the Musical Dark Lab: A new and more conscious approach to one’s own instrument, a deepened (self) perception of the participants and as a result a significantly increased level of concentration during individual practice, rehearsals or performances.
The blind pianist Thomas Böttcher (1977) studied latin piano and jazz composition/arranging at the University of the Arts “Codarts” in Rotterdam. He holds a master’s degree in composition and has been working at Codarts as a teacher for latin piano, practical harmony, ensemble director and accompanist since 2005.
Böttcher has earned broad respect by those who enjoy salsa and latin-jazz: not only is he a successful pianist but also both a composer/arranger and co-founder of the latin jazz quintet Viento Terral, and the salsa band Seis en Salsa, lending his talents among others to Nueva Manteca, singer Luisito Rosario, Mambísimo Big Band, the New Israeli Vocal Ensemble, the Augsburg Opera House, trumpeter Maite Hontelé, and Grammy winner multi-intrumentalist Linda Briceño.
As a sensitive accompanist and songwriter he collaborates with a great variety of singers, touching a wide range of genres from Afro-Cuban and Brazilian to chanson and cabaret.
Böttcher is currently based in Cologne, Germany.