Since he has improvised, composed, researched and recorded almost entirely on his own for four decades, it's tempting to describe the multi-instrumentalist, singer and self-taught ethnomusicologist Stephan Micus as world music's most productive hermit – except that he's travelled hundreds of thousands of miles in that time, insatiably learning from intimate encounters with that dwindling number of traditional musicians still untouched by globalisation.
[…] Micus has played everything from bamboo flutes to rustic stringed instruments, from percussion to stones, and has overdubbed his voice to make full-sized choirs […]. He began with a piece for two tin whistles played in vivacious harmony and evoking the sounds of village dances and Andean panpipes. He accompanied a solemnly sung Greek prayer with a glittering shower of zither sounds, evoked a desolate winter on the Japanese nohkan flute against a pre-recorded clamour of metallic strings, then thumb-picked an almost Steve Reichian dance on an African box strung with spokes. […]
The second half brought more revelations, not least the Armenian bass duduk, which unleashed spookily sonorous purrs and car-horn growls that seemed incompatible with its modest dimensions. More fragile flute music, […] and a delicate tin-whistle encore wound up a transcendental meditation of a concert that nobody on the planet other than Stephan Micus could possibly have performed.
John Fordham, The Guardian
Stephan Micus is a man to be envied. Whereas ordinary mortals have just one life, he seems to lead three different ones all at the same time: one to travel, another to study and learn and a third to record a whole string of CDs of his own compositions. And he does all this without losing any of his tranquillity. His music is resounding proof of that.
Many of his instruments, most originating from Asia and Africa, represent age-old music traditions that are in danger of dying out. Viewed in this light, Micus' compositional oeuvre can be regarded as the Noah’s Ark of sound.
His music has lost none of its innocence, but has gained much in terms of wisdom. His solitary lifestyle and tendency to work alone have enabled him to develop his own very distinctive sound, averse to any whims of fashion.
Stephan Micus deserves a place of honour among contemporary composers, a laurel wreath for his passion for experimentation and a deep bow for his solo craftsmanship.
When encountering the music of another culture, most Western musicians adapt by learning to play the instruments native-style and mimicing the music of that culture. But from the very beginning, Micus had his own direction and his own voice. He created his own very distinctive music, and though he used acoustic instruments from many cultures, he did it in ways they never dreamed of – rebuilding instruments, changing tunings, and playing them in idiosyncratic ways. And famously, he mixed instruments from around the world, or used whatever was at hand: stones, ordinary flowerpots tuned with water, and his voice – singing non-verbal improvised sounds over ten years before others made this approach fashionable.
The Hearts of Space
US nation-wide radio program
This extraordinary multi-instrumentalist is actually one of the few to have grasped in its essence what was the song of the world. With him there exist no territories or cultural atavisms, but a planetary polyphony projected on a horizon of eternity.His instruments exchange once more the out-lines of their countries of origin to become instruments without nationality in the hands of this nomad musician. Exceptional. Keyboards, France
Micus's music possesses gossamer beauty. Timeless, magical music with a universal appeal. The Times, UK
Listening to the music of Stephan Micus – which is as itinerant and wide ranging as his life – is one of the most profound experiences possible today. Beyond categories and labels, this German artist was already way ahead of trends when he released his first album in 1976. Fifteen recordings later The Garden of Mirrors, his first CD since the phenomenal Athos, seems on the surface to be heading in a stylistic direction pointing towards the Orient. But upon further listening it’s clear Micus is exploring an internal universe governed by natural elements on the one hand and, paradoxically, by silence on the other. “Passing Cloud”, “Gates of Fire” and “Words of Truth” are the titles Micus uses to name pieces that elaborate his personal liturgy and interpret the movement of water and wind, the flight of clouds and the voices of the spirit. An intrepid traveller and perpetual student, he has learned to play ancient and rare traditional instruments that are as evocative as they are esoteric. When he sings he sounds like a chanting mystic in a trance. The Garden of Mirrors is a recording to be experienced the way one would a journey, the type of voyage Bruce Chatwin would describe as “looking inward”. La Repubblica, Italy
A solemn music, at first enigmatic, then slowly revealing itself. The more one listens – really listens –, the more the music absorbs one. Die Zeit, Germany
… remarkable, haunting and truly timeless.
Down Beat, USA
Before there was world music, there was Stephan Micus, playing instruments from Afghanistan, India, and Indonesia. But ever since his first album (released in 1976) the German composer has not been making world music but other – worldly music. He plays ethnic instruments in nontraditional ways, multitracking them in layered arrangements and creating meditative excursions. Stephan Micus isn’t pan-cultural but transcends culture with music that’s innocent but not naive. Billboard, USA
Wistful, sweet-sad melodies, warm, glo-wing chords, shadows become sound; strands of light are tuned and strummed … a truly original voice, suffused with a mysticism that is equal parts Western and Eastern. Rolling Stone, USA
The music of Stephan Micus cannot be bracketed in a special category with jazz, Asian music or Indo-jazz. Multi-instrumentalist Micus – on bamboo flutes, rabab, sitar, zither and sho – is completely right: this music is not Japanese, not Indian, and not Bavarian … from the cultures which im-pressed him as a West European, he has created a high-standard eclectic music greater than the sum of its parts. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Germany
A music full of dignity, speaking about the understanding of life. The vocal sections are reminiscent of Gregorian chanting, Nomad songs and Japanese monks reciting sutras. This enigmatic musician manages to unite elements from Europe, the Middle East, and the Far East into a synthesis which explores the relationship between emptiness and form.
Swing Journal, Japan
Micus' style of singing is comparable to a universal language, to a transcultural code, as if participating in all languages and transcending them at the same time.
Basler Zeitung, Switzerland
Stephan Micus is inspired and abandoned, unself-conscious and disciplined all at once, producing dazzling sound and exquisite melodies. It’s ancient-sounding, witchcraft kind of music, music that’s innovative and entirely contemporary in its disturbing directness, a work of genius indeed, a unique talent, a painter of soundscapes, one of Europe’s strongest and most original soloists. Fanfare, USA