Violinist and violist Max Baillie is one of the most versatile musicians in the UK with performances including classical, improvisation, composing and collaborations with dance and electronics. Artists he has worked with over the last two years include vocalist Bobby McFerrin, Indian tabla master Zakir Hussain, guitarist John Williams, Tinie Tempah and others. Max has appeared on stages from Carnegie Hall to Glastonbury from Mali to Moscow, and plays regularly for TV and radio broadcast.
A Bach obsessive, Max is currently working on a major new project called the Bach Voyager, creating a new online resource with leading ideas and interviews about Bach’s solo string music.
Max plays principal viola in Aurora Orchestra, since 2007. Aurora regularly receives shining reviews in the national press and as well as international touring to China Russia and Australia, and is a regular at the BBC Proms, where for two years running it has performed Mozart and Beethoven Symphonies entirely from memory.
A dedicated teacher, Max founded his own summer chamber music course Es Muss Sein.
Max has produced numerous films and has published the first in a set of original interlinked folk stories with Paravion Press.
Max, you were born from a German mother and a British father. Where did you spend your childhood? Where do you feel most at home? What are the Side Effects of this mixt breed parenthood?
Side effects of being a mixed breed include: an irresistible urge to jump into cold water, a love of the sea, wind, and rain (Scottish side), and the distinct sense that in a past life I visited the taverns of Vienna as a German gypsy (Germanic side). My travels as an adult have taken me far from the suburban cocoon of St Albans, a town just outside of London where I lived till I was 12. Now I roam the globe like many modern bards. Home for me… hmm that’s a tricky one as far as a physical space is concerned (I’m working on that) but I love being in the Welsh hills.
Who inspired you in choosing a musical career?
I think music chooses you rather than you choose music! But many people inspired me early on. My father is a wonderful cellist who paved the way, and I listened to a family friend improvise when I was little and that really blew me away… to play as though from nowhere… where was the music coming from?! But there are so many.. we are sponges when we are little, and should continue to be open to influence and inspiration as we grow and develop. It’s part of keeping our child-selves alive.
What are the Side Effects of music in your lifestyle?
Many miles of travel. Sometimes to exciting and remote corners of the globe (the Mailan Festival in the Desert three hours into the sands past Timbuktu… the distant Orkadian islands off north Scotland.. Sydney, Moscow…) and sometimes a matter of zig-zagging around my hometown of London like a mad spider on a web.
You play different type of music, classical music, but also folk, rock … How do they interfere? What are the side effects of your classical education when playing other music styles?
Yes I play different kinds of music and I think they all inform and influence one another. They are like different languages, different identities, but they also share a lot in common, more than most people think. I think classical education can be very limiting in many ways; I am still trying to educate myself as a violinist every time I practise.
You are a modern “minstrel”, a poet that recites his poetries accompanied by music. Last year, during SoNoRo Festival you offered us a few such lovely moments. Where do you get your inspiration for your poetries?
I have always loved stories. But really the answer is I don’t know where ideas come from, they normally appear out of nowhere; the challenge is to develop them, to turn them into something.
What do you have in store for us for this year’s SoNoRo Festival edition?
You’ll have to wait and see!