Today It’s time to listen to another track by the American composer and piano player Merrill Crissey! Merrill was on top of my “most played artists” chart on Spotify for 2020, so of course I wanted to post about this track! If you want to learn more about Merrill Crissey, you should check out this Behind the piano post.
Phantom Pains is the third track on an upcoming EP, released as a single on the 5th of februari. The full EP will be released in 2021.
Tell us something about your track Phantom pains!
Phantom Pains is intentionally sparse and melancholy. I typically write a lot more notes in my music, but this piece felt right with much less. Oftentimes after a loss, people can briefly forget that the person isn’t there and it feels like they still should be. It’s like the phantom pains of a person who has experienced the tragic loss of a limb. It should be there and it feels like it is, but it isn’t. Those were the thoughts swirling around my head when I wrote this.
Thank you very much for sharing this with me Merrill!
Today I’ presenting you to the brand new track Consolation by the composer, piano player and friend of mine Merrill Crissey. To learn everything about Merrill and his music, please check out the Behind the piano post about him here!
The track Consolation was released as a single on October 16th, 2020.
Tell us something about your track Consolation!
Consolation is a word we use after someone has experienced a loss. We can console one another with comforting words. We can console others without words just by being present in a tough situation. This piece is meant to be a consolation with music.
Like most of my music, this piece is melody driven. It was really fun to create. I can’t say that for every piece I write. It starts immediately with the theme and I added an unexpected harmony in the left hand to give it a bit of emotion. My favorite part of the piece is in the middle. We hear two melodies in the right hand which is a trick I stole from Brahms specifically, although this technique is employed by many composers. Overall the piece is meant to create an uplifting yet serious mood.
Thank you very much for sharing this with us Merrill!
Today I’m introducing you to the latest track by my good friend and fellow piano player and composer Merrill Crissey! You can read a lot more about him here, but lets jump right into the latest release of his!
The track Waltz for one was released as a single on the 24th of April.
Tell us something about your track Waltz for one!
“Waltz for One” was originally just meant to be a dark piano piece like a nocturne. About the time I started to finish it though, life changed for the world and for me personally. The Covid-19 crisis caused an upheaval unlike any of us have ever seen. Many have become severely sick and many others have succumbed to the illness. Those of us who have remained healthy so far are often plagued with anxiety, boredom, or loneliness.
Unrelated to the crisis, I also have experienced a personal loss in the last couple of weeks. Without going into details our family has suffered emotionally from it unlike any other time I can remember. Grief, it seems, is not far from any of us.
So this song has taken on a new meaning for me. It is a lament—a lament for those who are struggling, those who have suffered loss, and those who cannot see light at the end of the tunnel. Before you look for hope you sometimes need to acknowledge the current darkness and loss you are experiencing. This song expresses some of the sadness I feel and that I see in the world. Another day I will try to write a piece with more hope but not today.
Thanks for this Chip!
Today it’s time to introduce you to the next track from my collaboration EP called “with”. This one is made together with the amazing American piano player, composer and friend Merrill Crissey.
What I think is the most interesting thing with working on this song is that it was actually a “finished” song that I never found a place for on any of my early releases. While Merrill though that I added the strings after I got his piano parts, it was actually the other way around; everything was already there, I just choose to hide it to see what he would add to just my piano track! When I got the pianos and “un muted” the already existing tracks – magic happened!
Well, Merrill, tell us something about the track Gymnopedie from your point of view!
Gymnopedie is not my first collaboration, but it’s the first I’ve ever released. Johan Eckman started by laying down the chord progression. I liked it, but I found it quite challenging to write with for two reasons. the tempo was quite slow and there was a major seventh chord which made harmonies a bit tricky. I experimented with some very busy melodies trying to breath some life into it, but nothing seemed to gel. Finally, I went with the idea of stacking another chord over the original chords and making the melody simple. This gives it complexity in the harmonies but simplicity in the melody. The tune and the harmonies conjured up memories of Erik Satie which helped us decide on the title. Later, Johan put in some nice strings and a beat to give it a more polished sound and keep it interesting.
Today I’m introducing you to composer and piano player Merrill Crissey from Florida, USA. I have written about both Merrill and his music many times before, which can be found here.
The track Evening at the Parks is taken from the EP Japonica, which was released on the 10th of January of 2020.
Tell us something about your track Evening at the Parks!
Evening at the Parks is from my new EP entitled Japonica. This album is all about the seven years I lived in Japan. The name of the album comes from the idea of a western person in Japan— Japonica being a Latin way of expressing things related to Japan. Each of the pieces on the album expresses either an experience I had or an aspect of Japan that made an impression on me. The music on this album is, for the most part, not overtly “Japanese” sounding. I mostly stick to Occidental harmonies and instrumentation. The song Evening at the Parks is a reference to a specific place in Osaka, Japan. When I met my wife I was living in the heart of downtown. There was a recent development of shops near the station called Namba Parks. This became a regular place for us to go on dates and take walks. Those were such precious times for us, and the music is meant to convey a sense of quietness and warmth.
Thank you for sharing this wonderful song with us Merrill!
New music from Merrill Crissey who need no introduction no more!
The song Arashiyama is released as a single but will also be featured on the upcoming EP Japonica.
Tell us something about your song Arashiyama!
One of the most popular tourist spots in Kyoto, Japan is Arashiyama. It means “storm mountain” in Japanese, but whenever I’ve gone there it has always been a placid and idyllic place. One of the most beautiful and intriguing parts of the area is the famous bamboo forest. I decided to write a piece about this place for my upcoming EP Japonica.
For this piece of music I included solo violin in addition to piano. The original intent of this piece was to be very minimalistic as you can hear in the opening chords. But I find that the music I am drawn to the most is usually melodic, so the song quickly turned into a thematic piece with a clear melody.
This is my first piece using solo violin, and it was exciting for me to hear it played on the real instrument after I had mocked it up with plug-ins. There’s no substitute for the real thing. This experience has me looking forward to writing more for string ensembles.
Thank you Merrill!
Today I’m introducing you to the latest track by Merrill Crissey which is called Sunrise on a New World. I have introduced you to both Merrill and his music before, which you can find here.
Merrill is a composer and a pianist from Orlando, Florida in America. If you would like to know more, just click the link above or the links below!
The track Sunrise on a New World is released as a single, but will also be featured on the upcoming EP Japonica.
This album is all about the seven years I lived in Japan and the country itself. The EP releases in January of 2020 with one more single coming before that in November.
Tell us something about your track Sunrise on a New World!
Sunrise on a New World is about the feelings I had when I first arrived in Japan. That time of my life was really exciting and yet somewhat lonely. I was suddenly far away from everything I had ever known and so there is a bit of a melancholic melody mixed with a contrasting sense of excitement. That first year in Japan was really exciting because every day was like a new adventure.
Thanks again Merrill for sharing your music with us!
Today I’m introducing the latest single by Merrill Crissey, which you all have met before, both here and here. Merrill is a piano player and composer based out of Orlando in the United States. If you want to know it all, just click the links above!
This single was released on Friday to celebrate Piano Day!
Tell us something about your track Summerfield!
This song is rather personal for me. My grandmother lived in a rural area in Florida called Summerfield. As a child we would spend holidays and many Saturdays out in the country. I would play with my brother and sister out in the field. I recall jumping on haystacks, feeding the cows, and wondering at the enormous oak trees. My grandmother grew a large garden most years and was an excellent cook. In the summer we would sometimes take turns as kids staying with her for a week or so. I remember eating so much during those weeks and playing outdoors enjoying the simplicity of country life. This song is really just a nostalgic expression of my memories of those days and that place. My grandmother passed away a few years ago, but she would have been one hundred years old this month.
The track is intentionally somewhat melancholy and has a quasi-country feel to it. It was one of those pieces that I can hardly remember making. It seemed to just happen, and most of it fell into place rather quickly. Thanks so much for listening.
Thanks Merrill for continuing to deliver wonderful music for the blog!
A couple of weeks ago, I introduced you to the artist, Merrill Crissey, from Orlando, Florida. Today, it’s time to introduce you to his latest release; Bach Reimagined!
Tell us something about Bach Reimagined!
I wrote and rewrote the B Flat prelude several times before I felt good about it. One of the hardest but most necessary things to do when you’re creating is to scrap something you have spent hours on because it’s just not working. It’s not the first time I’ve done that, but this piece just took so many iterations to land in a place I felt comfortable with. These pieces were fun to make and I hope people enjoy them. I would also encourage people to listen to the original pieces they are based on. I reimagined Bach, but there’s no improving on him.
The last couple of singles I’ve released are recompositions of keyboard works by J.S. Bach. They are taken from his Well-tempered Clavier Book 1. There are 24 preludes and fugues in the book—one for each major and minor key. The first one I chose was the Prelude in C Major which most everyone is familiar with. I used the same compositional techniques Bach used, in this case arpeggiated chords, but I wanted to give it modern sensibilities. The same is true of my second single Prelude in B Flat. The idea is to tell a different musical story but with a similar musical language.
Thank you Merrill! For someone like me, who hasn’t listened so much to “real classical music” this is a very good introduction. I will now start listening to Bach, and of course these wonderful “reimaginations”!
Every now and then you start talking to someone and it doesn’t seem to be and end to the conversation. Merrill (or Chip) wrote to me a while back when he had just started to release music, and we started talking. Still going! See you in Orlando, someday, maybe!
What is your real name?
Merrill Crissey, but I actually go by the nickname Chip since I share a name with my Dad.
How long have you been playing the piano?
I started piano lessons when I was ten and started taking snare drum lessons which I eventually quit. Paradiddles are hard.
How long have you been making piano music?
I started picking out songs when I was pretty young but didn’t really start writing piano pieces until college. I studied classical piano and some composition at university. But mostly I wanted to write for ensembles and orchestra. It wasn’t until last year that I started writing for piano again.
Tell me something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
I don’t recall the exact moment, but I had a moment once when I was writing my first orchestral piece entitled Svensk Sommar (I had spent a month in Sweden that year). I realized the magic of composing. A part of the piece I was working on just suddenly came together and I fell in love with composing.
Have you made music in other genres before?
Like many, I listen to a lot of different types of music. Everything from choral to indie rock to orchestral. I’ve written pop rock songs, but they weren’t very good and I’m not a lyricist. Most of my stuff is instrumental falling into the classical, cinematic, or neoclassical genres. I scored a short film where it was mostly a jazz trio. My Dad played sax on it. Jazz is one of those genres I love, but don’t feel very at home playing.
What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
For a project at work we were trying to find some cool aesthetics for an album we were designing. We ran across the Erased Tapes label and that is where I first heard of Olafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm. I guess they have sort of pioneered the latest iteration of pop piano classical. At first I felt like the felt soft piano thing was strange. I mean I was classically trained so I was used to bright pianos that almost sounded like bells chiming. Now here’s this group of musicians making music with the practice pedal on. But slowly it started growing on me and now I love both. I don’t know what it is with the Scandinavians, but they are killing it in this genre. Half of the stuff I’ve grown to love in the last year is either from Iceland or Sweden. But of course there are folks all over the place that are doing amazing things. Thomas Enhco of France is one of my current favorites. He does it all—classical, jazz, contemporary. He’s the kind of pianist I wish I could be.
Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano? Your own or someone else’s?
J.S. Bach is probably my favorite composer and his music feels so good in the fingers. Recently, I learned of the amazing pianist Vikingur Olafsson. He recorded a Bach organ Sonata movement transcribed for piano that I’ve been trying to learn. It’s such a beautiful and yet fairly unknown piece.
What song inspires you the most when you’re making music?
That’s so tough to answer because everything belongs to a context. I tend to write melancholic music if I let myself, but I try to push myself to break out of the natural 72 bpm mode I’m naturally inclined towards.
Can you name just ONE song/composition?
Another hard question because there is just so much that moves me. Elgar’s Nimrod from the Enigma variations ranks pretty high on my list of favorites, but there really are too many to say.
Tell me something about your latest release.
I released a couple of singles called Bach Reimagined. I took a couple of his preludes from the WTC book 1 and recomposed them. I tried to use a similar compositional device but make the music my own. In other words, I used similar rhythmical or even harmonic motifs but made them go in a different direction. I’m not trying to improve on the master. I like to think that I am telling the same story but in my own words.
What’s happening next? New releases etc.
A lot really. I’m working on some piano pieces for an album that is partly related to my life in Japan. I lived there for most of the 2000’s and I want to write something that expresses my feelings about that time of my life. I’m also working up some pieces for string that I hope to get recorded. Ideally, I would love to branch out and be writing orchestral as well as piano music someday.
Anything else you want to share?
Just that I’m grateful to any and all of you who listen to or share my music. I hope it adds some joy to your life. Thanks for letting me talk about music with you. I’ve really enjoyed the little online community of composers I’ve been introduced to in the last year.
Thank you for your answers Merrill!
Please check out the social media below for more information about Merrill and his music.
And also, of course, on Spotify!