• Spotted!

    Spotted: Music Within – Saudade

    Today I’m introducing you to the latest track by Rob McAllister, also known as Music Within, the Canadian musician, producer and multi instrumentalist from Toronto, Canada. You can read a lot more about Rob and his project Music Within here!

    This track, Saudade, was released as a single on April 24th.

    Tell us something about your track Saudade!
    ‘Saudade’ is a Portuguese word meaning ‘missing something or someone. It refers to a deep, emotional state of nostalgia where one experiences distant memories and feelings both happy and sad. With the current global situation happening around us, I imagine that many people across the world can relate to this feeling now more than ever.

    Thanks for sending me this Rob!

    For more information, please go to the following place to find more!
    Facebook / Instagram / Website / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Music Within

    Today it’s time to get to know more about the person behind great compositions as A moment of symmetry and Julichka’s Theme. Let’s go!

    What’s your real name? 
    Rob McAllister

    How did you come up with your artist name?
    I look at it more as a project name rather than my artist name. With the name, I was trying to find something that communicated a sense of depth and passion and curiosity. I was pretty pumped when I discovered that Music Within was unclaimed by any musician or composer and I just went with it!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I’m from a city called Welland in Ontario, Canada. I now live in Toronto, Canada.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    Wow, well after being asked to count it out it looks like I’ve been playing the piano on and off for about 20 years now! I also play guitar and trombone regularly, and a few other instruments in a studio / production capacity.

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    When I was about six years old my parents started me in piano lessons. (Big thank you to them!) My sister was already a few years ahead of me, so I was eager to catch up.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    Approximately 7 years.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    My first experience writing music rather than just playing someone else’s music was actually in a band setting. When I was about 14 I played trombone in a ska/punk band. It was a lot of fun writing the horn parts and definitely opened my mind up to the reality that I could create my own music.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    It’s difficult to say ‘favorite’ artists but here are a few that I like a lot: Angus MacRae, Joep Beving, Jasha Klebe, Bruno Sanfilippo, and Rob Simonsen. I also recently discovered an album called Waves by AVA which I’m really enjoying!

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    Waltz in D-flat major by Frederic Chopin (popularly known in English as the “Minute Waltz”)

    What rules (in making music) need to be broken?
    Hmm, tough question. How about the rule of music needing to fit into a “genre bin?” I’d say it’s a good one to try to consciously break. “Weird and strange” can become “unique and ground-breaking” if given the chance. 

    How do you record your music?
    I record most of my music myself at my “project studio.” When I have parts for live strings I send it to a few musician friends who can record the parts from their own studios. For a few of the tracks on my upcoming album, the piano was tracked in a Toronto studio called Soleil Sound.

    What’s your take on sampled instruments?
    Without a doubt, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today without sampled instruments. When I was first starting to compose music and discovered that I could play all of these amazing, realistic sounds with my keyboard it was like opening Pandora’s box! And I still use them regularly today. So to speak down on them would be total hypocrisy. All of that said, now that I’m a bit more experienced and I’ve trained my ‘production ears’, without a doubt live instruments with live players always sound better, enhance the composition and evoke a more emotional response. How’s that for tiptoeing the line?

    The last question is asked by my 5 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from?

    Great question! I think they come from all around us. You can get inspired by a cloud in the sky, a ray of light, something you read, a film you watch, a sad experience, and of course other people’s music. You sit down and have fun experimenting. You chip away at the nothingness with your own personal experiences and your unique strengths.

    Thank you very much Rob!

    For more information, please go to the following place to find more!
    Facebook / Instagram / Website / Spotify

  • Spotted!

    Spotted: Music Within – Equanimity

    Today I’m introducing you to Rob McAllisters new song Equanimity with his project Music Within. I have, of course, written about Rob and his music before, which you can find here! And there will also be a Behind the piano post about Music Within if you’re reading this close to when it was posted.

    Long story short; Rob is a Canadian composer who currently lives in Toronto. He started playing the piano when he was about four years old, and started making music about eight years ago.

    The song Equanimity is taken from the latest album by Music Within, which was released only two days ago (Friday the 8th of November). The album holds the same title as this tune.

    Tell us something about your song Equanimity!
    The string part that you hear in this track is a combination of violin played by my friend Drew Jurecka, and my electric guitar played with a violin bow! I had already been experimenting with the sound for another track (a collaboration with SØLYS called Aerial Dreams) and was enjoying the result it produced. I fed the guitar through my amp with a reverb pedal on it and bowed the part. Fun times!

    Thank you very much for this Rob!

    For more information, please click on the following links:
    Facebook / Instagram / Website / Spotify

  • Spotted!

    Spotted: Music Within – Boundless

    Today I’m introducing you (again) to Rob McAllister, the Canadian composer based out of Toronto. I have before written about two different songs from Rob (which you can find here) where he made three different versions of the same songs. Pretty interesting!

    Rob introduces his project Music within as a cinematic/ambient/modern classical project where he makes music for films that hasn’t been made yet.

    The song Boundless is released as a single, but will also be part of the upcoming album Equanimity which will be released in November of 2019.

    Tell us something about Boundless!
    I collaborated with Toronto based filmmaker Patrick Tomasso to create some short films for my new music. In the video for ‘Boundless’ we headed out to an open field that he had scouted out and shot some lovely sequences. My girlfriend Julia was a great sport and acted as the main character. The final result he created for me is stunning and I think so fitting for the music.

    Thank you for sharing with us Rob! Wonderful, as always!

    For more information, please click on the following links:
    Facebook / Instagram / Website / Spotify

  • Spotted!

    Spotted: Music Within – A Moment of Symmetry

    A couple of weeks ago I introduced you to Rob McAllisters project Music Within and his song Julicha’s Theme. Basically, Ron has done it again. On Julichkas Theme there were three versions of the same song: Solo piano, Sting quartet and music box, and this time he has used the very same instruments to perform his song A moment of symmetry!

    Tell us something about the recording of the piano version of the song A moment of symmetry!
    For this recording, I really wanted to use a ‘felted’ piano because of its soft, warm and beautiful sound. (For anyone who doesn’t know: a foot pedal on the piano literally moves a piece of felt over the strings so that the hammers hit the strings with much less force, muting and significantly softening the sound). So, I was over at a friend’s studio on a quiet Sunday afternoon to record. I’d been there before and had played around on his upright piano so I knew that it would be very nice to play. We were all set up and ready to get going when I realized that the foot pedal which normally moves the felt in place wasn’t working. After checking it out it was clear that this particular piano simply didn’t have the felt piece! 🙁 … 
    I wasn’t ready to give up on the sound I was envisioning just yet though, so I hurried out to a fabric store and bought a big sheet of green felt. After cutting it into several smaller pieces we were able to rig up a system where the felt hung down from the top of the piano and stayed between the hammers and the strings. We held the pieces in place using a bunch of guitar pedals as weights! So I hope you enjoy the sound of the piano, I worked hard for it. Haha!

    For more information, please click on the following links:
    Facebook / Instagram / Website / Spotify

  • Spotted!

    Spotted: Music Within – Julichka’s Theme

    Today I’m introducing you to Rob McAllister, also known as Music Within. Rob is an Canadian composer and multi instrumentalist based out of Toronto. He makes music in the ambient/(neo)classical genre, and also makes music for picture and other media.

    This release is kind of special. It consists of three tracks, but only one song. The song is called Julichka’s Theme and has been recorded in three different versions; string quartet, solo piano and with a music box. This is a very common thing when making music for films.

    With the music box, the melody is a young, playful child. The theme grows up on the solo piano, with more emotion and expressiveness. The string quartet has the strength and grace of experience; a warm beauty fills the room. 

    It was released mid February and is one out of many releases by Music Within.

    Tell us something about Julichka’s Theme!
    I wrote this romantic melody for my girlfriend Julia, which is where the name comes from. ‘Julichka’, which is a nickname from her grandma, means ‘little Julia’ in Czech. To help inspire the theme, I imagined watching a cinematic film about her life and tried to capture her essence: love, compassion, curiosity, wonder. On the piano (which is where I originally wrote it) I find it also has a bit of a whimsical/magical feel to it. 

    Thank your for sharing this interesting song! I like all three versions!

    For more information, please click on the following links:
    Facebook / Instagram / Website / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Stephen Weber

    A while back I posted about the track Ever so still by the composer Stephen Weber, and now its time to take a look inside the mind of the piano player and organist from America, or Canada?

    Where are you from? And where do you live? 
    I was born in Winnipeg, grew up mostly in Indiana – which I still call home – and I currently reside in Oklahoma.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well? 
    I started piano lessons at age 7. I’m also an organist and have performed on some fabulous pipe organs in the United States, Europe, and Asia. I play a little guitar and sing, but not well.

    Tell us about how you started playing music.  
    My parents, both of whom were very musical, required that myself and my two brothers take piano lessons. I loved the learning process and the collaborative body/mind experience of practicing and performing. I was fortunate to grow up in a home where music was an important part of life and an appreciation for the arts was fostered.

    How long have you been making piano music? 
    Well, I’m giving up my age here, but I’ve been performing or composing piano music for 53 years now. Piano and composition were integral components of my Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral degrees. My dissertation focused on piano etudes and included eight original compositions, fiendishly difficult, which I recorded on the Opus One label back in the 1990s. Many of my piano compositions are available through publishing or Sheet Music Press. I use my own works with my piano students occasionally. Piano has also been my therapy. I’ve suffered from severe tinnitus and substantial hearing loss since age 9, and the piano has provided a tremendous release from that. 

    Chopin Monument, Pere Lechaisse Cemetery, Paris

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself! 
    I was a “closet” Scott Joplin fanatic as a youngster, but my piano teacher wouldn’t let me learn the Joplin rags because she didn’t consider them “real” music. In defiance I checked them out at the local library. I loved ragtime so much that at age 13 I wrote and notated my first composition, a rag for piano. 

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”? 
    The piano has such a rich and diverse history, it’s hard to single out composers and artists. I can, however, relate some that were influential. I’ve always had a kindred spirit in Frederic Chopin and his music, so much so that I made pilgrimages to Paris and Warsaw to see his graves (yes, one for his body, the other for his heart). The piano music of Franz Liszt, Ludwig van Beethoven, J. S. Bach, and Claude Debussy have also been influential. I listen to quite a few contemporary composers and artists as well, many of which are quite inspiring.

    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? 
    Not really. Honestly, I don’t keep much music “in my fingers”. I’ve worked really hard on improvisation over the past couple years, culminating in the release of my latest album of 18 piano improvisations, and I’ve found just sitting down and letting emotions, images, thoughts, and ideas happen spontaneously to be very gratifying.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken? 
    I think there’s a misconception that music has rules. Those pursuing formal study in music are taught “common practice” often as rules. They’re really not; they’re just what composers and theorists have done historically. I guess one thing that seems a mandate these days is that music must be categorized, or put into a specific genre. That bugs me. I think we’re seeing some movement away from that, but the industry seems to demand that artists and their music be categorized by genre. It’s kind of shame.

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc. 
    I have a full time job as a professor and administrator in higher education, so the things I do at my Digital Audio Workstation are just a hobby. I have a very modest setup, do all the creating, performing, mixing, mastering, duplication, graphics and such with a master controller keyboard, interface, mic, monitors, and computer with Logic Pro X and Finale along with various instrument libraries. Oh, and publicity/promotion; I have that part. I’ve also done collaborations with various instrumentalists and included their contributions on my albums.

    Whats your take on sampled instruments? 
    I have mixed feelings about this, of course. As a purist, there’s nothing like the action and sound of a fabulous Steinway concert grand. When I want that, I use the one at the university. But, I truly appreciate the technology that allows me to access all kinds of instruments. I sometimes write large scores for orchestra; since there’s no way I could afford to have those works recorded, using orchestra libraries allows me to at least archive the composition and get an idea what it sounds like. 

    Anything else you want to share? 
    I think I’ve been pretty long-winded already. I guess a parting thought is mentioning the intrinsic value of creating music. It’s hard for everyone to get heard in today’s world, but what’s ultimately important to me is what the creative process gives back to me; I discover, learn, experiment, grow, and continue to find my own voice, release, and modes of expression. It’s hard to find that elsewhere.  

    The last question is asked by my 6 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from? 
    Your son has gone right to the core of something that is very mysterious to me, the creative process. Honestly, where compositions come from continues to elude me. A complex answer is one’s “essence” or spirit, the combination of the mental, emotional, and physical self. The simple answer is somewhere deep within. I can say with certainty what inspires or instigates the creative idea or process; for me it’s nature, beauty in its various guises and manifestations, images, experiences, and curiosity.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us!

    For more information, please check out the following links:
    Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Website / Spotify

  • Spotted!

    Spotted: Kaleidoscope of Colours – Mimosa

    Today I’m introducing you to the German composer Susanne Geisler, her project Kaleidoscope of Colours and the latest release Mimosa!

    Susanne has a very unique “condition” called synesthesia.

    For those of us who isn’t familiar with synesthesia, what is it?
    When I listen to music or play my piano I immediately perceive colours, that are evoked in my brain. A lot artists have it – Pharrell Williams, Lady Gaga. But because I had difficulties with traditional note reading, I startet my own way to compose – entirely on base of colors.

    The track MIMOSA will be featured on the upcoming EP called „The Birth of Colours“, which will be released May, 8th, but is also released as a single.

    Tell us something about your track Mimosa!
    Within the EP’s concept MIMOSA stands for the element of the flowers, one of the most sensitive elements of our planets nature. And as you might know, the Mimosa goes even further, as it is the most sensitive flower you can find on earth. Being a highly sensitive person, the piece is also closely related to my personal nature: always being observing, shy, but deeply profound, deeply connected to animals and nature and sometimes being a bit overwhelmed by my environment. Thats why I startet composing, because I get so easily overwhelmed by the daily noises and its colors, that I wanted to write something, that calmes me down, something that always reminds me on who I am. And I’m really glad, that I get a lot of feed back from people who feel the same.

    Thank you for sharing this with us Susanne!

    For more information, please check out the following links:
    Facebook / Instagram / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Julia Andersson

    A while back I introduced you to the track Tilia Cordata by the Finish composer Julia Andersson, and now it’s time to get to know the person behind the name a bit better!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I grew up in a small town in Southern Finland. Then I moved up a further bit north to study and work, to the west coast (Ostrobothnia), where I now live.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I’ve been playing the piano on and off for about 16 years, since I was 9 years old. In my teens I practiced playing drums, guitar and bass as well. Eventually I got more and more interested in piano and wanted to focus all my energy on piano instead :). Oh and last year I actually started with cello lessons, which I hope to be able to continue in the future. But right now, I can’t find the time.

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    It actually all started with me, as a kid, hearing someone play ”Für Elise” on the piano and I was mesmerized, haha – so I asked my parents if I could start with piano lessons. But you know, It was one thing to start going to classical piano lessons when you’re around 9 years old, where everything is quite strict, there’s many rules and there’s a definitive right or wrong way to play. It’s another thing when you actually find the spark within you to create music. Then you start improvising, playing and composing without any boundaries or rules. That was only a couple years ago for me – so maybe I would say that’s when I started playing music.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    It’s hard to say, because for a long time I had a lot of compositional ideas, but I never really recorded or wrote them down. But to put it more directly, I would say it’s been two years since I started making piano music.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    Oh wow – that was actually quite an amazing and enlightening moment for me. Because for a long time I was so afraid of what people would think, or that it wouldn’t be good enough, or that no one would even bother to listen to my music. Then I realized none of that matters, and I’m just going to compose music that I like to play, because I find it meditative, and calming. It was a place for me to put all my emotions and feelings that I had bottled up. A few people came along and said they really liked what they heard, that’s when I decided to record it and thought; I want to release some of my works. Maybe others would find it soothing too.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    Hania Rani is definitely a big inspiration for me. Her debut album ”Esja” is just breathtaking. Some others of my favorites include Bill Laurance, Ólafur Arnalds, Nils Frahm, Joep Beving and Benjamin Gustafsson.

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    I love playing Erik Satie’s works, his Gymnopedies and Gnossiennes. Also, there’s this one of my new songs I’m currently playing a lot over and over, it’s called Wings and I really enjoy playing it. I performed it a few times live already but haven’t gotten around to recording it just yet (but soon!).

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    All of them! Write/make music that sounds good to you. Trust your own ears. Dare to think outside the box. Also, don’t get stuck in thinking you have to adapt to a certain genre; just do whatever you want!

    How do you record your music?
    Just by myself, or with help of friends and acquaintances, at school. I’ve been enrolled in two different music schools, one in Denmark and one here in Finland. So far I’ve been recording my music with the school’s equipment and their pianos. However, my dream is to one day set up my own home studio with an upright piano (and preferably a lot of synthesizers!).

    What’s your take on sampled instruments?
    So far I haven’t used any sampled instruments. I prefer the real deal! Especially with the piano. All the details are in the acoustics – pedals, hammers, resonating strings, maybe a little out-of-tune keys, squeaky chairs and all of that! I love it. With all that said, I know VSTIs and samples are of really good quality nowadays – they offer endless possibilities which can give a real creativity boost, for people who are into that kind of thing.

    The last question is asked by my 5 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from? 

    Such a good question. I have wondered that myself. Usually music comes to me when I am away from the instrument. If I’m looking at a painting, or I’m outside in nature, sitting by a lake, maybe even in my dreams when I’m sleeping. So essentially, I would say they come from the forest, the trees and the sky and everything else around me.

    Anything else you want to share?
    As we are currently going through difficult, uncertain times, I just want to say to everyone; be gentle with yourself. You are good no matter how you are managing this experience. You don’t have to feel as if you have to be as productive, or effective, and that’s okay. This will pass!

    Thank you very much for this Julia!

    For more information, please check out the following links:
    Facebook / Instagram / Spotify

  • Spotted!

    Spotted: Julia Andersson – Tilia Cordata

    Today I’m introducing you to the Finnish composer and musician Julia Andersson. Julia has been fascinated by music in general, and piano especially, since she was a kid and has been playing the piano since the age of nine. As many others she started out with classical music, but in her late teens she moved on to play jazz and improvised music.

    The track Tilia Cordata is featured on the EP Within, without which was released on 7th February 2020.

    Tell us something about your track Tilia Cordata!
    This is an emotional solo piano piece with a lot of expression that aims to tell a story. “Tilia Cordata” means littleleaf linden – the track is essentially about a tree going through the four seasons, constantly changing and growing. Nature (mostly the forest) has always inspired me when I’m writing music. The recording was done on a small Schimmel upright, with microphones close to both the piano strings and also the piano keys, to get an intimate and intriguing sound, which also captures all the details in the surrounding sounds of the piano.

    Thank you so much Julia for sending me this track!

    For more information, please check out the following links:
    Facebook / Instagram / Spotify