Time again for another track by the most posted about composer an piano player on this blog; William Ogmundson! You can read a lot more about him here, but here’s the short intro:
The track The dove was released as a single on may the 29th of 2020.
Tell us something about the track The dove!
I wrote “The Dove” while in Palestine last spring. We saw the wall between Israel and Palestine up close, with tear gas canisters littering the ground and barbed wire everywhere. Two opposing sides, with no hope of reconciliation in the foreseeable future. One thing that struck me though, was that wildflowers were flourishing amidst the barbed wire, and birds flew freely over the wall. For a brief moment, it suddenly occurred to me that the natural world continued on, despite disagreements among humans, and that maybe there was hope for us as well. Thus, the song was conceived. The melody (representing the dove) is simple and plain, with a some somewhat dissonant chords beneath (the wall).
Thank you Will for this track!
Today it’s time to introduce you to the most posted about composer on this blog; William Ogmundson. I don’t think he needs any further introduction at this point, but head over to the Behind the piano post, if you want to know everything!
The track Goddess of the Night was released as a single on the 10th of April.
Tell us something about your track Goddess of the Night!
This song was originally set to lyrics written by Shakespeare for a production of Othello. It’s a pretty song, but since Desdemona sings it right before she is killed very dramatically by Othello, no one remembered it as such. So…I decided to re-imagine it as a solo piano piece, and voila!
Thank you William for sending me this track!
Today it’s time to introduce you to yet another track by the ever so productive composer and piano player William Ogmundson from the United States.
The track Eleanor was released as a single in January of 2020.
Tell us something about your track Eleanor!
This song was improvised on the spot, (a one-take wonder, so to speak) on a Steinway Grand Piano at CedarHouse Sound and Mastering in North Sutton, NH, a couple miles from my home. I fell in love with this piano when I first played it in 2005, and have been recording on her (yes, she has a gender) ever since. Her name is Eleanor, which is really quite a nice name, especially considering some of the other popular names from the 1890s, when she was born (Gertrude or Maude for example). The piece is simple yet sweet, and hopefully will hold up through the years as well as its namesake has.
Thank you again William for your music!
On of the most creative and productive pianists out there must indeed be William Ogmundson. I have written about him and his music many times before, so I head over here to read everything about William!
The song A Rare Day is released as a single on December 27th, 2019.
Tell us something about your song A rare day!
This song had different origins than most, in that the first four melody notes (Eb, G, F and B) were chosen by a live audience at a house concert in Florence, Oregon this past November. I improvised a song on the spot in a blues style (also audience chosen), which I later refined a bit and slowed down. The first four notes remained though, and my amazing graphic designer, Linda Maroney, gave the song its title “A Rare Day”. Florence, OR is quite foggy and misty most of the time and this day was amazingly clear and sunny, hence the title. I often improvise in front of live audiences, and most of them are quite forgettable, but for some reason this one stayed with me, and wouldn’t leave my head until I finished it. There’s probably a metaphor there somewhere.
Thank you for sending me this song William!
Trying to claim I am introducing the returning reader of the blog to William Ogmundson since William is one of the most creative and productive artists ever. I have posted a lot about William and his music before, and you can find it all here!
Short intro however: William lives in New London in America and is a composer and piano player.
The song The Infinite Cosmos was released mid September of 2019 as a single.
Tell us something about your track The Infinite Cosmos!
This track was recorded at the amazing studio CedarHouse Sound and Mastering, which happens to be in my hometown.
This song was is unique because I wanted to make it ambient sounding, but without resorting to a synthesizer. What I ended up doing was taping down selected notes on the Steinway grand and capturing the overtones that were created. I then had that played backwards and combined the two versions to create a pulsating ambient sound as the backdrop for the sparse melody. I’m calling the style “acoustic ambience”. I think the funniest part about recording this piece was seeing the look of horror and dismay on the sound engineer’s face when I started taping down keys on the lovely old Steinway. I had a blast though and I have to say that the resulting sound was pretty cool!
Thank you for this tune William!
This is not the first time I post about the amazing piano player from New London, New Hamshire in the United States, William Ogmundson. Still confused, however, whether or not to put an Ö in the last name or not, but I’ll go for the O this time as well.
Now William is back with another song not of his own, but it’s still fantastic. This tune was actually one of the first ones I learned when I started playing guitar many years ago.
The song is released as a single, and came out in august 2019.
Tell us something about the song Scarborough Fair!
It’s the first of several experiments I conducted using overtones. The effects are fairly subtle, but several bass notes were taped down (painting tape) for this recording, creating more bass and adding to the “ambient” effect.
Thank you again William for sending me your music!
I have spotted a couple of Williams piano tunes before; the touching story behind the song I will return being my favorite.
Now its time to get to know William a bit better!
Where are you from? And where do you live?
I’m from rural New Hampshire, and still live there, in a little town called New London. We’re part of New England (yes, everything is “New”) in the NorthEast corner of the U.S., north of New York City and south of Quebec, Canada. Everything here is quite old, by American standards-many houses date back to colonial times and every village has a center with a town hall, a library and a white congregational church. There are lots of lakes and trees and is rather cold most of the year.
How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
I’ve been playing the piano since I was three and started lessons at age five. I play other instruments badly. I got a guitar for $35 at a flea market recently and I’m determined to learn to play it properly. I played a shruti box (a middle eastern drone) when I was recording my latest album “La Vie en Couleurs”, and I’ve also played hammond organ, marimba, orchestra bells and the wine glasses for other recordings.
Tell us about how you started playing music.
I started picking out Icelandic (my dad’s family is from there) folk songs on the piano when I was maybe three. “A Sprengisandi” I think was the first song I learned by ear-it’s about herding sheep and watching out for elves. I guess everyone starts somewhere, right? Not a bad song actually.
How long have you been making piano music?
Hmmm…well, I recorded my first album in 2006, but I didn’t take it seriously until about a year and a half ago, after I went to a Piano Whisperings event in Seattle and got inspired. I was still a full time musician before that, but mostly focused on other things. I wrote quite a bit of musical theater, taught some lessons, music directed at a church and performed locally.
Something clicked though when I went to the Whisperings event. Maybe it was looking around and realizing how happy and fulfilled all the people there were, and thinking, “Wow! I think this is what I’m meant to be doing.” So I kicked it into high gear-I recorded three full-length albums and four singles in a year’s time and here I am now.
Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
I used to play in pit bands and would entertain the other musicians by messing with the music, especially if I didn’t particularly like it. I think I played the whole score of Annie as a cha cha cha once-it was a big improvement! And you can ruin any song by making it a stripper number, with big octaves in the base and heavy triplets. Hahahaha At some point though someone suggested to me that maybe instead of making a mockery of other people’s music, my time might be better spent creating my own.
I wrote a lot of bad music-a whole show in fact before I wrote what I consider to be my first good song, “Dance of the Fairies”. It was written to be sung during the Shakespeare play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. I still remember the ecstatic feeling I got hearing it performed on stage and thinking, “Hey, this is really good! I could get used to this.”.
What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
So many….Greg Maroney stands out. Rachel Lafond is quite good, I don’t know-there are so many good ones-it gets daunting when one thinks about it too much.
Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
A few. “Someone Else’s Story” from Chess is one. “Hold On” by Sarah McGlaughlin. Someone about the chord patterns and melody of those two just gets me every time.
What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
Parallel fifths and octaves for sure! Are there any other rules? I never took composition so I was spared having to learn a long list of “thou shalt nots” for a budding composer.
How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
I use a studio. For my last two albums I’ve gone down to Pennsylvania to record with my friend Greg Maroney. I love going to the studio-it’s like being a little kid in a candy store. I almost always discover some instrument that I decide, spur of the moment, just has to go on my recording.
Whats your take on sampled instruments?
A qualified “like”. I was hired to write songs and background music for a half hour TV show a couple years ago, and for the most part they liked what I did. They sent back one of the background pieces I had written though, and asked if I could write something that sounded as if it had been put together on garage band. So I basically sewed together what I considered a horrible Frankenstein of a song (I actually called it the Frankensong) using sampled sounds and beats on garage band, and of course the TV people loved it!
To this day I’m not sure what to make of it, honestly. Sampling brings the ability to compose to the masses I suppose, or at least gives them that illusion, but there will always be a place for real sounds created by real people.
Anything else you want to share?
We’re all on a musical odyssey. I just want to keep traveling and creating as long as I can. I’m so very fortunate that I get to do something I love all day, every day.
And the last question from my five year old son:
Where do all your songs come from?
Everything I do, every conversation, every book or movie that I absorb, everything gets taken in and influences the next composition somehow. I like to give myself parameters when writing. Stephen Sondheim said it very well, and I paraphrase. “If someone asks me to write a song about a guy that’s sad, I freeze up. But if someone says to write a song about a white poodle wearing a pink hat, that’s easy.” We’re all intimidated by a blank canvas. I drew notes out of a hat to form the melody of “Pharaoh’s Horses”. Sometimes I read poetry and recite it to get a rhythm, and then the melody springs out of that. Or it could be a horn honking, or a dog barking, or the way a dragonfly’s wings sparkle in the sun. Inspiration is everywhere you look.
Thank you for this talk William!
Some people release music mor often then others. William Ogmundson is one of those who constantly release new music, and who am I to decline a spotted post just because you’re “too creative”? William is an American composer from New Hampshire, and you can read more about him here!
Into the Distance is featured on his latest album La Vie En Coluleurs (I think it might be French, and without knowing French at all I would translate it to The colors of life). The album was released in June 2019.
Tell us something about your track Into the Distance!
Into the distance was recorded at Greg Maroney’s studio in Pennsylvania. I was in the process of recording my album La Vie en Couleurs when I noticed a wooden box sitting in the corner. Greg explained it was a shruti box and how it was a drone that worked off of below like a harmonium, so of course I had to try it out! (Greg had a really cool former life where he made a living playing middle eastern music for a belly dancing troupe, but that’s another story).
So, Greg played the shruti box drone, and I improvised a piano part over it, which became Into the Distance. I tried my hand at the shruti as well and Greg played piano, which became his new single Heart of Darkness. The pieces were like yin and yang-mine was light and cheery-his very dark and brooding, which I found fascinating, since we were both just improvising over the same two-note drone (G and D). I thought it was cool to subtly combine eastern and western cultures on a song, and I’ve never attempted a song before that doesn’t have a chord progression, chorus, bridge, or any of the formal elements of composition. It seems to have a centeredness, a feeling of calm, that is unlike anything else I’ve come up with.
Thank you again for sharing your music with us William!
I have written about William Ogmundson before, here and here. Sometimes when I get submissions to write about, it feels like the music doesn’t even matter. Of course I always listen first, but the story behind a song can be good enough for itself. This was the case with Williams latest song I will return. I’ll let William explain.
Tell us something about your track I will return!
I Will Return was released as a single. I wrote it when I was music directing fifth and sixth graders in Palestine this past April, and it was released May 31st. I considered putting it on my new album La Vie en Couleurs but decided to let it stand alone.
I was really struck by the resilience and strength in the face of adversity (the Arabic word is “Sumud”) that the Palestinians displayed, and above all their kindness and hospitality. The key is an important symbol in Palestine. When many of them were driven from their homes in 1967 they locked their doors and took their keys with them, assuming they would come back at some point. It’s been over fifty years and that obviously hasn’t happened, but the key is still a symbol of hope and the dove of course represents peace. The image was inspired by a piece of artwork from a refugee camp in Bethlehem. The artist had crafted it out of olive wood and a used tear gas canister. I loved the idea of taking something awful and turning it into something beautiful.
I wrote the track when I was staying in the village of Kafr Ni’ma (just outside of Ramallah). It was a strange dichotomy listening to the birds, the calls to prayer and all the other pastoral sounds of the village while also hearing in the distance the sounds of construction from the next hill over where the Israelis were building a huge new settlement. The idea with settlements is to build several in an area and then connect the dots, so to speak. Whenever Palestinians see another settlement being created, there is naturally a sense of anger and profound sadness, as they gradually see their land and way of life slipping away. I tried to capture all of this in a bittersweet song.
Thank you for this wonderful story William!
A while back I introduced you to William Ogmundson and his work with Marble Halls, taken from the opera The Gypsy Girl. William is an Emmy nominated composer from the United Stated. He has performed all over North America and across Europe (including the Vatican republic).
The track Infinity loop is taken from his latest album Forevermore which was released in march 2019.
Tell us something about your track The enchanted music box!
The album is half premeditated and half improvised, but the songs all have a quiet feeling of nostalgia. This song is melody driven, meant to imitate the fragile beauty of a music box. The song was written while watching a music box dancer with headphones on to block out the sound. The original version of this song first appeared in 2017 as a ballet number for a musical show that William co-wrote with Trish Lindberg called “Peace Child”. William continued to work on the idea and here is the final product.
Thank you for sharing with us William!