Behind the piano

Behind the piano: Ahren

A while back I wrote about Ahren and his track Continuum. Today it’s time to get to know Ahren a bit better!

Whats your name?
My name is Ahren Merz

Where are you from? And where do you live?
I was born and raised in Kilchberg, Switzerland, a town not far from Zürich and currently live in Adliswil, which is also right next to Zürich. My mother is American and my father is Swiss.

How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
I originally learned playing the piano (and the flute in school) about 20 years ago but did not have an interest in composing my own music until 13 years later when I discovered Electronic Dance Music (which eventually shifted to contemporary/classical music) and noticed that my past experience with the piano made the introduction to music production/composition a joyable experience from the beginning. I started playing the guitar as well but it didn’t give me the same emotional response the piano was able to. All instruments in my compositions are played with a midi keyboard and tweaked accordingly to make them feel organic.

Tell us about how you started playing music. 
I started playing music 20 years ago in form of piano lessons and the flute in school. The piano lessons weren’t a long term hobby back then however because playing other people’s music felt unnatural to me.

How long have you been making piano music?
I’ve been making piano/orchestral music for about a year now.

Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
The moment I realized I could make my own music was a gigantic new world opening up to me. The beautiful thing about it is that it’s a constantly changing world which regularly brings me back to that comforting initial feeling.

What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
My favorite artists of the genre are Ryuichi Sakamoto, Akira Kosemura, Nils Frahm, Joep Beving and many more.

Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
No, there is not really a specific song I like playing again and again. I like experimenting with new sounds and instruments/synthesizers however. The approach I take with my music is like building something. It’s more of a construction process, although starting compositions is usually based on improvised ideas.

What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
All of the rules can be broken once they’re understood. Broken rules characterize authenticity: If the music feels right it doesn’t matter what rules are being broken.

How do you record your music?
I record all of my music with my computer in my bedroom/living room in
a 1.5 bedroom apartment. Currently I am also experimenting with ambient sounds from nature which requires going outdoors and recording sounds like rivers, chirping birds, wind, etc. which is a lot of fun and is very inspiring to me.

Whats your take on sampled instruments?
I like sampled instruments and the freedom you have in processing their sound. They allow anyone with a computer to create their own music at home or wherever. What’s important in my opinion however is to process or combine these in a way that is fresh for the ear which can be difficult since so many people are using them. With sampled instruments I find it especially important to know exactly what they do and to experiment with playing them in ways they’re not supposed to be played.

Anything else you want to share?
I also would like to share that I am planning on experimenting with paint and audio visual media for performances.

The last question is asked by my 5 year old son:
Where do all your songs come from? 
My songs come from what I see, hear and feel. And sometimes they come from musical accidents. Great question by the way!

Thank you very much for this Ahren!

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