Behind the piano: Jacob Trautner

Behind the piano: Jacob Trautner

It’s Thursday and of course time for another Behind the piano post. This week we’ll get to know the Danish composer Jacob Trautner a bit better!

Where are you from? And where do you live?
I was born at Hvidovere Hospital near Copenhagen in 1970. A couple of years later we moved to Kolding and then Horsens where I grew up. Right now, I live with my wife and two kids, in a small town in Jutland called Skanderborg. 

How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well? 
We had a grand piano at home, and so I started playing when I was around six years old. Later, I also played drums and the trumpet, but it was never that serious.

Tell us about how you started playing music.
The first memory I have with music is an image of me standing at the piano, listening to my father play. He liked Beethoven, and later it also became one of my favourite composers. With no distractions like smartphones and computers, the piano quickly became my ideal place to hang out.

Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
I started making music early. Still, back then, I didn’t think of it as anything special. It was just me having fun jamming on the piano, experimenting with different sounds and moods. I was a shy kid, and the piano was a calm place to try out emotions that were too complicated in “real” life. I can’t remember making my first song, but I remember having fun recording long jams on tape to my friends. 

What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
My first “piano” artist idol was the french keyboardguru Jean Michel Jarre. Later I came to like great pianists like Keith Jarret, Chick Corea and Michel Camilio.

In the last ten years, I’ve been increasingly more and more fascinated with a more minimalistic expression like Jan Johansson’s “Jazz på Svenska”. I haven’t listened to that many pianists in the last couple of years. As I’m easily affected by other people, I needed a break to strengthen the connection to my own musical expression.

Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
I haven’t played it for a while, but if I have to choose one song, it would be “Memories of tomorrow” by Keith Jarret. It’s a beautiful song, and I really love its melancholy nature.

What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
When I was younger, I thought that I had to break my boundaries to get to somewhere new. Now, I think a lot more about accepting and trying to be more who I am instead of who I want to be. So I don’t think of it as breaking the rules, but more as resistance against a limiting self-image. 

How do you record your music?
During the process of composing the music for the album, I often used virtual instruments for smoother workflow and editing. I used a lot of time tweaking a mix of virtual piano sounds, and I ended up with a really lovely sound, both intimate and warm. So despite the fact, that I love playing acoustic instruments, I realised that the sounds I was using in my private recording sessions, had actually also shaped the compositions. The sound became an essential part of the expression, so I decided to keep it. Also, using virtual instruments gave me much more time to record, reflect, and edit the overall appearance of the album.

Whats your take on sampled instruments?
I use sampled instruments on the album. Still, if it’s a replacement of real instruments, they can certainly have their limitations. In my experience, it takes a lot of work to make sample libraries function musically. Each library is different, and you have to play or program them just as differently. Often an overuse of samples causes the music to be too clean, dull and “dead”. It’s like people using too much botox, you lack the expression. On the other hand, if you modify or create your own samples, it can deeply personalize your sound in a significant way.

And, the question from my five year old son:
Where do all your songs come from?
Now that’s a difficult one. I think that if I manage to be honest, the songs ideally is a reflection of who I am at the deepest level. So in that way, the songs appear from my childhood experiences.

Thank you very much for sharing Jacob!

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