Behind the piano

Behind the piano: no-kë

Hi there no-kë!

What’s your real name?
Cassie To

How did you come up with your artist name?
My Artist name is actually my dog’s name split in two (Noke/no-kë) Originally when i started to release music, I wanted to keep it seperate to the music I wrote for television, TV and concert music, and wanted a name that was gender neutral. Now though everything is all linked together and my dog doesn’t seem to mind borrowing her name!

Where are you from? And where do you live?
Im from Australia and currently live in Sydney 

How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
I’ve been playing piano for 21 years and started when I was 4. I think i learnt how to read music before I could read words! I have a small collection of different instruments, including Chinese flutes and Erhu, however can only play the flute and saxophone well out of that collection as I played them during school.

Tell us about how you started playing music.
I didn’t really have a choice in that it was something my parents introduced me to when I was very young, and didn’t really think much about it as a kid.  I think my teachers realised I had a knack for it so I kept it up all through high school and later studied  music at university. 

How long have you been making piano music?
I think my first ever composition I wrote was for piano when i was about 16. Funnily enough now I don’t often write solo piano music (although I think its something I should return to more often!), but a lot of my pieces will feature piano. So I guess on and off for 9 years

Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
I would have been about 15 or 16, at the time I had just performed a solo Joe Hisaishi piano piece at my schools music festival, and I remember all these people saying how beautiful the music was and how it made them feel, and me feeling like I hadn’t really done anything cause all I did was play his music. So i decided to try and write something myself and it ended up being quite popular with my friends and music teachers! That isn’t to say I don’t appreciate the art of performance!! I think at that time I felt really inspired by Hisaishi’s music and how it could effect myself and people in such an emotional way and really wanted to see if I could do that myself. 

What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
Currently Ludovico Einaudi

Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
I always play Joe Hisaishis solo piano music when I’m sitting at the piano, particularly Ashitaka and San from the movie Princess Mononoke. That and probably Rachmaninoff’s 18th Variation on a theme by Paganini as its my dads favourite and he always asks me to play it. Ive also been playing my most recent release ‘Prelude’ a lot

What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
I think the idea that every time you write music it has to be ‘innovative’ and ‘new’ and ‘ground breaking’. Throughout my years at the Conservatorium this was something that always seemed to be a pre requisite – and I get it, without these things music wouldn’t develop and we wouldn’t be where we are with it today, but sometimes I think you should be able to write a piece purely for yourself and not have to be accountable to other peoples expectations 

How do you record your music?
Currently all my music is recorded and produced myself in my home studio

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Whats your take on sampled instruments?
I think sampled libraries are really useful, particularly if you have a job thats on a tight deadline or really tight budget and cant afford to bring in live players. I dont think they’ll ever replace the real thing, and given a choice i’d always choose live players over sampled instruments, however I do think sometimes they open up opportunities to be creative, especially with different plugins and I think they can produce some really unique results that you may not have gotten using live players

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

To be honest.. I’m not quite sure! I think they come from an accumulation of all my experiences of performing music, writing for classical ensembles and writing for television and film all meshed together! A lot of the time the idea for the piece comes from me improvising on my piano and really developing and idea (whether it be a coupe of chords or a melody) that sticks. The way that I know it sticks is that I ‘feel’ something when I listen to it, and I could listen to it a billion times and never get over it. 

Thank you very much Cassie for sharing your story with us!

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