• Spotted!

    Spotted: Voga – Matted

    Today I’m introducing you to Canadian piano player and composer Owen Vaga, based in Toronto. He has been studying classical piano since a very young age and got into production and composing when he was taking classes in recording/sound design.

    Matted is released as a single to celebrate Piano day (29th of march, the 88th day of the year). Later this years he has plans for both an EP and an album!

    Tell us something about your song Matted!
    Matted, along with many of my tracks, is an exploration of introversion, thoughts, sentiment and texture. It was recorded at Revolution Recording on a late 19th century upright piano, with all the creaks and character noises preserved. The microphones were placed at close proximity to the piano and performer, allowing the listener an intimate view into every key press, release, and pedal change – sounds not apparent during a live performance.  My writing process involves creating a melody or texture I enjoy, and then improvising around that idea on the recording day. This process helps me to get out of my head writing and enjoy the music that I’m making.
    The title Matted is two-fold, evoking the matting of a frame, as well as the roughness or tangled meaning of the word. Something meaningful, but not fanciful.

    Thank you Owen for this wonderful piece of music. Looking forward to hear both the EP and the album!

    For more information and updates, please check out these links:
    Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Maria Grönlund

    A couple of months back I wrote a little something about Maria Grönlunds (then new) single June and Me, and now it’s time to get to know Maria a little better!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I am a Swedish pianist and composer, born on the island Gotland in the Baltic Sea. Nowadays I live in Stockholm.

    How long have you been playing the piano?
    We inherited a black and shiny upright piano from my grandfather when I was about to turn six. My mother had always dreamed of learning how to play but hadn’t had the chance to do that when she was a child. She found us a piano teacher and we started taking lessons at the same time, having a lot of fun playing four handed pieces together. She of course learned much quicker than me in the beginning, but there was a little competition between us (at least from my side) that spurred me to work harder, and I will never forget the feeling when I passed her in piano skills!

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    Going to music lessons after the ordinary school was a big part of my childhood and young years. I just loved being in the world of music, everything about it. The sounds in the hallway from different instruments being practiced behind closed doors, the smell inside of an instrument case, the fascinating secret symbols and signs in the sheet music that tells you how melodies go even if it’s two hundred years ago that they were made up…

    Do you play other instruments as well? 
    I sing a lot, and sometimes I make compositions entirely out of my voice, singing harmonies and treating them with different kinds of sound design. Other than that I play the guitar, the accordion, a bit on flutes, and as a part of my education I have studied some drums, bass, recorders, harpsichord, trumpet and bassoon.

    And sound design is fun, you can make music out of almost any kind of sound in a computer.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    Coming from a classical background, starting out as a very sheet music based musician, and also never having known anybody who made their own music it didn’t cross my mind that I could possibly make up music on my own. When I was at the Royal College of Music the composers education was something you might be able to enter after four years of education, if you’d pass the hard tests. I never even thought about it, I had my hands full with all the wonderful things that were offered to me to learn – playing different kinds of instruments, writing arrangements, learning the ins and outs of ear training and music theory, music history, singing and playing together and all the different styles of music. I have a very inquiring mind and loved every minute.

    After the education I started to teach Upper Secondary students in music. I was amazed about their disrespect to what I (subconsciously) had learned about who was allowed to make up music. As soon as they had learned three chords on the guitar they wrote their own songs and saw themselves as the worlds greatest songwriters. And their eyes glowed with pride in a way I never saw in any other kind of school activities. It was like they discovered they actually had beautiful souls – how else could they have created something so good?

    They gave me my life’s most important music lesson and inspired me to start expressing myself.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    In my chamber – for a long time. But I guess I never really took it seriously and never had the urge to become an artist, so I mostly kept it to myself. I guess shyness played a part in it too. 

    I just started going out publicly with it, realizing music is to be shared. Someone might need to hear it. I get thrilled when people tell me they discovered it and that listening to it makes their lives a little bit easier for a moment.

    I have composed and released other kinds of music in collaboration with others before though, mostly under the name Sounds like Friday, and I also make and record string arrangements for other artists.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I love the work of Ólafur Arnalds, Poppy Ackroyd, Analogue Dear and even though they are not pianists I also get very inspired by Zoe Keating and Imogen Heap. The album I’m working on will be piano centered, but also have some guest musicians and some electronica on it.

    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? 
    I constantly ”doodle” – whether it is by unawarely singing or whistling to myself or by improvising on the piano. So it’s mostly different stuff, always mood based. But one piece I often come back to is Arabesque nr 1 by Claude Debussy. I have it in my fingers, and I just love his elegant winding Art Nouveau melodies and rich harmonies.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    The rule of the need to impress and be ’very good’, ’trendy’ or ’up to par’, and to play after someone else’s rules. Music is about communication, of speaking in this invaluable non-word language about all the secret wisdom about our lives and beings that we don’t consciously understand. It is about expressing what it is to be a human, and about sharing joy and hope and a sense of community.

    Anything else you want to share? 
    I am releasing solo piano singles with about a month between them during the spring, and will release my solo debut album Songs of a Sad Sailor after the summer. I also pop up solo piano covers of songs I like on my social medias every now and then.

    The last question is asked by my 5 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from? 
    This is by far the best question of them all. I actually have written a whole song about it, after having listened to Ingmar Bergman’s radio ”Summer talk”, where he asked the same question.

    It comes from the shining stars
    from open air over the oceans
    It comes from the rolling meadows
    and flight of the birds towards free skies

    It comes from the place of rest
    from peace in the light of fires
    From glimmering eyes in dark nights
    and deep rolling belly-warm laughters

    And the music lights up your heart’s deepest corner
    plays on your hidden strings
    Of the secrets beyond the words and the reasons
    is what the music sings

    It comes from the memories
    from those you forgot that you have
    It’s speaking of all that you know
    and such you didn’t think there is

    It comes from the arms and laps
    consoling and stroking your cheek
    It’s telling that joy is still here
    it’s telling that love does exist

    And the music lights up your heart’s deepest corner
    plays on your hidden strings
    Of the secrets beyond the words and the reasons
    is what the music sings”

    Wow. Thank you!

    I will definitely read these lyrics to him and get back to you. The might be a small language barrier however, since he is five years old and only speaks Swedish. But I’ll try 🙂

    Please check out these links for more information about Maria and her music
    Facebook / Instagram / Twitter / Website / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Jennie Löfgren

    A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by Jennies record company regarding her (then) upcoming release Dreamology. Except getting sent songs pretty much daily through Sumbithub, this was the first time I was contacted by phone regarding the blog. It felt kind of big!

    A fun little anecdote is that I the day before got a call from a similar mobile number, but then it was those guys from india claiming they were from microsoft and wants to rescue your computer from some kind of virus… So I guess I didn’t sound so happy answering the phone when Jennies representatives called. Sorry for that!

    Back to Jennie then!

    Hi Jennie! Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I was in born in Östersund, in the northern part of Sweden. When I was 18, I moved to Stockholm, where I still live today.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    My father was a musician so growing up,  we had a music room. I can’t even remember when I started playing the piano. I’ve always played the piano, haha!

    I also play the flute, I sing and play a little bit of guitar and drums. I wish I knew how to play the violin or cello! It’s not too late to learn, is it?

    (It’s not)

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    Playing the piano was something I did everyday, like breathing or eating. It was always there. I started playing the accordion at age 8 then I moved on to learning how to play the flute and then I started singing in a rock band at the age 12-13.

    Foto: Stefan Lundaahl

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I was very young and I had heard my father play a piano piece by Chopin. I started playing the beginning by ear but I couldn’t remember the rest, so I just made up my own ending. My own version of the song. 

    That’s my first memory of realizing that I could actually write something myself.  A happy memory!

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    There are so many it’s impossible to answer,  but growing up there was a lot of Satie, Michael Nyman and Chopin and I think that sometimes comes through in my own music.

    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? 
    Michel Nymans “The Heart Asks Please First” – I ALWAYS play that when I come to a piano.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    I love to strive for simplicity (it is MUCH more difficult then making something weird and complicated) and then just when you think you know what’s gonna come, I do a little unexpected twist so it doesn’t become boring.

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
    I record it myself in my studio. When it comes to the piano: I work with a mix of 2 sampled pianos and 2 real pianos. It’s the secret recipe for “my sound”.

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I love them! But I always mix them with real instruments and musicians. I love the luxury of recording a real string orchestra and then adding a fat synth bass to maximize the sound. 

    Anything else you want to share? 
    Take a warm bath and listen to my personal favourite piano-pieces in my playlist Dream On Dreamer on Spotify.  

    Thank you for sharing this with us Jennie!

    For more information about Jennie and her music, please check out these following links:
    Facebook / Instagram / Spotify

  • Spotted!

    Spotted: Karen Biehl – As It Was, Ages Hence

    Today I’m introducing you to Dallas born composer and musician Karen Biehl. Except playing the piano nicely, Karen also plays violin and has a degree in Vocal Performance. Karen now recites in New York.

    Hi Karen!
    Lovely tune! Will this song be featured on an album or is is just a single?

    It’s funny you ask this, because I just this week came up with an idea for an entire album, also called “As It Was, Ages Hence”, that would include this track and others that refer to music from the past.  It would include a medley of music in varying styles from different times – not just piano, but also my singing voice, violin and sampled instruments and synths. I have a few compositions in the works that would fit the theme, but as of now, it’s in its very early development stages.  

    Alright then! Looking forward to that!
    Tell us something about the track!

    As It Was, Ages Hence is a melodic piano piece about reminiscing and longing for beautiful idyllic times from the past.  You can hear that it’s both happy and sad at once, as it’s a remembering of times that are no longer here. 
    Before I began composing music, I would hear melodies in my head that I’d hum to myself.  While studying opera, I would often come up with my own vocal exercises based on those melodies. In time, I realized that these melodies were compositions and began composing music. The melody from As It Was, Ages Hence is one that haunted me for many years until the day I finally composed the piece, many years later. 
    I actually wrote the piece during a time of intense yearning for a man I felt I remembered from long ago. The inspiration behind the piece came from a vision I had of a magical land from long long ago where we were one. In this mystical land, the colors of nature were unusually vibrant and the trees would sway, sigh and sing with the wind.
    Whether or not this land ever existed, the good news is I did end up meeting him and we’ve been together for 6 years now.  He is also a musician and has inspired and encouraged me to record and release my music.  “As It Was, Ages Hence” was finally recorded (after gestating for several years) and was released on March 28.

    Thank you for the music Karen!

    For more information and updates, please check out these following links:
    Facebook / Twitter / Website / Spotify

  • Spotted!

    Spotted: Henrik von Euler – d-moll

    Today Im introducing you to Swedish composer Henrik von Euler, known from Dödens Dal, Små Vågor, Rigas among others. Henrik also runs the Swedish label Flora & Fauna. This is his first release under his own name. The song d-moll is taken from the EP Hemskogen, which would translate to the home forrest (or something like that). The title d-moll would also translate to D minor if someone was wondering about that.

    Tell us something about your track d-moll!
    It was recorded on my dead aunt’s school-piano. It’s aptly named after the key it’s in and also features some hollowed out strings from an old Yamaha keyboard. It’s based on a repetitive line that basically should work as a standalone piece. It’s from an EP with music that was left out from the new album with Små Vågor. Initially that album were supposed to contain both piano pieces and more electronic stuff but in the end it became a full on electronic album. These sketches for piano were then left by themselves and needed a new output.

    Thank you Henrik for this wonderful song (and wonderful EP)!

    For more information, please check out these following links:
    Website / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Juan María Solare

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and I live in Bremen, Germany. I came to Europe with a scholarship of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) in order to undertake postgraduate studies in music composition at the music Hochschule in Cologne (Fritsch, Barlow, Humpert, Kagel).

    How long have you been playing the piano?
    It depends on where you set the point zero, the start. My first recalling of playing something at the piano (the French song J’ai du bon tabac) is at age 4 or 5; my first piano lesson at 6, but my first documented public performance only at 12. Now I am 52 (so do the math).

    Do you play other instruments as well? 
    I studied French horn for a few years and it was an important experience, but saying that I actually “play” horn would be terribly exaggerated.

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    Basically, my mother taught me some melodies and I learned them. Sounds easy, isn’t it? Well, it should be. Why making easy things complicated?

    Cover art: Alban-Low

    How long have you been making piano music?
    If you mean composing, my first written piano piece is dated on 25 May 1977 (at ten years old). It is a waltz with some good ideas but not well developed, as you could expect. Before that, around 7-8, I used to improvise a lot at the piano as well, but that was neither written down nor recorded. However I still remember some of those improvisations (which I repeated over and over, as is usual at that age, so technically they were not real improvisations). I called one of them La casa (the house) because it had foundations, walls, first and second floor and a roof. From today’s perspective, it was a theme and variations whereby the theme was two bars long. Interestingly, I made that theme because its geometrical shape on the keyboard (it was symmetric), not because of how it sounded. I remember my piano teacher (María Teresa Criscuolo) telling me to bring to the lesson also a self-composed piece – each week.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I was not particularly proud of it, and that is perhaps a problem. For me it was like eating without help or saying my first words: a part of the normal development of a healthy human being. Only later I noticed that that was not “normal” or usual, that not everybody would make songs themselves. I remember asking my (elderly) brother, a performing musician, why he didn’t compose music and his answer was that he got no ideas. I couldn’t actually believe him, and to be honest I still can’t believe it, but saying this might sound arrogant to some.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    To keep the list reasonably short, under “favorite” I would rather list artists from whom I learned something – or enjoy playing: Scriabin, Liszt, Fats Waller, Scott Joplin, Chopin. Debussy, Ravel, Satie, Schönberg. 

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    Actually there is none, or maybe any piece that I am currently practising.

    How long is your shortest song?
    For piano solo: the second of the Aphorismen, 22 seconds. For electronic sounds: gl, 13 seconds.

    Generally speaking, I love miniatures. However I am also well aware of the danger of composing only miniatures, namely, that one gets used to the lack of development of the ideas. I do believe in “musical haikus” that can achieve depth without development, but this is a very particular case, where development is implied. More often than not, “short” equals “underdeveloped” or “incomplete”.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    Usually we should break those rules that we impose ourselves without further thoughts. In a nutshell, any rule that says (between lines) “this is not going to work”.

    Anything else you want to share with us? 
    Lack of concentration poisons talent. Lack of clarity is lethal. Never underestimate the difficulties of simple things. Waiting for perfection is waiting forever. Be avaricious with your time. Musical notation: a musician will play what you wrote in the score, not what you want them to play. Inspiration is everywhere – if you are aware. And if you are not aware, inspiration is elsewhere.

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

    All songs come from silence and go back to silence. Exactly as we do.

    However, this fancy answer is rather a distraction maneuver that doesn’t address the complexity of the dynamics of creation. Another way of answering is: All your experiences in life, all your happy moments, sad moments, silly moments, smart moments, boring and magnetic moments, mistakes, second chances and achievements, the pain and the joy, the abyss and the extasis and also indiference, all what you learned and listened, all you said and thought, form a manure mountain with organic materials decomposing – a manure pile from which a flower can arise.

    Thank you for this Juan! Very interesting! Very good advice in the end.

    Please check out these social links for more information about Juan and his music!
    Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Website / Spotify

  • Spotted!

    Spotted: Async Ross – Cambria

    Today I’m introducing you to 24 year old German composer and musician Benjamin Stitt. Benjamin was born in Potsdam and now spends his time partly in Berlin and partly in Los Angeles. He has a degree from Berkeley College of music from 2017, and has since then worked with several musical projects.

    Async Ross is a new alias and neo-classical/ambient project of his. Cambria is the first piece that Benjamin is releasing under that name, it’s also the first piece out of a series of four solo piano pieces which were all recorded in his parents living room while visiting them this winter.

    Tell us something about your track Cambria!
    Cambria specifically was originally written about a year ago. My family came to visit me here in LA and we took a little getaway trip driving up the California coast, staying in this beautiful rustic house in Cambria overlooking the California shoreline about 3 1/2 hours north of LA.
    We stayed there for about 3 days but unfortunately a rainstorm hit right during that time, so we were rained in not really able to go out much, but in all honesty that made the stay even more relaxing and calming. The house had an amazing view over Cambria, overlooking the pacific ocean and luckily also a very old piano in it.The rain, the scenery and the calmness of that place inspired this piece and always brings me back to that particular moment and place.
    After I wrote it I had it sitting in the back of my mind for several month not really knowing what I should do with it, collecting dust and almost forgetting about it, till I visited my parents over Christmas and started playing it again on their piano. From there this piece sparked the whole idea for this project and for the other three piano pieces that I ended up writing during that visit. I’m still amazed how even now this piece manages to bring me back to those rainy days in Cambria overlooking the pacific ocean watching as the rainclouds move by.

    Thank you for sharing this with us Benjamin!

    For more information, please check out these social links:
    Facebook / Instagram / Website / Spotify

  • Spotted!

    Spotted: Snowdrops – Manta Ray

    Today I’m introducing you to Snowdrops, which is a French duo featuring Mathieu Gabry and Christine Ott. Under the name Snowdrops they make music for theater, dance and movies as well as giving concerts. Their speciality is to play pretty much anything with keys on it; synthesizers from all times!

    This track is taken from their album Manta Ray released by the UK label Gizeh and is the original score for the movie with the same name. The movie won the best film award of the Orizzonti selection of Venice Film Festival, for its release in 2018.

    Tell us something about Manta Ray!
    I guess it’s a some particular track of the score, for different reasons… That’s one of the few we did not composed to the images of the movie. The instrumental color is also maybe different here. We’re certainly in a more ‘modern-classical’ vein, or something like that.. although the rest of the soundtrack is maybe a bit more dark-ambient sometimes. We really love this track, very organic, and simple, on the surface. An anecdote about it; we were very touched when the Venice Festival crew decided to broadcast that piece on the red carpet before the film premiere. We were very surprised of that ! Another nice memory for sure. 

    Hope you’ll enjoy the track, the disc, and also the movie when it will be released in swedish cinemas. I hope so one day… I know it were at Stockholm Film Festival last november, but don’t know about the future of the movie in your country. 

    Thank you for this! And I will definitely keep a look out for the movie. And everyone else should too!

    Fort more information and updates, please check out these social links:
    Facebook / Twitter / Website / Spotify

  • Spotted!

    Spotted: Nico Casal – It’s Fine, But It Hurts

    Today I’m introducing you to Nico Casal; a Spanish composer based out of Santiago, Galcia. He’s other passion, except playing the piano, is architecture, and when he was eighteen he had to choose between studying architecture or classical piano.

    The piano won.

    This track is released as a single but is also featured on the album Alone (released April the 5th).

    Tell us something about your track It’s Fine, but it hurts!
    It’s fine, but it hurts its the third track of seven on the album. All seven tracks are connected, they belong to the same form, to the same “story”, and this one in particular is about that feeling I had of realising everything will be ok eventually. I was aware I was going through a difficult phase for several reasons, including a break up, but at the same time I although it hurt I knew it wasn’t the end of the world.

    Thank you for this song Nico! Looking forward to hear the album (this was written before the album was released).

    For more information, check out these links:
    Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Website / Spotify

  • Spotted!

    Spotted: Richard Labrooy – Blink

    Nothing new here. Just another awesome single by Richard Labrooy which you all have met here, here and here. For those of you who doesn’t know him; Richard is an Australian composer of neoclassical/ambient music.

    Tell us something about your track Blink!
    Similar to Bloom, this was a reasonably organic sounding track. There are some subtle electronic elements, as well as being augmented by a chamber orchestra towards the end. But it’s essentially a piece of solo piano, which is where it began. I’m not sure how other pianists prefer to compose, but I find beginning at the piano can be rather boring, and can often lead to predictable and overused patterns. It’s a problem that commonly arises from muscle memory. Which is why I usually tend to approach sound design first, which to me, can inspire the piece to go somewhere I wouldn’t usually take it. But for “Blink”, I was getting back to basics, which was just two hands on ivory keys, and seeing how I could make it different.

    Do you have more music coming soon?
    “Blink” is another in a string of releases that I have coming in 2019. They all revolve around slightly similar themes, such as memory, nostalgia and a bittersweet optimism. However, I’ve been attempting to find different perspectives with each track. For “Blink” it was much more melancholic and subdued, especially in comparison to my previous work “Bloom”. It was a deliberate shift in tone. As is the shift for my next single!

    Thank you for this Richard! Looking forward to hear more awesome music from you soon.

    Please check out these links for updates!
    Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Website / Spotify