• Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Matt Koranda

    A while back I posted about Farewell pt I and today it’s time to get to know the person behind the track a bit better!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I am from South Germany and live nearby the Lake of Constance, the deep water connection between Germany, Austria and Switzerland and by the way: My zodiac sign is Aquarius. I don’t know, is it coincidence?

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I started with classic piano lessons when I was 10 years old. An older woman teached me to play Beethoven, Chopin and Mozart Sonatas in an old, small dark attic room, a little spooky 😉 I love to play all instruments with keys, but I’m a monkey in playing other instruments. My most impressive event was playing a big church organ. It’s like sitting on a cloud.

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    When I was a child, my parents sent me to classic recorder. But I think it is a poor expressive instrument, hm but I also remember an impressive live concert someone blowed it like a traverse flute, and wooph, it sounded incredible.

    So my early experience is that the way you play an instrument can ruin the performance or make it extraordinary beautiful. While I heavily used different synthesizers, sampler and organs in my live band projects, I found at home the grand piano the most suitable instrument for my means of expression and where I feel merged with.  

    How long have you been making piano music?
    Playing the piano was always my side issue but also my source of creativity. As band musician it took many years to focus on making pure piano music.

    I started about 4 years ago to record some first improvisations. Then I set my focus on producing pure piano music. You know only 2020 I released my piano debut album. 

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    That is hard to remember. You know, my head was always full of own ideas, but I mostly missed to record it. I started with about 14 years playing with other musicians in bands. Then the songs got more and more structured.

    I remember one big moment was when I played the solo acoustic piano alone at a school party. Therefore I wrote an accord chord progression that was burnt in my head and I even revived it some years ago by releasing a single just for fun. But I decided to cancel it for later purposes. So be fast, if you wanna still listen to it, haha.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    Oh that changes. I think my first impressive piano player for me was Keith Jarrett playing the Cologne Concerts. You know my inspiration comes mostly from live performing musicians. Later I discovered Ludovico Einaudi (maybe because he looks like my father in profile 😉 and Max Richter as my favorites. But I think when you ask me later, I will give you another answer, haha.

    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?
    Hm, yes but that is an unreleased song yet. It was related to a computer game about a historic middle age scenario I wanted to give a main theme. But I got not enough time to finalize it.

    Sure the chord progression of “Soft Touches” I mentioned before, is also a good base for some free style improvisations I really like to play on.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    That’s a very philosophical question to discuss. I think I never made music with a set of written rules in my mind. It’s all about what feels good in music.

    When you feel angry or destructive, why not crashing all old rules and create something new? Isn’t it the meaning of art of searching for new ways? Probably you will automatically fall back to old rules when you search for harmony.

    You know my current concern in making music is the confrontation with deep emotional experiences from moments in humans life. And I think the rules for that is hard to describe.

    How do you record your music?
    I recorded the pieces of my piano music debut album at home in my small studio. The most tracks started with a piano improvisation I recorded on different digital pianos. Partially I recorded only the MIDI-signals and filled the tracks with virtual grand piano sounds and even orchestral tones.

    My big dream is to have my own Steinway grand piano at home for future recordings.

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I use them, but I really would wish they could be played like acoustic instruments. I think the biggest problem is not the sampling, the problem is the keyboard or let’s say the human-to-device interaction.

    Again I really would wish to have my own Steinway grand piano to lift me to a new sound dimension 😉 

    Anything else you want to share?
    First of all I want to thank you and all of your readers for giving me and all other newcomer pianists your attention. 

    Maybe my art of playing the piano is a little bit impetuous and not always perfect sounded, you know my background is live music and I don’t like to create relaxing-only music to which many other pianists tend.

    I wanna say my music comes direct from my heart&soul and when I can reach someones heart or soul, then my work is done and I am happy.

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

    My dear, they come all from my deep heart and because I’m an Aquarius also from the endless deep water 😊

    Thank you Matt for you participation in my Behind the piano series!

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  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: John Hayes

    I have previously posted about the release Eight for a wish by the American composer John Hayes. And he is also mentioned in as one of the favorite piano artists by both Philip Daniel and Philip G Anderson. That would make anyone curious, right?! So now it’s time to get to know John a bit better!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I am from Lakeville, Minnesota, just outside of Minneapolis. Now I live and work in Minneapolis. 

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I have been playing the piano since I was 8 or 9 years old. I don’t remember the exact age but it has been quite some time! I play a number of different synthesizers as well.I also play the saxophone,  however, that has not made it into any recordings…yet 🙂

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    My parents made me play haha! It seemed to be just a part of everyday life growing up, come home from school, homework, then the piano. Surprisingly, I was not fond of playing the piano around this  time. I would have much rather been outside playing baseball or running around with friends.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I have been writing my own little tunes and melodies since I was about 11 or 12, however, it wasn’t until about a year ago I released anything. I think it took a good amount of time and a certain amount of courage to finally be ready to share my music. 

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I don’t know if it was one specific moment. As my lessons growing up intensified and teachers became more and more strict, I became less interested in traditional training. During practice time, I would  be trying to come up with my own tunes or trying to recreate a melody I had heard from a movie I had seen the night before. I eventually dropped out of formal lessons and really spent some time away  from the piano for a couple years. It wasn’t until I picked things back up, about 7-8 years ago that I really started to enjoy the piano and realizing I could write songs for myself. 

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    It really changes quite frequently! Right now I have been listening to a lot Francois Couturier and Valentin Silvestrov. 

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    Nothing specific. It is usually my own music nowadays. If I am writing, I usually start with a melody that I have been working on. Things begin to develop over time and if I am still excited about it, that is  how I usually know I am on to something.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    In order to make something great, all the rules need to be broken. (I’m not taking credit for that quote, it sounds like something someone else has said before by some snooty painter haha) But really, I  think knowing the rules is the first important thing and something that gets overlooked. From there you can begin to experiment and consciously step outside them. This is usually when you find  your best work. 

    How do you record your music?
    I have my own studio, “Emerson Studio” that I record out of. 

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    Instrument libraries can be great. Before I was able to buy my own piano that was all I used. The thing with samples and libraries though is that there are an INFINITE number of them. So many  choices can lead to decision paralysis. One day you like the sound of this library, the next day a new one comes out and you have to try that one. There is no real commitment since everything can just  be changed with one click. I like the idea of really committing to your sound and then developing it which is hard to do with a sample. Real instruments have their own personalities as well that sample  libraries just don’t have. Trying to learn how to capture those personalities in recordings or bring them to life in performances is something that I really connect with. 

    The last question is asked by my 5 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from? 
    That is a great question! It is hard to know where they come from really. Some days music just comes out of you and you feel like a genius, some days you feel like you need someone to explain to you  where middle C is. I have a quote next to my piano from Rick Rubin that reads: “Being a great artist means practicing being in touch with the information already inside you.” That really sums it up for  me. I think my songs come from when I am able to identify that I am connecting with something I am playing and being able to work with those emotions that are coming out on the piano. 

    Anything else you want to share? 
    I hope you are staying warm up there in Sweden! 

    Thanks John! Winter never really came to my part of Sweden this time, so I am grateful!

    For more information and updates by John, please check out these links:
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  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Pascal Lengagne

    A while back, I introduced you yo the track Brume by the French composer Pascal Lengagne. And now the time has come to get to know the composer behind the track a bit better!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I am from France and I leave in Pézenas, beautiful small city in the south of France, near Montpellier.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I am 53 years old and I’ve started playing piano at 5. I ‘ve tried to play saxophone one month, but I didn’t like the feeling of the vibration on the lips.

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    My first teacher said to my parents that music was not for me, because I didn’t want to go to her lessons. But she was a little bit scary for me. Now since 2003 my only job is music, composing for films, commercials and shows.

    How long have you been making piano music? And tell us something about when you figured out how to make music yourself!
    I’ve started when I was 16. It was at the cinema that I wanted to compose, I love film music, and also thanks to songs that I liked on the radio.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    My first hero is Ryuichi Sakamoto, and I like Olafur Arnalds, Max Richter, Nils Frahm too.

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    I’ve played very often « Someday my prince will come » or Ryuichi Sakamoto’music, now I am improvising most of the time

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    Trying to be the best, want to prove something, seek virtuosity before musicality.

    How do you record your music?
    Most of the time at home on my lovely Bechstein upright piano (1925) , sometimes in a big Studio in Paris when I compose for films

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    Very useful to learn composition, we can try our ideas and ear the result easily now. Some piano library are very cool (like Noire piano, Native instruments)

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

    Not only from the brain, inspiration is kind of magic. We need some technique first obviously, but when we have it it’s necessary to connect to our best part (soul ?), and let it flow. But sometimes it’s beautiful, sometimes it still gives shit music :). But I think that we need to find some evidence in the music.

    Thank you for this wonderful interview Pascal!

    For more information, please check out any of these following links:
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  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Omar Raafat

    A while back I introduced you all to the track The portrait by the composer Omar Rafaar, and now it’s time to get to know the person behind the song a bit better.

    What are your thoughts on artist names?
    I thought about this for a while but I wanted to use my real name at the end instead of using a generic artist name, just made more sense since the music I am writing is truly from within. 

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I am from Cairo, Egypt and live in Victoria, BC in Canada. I moved around a lot when I was younger from Europe to Egypt to the US and then finally to Canada.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I started out playing guitar at the age of 10 and then at around 13 I switched over to playing drums. I also starting recording and playing around with recording equipment and using a midi keyboard very early on. That allowed me to use the piano a little more and learned how to play because of my writing. I only really started to play piano 5-6 years ago but for me it is more a composing tool than an instrument I am good at. I can play a little bit of guitar, piano and drums just enough for me to be able to express myself with them. 

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    I started at a young age and was motivated by watching my father play the guitar. He would always come back from work and play and sing so I naturally followed. I became highly passionate about music and played in a lot of different bands growing up.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    Piano music is a recent thing for me, I have always been putting music together and playing around and composing. I write a lot of different types of music but only recently decided I wanted to make a minimalistic album that has only real organic instruments. I also love the sound of a muted piano with the felt on it. It gives it a very intimate sound that really inspired me to write the album with it as its focus. 

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I started out playing around with recording software and just putting things together. I always had the difficulty of finishing pieces that I wrote and then slowly I got over that and started to really push myself to finish any track I started. I also love hearing tracks in different and new genres that challenge me and inspire me to try and write and learn to make it. That is why I love film music as it is very versatile and brings in a new challenge always. 

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    These days I am listening to a lot of Olafur Arnalds. His music is a huge inspiration on me and the album I just wrote. He has taught me that you don’t need to over complicate music for it to be impactful. He really knows how to connect and move an audience. 

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    I would have to say the track “Time is Lost’ from my album. I actually don’t know a lot of peoples songs on the piano and usually just use the piano as a composing and inspirational tool. I always sit and play “Time is Lost” whenever I sit at the piano for some reason.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    I think people are doing a good job of breaking rules in music these days. I also think we are seeing the listeners not really caring about rules which allows a lot more innovation.  Instruments are tools and fuel inspiration even if they are not used in a conventional way. The music that stands out the most is the ones that are doing something really different.

    How do you record your music?
    I record everything at my home studio. I come from the studio background, working at different studios in my career so I have a decent setup where I can record and do everything at my own place.

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I like sampled instruments for what they are. I am always impressed with them and use them when writing tv/film work. I do think they have huge limitations and we should be careful using them. They are great for sketching and coming up with ideas. The album “A Way Home” that I just finished was fuelled by me being tired of writing with virtual instruments all the time. I wanted to go the complete opposite and write an album that used zero sampled  instruments. I think it is really important to use real musicians and sampled instruments don’t have the realism and life that real players do. 

    Anything else you want to share? 
    I am really excited to put out my first solo album “A Way Home” on February 7th. It was inspired by the nature in the area where I live in the pacific north west.  The album is a concept album and is really meant to be heard in order as if it is one long piece. 

    And the usual question my five year old son once asked me:
    Where do all your songs come from?
    That is a great question. For myself, I am inspired by sounds and instruments. I can pick up an instrument and just use it for some sounds that really inspire a piece of music. Different instruments will get me to write very differently and they will fuel the inspiration. Being outdoors with wide open spaces and beautiful surroundings make it easy for me to write as well. I definitely value nature and our surroundings and need to go out often. 

    Thank you for participating in my Behind the piano series Omar!

    For more information, please check out these following pages:
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  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: We dream of Eden

    A while back I introduced you to the track Walk on Water by the American artist We Dream of Eden, and now it’s time to get to know the person behind the name a bit better!

    What is your real name?
    Kirk Kienzle Smith

    How did you come up with your artist name?
    I love the idea of Eden. The beautiful abundant garden we were given to live in, and enjoy, and take care of. I wanted to make music that sounded like what I thought Eden looked like. I wanted the music to give people a sonic landscape to have hope, to think and pray and reflect…to dream of what could be. 

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    Originally I’m from a small town in Massachusetts, but when I was a teenager I moved with my family to Memphis TN. So I am half Yankee and Half southern boy I guess. : ) 

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I have been playing piano on and off since I was 5 years old. I have recently started playing the Bass and the Guitar but piano is my first love. I also play the computer. Meaning I use software to record compose music. I look at the computer as just another instrument. 

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    My Grandfather was a piano player, really amazing and I think seeing him play started it all. I remember my teacher teaching me the blues scale and I would run that scale up and down for hours. I just thought it was the coolest thing ever!

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I have been composing and writing ideas out since I was a kid. Even writing some “blues” tunes when I was 8 or 9 years old. I got into music production after college and that has been my main creative outlet for year. I have only recently started releasing music as an artist since last year. Its a whole different world but I am really enjoying it! 

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I remember it well. I was probably 18, in this empty room of old church with a 100 dollar yamaha keyboard making a “beat” on it. An older man was walking by and heard the music coming out of the keyboard. He stoped and asked if I had made it. I said yes, and he said “That’s great, keep at it you never know where it will take you.” I think his belief in me gave me permission to believe in myself. Its always stuck with me, and I try to be like that with my students. Because its true!

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I think my favorites are guys like Thomas Newman and James Newton Howard. I love there approach to harmony and the openness and space they give to their music.

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    I don’t really have a song that I play over and over… unless I’m practicing! But recently I have been trying to learn some of the main jazz standards, it really helps me develop more complex chord voicings. 

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    If a rule gets broken often enough it will eventually become a new rule. Someone will figure out what the rule breaker did and make a rule out of it. I think thats fine and probably helpful to move art forward. To me rules are not always meant to be broken they are meant to be our teachers. If you look at Jazz music for example, they really were taking classical harmony and moving it forward. Not breaking the rules so much as extending the vocabulary. To me rules are recipes. If you want a really good “carrot cake” and someone has rules to make it.. great! No need to break the rule. But…. its not illegal to try and use sweet potatoes instead of carrots. (as long as you think it tastes good) and thats the key for me .taste… no need to break a rule just for the sake of breaking a rule… Its about an artist expressing themselves with intentionality and taste. So whatever rules they need to follow or break to make that happen is great. 

    How do you record your music?
    I have a small home studio where I do all of my work. I record, mix, and master everything right there in a little 10-14 space. It quite amazing what you can do these days!

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I absolutely love sampled instruments I have a real piano but I also have a midi controller. This thing I love about sampled instruments is that I can have access to a thousand different textures and rooms all with leaving my house! Its amazing and the quality of the sound and feel just keeps getting better. I have recently started recording my upright for some projects. Its a little noisy and a bit out of tune, the keys click a little so it not really “idea” but for what I do sometimes thats where the magic is. I really like the imperfect tones that come from old pianos. Its not always the appropriate thing for a composition and sometimes it can cause problems later on but as a person who makes most of my music inside a computer I am rediscovering the joy of a piano vibrating in a room, even if its a little out of tune. 

    Anything else you want to share? 
    If you are reading this and you ever felt like you wanted to play the piano.. you should start. If you play the piano and always wanted to write music..you should start. If you write music and always wanted to record and release music…. you should start. It’s never too late! Don’t spend time in regret of what you haven’t done yet. Just start now, its ok to just start now. Who knows where it will take you!

    The last question is asked by my 5 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from? 
    They come from everywhere… from a picture, from a movie, from something my son said to me, from something I read in a book, from a conversation with a friend, or just from stopping and taking a really slow breath in the silence… a song can come from there too. They’re everywhere if you are listening! 

    Thank you for this Kirk!

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  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Piotr Wiese

    Today it’s time to get to know the polish composer Piotr Wiese a bit better!

    Where are you from and where do you live?
    I am from Poland. I used to live in the capital city – Warsaw, yet now I moved to a “field studio” in the middle of nowhere. Literally in the middle of the forest in northern Poland, I have locked myself down in an old house where I start working on a new music project.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    For 22 years now. I wish I could play other instruments. For now, I am satisfied with the knowledge of how other musicianscan play different instruments. I have orchestrated music for a great symphony orchestra when composingmaterial for my debut album “Questioning Infinity”, I recorded every single instrument line on a midi keyboard using VST’s etc.Recently, I have done the same working on a musical ‘Pinocchio’.

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    Thanks to my parents. They thought it would be good to get me private piano lessons in a local school when I was 8.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    For more than half of my life.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    It was around my 14th birthday. At that time I inherited an old piano that my grandmother used to play. I have never met her though, as she passed away a long time before my birth. Anyway, the great and noble sound of the instrument enabled me to compose piano miniatures in a style similar toold masters such as Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, and beloved Chopin.  Later on, I developed my own, subtle piano style deeply connected with the modern way of piano playing with the use of felt between the strings and hammers. 

    What are your favourite artists in this “piano genre”?
    Daigo Hanada, Chad Lawson, Otto Totland.

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    When I sit at the piano, I usually improvise something. Very often it’s in a minor or c minor – my favourite keys. Also, I have my favourite harmonic progressions (I,III,V,IV) (I, VI, IV, V) in different combinations and modes. 

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    The rule that there must be something broken.

    How do you record your music?
    Myself in my home-studio.

    What’s your take on sampled instruments?
    I hate the digital world, yet I love sampled instruments. If there would be a cataclysm and I would have to decide whether to save one or another,I would always go for an acoustic instrument. But after a year or so I would regret. 🙂 

    Anything else you want to share? 
    I want to say Hi to everyone who is reading this interview. 

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

    Say ‘Hi’ to your boy! The best question. From the heart rather than from the mind, I guess.

    Thank you very much for this Piotr!

    For more information, please go to any of these following links:
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  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Luca Mazzillo

    A while back I posted about the track Love Waves by the Italian composer an piano player Luca Mazzillo. Today, it’s his turn to step into the light of the Behind the piano series!

    Here we go!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I live in Italy, in Rome, not downtown but near to the sea. Every day I drive along the seaside towards the company where I work as an electronic engineer.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    The past 8 years I have dedicating most of my spare time to the piano. Until that I played occasionally keyboards. I also play drums in the dance music revival 80-90’s band called conrispettoparlando. For a little while I also tried to play acoustic and electric guitar but at the end I gave up: too hard on my fingertips!

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    I think I started when I was something like 10. My little brother received as a gift an old electric organ: it came with sheet music using numbers. Who can recognize this? 5653 5653 997 885 etc. I’ll tell you the answer later!

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I wrote my first composition at school, I was 13. The middle school music teacher, even having only one hour a week, managed to transmit me the basic notions to let me create music. Around 18 I wrote a lot of songs, mostly ballads, with lyrics and music arrangements. The piano was only one of the ingredients of those (unpublished) compositions.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    8 years ago, I was sitting in a cinema, near to my future wife, watching Intouchables, a beautiful French film with an incredible soundtrack. Einaudi’s piano tracks as Una mattina and Fly entered immediately in my head. In that exact moment, I realized I could make and publish piano music. 

    What are your favourite artists in this “piano genre”?
    No doubt at all: the artist in my genre that I prefer is Ludovico Einaudi. I’ve been influenced a lot also by George Winston, Yann Tiersen, Yiruma. And in these days, I listen to music from Roberto Cacciapaglia, Olafur Arnalds, Dardust, Alexandra Streliski.

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    Can I reply with 3 songs? If not, consider only the first one 🙂 Tree of Life suite (Oceano & Wildside mashup) from Roberto Cacciapaglia, Porz Goret from Yann Tiersen and I giorni from Ludovico Einaudi.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    Honestly speaking, I think the only rule to follow in music (like in all arts), is producing something that is a pleasure to play and a pleasure to listen to. 

    How do you record your music?
    Luckily, in my home I have enough space for a grand piano, a digital upright piano and a digital portable piano. Nevertheless, digital piano and notebook are my favourite tools to record my music. Last EP Evolution has been performed on digital piano, and the sound is a modelled piano, an algorithm, not a sampled instrument. In previous albums I used the native sound of my digital piano: probably this sound was too perfect and “clean”. Of course, the principle reason of this home studio electronic setup, is for economic and time reasons. 

    What’s your take on sampled instruments?
    I’m absolutely positive about sampled instruments! Recently I found out about a software instrument that excellently reproduces acoustic pianos. I can edit tons of parameters to personalize the sound as I prefer: tune, hammer, pedal, strings, keys noise, effects. For me the result is absolutely realistic. All the technology that can help leading to result in less time with good quality is for me always welcome!

    Anything else you want to share?
    One of the bigger problems for a pianist when playing around is finding a piano. For some years I mounted my keyboard on a stand and performed my compositions. Although the sound of digital piano is quite good and realistic, you can’t say this about the aesthetics of an electronic keyboard. So, I decided to build by myself a lite furniture that could replicate an upright piano!

    And, the question from my five-year-old son:
    Where do all your songs come from?
    For me is very simple: there is a precise moment when I’m inspired. Then I sit at the piano and notes flow by their selves through my fingers! The important thing is having possibility to record, in some way, this music, otherwise is lost forever: fortunately, nowadays, in our smartphone there is always a recorder handy.

    By the way, the song in numbers mentioned above is Silent Night!

    Thank you very much for this interview Luca!

    For more information, check out these following links:
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  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Manos Charalabopoulos

    A while back I posted about the tune Sonnet by André Luiz Machado and Manos Charalabopoulos. Now it’s time to get to know the second of the two composers a bit better!

    What’s your name? 
    On paper, I am Emmanuel Charalabopoulos.

    How did you come up with your artist name?
    Manos is not really an artist name, but just a short version of Emmanuel. In Greece, almost all people called Emmanuel shorten their name to either Manólis or Manos. I went with Manólis until I was around twelve, but when I started high school, I decided I liked Manos better.

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I am from Athens, Greece, and live in Bristol, UK. During the last five years, I have also lived in Paris, London and Manchester, but my wife, Adriana, and I are hoping to set roots in Bristol for a while.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    My dad started teaching me when I was four, so that adds up to twenty-four years now. I have also studied harpsichord and can deal with most things that involve a keyboard and no more than three pedals (think melodica, not church organ), but at different times I have wished I could play the cello, trumpet, clarinet and various percussion instruments. I have compensated by becoming a composer.

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    Since I was born there were at least two pianos in my house, so I imagine I probably started playing by accident and soon after I could stand up and reach the keyboard.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    As a pianist, I gave my first concert when I was around ten years old in one of my conservatoire’s student concerts, and my first professional recital when I was sixteen at the American College of Greece. As a composer, I started writing piano music at around eleven or twelve years old, lots of romantic preludes and little piano pieces usually copying whatever I was practising at the time. About a decade later, when I decided to study composition formally, I struggled more with writing for piano than any other instrument. I was a bound by the intuitive gestures and movements of my hands and it took about six years until I could write something that was truly a product of my creative will.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I don’t remember this as a fixed moment, as it developed very naturally, from my theory and harmony exercises. I had a wonderful harmony teacher, Konstantinos Telakis, who constantly challenged me and prompted me to personalise my harmony exercises, of which I made two each week. From there, composing my own music was just a stone’s throw away. I must have enjoyed the feeling of completing a piece though, because I remember that if I started a piece, I would always try to finish it before going to bed, almost an improvisation on paper!

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    In terms of interpreters, I grew up listening to the ‘great’ classical pianists, Horowitz, Glenn Gould, Rubinstein, who were a great inspiration at this phase. Later, I also developed a passion for Latin American music and began to listen to various Cuban pianists like Aldo Gavilan, Jorge Luis Prats, Chucho Valdes and, more recently, Alfredo Rodriguez. In terms of composers, I share André’s admiration for the piano works of Chopin and Debussy, as well as Villa-Lobos, Scarlatti, Bach, Rameau, Messiaen, Ligeti, etc. Don’t ask me to pick one though!

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    I always play Erroll Garner’s ‘Misty’ to try out a piano, Debussy’s ‘Pagodes’ or ‘Collines d’Anacapri’.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    The practice of making music is based on the expectations that come from the sound experiences of those who make and those who listen. There are principles that guide us to achieve different effects using these expectations. No rules need to be broken or followed in art, but sometimes it can be interesting to make rules to achieve a specific purpose. 

    How do you record your music?
    I record my live performances using a Zoom H4N, but most of my recording sessions were made using a standard stereo pair (Neumann mics or AKG 414’s usually do a great job), whether recording in a concert hall, theatre or studio. My latest album, Espelho Duplo—Double Mirror featuring music by André Luiz Machado, was recorded in the theatre of the UFG Cultural Centre in Goiânia. Our sound engineer, Ney Couteiro, used a Neumann stereo pair in the piano, plus a third mic to pick up some ambient sound.

    What’s your take on sampled instruments?
    Samples have revolutionised media composition and music production; the results that are possible—if you are willing to put in the hours—can be astonishing. In my own work, I don’t use sample libraries extensively, as I don’t usually compose in a DAW (except when working with recorded sound). When transferring my music onto Sibelius, however, the playback is often helpful to judge the timing and larger-scale proportions in a piece.

    Anything else you want to share? 
    Thank you, Johan and Sleepy Songs! If you are in the UK, join me and André in London, Manchester or Oxford to hear works from Espelho Duplo – Double Mirror and more (March 2020 Launch Tour details on Spotify).

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

    Different songs come from different places. Some have to be teased out note by note, while others creep up on me almost without realising. I sometimes catch myself whistling a tune over and over before realising that I made it, other times I can sit with a keyboard or piece of paper or computer screen for hours before an idea comes along. Ultimately, all music comes from life, so it is important to experience different situations and emotions, either first-hand or through observation, to make music.

    Thank you for sharing all of this with us Manos!

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


  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Natalia Johansson

    I have recently written about the first two tracks (ever) by Swedish composer Natalia Johansson, and I thinks it’s about time we got to know the person behind the name a bit better.

    Where are you from? And where do you live? 
    I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. When I was four me and my family moved to Sweden. I’m now living in a small town named Bollebygd, a few miles outside of Gothenburg.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well? 
    I began when I was three years old, and when I was nine I lost interest, unfortunately. At the age of 23 I picked it up again. I don’t play any other instruments, I wish I did though. Cello is another favorite instrument that I wish I had learned. I would like to buy one someday but I don’t think my neighbours would be so thrilled about that. Maybe an electric cello? 

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    It all began with a piano that my family had at our house, I just started picking out melodies by ear and so it went on. At an early age I was highly interested in music, especially film music so I think it just came natural to play the piano.

    How long have you been playing piano music? 
    I’ve played regularly since i was 23, so it’s been approximately 11 years now. 

    Tell us something about that moment when you realized when you could make songs yourself! 
    11 years ago I was learning new songs (covers) on the piano and there was this song that was really hard to learn, and I have a bit (or maybe a lot) of bad patience so I just found myself improvising something completely else instead. I used to say that I accidentally composed my first song because of that, because it was never intentional. This may sound like a cliché but when i realized I had composed a song I immediately felt that “this is what I’m supposed to do, I’m a composer!”

    What are your favorite artists in the piano genre? 
    The first artist that inspired me to start playing piano again was Yann Tiersen, and a short while later I also discovered the beautiful works by Olafur Arnalds. Other favorites that I’ve discovered along the way are Fabrizio Paterlini, Nils Frahm, Max Richter, Dustin O’Halloran and my latest discover is Joep Beving. 

    Is there any song that you can play over and over again? Your own or someone else’s?
    I’t would be one of my upcoming releases called “La Morte”. It’s a tune that is really special to me because it is the first piece that was composed as a direct result of a particular tragic event. 

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    First I would need to declare that I don’t know much about rules in the piano genre because I haven’t been trained in music theory or piano techniques. But I think that you should not be discouraged by that, just go and do your thing since music is a very personal experience.  I guess I have broken a number of ”rules” but it’s not something that I think of, I think more in terms of expressing a certain feeling and making other people feel that too.

    How do you record your music? 
    At the time I have a little studio in my home, and a digital piano that I record with through Logic Pro X and a piano plugin. I would love to have a real piano though and that’s what I’m aiming for to have in the future.

    What’s your take on sampled instruments? 
    There are really good samples out there, and since I don’t have a real piano I use them a lot. I have also composed a number of pieces for piano and strings and used samples for them as well. However I still don’t think it’s the same as using the real thing so I will try to make live recordings instead for my future releases. I think it’s really hard to get the same warmth and presence with a sampled piano as you get on a live recording with a real piano. 

    The last question is asked by my 5 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from? 
    That was a really tough but great question! I think it comes from a deep and hidden space within me, that only gets in the light when I sit in front of the piano. It’s an intimate space full of thoughts, questions and answers regarding everything about life, but at the same time the calmest place in the world to be in. That’s what I think at least!

    Thank you for sharing all of this with us!

    For more information, please check out any of these following links:
    Facebook / Instagram / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: André Luiz Machado

    A while back I posted about the tune Sonnet by André Luiz Machado and Manos Charalabopoulos. Now it’s time to get to know the first of the two composers a bit better!

    What’s your name? 
    André Luiz Gomes Machado

    How did you come up with your artist name?
    My artist name is almost the same as the real one. I’ve just removed the middle section, nonetheless it was too late when I realised there were so many André Luiz Machado’s in other professions while searching on google, but at least, not a second composer or musician.

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I’m from Brazil and currently live in my hometown called Goiânia, centrally located in the heart of the country, in the State of Goiás. I have lived for two years in the UK where I met Manos during our master’s degree at the University of Bristol, and in 2020 I’m heading further to the West, moving my home studio to Vancouver, Canada.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I’ve been playing the piano since the age of 14, but I don’t consider myself a pianist, but a very passionate composer who use these magical keys to write music for film and games, and concert music for great performers such as Manos. So, it’s been 23 years since I started studying piano. I also studied classical guitar and my main performance instrument is the voice; I’m a Classical singer, too.

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    I started playing music when I was 10, studying Classical guitar and dreaming about becoming a famous rock star on a great heavy metal band and afterwards, on a top progressive rock group. Prog rock music brought me to the world of Classical music, and believe it or not, my first contact with Debussy’s works was through a 70’s prog group called Renaissance. Debussy’s prelude La cathédrale engloutie opened one of its songs and absolutely amazed me, and there I started to be influenced by an impressionist aesthetic. 

    How long have you been making piano music?
    Since the beginning of my piano studies I loved to improvise on the instrument, but my first written and complete work for piano solo dates from 2003 I guess.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    It is funny to mention that. When I was 13, I was already playing in rock bands, but my taste was being driven towards a Classical music approach present on some melodic heavy metal bands and progressive rock groups. I started feeling rejected on the band I was playing for some of these individual differences in taste, and so I started foreseeing me in the long future sitting alone in a room, playing the keyboard and completely writing music on my own. So I got a keyboard, and music has started to flow. However, only some years later that I decided to become a Classical and Film music composer, and joined the university to the study composition and singing.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    Debussy and Villa-Lobos are my favorite composers for the genre, followed by Eric Satie, Ravel, Chopin, Liszt. Currently, I am very impressed with the works for piano by Tigran Hamasyan as well. 

    Is there one song which you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano?
    The songs I have not put down on paper yet… : ) Actually, the piano score to the film Atonement by Dario Marianelli, one of my favourite film scores from all time, is set on the piano for a month already, and I love to play some of its music these days before my studio work time. 

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    Many people is eager to fit their own music and from others on a particular genre or style, and many times they even get lost when they are not able to classify them. Sometimes this needs to be broken, in my opinion. Studying and understanding the rules are also of extreme importance not to be strictly followed but to guide oneself to find and polish his/her own voice.

    How do you record your music?
    It depends on the work and budget for each project. We had a great recording and production team for the album Espelho Duplo – Double Mirror (Works for Piano Solo), which was recorded in a theater in my hometown in Brazil using a great German Steinway, too. Next year I will also be releasing the soundtrack for a lovely game called Josh Journey: Darkness Totems that was recorded on a great studio with a Medieval and Baroque musical group playing post-modern music with some Celtic and Brazilian folk influences. But there are many low budget short-films and documentaries I worked on that I needed to rely on samples, mostly, such as the music present on the album Dialogues Between the Sound and Moving Picture (2015), which most of the tracks I recorded and produced myself. Actually, this album is a compilation of music I had composed for film, media and games by that period. I have also written music for the label The Library of the Human Soul in the UK, in which a beautiful result is achieved while mixing a live strings quartet recorded in Vienna with other sampled orchestral library. There I only compose the music and perform the sampled instruments, not making the final mix myself. 

    What’s your take on sampled instruments?
    It is a very important tool that can convince a live performance really well when it is greatly produced, but it lacks the organic feeling, spirit and fine touches by a real and great performer. If the project budget allows, I always opt for live recordings but since this isn’t always the case, I truly love my sampled friends and treat them well.

    Anything else you want to share? 
    Thank you, Johan and all the team at Behind the Piano, for this interview. I hope everyone enjoys our new album Espelho Duplo – Double Mirror (Works for Piano Solo) and please, follow us on social media and on Spotify to keep updated with future releases. Also, Manos and I will be presenting the album on a launch tour in the UK in March 2020. So, come and join us in London, Manchester or Oxford. Dates available on Manos’ Spotify profile.

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

    Tricky one. Each song has a particular story, but sometimes it emerges from the sound of the ocean, from an abstract concept, from a book, a film, or even from a mathematical idea. Some nights, there are musical voices that wake me up and whisper on my ear strange musical suggestions. It’s all there on Espelho Duplo – Double Mirror to check out.

    Thank you very much for this interview! And by the way; the team behind this blog is just me 😉

    For more information about André and his music; check out these links:
    Facebook / Instagram / Website / Spotify