• Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Rui Ribeiro

    A couple of months back I wrote about the track Falkenberger Straße by the Portuguese composer and piano player Rui Ribeiro. And since it’s Thursday; why not learn more about his history!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I was born in Lisbon, Portugal. I currently live in a little town hidden in the middle of the woods, north of Portugal.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I’ve been playing the piano for around 25 years now but I started to play the organ earlier when I was 7, so I think it’s fair to say I play keyboard instruments for more than 30 years now. Besides keyboard instruments I played the drums, the trumpet, and the violin (not very well though!) 

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    My father was taking driving lessons when I was a kid, and the time for those lessons was after school. So he’d pick me up from school, and take me with him to those lessons (I was sitting in the back seat of the driving school car while he was learning how to drive). The driving instructor was a rude and unprofessional lady that frequently ordered my father to stop the car in front of her house so she could take some groceries in or whatever. Coincidentally, right next to her house there was a music school with a huge window. While me and my dad were waiting for the instructor in the car, I could see and listen to kids like me playing all sorts of instruments, and that just sounded and looked like a magical world to me. I was fascinated by that and my father was keen to notice it. I eventually enrolled in that school and that’s how it all started.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    This is a hard question to answer because I started to improvise music in the piano right away, even before I learned any music theory or technique at all. Even today, after all the music education I had (conservatory, college), I still sit at the piano and the first thing I play is an improvisation (that sometimes ends up growing into a piece). So I can’t really pinpoint the exact time when I started to make piano music. However, I only decided to make some of this music public as late as 2015.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    Well, as I said before, it was always very natural for me to create music out of nothing, so there wasn’t really an “aha” moment for me. I remember, though, the first time I wrote a piece to offer to someone: I was in high school and was in love with a girl; because I was too shy, I thought that offering her a song showing my feelings would be better. It didn’t work very well, but I realized more clearly in that moment that I could do it!

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I end up not having favourite artists in this contemporary composer/pianist genre because I like to find new ones and realize how different they can be. It’s really beautiful to witness their different personalities and ideas. I must also confess that I don’t listen that much to fellow pianist/composers of today (I should probably invest more time on that), and most of the time I listen to the classical repertoire instead.

    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? 
    Not really. Every time I sit down by the piano I mostly start to improvise. Unless, of course, it’s a concert and then I’ll play my music!

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    I think that rules are definitely made to be broken, but I believe they’re usually broken in different times and ways. For instance, it’s very clear that nowadays the “standard piano sound rules” in recordings are being broken: long gone are the days that all recordings sounded the same, with their Steinway Ds, decca trees, similar studio sound engineering and so on. People are now recording with different pitches, prepared pianos, felt pianos, and looking for a more unique sound identity. I think that each era has its innovations and it’s very important not to stagnate in the same processes. I don’t know what rules need to be broken, but I do know that it’s important to think freely and not to get too attached to any music rules.

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
    I always record it and produce it myself, but studio wise It all depends on the final result I’m after. My first two solo piano albums were recorded in big studios, with top gear. The first one on a Steinway D, the second on a Yamaha S7. It sounds very standard, and it was what I was after to serve those pieces. However, my whole third album (to be released in September) was recorded in a friend’s garage, on his Yamaha U3 semi-abandoned upright piano, using unusual gear and techniques. I was looking for a different type of sound, and that worked for me. My next EP I’m already working on, is being currently recorded right here in my home studio, with the windows opened and featuring bird sounds… it all depends on the result I’m searching for.

    What’s your take on sampled instruments?
    I produced and composed mainstream for many years before dedicating myself to my own piano music, and during those times I extensively used sampled instruments for a vast number of reasons. I witnessed the unbelievable development of these virtual instruments over the past decade, and I must confess that sometimes I got lazy and instead of going to choose the right piano for a recording, set all the microphones, call in the piano tuner and so on, I would just pick a virtual sampled piano from the list I had, and went for it. It’s easy, sounds great, and it’s much faster than recording a real piano. However, there’s a very serious downside of all this: everything starts to sound the same, and a lot of the sound identity and imperfection of music making starts to disappear. That’s why I decided at some point to use sampled instruments much less than before. I do recognize, however, that these can be immensely helpful in many situations but, at least at this point, I’m happier working with real instruments.

    The last question is asked by my 6 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from? 

    That is a very interesting question that I already made myself before (little kids always make interesting questions!)… but I still can’t answer it. There was a friend of mine, a singer and songwriter, that once said her song ideas are floating in the air, and sometimes she can grab some of them, other times she can’t. Truth is, I have no idea where my pieces come from. I could say that they come from my intellect or compositional abilities, but I feel that’s not true. The composer skill is in deed what makes the development of an idea into a full piece possible… but the initial idea itself, that little seed, it doesn’t really come from my technical skills. I have no idea where it comes from…

    Thank you very much for your participation Rui!

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

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Andrea Sertori

    Another week has passed, and it’s time to dig deep into the minds of another contemporary composer and piano player. This week I’m has a talk with the Italian composer Andrea Sertori, so lets begin!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    From Italy and precisely in the beautiful city of Bergamo. 

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well? 
    I’ve been playing the piano practically forever, I was about 9 years old when I took my first lessons. Later I was lucky enough to study and play synthesizers in depth. 

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    When I was little, my parents used to take me to see some relatives. In a big hall there was an old piano. And I was very attracted to that austere and mysterious instrument. So I started with little toy keyboards. My father, a great lover of classical music, encouraged me to try the instrument. 

    How long have you been making piano music? 
    I’ve always played as a keyboard player in several rock bands. Then 3 years ago I started making music by myself. 

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I needed to concretize some ideas that I couldn’t share with my band. So the Mosaic Room experiment was born, my first solo work. 

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    Basically I don’t think I belong to a specific kind of piano. In my productions there will be piano solo pieces but I will also continue to mix piano and electronics. Certainly when I compose solo piano pieces I am inspired by the music of the great romantic pianists. 

    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?
    There’s an intro of an old song I used to play with my band that I need to warm my fingers. It’s a piano intro similar to song Firth of Fifth of Genesis. 

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    In my opinion there must be no rules in producing music, of course the technique is fundamental, but it must not be an end in itself but used to best express and make concrete what comes from the mind and heart. 

    How do you record your music?
    Today, in the digital age, it’s easier to do it yourself. Also for this reason many musicians can produce a lot. It’s clear that a big studio can add value in terms of quality. 

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    In today’s musical context, sampled instruments have become fundamental. The thing I can say is that ideas are more important, even if today a great quality is required and samples can give it without too much effort. 

    And the questions my oldest son once asked me;
    Where do all your songs come from?

    In a little drawer in my heart. 

    Thank you very much for this Andrea!

    For more information, go here:
    Facebook / Instagram / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Selsom

    It’s Thursday, and this week I have a treat for you. I had a talk with the wonderful Stian aka. Selsom. Lets jump right in!

    What’s your real name?
    My real name is Stian Kristoffersen Vedøy

    How did you come up with your artist name?
    I wanted to use a Norwegian word mainly for sentimental reasons, but also to have something slightly unique and mysterious. I was looking for modern translations for the words beautiful, mysterious, strange and intriguing, but non of the Norwegian words were short, snappy or easily pronounceable enough for an English speaker. After looking through an old dictionary, I came across “Selsom”. It’s a word that didn’t make it further than my grandparents. The literal translation is “strange” or “weird”, but after asking around it is more like “mysteriously peculiar”. 

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I was born and raised on a west coast island in Norway called Karmøy. I now live in Bristol, UK.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I’ve been playing for 24 years. Playing, definitely not studying or practicing for 24. Haha! Yes, I do play other instruments and sing. 

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    I was forced by my mum into learning the piano at an age of 6. In retrospect I’m eternally grateful to her for that! No regrets! I picked up the guitar as a 13 year old and started songwriting and producing music during my mid-teens. This lead to studying music production at University level, which brought me to the UK. 

    How long have you been making piano music?
    To be honest, I have piano sketches reaching back to my early teenage years. It only took a world pandemic for me to pull my finger out and actually do something about it.  

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    Wow… That must have been when I was 13. I bought my first CD using my own money. It was a Norwegian singer/songwriter called Thomas Dybdahl. His voice, songwriting and production style were so incredibly ahead-of-its-time in the now called indie alt folk genre. He basically wrote songs in the style of Bon Iver but more intelligently put together 6 years ahead, back in 2002. This album, That Great October Sound, just sparked something in me that has stuck and are still inspiring me. In terms of instrumental piano music, it wasn’t until I saw Icelandic Olafur Arnalds in concert in 2018, that I realised I needed to create an outlet for my Ambient / Neo Classical work.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I have quite a few. Top five in no particular order are: Olafur Arnalds, Nils Frahm, Jon Hopkins, Julien Marchal and Goldmund. There are so many more I would love to put on that list, but these are some of the ones I’ve listened to the most.

    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 tend to just play freely when I first sit down by the piano. I do weirdly always end up playing the piano part of Beth/Rest by Bon Iver. In terms of my music, I often end up playing the latest tracks that I’m about to record, which makes a lot of sense.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    To be honest, music should’t have rules. Play what makes you and the people around you feel something. If that’s what’s considered to be the clichés, or some obscure chord structure or melody. Go for it! It’s all aloud. However, not everyone is going to love everything. 

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
    I have a Yamaha U1 upright in my living room. Every time I want to record, I bring my iMac and microphones down from my home studio and create a little studio setup right next to the piano. I tend use two cigar condenser microphones on each side for stereo, and a lage diaphragm condenser in the midle. I often end up recording with the practice pedal down. It sounds really mellow and picks up the piano’s mechanism as much as the actual tones, which I really love.

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I don’t mind it. Everything is aloud. Not everyone can afford a real piano yet alone a whole orchestra/band’s worth of instruments. However, I always try to get hold of a real instrument or instrumentalist for recordings, and definitely prefer the sound of a real instrument.

    Anything else you want to share? 
    Most of my adult live has been dedicated to an indie alt folk project called Firewoodisland. We’ve been going for quite a few years now, and I absolutely love writing and producing music for it. I’m incredibly lucky to be writing, recording and touring together with my wife. It makes everything so much easier, and it is a beautiful part of our journey together.

    The last question is asked by my 6 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from?
    All my songs come from so many different places. But one thing that most of them have in common is that melodies often come into my head when I least expect it. On the buss, whilst sleeping, at the toilet or in the shower. Sometimes they even come while I’m sat by the piano.

    Thank you very much Stian for this wonderful interview!

    For more information about Stian, check out the following links:
    Facebook / Instagram / Website / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Sherwood Roberts

    It’s Thursday, and of course you’ll get to know one of many contemporary composers and piano players in nee classical music. And today we’ll get behind the curtains with the British composer Sherwood Roberts.

    What’s your real name?
    Piers

    How did you come up with your artist name?
    it’s my surname!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    My dad is from Sydney (Australia) and my mum from Essex (England). I currently live in the countryside west of London in a little village called Taplow.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I’ve been playing the piano since I was 5/6. I’m a singer, and then play the cello, guitar, harp, bass, basically anything with a string! I’m very keen on learning the oboe and drums when I can make time.

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    My mum says I was singing at 18 months. I remember loving the cello after hearing a busker play one in the street so I nagged my parents to get me one.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I’ve been writing piano music since I was around 13/14

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    After listening to Bitter Sweet Symphony by The Verve I knew I had to make music.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I’m currently loving Nils Frahm, Luke Howard, Moux, Alexis Ffrench

    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 always come back to playing Bonnie Raitt ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’. There’s something so heart breakingly beautiful about it I just can’t get enough of it.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    I currently write whatever feels good. I’m not too concerned about the rules

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
    My ep Beginnings was recorded at AIR Studios in London which was a complete treat and a steep learning curve. I’m in the process of building a studio at home which is where I’m going to record my debut Album ‘Short Stories’ later this year.

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    Spitfire Audio is about as good as it gets but there’s nothing like audio run through analogue gear capturing the vibrations of the piano/room and the creaking of a stool and pedals.

    Anything else you want to share?
    I curate piano playlists on Spotify. There’s so much wonderful music out there be sure to check them out, you might find your next favourite!

    The last question is asked by my 6 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from?
    Lovely question. Every song is different. I’m currently writing one about a day out I had with my nieces at the funfair. Other times Idea’s sort of flow through me. I’m constantly hearing melodies sparked by a conversation, a thought or feeling. I try my best to capture them and turn them into beautiful songs.

    Thank you very much for your participation!

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

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Life as a moon

    Ok, so lets do something a little bit different for a change! a while back I introduced you to the track She waits for morning by the duo Life as a moon. So now we’re gonna go double and get to know both Paul and Anthony from the duo a bit better!

    How long have you been playing Piano and do you play other instruments as well?
    PAUL
    : I did take some piano lessons as a child but it didn’t stick and I remember being frustrated I was not learning as quickly as I had wanted. I then studied voice, guitar and theory with local teachers and grew up writing singer-songwriter styled tunes. It was later when I circled back around to piano. I tend to view most instruments as tools in service to the overall composition and I’m always willing to learn something new.
    ANTHONY: Learning and playing piano actually came pretty late to me. I spent my youth playing drums/percussion and started focusing on piano well into adulthood. I have a cello sitting in the home studio that needs more love so I am hoping to tackle that someday.

    Tell us about how you started playing music?
    PAUL
    : Anthony was a drummer so I just informed him one day that he was now in a band with me. I’d never written a song before so we enlisted our best friend also. From that point on we were all obsessed with music and songwriting.
    ANTHONY: Paul did indeed unceremoniously draft me to play drums in his band. I had been playing since I was a kid but always in school programs. We must have been in our early teenage years when we started really playing and creating in earnest.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    PAUL
    : I’m not certain I would classify our music as strictly piano music since we are also very interested in bringing other instruments into the mix. I would say it’s been the better part of ten years there has been an interest in piano/ambient music.

    Tell us something about the moment you realized you could make songs yourself?
    PAUL
    : I really believe music touches and reflects the truest part of who we are and I think there is tremendous potential for connection. I remember creating a song in our band and being kind of stunned that once you open yourself up the melodies sort of take over. The first song was terrible but it was like simultaneously being both an observer and a participant. Once the song was finished I think we played it for seven hours straight! There is something incredibly powerful in being able to drag our inner emotional world out into the daylight.
    ANTHONY: There is magic in the moments right after a new song or idea is born. We were lucky that occurred early on for us. Those moments were even more powerful as the first really creative moments were a shared experience.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    PAUL AND ANTHONY:
    We both love Luke Howard, Olafur Arnalds, Nils Frahm (of course) and Dustin O’Halloran.

    Is there a song you can play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano? Your own or someone else’s?
    PAUL
    : There really isn’t. I have a habit of sitting down with every intention to practice and then discover 10 minutes later that I’m working on a new idea without quite realizing that I even started. I’m kind of in love with creation.
    ANTHONY: Opus 23 by Dustin O’Halloran. I simply adore it.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    PAUL/ANTHONY: That songs in any musical genre need to confirm to predefined structures. Songs can have intention without necessarily conforming to standardized arrangements. If the music evokes a feeling or takes the listener on a journey then you have been successful, regardless of the path you’ve taken to get there. Let choices serve the music.

    How do you record your music?
    PAUL/ANTHONY:
    We’re fortunate to have a well equipped home studio with almost everything we need. It’s nice having the freedom to tinker with both the songs and the mix whenever time allows.

    What is your take on sampled instruments?
    PAUL/ANTHONY:
    We absolutely love organic (real) instruments; however, we have no issues with sampled instruments. Ease of use and the ability to jump right into a project without having to mic everything up is great. They are really valuable for sketching out ideas and for creating interesting textures or effects. Having said that, we find there really is not a good substitute for string players when it comes time to record. Samples can work but it’s just not a matter of having a real instrument-its the musician playing it. Those small inconsistencies in timing and tone are what breathe life into recordings.

    Bonus question from my son:
    Where do all your songs come from? 

    PAUL/ANTHONY: That’s a fantastic question. We think they come from the parts of ourselves that are mostly hidden in daily life. Maybe they are the closest representation of who we really are. 

    Thank you Paul and Anthony for your participation!

    And for more information, check out these links:
    Instagram / Spotify

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Barry Hudson-Taylor

    A while back I presented you to the track Blossoms by the composer Barry Hudson-Taylor, and since it’s Thursday; I thought that we might as well get to know the person behind the name a bit better!

    Where are you from?
    I was born and raised in a small rural village in the north-west of England. There wasn’t really much to do around here as a kid, so we usually passed the time by exploring the moorlands surrounding us, or in my case playing music. It was a great upbringing. When I was 23 I moved to Australia with my girlfriend for a year to work before coming back home. 

    How long have you been playing piano, and do you play other instruments?
    I’ve played the piano for around 18 years now. The first instrument I learned to play was the trumpet but I wasn’t very good at it (I never really gave it much of a chance). I was also classically trained as a singer for 12 years but never felt as comfortable as I did at the piano.

    SAMSUNG CSC

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    My family aren’t musically orientated at all so growing up I was sort of left to my own devices musically. My dad always had Elton John records and the sort hanging around that I grew up listening to but nobody played an instrument. I was headhunted at school to be a Cathedral chorister when I was around 7 and it was there that my passion kickstarted. The first piece I learned to play on the piano was “Walking in the Air”. I couldn’t read music so well at that point so I had to study and learn it by ear. Looking back now, I’m so grateful for this time in my life because it taught me about the fundamentals of music – it should always be fun and you should always challenge yourself. I was given a scholarship to do my piano studies, working my way up the grades. I was never a fan of the graded system because I never enjoyed any of the pieces. I wanted to be creative and write my own music. The was one piece I liked playing though, “The Buccaneer” by Malcolm Arnold. 

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I’ve been making solely piano music on and off for about 10 years. I write predominantly music for film and tv so I’m usually working with all kinds of different instruments and an array of sample libraries. All of my music starts at the piano though.

    Tell us something about that moment you realised you could make songs yourself!
    To be honest, from the first moment I could play a full song at the piano I realised that I could and wanted to write my own music. I used to try and write some choral music when I was younger, experimenting with some unusual harmonies. It was now just about gaining the musical tools needed to do this indefinitely. I’ve spent my life doing so, from studying recording and production at University to accumulating recording gear and software. We’re all learning about ourselves every day and it’s important to always move forward.

    What are your favourite artists in this “piano genre”? 
    Although he doesn’t fall into the traditional “piano genre” category, I really really love the work of composer Thomas Newman. The way he uses delicate harmony in his music is just beyond beautiful and the little intricate piano moments you do hear in his music are just alluring. So inspirational! Of course, there’s modern piano artists who I love like Olafur Arnalds, Nils Frahm, Keith Jarrett, Bill Evans, Jon Hopkins, the list goes on! But composers like Brahms and Debussy have left a pretty much infinite legacy that inspires me every day. Did I mention Rachmaninoff? 

    Is there a song you play over and over again as soon as you sit down by a piano? Your own or someone else’s?
    I actually have a piece coming out in the next couple of months that’s based on an idea I always have to play. It’s somewhat my ‘piano tester’ piece – when you sit down at a different piano for the first time and want to hear how it sounds in comparison. I think we all have ‘that’ musical piece. I’ve had it in the back of my mind for about 8 years now but never really knew what to do with it, until now.

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    What rules in making music need to be broken?
    I think that if you do personally have any rules in writing music then you need to get rid of them. For me personally, I keep my music linear and refrain from a generic structure. Obviously there are rules when it comes to production that should be adhered to, like not boosting certain frequencies that will ruin your mix, but generally music should be a freeform of expression where anything and everything goes.

    How do you record your music?
    I record all of my music in a studio within my house. I’ve spent the best part of 7 years accumulating lots of gear and software that enables me to do the job I need to. It’s a small box room where I can just lock myself away in for hours (sometimes days) on end and get lost in the creative process. I try to do what I can with what I have but if I’m in need of something I’ll usually try and source a musician elsewhere, send it off to somebody I know or problem solve till I find a solution. It’s all part of the creative process.

    What’s your take on sampled instruments?
    Sampled instruments are great! Obviously you want to try and be as organic as possible when it comes to writing but for someone like myself, I don’t personally have the budget to hire out a full orchestra and book them into a studio and so sample libraries help me with that. It’s a skill in itself making these sorts of libraries sound realistic and it’s also a lot of fun.

    Anything else you want to share?
    I just want to thank you for letting me be a part of this blog. If anyone would like to listen to my music I’d love for you to give me a follow on Spotify and Facebook and I’ll return the favour back. It’s always nice to network and share music with like-minded people. I also have a website and blog where I have some useful information for artists at all different stages of their journey (stuff like helping with writer’s block, learning the basics of music etc.). I also have some free music up there for film makers too so it’s a hub of information and resources!

    And the questions from my oldest son:
    Where do all your songs come from?

    I think all of my songs come from a moment in my life that evoked a certain feeling or emotion, whether that’s past or present. Each song is some form of nostalgic way to revert myself back to a moment, even if I don’t consciously know it!

    Thank you very much for this Barry!

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

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Klaus Sahm

    Today we dig deeper into the minds by the composer Klaus Sahm, who made the track Depaysement which I have written about here!

    Let do it then!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I grew up in a small village in the middle of Germany between Frankfurt and Cologne – now living in Berlin.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I’ve started playing piano, when I was 7 years old, switched to guitar when I was a teenager and got back to the piano when I was 18 years old.

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    My mother played piano and violin and my parents were listening to music all the time, since my father had 8 siblings and everyone had to learn an instrument – they grew up with, what you called “house music” back then.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I just started April 2020 to record and release my first track.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    The moment came by chance, since all my gigs for other artists where cancelled and i never had this much time in the last 5-6 years – so I sat down at the piano, recorded some improvisation. A friend of mine told me, that I could just release it to be available everywhere, which wasn’t my intention in the first place – never done that before.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I honestly don’t really listen too much piano-songs myself, since i was more interested in jazz – and my favourite player was and will always be Oscar Peterson. In terms of silent piano songs I love the work of Goldmund (Keith Kenniff).

    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 love to play “Hymn to Freedom” by Oscar Peterson – or a real old hymn like “Great is thy faithfulness”.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    Form and structure – these days there is music made for platforms like TikTok. There have always been forms and structures, like the sonata form for example – but nowadays music tends to get stuck in forms and platform-adequate structures.

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
    I record music mostly in my home studio. My Piano is a Swiss Burger-Jacobi from 1946.

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    There is nothing wrong with that, especially when it comes to expensive instruments, that most people can’t afford, like a big grand piano – there are a lot of good companies out there, that record and program really good instruments, especially for orchestral music – but as always, nothing beats the real thing!

    Anything else you want to share?
    Something I should have pursued earlier: if there is something you “plan” on doing, just start. Don’t wait for “the perfect moment” – just start and things will fall into place. Do it! 

    And the question from my son:
    Where do all my songs come from? 
    It often resembles a mood, a feeling, a thought – I like taking photographs all over the world and photos tend to tell me something, that I can transform into a feeling or sound. I’m heavily influenced by my surroundings. 

    Thank you very much for this Klaus!

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  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Giuseppe Califano

    A while back I posted about the track Mirrors by the Italian composer Giuseppe Califano, and since it’s Thursday today; we’ll dig deeper into Giuseppe and his music making!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I am Italian, I come from Castel Campagnano, a small village in Campania, with 900 inhabitants, in Southern Italy, but I have been living in Milan for 10 years now.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I’ve been playing the piano since I was 5 years old. I learned to read the notes and then the letters! I don’t play other instruments, but soon I will study cello, because it is an instrument that I particularly love.

    Tell us about how you started playing music.   
    Initially I did it out of duty, I followed my older sister to her piano lessons. I continued like this for several years before having a real vocation, which came by chance. A neighbor of mine gave me a walkman and the seller had forgotten a tape inside the walkman … inside there was the Swan Lake of Tchaikovsky … it was love at first sight, I fell in love with that music and I realized I was lucky enough to already know music and to be able to play discreetly.

    How long have you been making piano music?  
    The piano pieces arrived as soon as I had my lighting … it was all very natural, with an immediate and instinctive approach. I imagined characters … a swan, a dragon; situations … a storm, a battle; a suggestion … a summer evening, the rain … Accomplice perhaps “Swan Lake”, I always need a story, a suggestion, an image, to be able to write.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    From the moment I had my “vocation” I immediately started thinking about music written by me. In Swan Lake there was a story and someone had invented wonderful notes for that story and those characters.
    I started looking for stories everywhere … and at a certain point, passionate about Franz Liszt and the symphonic poem, it occurred to me to read the Apocalypse and write a song inspired by it … I was 12 years old and I think he was in C minor, from start to finish … but for me it was beautiful!

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I really like Max Richter and Peter Sandberg and, among the Italians, Fabrizio Paterlini and Cesare Picco. But above all I love Keith Jarrett and his improvisations.
    I also love some rock bands reinterpreted at the piano: Radiohead and Sigur Ros in particular.

    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? 
    Usually in the days when I’m writing a song I go to the piano continuously to play it to try and try again.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    In this regard, I often think of a phrase by the French actor and playwright Antonine Artaud: “We should read all the books in the world and then burn the libraries”. It is a very theatrical and effective way to say that you need to know the rules, master them, make them part of your luggage and then be completely free. In this sense, the rules are your accomplices, because they tell you how it will end if you follow them. And if you know, then you also know what happens when you go against and at what moment you have to go against. In short, they expect to be violated, because nobody likes to be bored, not even them … 😉

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
    In the past I recorded in the studio, but in this lockdown period my home recording studio started to take shape. It is a more intimate, more intimate dimension and I really like it for my piano music.

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I don’t like overly strict positions. For me it always depends on the use made of it. Having said that … they are often perfect, but the dimension of live music, of the human component, is irreplaceable.

    Anything else you want to share? 
    I believe in music as a mission. My motto is “Music is an interference”: music, art, save the world every day, interfering with barbarism, cruelty, emptiness and becomes an antidote to the lack of poetry in the world, in the daily life of people and thoughts. We listen to music. We make music. Always.

    And, as always, the question my son asked me once:
    Where do all your songs come from?
    Thank your son for the most beautiful question … I can’t answer. Certainly from my head, from the heart, from the belly. From what I listen, from the sounds I love, from a desire to experience a certain sensation that I can’t find anywhere else. I know they are born of a necessity, a kind of urgency. Not for the world maybe, but for me definitely. When I write, every evening, in the light of my lamp, I feel as good as now. So I don’t know where exactly they come from. But thank goodness they arrive …

    Thank you Giuseppe for being part of my Behind the piano series!

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  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Riccardo Chiaberta

    Thursday again, and it’s time to dig deeper into the minds of another contemporary composer and piano player. Let’s get to know Riccardo Chiaberta a bit better!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I was born in Verbania, a city in the North of Italy situated on the shore of Lake Maggiore. I moved to London in 2015.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I started playing the piano at 7 years old while playing drums and percussions around the age of 14. Since then I’ve been playing drums as my main instrument and I started studying and practising the piano more deeply only during my Jazz Academy studies’ years. 

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    I started playing music as a kid, inspired by my family’s music passion: my dad plays guitar and a bit of piano, and my grandfather was a composer and music director of the local bands. My house has always been full of music instruments.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I’ve been making piano music since I started studying Jazz at the Music Academy. I’ve spent many hours practicing jazz harmony and some classical pieces. Since then I started writing compositions for solo piano.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I guess that one of my first composition came out from a mistake practicing some harmony exercises. it sounded good and almost unexpected and I kept repeating the chords progression over and over and then writing a melody on top of them.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I love the piano performances by Thom Yorke, the music of the impressionists Debussy and Ravel and the lyric pieces by Edvard Grieg.

    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 usually play my own songs or I just like to improvise some melodies.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    Any genre barrier. Music is music, it can’t be fitted in boxes.

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
    As a drummer I’ve recorded loads of albums in professional studios but I then decided to tape-record my piano album A Bird Told Me and the single Camden Town at my parents’ house on the same piano where I used to play and compose my music in my early years. 

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    If they can help you to make the music you like it’s a great way of writing original compositions!

    Anything else you want to share? 
    This is a gem! Truly beautiful music, played by two great musicians that love each other. It warms your heart: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8lTh58jhA8

    The last question is asked by my 6 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from? 

    They come from my emotions, experiences, the people I spend time with, the books that I read, the movies that I watch, the nature and from my music studies.

    Thank you very much for your participation on my Behind the piano series Riccardo!

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  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Benyamin Yahyavi

    It’s Thursday, which means we’ll dig deeper into the mind of another contemporary piano composer. This week we’ll get to know the Iranian composer Benyamin Yahyavi a bit better!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    Was born in Romania but my parents are Iranians and I currently live in Tehran.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I’ve been playing the piano for about six years and yes, I also play Trumpet and Guitar as my second and third instrument. If we consider a computer as an instrument, i also play computer and digital instruments.

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    When I was 13-14 years old, I was very interested in music and listened to different music for hours a day. And finally, one day i accidentally realized that I was playing the piano, so i was very happy to choose music and composing as my first love, as well as my main job. Because i know nothing but writing and making music!

    How long have you been making piano music?
    About 3 years ago I start writing music. 

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I was so happy because finally found a way to convey my feelings to others.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I think my favorites are guys like Ólafur Arnalds, Fabrizio Paterlini. I really like the sadness that is in their works and other favorites that I’ve discovered along the way are Nils Frahm, Max Richter, Dustin O’Halloran.

    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? 
    Maryam, my own song that I love it! It’s very special to me.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    All rules! Because I think music is a way to break the rules, and that’s why it can’t be in prison of rules!

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? Etc.
    I have a small home studio that I do all of my work there. But for my new project it’s possible that I record my strings in a big studio.

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    It’s very simple: VSTs are Good and helpful! The quality of the sound and feel just keeps getting better but live instruments still feel more powerful when playing than VST.

    The last question is asked by my 6 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from? 
    Heart, heart, heart…

    Thanks for your participation Benyamin!

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