• Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Ros Gilman

    A while back I wrote about the track Falling Snow by the composer and piano player Ros Gilman. Today – we go Behind the piano to get to know Ros a bit better!

    What’s your real name?
    My real/full name is Rostislav Gilman.

    How did you come up with your artist name?
    I was once on the phone to a film music agent in L.A. I introduced myself as Rostislav Gilman. The agent didn’t seem to quite understand me and repeatedly asked me for my first name. She eventually said: You really have to change your name! Nobody can remember that. And so I went ahead and changed my name to the much easier Ros instead of Rostislav. 

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I was born in Moscow, Russia, and grew up near Munich, Germany where my family moved to, while I was still young. I spent my student years in Vienna, Austria, studying at the University of Music and Performing Arts. I also received a scholarship to be an exchange student at the Royal College of Music, in London, UK. This was when I fell in love with London, so after completing my Masters I made it my new home and that’s where I am based today.  

    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 3 years old, but my first instrument is actually the violin, which I started playing at the age of 3 as well. 

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    Both my parents are professional musicians; my mom is a violinist and my dad is a (now retired) music theory lecturer, composer and pianist. So it wasn’t really a conscious decision, I just followed in their footsteps. I still remember the time when my mom brought my first violin — I was only three years old back then, and the violin was tiny. I was very excited and immediately tried to play on it. At that very moment, Mendelsohn’s Violin Concerto was playing on the TV and I immediately tried to imitate what I was hearing.  Not surprisingly, it didn’t work out quite as well as I had expected. But right then and there, my musical journey had begun. And some 15 years later, I finally performed Mendelsohn’s Violin Concerto as well!  

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I’ve been improvising on the piano for as long as I can remember. However, it was only after my hand-injury, which forced me to give up my violin career, that I started taking composing more seriously. To me personally, playing the piano is an essential part of being a composer. After entrance exams, which were spread over three days, I was happy to learn that I was once again accepted to the University of Music Vienna, but this time to the Degree program in Composition. I went on to study Composition for Screen, Jazz Composition, Orchestration and Conducting. 

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    There wasn’t really a moment of realization per se. Since I was young, I had always improvised and created my own music; be that on the violin or on the piano. Creating music has always been part of me and always came naturally to me. 

    What are your favourite artists in this “piano genre”?
    From the great composers of the past, I’d say Ravel, Schostakovich and Rachmaninoff are some of my influences. Playing Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in G Minor had been a goal of mine for some time. Piano is not my first instrument, so it was a challenge, but I’m happy to say that I was able to accomplish this goal last spring and even put up a recording of my performance on my YouTube Channel. This was one of those big personal moments for me, so I wanted to document it…  

    From my contemporary colleagues, I really like the music of Alexis French. An excellent composer and highly skilled pianist.

    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? 
    To be honest, most of the time when I sit by the piano, it’s either to compose or to practise. I don’t play just for fun all too often these days. That said, when I do find time for it on occasion, you might hear me play music from a Disney film… maybe one of the wonderful songs by the great Alan Menken. In fact, at one point during lockdown, there was a “window” between projects, so I sat down and recorded a short clip of A Whole New World from Aladdin for my social media. Such a great Disney song!

    What rules (in making music) need to be broken?
    I always say that, before you can go off and break rules, you should study them diligently. I’ve always thought that studying the great masters is a good investment of time for a young musician. 

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
    That really depends. I’ve done both. My latest release Falling Snow for example , has been fully recorded in my home studio. But back in August, I travelled to Prague to record the music to the beautifully animated film The Last Cloudweaver (a short produced directed by Judit Boor and produced by Dragonbee Animation). We recorded with the Prague Metropolitan Orchestra at Czech Television studios with a line-up of 64 live musicians and I had the pleasure to conduct myself. 

    What’s your take on sampled instruments?
    Much of my work is for film, for which I very frequently use samples for practical reasons. But whenever I can, I try to record with live musicians – the emotional impact of live recorded music is just unparalleled.

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

    Good question! Often, I will just hear music in my head. All I need to do then, is to record it in some way – be that as notes on a piece of paper or as digital information in my studio software. Other times it can take days or even weeks to write and produce a particular piece of music. However, it is often the pieces that form very quickly and easily – almost by itself – which turn out to be the most “natural” of compositions. When that happens, the music leads you on its own. That’s the case of my latest release for example, Falling Snow, which came to me on a quiet weekend evening, while at home, and only took me a few minutes to write. ‚Falling Snow‘ is one of those little pieces of music that are particularly close to my heart. 

    Thank you very much for this Ros!

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

    Behind the piano: Ron Adelaar

    Today we go Behind the piano to get to know the Dutch composer and piano player Ron Adelaar a bit better!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I live in The Netherlands, born and raised in the center of our country, in Amersfoort. And I still live there.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    As a child I started at the age of 8 taking private lessons in playing he accordion and after 4 years I switched to organ. At the age of 17 I started playing the piano and took two years of private lessons with mostly light and populair classical music.

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    In our home there was always music. My father was a musiclover and always played records and cassettetapes. As a child I loved playing the accordion, learned to read notes and playing different kind of melodies and rhythms. Especially I liked playing the tango on the accordion like Ole Guapa from Malando. But soon I was inspired by some organ players my father played on his stereo and then I switched to electronic
    organ. I learned since I switched from 1 hand to two hands on keys reading notes with two different bars. But my right hand already had and kept a head start because of the 4 years I played the accordion.

    My father played the flute and we started playing together when I was 13. And soon we were playing together in churches in Amersfoort. We did that for almost 10 years and played many kind of melodies, light classical to easy listening and pop, Mozart to Vangelis…

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I was 17 when I started playing the piano. After years of playing the accordion and organ as I got older I felt more and more love for the pianosound coming fromthis beautiful and pure instrument.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself
    I already composed music as a child on the accordion and organ. It felt very special to create my own compositions. I started making pianocompositions when I was 18 years old. Mostly popsongs with my own lyrics and music and sometimes on the lyrics of others.
    The only problems was I couldn’t write it down in notes. I just noted the chords and learned the music by heart. Later I made many compositions for my church choir on lyrics that were provided to me.

    In church I also like to improvise being in the moment of reflection and peace and I still do that. It was years ago the start of my peaceful piano compositions I make nowadays and can record because my son Ivo said I should do more with mu=y music, record it and releasing it on Spotify. He helped me with that and with great success. But this all started in church playing peaceful and soothing melodies.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I really love the music of Nils Frahm, Ólafur Arnalds, Alexis Ffrench, Joep Beving, Stephan Moccio, Jeff Martens, Anna Sofia Nord, Kristoffer Wallin and Michael Logozar. They’re all great musicicians.

    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?
    My track Mélodie is quite favorite but also my compositions Andante, Frozen and Desiree are very dear to me to play.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    I don’t believe in rules. Music comes from the heart and that is unconditional. Of course music is also a matter of taste but music for me it’s a language on a higher level in which we can communicate with all people.

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
    Yes I record my music myself. I have my own home recording studio with three digital piano’s; Roland RD 500, Korg SP-280 and my master piano is a KAWAI VPC-1. Mastering of my tracks is professionally done in Sweden by sound engineer Markus Nordlund. He’s a real sound wizard.

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I am quite satisfied recording digitally with Logic in a MacBook Pro. I use several piano vst’s like NI Grandeur, Noire, Maverick, Una Corda and the Ravenscroft 275. The acoustic piano I have in my house is not good enough to record my pianomusic. I will probably buy a better piano later this year to record also on acoustic piano.

    But so far I am quite content with the variety of sound possibilities using the vst’s from Native Instruments and Ravenscroft.

    Anything else you want to share?
    I’m very grateful that my music is being spread and heard in the last year. The amount of followers and streams is so huge. But I also really enjoy the friendship with so many international musicfriends, piano players from so many countries in the world. I made a lot of new friends in the last year thanks to music, Facebook and Spotify. That’s very special and especially in these Coronatimes I’m very happy to keep in contact with so many music lovers.

    And the last question, asked by my 6 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from?

    All my music comes from the heart. It’s pure intuitive and I’m inspired by what I experience in life and the beautiful nature I like to enjoy. The source for making music is immense and never ending.

    Thank you for this interview Ron!

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

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Emma Paunil

    Today we go Behind the piano and get to know the composer and piano player Emma Paunil a bit better!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I grew up on an 80 acre farm in the desert of Casa Grande, Arizona. As of right now, I’m currently back here in Casa Grande enjoying the colder months before we shall flee from 110+ degrees again next June! 

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I have been playing the piano for about 20 years now. This year, I started teaching myself the viola, as well as the harmonica, but I would not say I am performance ready for either, yet… may be in a comedy show! 

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    For nearly a decade, I answered this question as, “I was put into piano by my mom,” as if it were some prison sentence. The truth is, as with most children, I didn’t understand the life changing benefits and lessons in self-discipline that come as a package deal with most things parents “make us do.” I was classically trained through a very well-put-together curriculum by Ashley Hendrix and the Arizona Study Program, where I was to memorize pieces in every era (Baroque, Classical, Romantic, Contemporary) and play them in front of a judge. Even though I was often stressed by the piano throughout the program, I still began playing the piano as an emotional escape around age 11.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    Playing another composer’s songs is one thing… making music didn’t start with me until much later in life. In fact, the first piano solo I composed, “The Lighthouse,” was about 3 years ago: never officially released, but publicly performed at the Tempe Center of the Performing arts. I didn’t really seriously start looking towards my piano for anything other than recreational playing until COVID 19.  I’ve had a history of trying to please others (as many of us do). Prior to COVID-19, I had just gone from struggling through the never ending battle of, “what do you do for work?” I went from heavy pursuit of the veterinary sciences, virology, dabbling in education for middle schoolers, working at the zoo, all the while battling this little artistic “demon” inside of me I wanted to keep away — concerned it would take away from my “science-side.” I finally reached a point once a global pandemic hit that I decided to stop my mind from worrying, and turned to the piano. During this time, I have now released three “Transformative Piano” albums, Triple Point of Water, Ataraxia, and Spirit Animal.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I actually can’t give the credit to myself in realizing I could make songs. I had another musician friend basically peer pressure me into improvising piano during my first jam session. I was so nervous at first, because I couldn’t hide behind sheet music anymore. As I sat there trying to figure out what to do, my hands were shaking, and it felt like the keys all fell together into a mess of a pile. “Just play; stop being worried about what you think I’m thinking. I don’t care what you play, just play something,” I was told. Just like that, my brain seemed to switch to the key of C# minor, and I just went for it. It was bumpy at first, but it was the best feeling in the world once I got the hang of it. After reading and memorizing music for so long, improvising felt like stepping into an entirely different brain wave, or jumping into another electron orbital… whichever is more relatable! To this day, C# minor is still my favorite key in which to improvise.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I absolutely love George Winston, and I’m happy to say my father actually got me interested in him! “Longing/Love,” is one of my favorites in his album, Autumn. I also enjoy David Nevue and Michele McLaughlin. “Treasure Falls,” and “New Light,” are my two favorites from each of them, respectively. 

    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?
    Yes, I most definitely have a go-to song: “Waltz in B minor” (Op. 69, No. 2) by Frederic Chopin. A few years ago, I realized that the implications in the development of a “go-to” song for me signified the first time I started using piano as an emotional release. When I was about 8 years old, I ended up with my first dog, Moon — a chocolate lab. Moon was the unwanted runt of the litter, and she grew to be an athlete running free across our 80 acres of ranch-land. As a child, she felt more like a friend to me than a dog I, “owned,” and we ran through the desert together searching for wildlife, rabbits, and make-believe adventures. As an 11 year old, I was heartbroken when she ran off one day with her best-friend (Rottweiler named Bear), and never came home; a farmer found her, and called my parents to tell us she had drowned. At that young, I didn’t really understand the feelings that were going through me; the only solution I could come up with of how to escape those feelings was to run to the piano and play that “Waltz in B minor.” Fast forward a bit: throughout highschool, every upsetting day was followed by playing that song. It wasn’t until later in life in college that I began realizing this as a pattern of emotional release. 

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    Don’t try to fit into a genre when you are starting out. A lot of times, I notice that is the concern of musicians starting to realize their identity. I really think what has helped me is to, “… just play.” Your style might not mesh with other musicians at first, but at least in the process of getting the kinks out of your system, you begin to notice your own personal tendencies. Don’t immediately jump on that realization and start pushing a genre on yourself. Keep letting the fun and enjoyment of the creation process guide you. I think this would help musicians not become stagnant as well, and could possibly help with writer’s block. 

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
    I record my music myself through an interface. I use stereo jacks and MIDI for the piano, as well as an XLR microphone for any vocal tracks. I love my interface for recording my piano. There is nothing worse than having a microphone recording my one-shot, improvised performance for a relaxing piano track, and a horse squeals in the background. 

    What’s your take on sampled instruments?
    Honestly, I have to give them a big thumbs-up. I am all about adaptation to and appreciation of what you are given. I have never in my life gotten to own an acoustic piano; I’ve said many times that when it works out, I would love to have a grand piano. Nevertheless, the same digital Roland piano has been in my life since I started playing, and it has given me so much opportunity. For any musicians and creatives who do not have the privilege of acoustic instruments or a big studio, I think sampled instruments can definitely be utilized as a very valuable resource. Acoustic piano is an absolutely beautiful, rich sound, and I used to hunt down every coffee shop and bar with an acoustic piano just to be able to play them. However, I don’t think the “not having” of something should stop one from creating! Always use what has been given to you. 

    Anything else you want to share?
    True identity comes from within. Oftentimes, we become too ripped away from who we really are, and who we really can become. We worry about the externalities. We place all our focus on our name, nationality, age, race, genre, what we wear, gender, job, pay rate… category, category, category. Our personal flags don’t represent us anymore, they represent the external shell of society. As artists during this time, and as people desperately needing a cleanse from categorization, take advantage of the inward focus we have the chance of magnifying. What are we, then, other than shells? We have emotions painting our insides that we rarely grant ourselves the opportunity to visualize. I am personally very passionate about emotional intelligence, and want to fully understand these complex energies that pass through us, or sometimes get caught. I believe all art forms, in conjunction with a certain degree of scientific thought, can help us truly know thyselves: What are we feeling, and why? I hope everyone keeps some form of artistic expression in their lives, no matter what! It is essential

    The last question is asked by my 6 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from? 
    What a wonderful question from a philosopher! There are several perspectives from which this question can be answered. I’ll give a more scientific answer to this question, because I feel that will encompass all of my songs. Simple answer: all of my songs come from a warped version of my survival instinct. First, we shall start with the decision to sit down and play. Something has motivated me to sit down and play. That motivation could have been from a negative source (someone being cruel to me, for example), or a positive one (feeling an urge to create something new, for example). Either way, there was a stimulus that inspired me from within. Like an animal reacting to a stimulus, the memory within my body said, “Hey! *Insert stimulus* just happened… you should sit down and play because that will help you continue surviving.” No matter what the stimulus, positive or negative, making music has become a programmed solution in my mind for “survival.” There is of course a multitude of colorful perspectives with which to answer this question. However, when it comes down to it, even the pouring-of-the-heart out into the keys is a means to respond to the stimulus of emotional turmoil; emotional turmoil can cause such a degree of stress in our lives that it impedes our ability to survive and thrive. Ergo: music = survival of the fittest! 

    Thank you very much for this Emma!

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

    Behind the piano: John Michael Anderson

    Today I’m introducing you to the composer and piano player John Michael Anderson. A while back I posted about the track Waltz No.1 Dance of Dawn and now it’s time to get to know the person behind the song a bit better!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I am originally from Los Angeles, California. After many years of touring and living in different parts of the world, I am once again back living and composing in LA. 

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I am now 35 years old. I started playing piano at the age of 10, so that makes 25 years of being a student of the instrument. I do play many other instruments. For work, I am a musical director, song-writer, and producer, so playing as many instruments as possible is a huge plus. Piano and guitar would be my most studied and capable instruments, but I also play strings, saxophone, flute, bass, drums, vocals, banjo, mandolin, ukelele, and some other auxiliary instruments as well. 

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    My father was a builder so he was always tearing down and rebuilding homes. I would work with him, and one of these demolitions had an old, beautiful, abandoned piano tucked away in a room. I convinced him to bring it home. That was my ah-ha moment. I can remember vividly, the first time I struck a note. Everything changed. It was magic, and I was hooked. It was now my secret place where I could go to, and share all my secrets, desires, and turn them into sounds. Complete freedom. 

    How long have you been making piano music?
    Since music was mostly something I found for myself and a whole world of exploration, I started writing melodies pretty much right away. Obviously silly at first, they quickly became something more than tinkering and I have been composing ever since. 

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I grew up in a big family, and sports were taken very seriously. Though I was good at sports and still love partaking, it was the team sports and group rules that were difficult for a more introverted type like myself. From the very first notes I ever produced musically, I immersed myself completely. Here was something beyond words that I could do completely solitary. All my answers were there, in the music. That realization that I could do this myself was liberating and has remained so.  

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I am a sucker for the Romantic era of piano, so Composers like Chopin, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, Liszt, Saint-Saens, Debussy, etc,. I also like some jazz as well, Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, Horace Silver, Chick Corea, etc,. 
    as far as modern I do enjoy Nils Frahm, Philip Glass, Yann Tiersenn, Max Ricther, Peter Broderick, to name a few.  

    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? 
    My favorite piece to play has always been Nocturne No. 20 in C-sharp Minor by Chopin. I knew it’s massively well known and common, but it’s one composition which, in my opinion, captures an absolutely perfect sonic representation of pure beauty.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    My answer is simply; if there are any rules set within music making, then they all need to be broken. Music is the most free form of expression and that should be guarded and never restricted. 

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
    I am fortunate enough to have my own studio, so with my own music and most of my work I record from there. If i am doing sessions with other artists or production houses then of course I will record in more commercial studios, but to have my own spot is priceless.

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I think sampled, or even virtual, instruments are incredibly useful in certain situations, like demos, or comps, or when you’re composing and would like to hear certain timbres for sections and how they play with each other. We’re blessed to have them, whereas composers back in time would have to essentially imagine all these different voicings. Now, I do think, and see how they have also taken away a lot of work from actual musicians. These days it is so easy to have full compositions, like a film score for example, where before you would hire a string section, now the composer can simply write it in MIDI and call it a day. It loses a bit of soul that way.

    Anything else you want to share? 
    I will always be in awe of the power of music. I’ve been on tour in places where the language barrier was strong, however we were able to connect through playing music together. It is the first, and greatest language. Also, I appreciate and value so much people like yourself that take the time in sharing and connecting music with people that may not have heard it otherwise. It’s important for the audience and for the artists. So I thank you! 

    The last question is asked by my 6 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from? 
    As a father, I enjoy this question the most! What a profound question for a 6-year old to ask. To be honest, I am still trying to find that answer. I’ve always felt music to be something much bigger than myself. It’s omnipresent, so much so that I often feel I can’t take credit for the songs that I “created”. How a painter would color a canvas, a composer does so with time. It’s tragic but beautiful. I would say it is life’s journal, so I suppose that’s where they come from: all of our past experiences.

    Thank you very much for this!

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

    Behind the piano: Stefano Fasce

    Today it’s time to get behind the piano and get to know the Italian composer Stefano Fasce a bit better!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I am from Genoa in Italy, and have been living in London for the past 5 years.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    There was a baby grand in my home when I was young, so I’ve been playing it since I was a child but I’ve never taken lessons. I graduated in flute, I’ve been playing the guitar (electric and acoustic) since I was 13 and I have been learning the cello for the past 2 years.

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    My dad shared his passion for music with my brother and I from a young age, so we were immersed in a musical environment very early on, and naturally approached the piano in the house, a beautiful Kawai.

    How long have you been making piano music?
    When I was about 15 or 16, after playing covers of other people, I sat down and started writing simple ideas and that was the start of everything. I’ve been more serious about writing music for the past 7 years.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    There was no sudden realisation. It was more of a slow development over time as the ideas that I was playing around with eventually turned into songs.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I like Olafur Arnalds, Vikingur Olafsson, Hania Rani, Joep Beving and many others.

    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 a song but a couple chord progressions that I like that often work their way into my compositions.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    Musical rules can be helpful guidelines but all rules can and should be broken if it helps you to achieve the sound and emotion that you want.

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
    It depends. Usually I record by myself in my garden studio, which is a lovely place to work in. My debut album was recorded at Metropolis Studios, and I’ve also recorded at Angel Studios. Of course having the opportunity to record in places like these is very welcome!

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I use sampled instruments all the time in my work as a film composer. I think it’s great that we have so many options but their limitations can influence the music we write. I always feel much more inspired when composing on a real instrument rather than composing at the midi keyboard.

    The last question is asked by my 6 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from? 
    They come from many places. Sounds, rhythms, ideas, melodies. They all have a seed, a small fragment, that expands into a much more complex composition.

    Thank you very much for this Stefano!

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

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Marc-André Pépin

    Today it’s time to get Behind the piano with the composer and piano player Marc-André Pépin!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I was born in a small village (Saint-Benjamin) located in the French-speaking province of Québec in Canada. I am now living in Québec city.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I am playing piano since I am 8 years old, it is more than fifty years ago.

    Tell us about how you started playing music.
    I was very attracted by music early in my life and since my older sister was learning the piano I asked my parents for piano lessons. I started with a person who was teaching piano and at the same time was the church organist in our small town.

    How long have you been making piano music? Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I learned the piano in a classical manner, I mean, I learned how to read music and I studied music from classical composers (Bach, Mozart, …), practicing scales and technique. But at the same time, I spent a lot of my practice time trying to play by ears songs heard on the radio. At the same time, I started to compose short melodies but I was only when I was a teenager that I started to compose more seriously and to write my compositions. At that time, I was mostly imitating pieces from the great classical composers.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I have always listened to a lot of classical music. I like very much piano music but also orchestral music and I think that I am influenced a lot by orchestral music in the way I write music. On the classical piano side, I like the music from Chopin, Liszt, Debussy, Rachmaninov. On the jazz side, I like Keith Jarrett, George Gershwin, Michel Legrand.

    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?
    This happens to me often when I just finished composing a new piece. I might repeat it over and over not only to learn it but because I like it so much. So practicing for me is not a big struggle.

    What rules (in making music) need to be broken?
    For me, there are no specific rules that has to be broken but any rule could be broken if it makes the music more interesting. I know that the word « interesting » is very subjective and it is the privilege (or responsibility) of the composer to decide what is interesting and what is not. At the same time it is a risk because the audience sometimes might not agree. As a composer, I have to live with this risk.

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
    Most of the time, I record my music at my home studio. I hire a sound engineer and a producer. I like to have advices from outsiders on the sound recording and on choosing the best interpretation. Exceptionally, my fourth album « Tempus Fugit » was recorded in a very comfortable and modern studio. It was a great experience but more expensive.

    The last question is asked by my 6 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from?
    Children are really good at asking adult hard questions. I cannot tell where they come from. They seem to come from nowhere and without any reasons, sometimes, a melody simply start playing in my head. Most of the time though, music comes when I sit at the piano and start to improvise. Then, when I find a good idea, I develop it and complete the song.

    Thank you Marc-André!

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  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Matthias Krauss

    Today we’ll get Behind the piano of the German composer and piano player Matthias Krauss!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I am from a small town near Frankfurt, but I am living since nearly 30 Years in beautiful Cologne / Germany 🇩🇪

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I startet as a kid playing piano and guitar…first on a little keyboard with an organ sound and the old little nylon guitar of my father. After a while, thank god, my parents bought me real upright piano and a „better“ acoustic guitar. I started taking piano lessons when I was 9 years old…

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    I remember the moment when I discovered this little organ like keyboard at the age of 4 or 5 – I was so excited and I played it the whole time. Same with the guitar – a good friend showed my the first chords and I was practising a lot to get it in my fingers. After I started to have piano lessons I realised that I had the gift to play music that I heard on the radio – something my classical piano teacher could not understand, cause he was used to play „only“ with scores. At this point I realised that for me the piano is something to express myself in music – not only to play music which is already written by someone. I found it always more interesting to find some own melodies or chord progressions…

    How long have you been making piano music?
    Making piano music was always a big part in my music career – I had some band projects in my school time where I was writing songs on the piano, but my first solo piano piece that I released on a professional record was in 1991 with my jazz rock band called „Matalex“ – we toured a lot all over Europe, made 5 albums and did some nice collaborations with big jazz stars like Randy Brecker, Steve Smith, Jean Paul Bourelly. In this period I learned a lot about playing, improvising and also producing. On every album was one dedicated piano Ballad which was for me the start of the actual „Improvising Silence“ Project.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    As I said I was able to play songs I heard on the radio – that was for me the inspiration and the starting point to write my own melodies.  I also startet very early to work with Keyboards, Computer and 4 Track Tape recording machines…so I recorded a lot of song ideas, some instrumentals, some with vocals. The piano was always the center of my musical life and still is. I love playing on an acoustic Instrument – there is a something magic about sitting in the center of the sound of a Piano.

    My first Solo Album was not even planed. I was producing a Pop Band in a very nice Studio in the south of France (Studio Miraval) – there was this unbelievable Boesendorfer Imperial grand piano in this Studio, and every night when the production time was over I played on this magic Instrument – so at one night a recorded a lot of my ideas – just to have it – at home in my studio i listend to the recordings and my first „Improvising Silence“ Album was already there ! 

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    During my classical piano lessons I realised that I like Chopin, Schumann and Debussy the most – later, I discovered modern Jazz pianists like Chick Corea, Keith Jarret, Bill Evans or the beautiful playing of Herbie Hancock, also a big Inspiration for me was to work with Jon Jord (Deep Purple) – I was blessed playing in his Band for a few years and did some recordings and Concerts with this outstanding gentleman. I learned a lot about composing and bringing the both worlds of classic and pop together.  

    In our days there are many of really good piano artist/composers – in the neoclassical genre to name a few like Max Richter, or Olafur Arnalds – I love the creativity of those guys !

    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? 
    No, there is not the one song – music or composing for me is to be open and to let it flow, I always try to find something new, the first seconds sitting on the piano are the most valuable for me, cause I am not thinking, I am just playing.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    I think every rule is there for a good reason, but also that every rule needs to be broken to go further…This is a very personal process that every creative mind has to explore. Sometimes I change my recording setup in my studio or I travel to another place which inspires me and compose / record there. Since a few years I did many productions in a very nice studio in Ireland – in the middle of nowhere – things changes when you leave your „normal“ setup, you get inspiration from the environment or the people you meet an your travel…when you start to feel to comfortable – go to a different place, find different Instruments, talk to other artist and composers – how are they working ? 

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
    I have a big studio where I write, produce and record, this is my main base where I work as a producer with many artists,  but I also have a small (Laptop based) recording setup, which allows me to record also in many different places.

    Im my studio I have this wonderful upright piano which I used for the „Improvising Silence II“ album – I do everything by myself, recording, editing, mixing – only for the mastering I have a good friend who works as a mastering engineer,  I like to have this second opinion !

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    I bought so many sound libraries the last 15 years and I am still exploring them ! I love the Libraries from „Spitfire Audio“ – I think they are doing a fantastic job ! I also use „8DIO“ or „Toontrack“ – Samples to name a few.

    Anything else you want to share?  
    It is fantastic to have the possibility as an artist to be heard in nearly every country on the planet and for a listener it is even more exiting to explore all the different kinds of music. I really hope that some of them will enjoy listening to my music 🙂

    And the question from my 6 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from? 
    Wherever  the  songs come  from, they are accepted with gratitude. I feel like a medium through which the songs evolve. I regard it as a gift that I have the possibility to channel certain powers at certain times, and at the end of this chain a song emerges that wasn`t there before. Sculptors always say that the sculpture itself already exists somewhere in the stone and they only need to carve it out. Writing songs is similar. Strictly speaking, all of them already exist!

    Thank you very much for this Matthias!

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  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Marcus Moon

    I have previously posted about the track Moonstruck by the Sweden born, Canada located composer Marcus Moon. And now it’s time to get Behind the piano and get to know Marcus a bit better!

    What’s your real name? 
    Marcus Lindström 

    How did you come up with your artist name?
    The Moon is a great inspiration for me as an artist and composer. It felt absolutely natural to use it in my artist name. Plus it has a better ring to it than Lindström 

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I was born and raised in Malmö, Sweden. Moved to Canada in 2006. I now live in Vancouver.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I have only started playing piano in the last year, and I hope to develop my skills  as much as I can. It will improve my composing process I am sure. Before the piano, guitar was my main instrument. 

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    I grew up listening to a lot of singer/songwriters, and storytelling has always been at the heart of my music. I picked up the guitar at a young age, like so many others, trying to be like my musical heroes of the time!

    How long have you been making piano music?
    About 2 years now.

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I started learning music theory simply to improve my guitar skills. I got hooked right away on the process of creating new music, and I knew pretty quick that this would be my mode of artistic expression. It was something I had been thinking about my whole life, but i never had the confidence to do it. Starting out, I made myself a challenge where i was to write a piece of music every day for 100 days straight and post the result on instagram each day. It was an enormous task, but by immersing myself in it, I developed my skills at an incredible rate. After only 100 days I really felt like a composer, albeit with a lot still to learn.  

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    To be honest, I still have a lot to discover when it comes to contemporary pianists/composers, but to give just one example, I have been listening a lot to Lera Auerbach recently. I find her to be quite brilliant. Look her up on spotify! 

    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? 
    Yes. My own Moonlight Requiem from my upcoming album. I have a preference for playing sad songs, and simply because it’s one of the few songs I’ve mastered at the piano so far, haha. 

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    Personally, I prefer to NOT break rules. The need to be original and ‘groundbreaking’ can really put a damper on the creative flow. I’ll leave that to the academics and the musical geniuses of the world. I believe that too much pressure to be original may keep a lot of people from writing music. Myself, I use the same composition rules  that have been used for centuries. Sometimes I get comments that my music is not innovative enough, but that doesn’t matter to me. I will never win any awards for groundbreaking achievements in composition, but I just want to write beautiful music from my heart that touches people. I really believe in the power of music to change the world!

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
    I recorded my first album in a beautiful venue, which was located in an actual barn on an actively operating horse farm. I had the fortune of working with some of the very finest musicians on my album. They really took my music to the next level. 

    Whats your take on sampled instruments?
    Nothing beats a real musician, although I am very impressed with the progress of virtual instruments. I use them a lot in preparing demos. 

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

    My songs come to me when I have a story that I want to share with the world. Usually, it’s a personal story, but not necessarily. I always write down the story first, often as a poem. Then I write the music that I feel best captures the spirit of the story. I am a storyteller first and foremost, and music is my language.

    Thank you very much for this Marcus!

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

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Angel Ruediger

    New year, but my theme from last year goes on and we move on to the Brazilian piano artist Angel Ruediger!

    What’s your real name? 
    Angela Ruediger

    How did you come up with your artist name?
    “Angel” is one of my nicknames.

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I’m from Brazil, and at  the moment I’m based in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well? 
    I started to have classical piano lessons at the age of nine and never stopped playing since then. Piano is the only instrument I play.

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    I asked my parents to have piano lessons. I was an unquiet child, and liked to make many things at the same time (which isn’t necessarily a good thing)

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I started to compose my own tunes since the second year I was taking my classical piano lessons, it was a kind of relaxing moment since I really took the piano lessons seriously and studied it about two/three hours per day, almost everyday.

    Tell us something about that moment you realised you could make songs yourself!  
    It came spontaneously after I started to learn classical piano. No effort, no tension. I got two passions from  playing the piano at that time: learning pieces from Liszt and Chopin (in time)  and composing. 

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    Classical Music: Chopin, Liszt, Grieg, Bach, Mozart, Mahler, Satie, Barber and Debussy
    Modern Classical music: Jóhann Jóhannsson, Max Richter, Peter Cavallo, Gavin Luke , Joep Beving,  Ólafur Arnalds, Carol Comune, and the wonderful Sophie Hutgins.

    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. I usually start my “piano routine” with a lot of practice (scales and arpeggios) and then composing. If a new composition is finished, I play it until I feel its “fluency” is good enough so it can be recorded.

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken? 
    I don’t follow any rules and I don’t see them, have I’ve missed anything? In fact, this streaming era  is so democratic. The action of “making music”  couldn’t be more free of rules. Of course there are a lot of not good stuff, but there are really great new composers rising, too.

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
    I record my tracks by myself at home

    What’s your take on sampled instruments? 
    I’m totally open to every kind of instrument if it means to make music with quality. I’ve got some ambient/piano tracks I made all by myself, and already got on my 2021 schedule some collabs with artists who use sampled instruments…but definitely acoustic piano is my thing.

    Anything else you want to share? 
    Yes, many thanks for inviting me to this interview, Johan. I really feel honoured. I also have to say that I love your music. And I would like to finish this interview  mentioning a quote from Oscar Wilde I’m really fond of:
    “…This is why music is the perfect type of art. Music can never reveal its ultimate secret.” 

    The last question is asked by my 6 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from?
    Depends on the day. Mainly it comes from my soul, but sometimes  from my guts.

    Thank you very much for this Angel!

  • Behind the piano

    Behind the piano: Melany Thompson

    We are staring off the new year (go 2021!) with another great composer. This time I’m presenting you with Melany Thompson from Australia!

    Where are you from? And where do you live?
    I am from Australia and I live in beautiful Sydney! 

    How long have you been playing the piano, and do you play other instruments as well?
    I started learning the piano when I was 4 years old. I have also attempted the flute and the guitar over the years but think I’ll stick to the piano!

    Tell us about how you started playing music. 
    When I was 4 I asked my parents for a piano and they bought me a little toy piano which I was quite disappointed with apparently. I somehow managed to teach myself a couple of nursery rhymes on it and so they bought me a full size upright piano! It was so big I remember they had to shave off some of the doorway in our house to fit it in! 

    How long have you been making piano music?
    I started to write my own melodies when I was a young teenager.  I used to write songs about different boys that I had a crush on (every song was a love song obviously!)

    Tell us something about that moment you realized you could make songs yourself!
    I don’t really remember it being a massive thing, it just came naturally to me to make my own music. Once I started recording my music though, I remember it being such an amazing experience to see other people listening to it and enjoying it.

    What are your favorite artists in this “piano genre”?
    I grew up listening to a whole range of artists from Richard Clayderman to Mozart but now there are a whole range of piano composers that sit in a more modern genre. I love Ludovico, John Williams and all the big film score composers. 

    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 play Pachelbel’s Cannon as it’s easy to play in any key and to improvise around. Most people know the tune so it’s a good one to warm the fingers up with!

    What rules (in making music) needs to be broken?
    I’m not sure – does anyone follow a set of rules anymore? I think music is so subjective and people are recording in so many different ways these days and using different methods which keeps things interesting and fresh. 

    How do you record your music? Yourself? In a big studio? etc.
    I have done a bit of both – I recoded my first album in a studio in the Blue Mountains on a beautiful concert grand piano. I have recorded digitally using my digital piano, and now I can use my beautiful Yamaha Grand piano (which is fitted with a silent system) to record on so I have a few different options. I love the studio experience but it’s also great to do it yourself at home and get it right without the time and cost constraints of a studio. 

    What’s your take on sampled instruments?
    I’m yet to find the perfect sampled piano sound! It can be expensive ‘collecting’ samples but there are so many amazing sounds that can be created. It’s a bit of a mine-field for me, I’m only just starting to get into digital recording and sample sounds and it’s quite overwhelming to be honest. 

    Anything else you want to share? 
    I feel so lucky to be doing what I love. Music has always been a part of my life but the decision to start recording and releasing my own music was a huge turning point in my life and I’m so excited to see what the future holds! I’m relatively new to this world so still finding my feet and working out the business side of things but it’s a great adventure. 

    The last question is asked by my 6 year old son:
    Where do all your songs come from? 
    My songs come from feelings and emotions. I often write about something I’m going through, feeling or longing for. I also get inspiration from people and relationships. Just sitting down at the piano and improvising is a really important part of the creative process for me which means setting aside a lot of time and space to just sit and play for fun and relaxation. 

    Thank you for sharing this with us Melany!

    For more information and updates, please check out these links:
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