What does music mean to you personally?
Music to me is some composition with a good harmony and melody. I’ve listened to some pieces of orchestra and I literally feel like I’m somewhere else, in a different world. That’s cool, huh?! Or you listen to a song, and it lifts you up when you’re down (Here Comes The Sun by George Harrison). Or let’s say you listen to a song and it matches your mood. Suddenly you feel some confirmation that what you’re going through isn’t unique. That others have gone through it, so in that way I think it can make you feel like you have friend even if you aren’t a very social person, with many friends!
Do you agree that music is all about fantasy?
I think that a lot of instrumental music, by its design, is ideal for fantasy. When we talk about songs, they are generally about situations, calls to action and many concrete things. There are of course many love songs which could be considered fantasy if you are not in love with someone (lol). But I think that’s a great point is that a lot of music is about imagination. There’s a school of thought that music is about drama and emotion. Wagner talked about this, weaving all the arts together, calling it “Gesamtkunstwerk.” Perhaps movies, nowadays, are the closest thing to this, for Wagner, it was Opera.
If you were not a professional musician, would would you have been?
This is an interesting question as I am now a Bus Driver, not a professional musician. Ideally, I would be a professional composer, though, not a musician. I think there are benefits to having a different job and being able to do what you love on the side, whereas being a professional music person, you really have to work twice as hard as having a “normal” job. I really respect these unique people for this reason. It also might be said that to some people what is hard for the average person is effortless to them, and I think that’s a measure of success. That’s why they are in such great demand, they stand out in the crowd.
The classical music audience is getting old, are you worried about your future?
Classical music I think will exist as long as parents play symphonies and various classical music to their babies, and foster an appreciation for composers and musicians. Trying to get kids to play instruments, is another way to make old music come alive. I am very grateful to my parents, who I believe were responsible for making me interested in music from a young age. Certainly, a piano in the house helped! Another thing is band and orchestra in school helps music appreciation. Try this instrument, if you don’t like it try that one… My feeling is if a student takes their instrument seriously in band or orchestra, they’re practically a young professional musician!
What do you envision the role of classical music to be in the 21 century? Do you see that there is a transformation of this role?
It’s hard to say, with the 21st Century having just begun, but I think a nasty blow to Classical in this day and age is that say you are curious about Beethoven, you know nothing about him other than he’s a very famous composer in music history. You realize that the city you live in has a concert coming up and they are playing Beethoven’s 5th. I think the average person is just going to save money and go to YouTube, watch it there. It’s unfortunate because the local symphony orchestra loses support. By the way, I went to see Beethoven’s 5th at my local symphony and almost everyone who was there was likely retired or about to retire. It’s sad when only senior citizens are the ones who appreciate classical!
When I say that classical music is searching for new ways or that the classical music is getting a new face, what would come to your mind?
This is a great point, I believe it’s manifest in new composers and new music getting played. I will say that there’s some reticence to new music, this posh idea that you’re only able, or should be able to be famous as a composer after you’re dead. I think that’s changing, so I am really optimistic about that! I think in some ways it’s a never-ending cycle. The symphony exists because older people come purchase tickets to a concert of Beethoven, and though the conductor/music director wants to try new music, those paying do not, and until their attitude about new music changes, the conductor won’t take a chance on a new name, and will continue to program Mozart or Beethoven.
Do you think that the classical musician today needs to be more creative? Whats the role of creativity in the musical process for you?
Creativity is an interesting thing. I noticed for this year’s program, my local symphony is playing John Williams score of Harry Potter the Sorcerer’s Stone. This will no doubt draw a lot of people who wouldn’t normally want to go to the Concert Hall and listen to an Orchestra. Because JK Rowling is finished writing Harry Potter novels, it’s a way to relive that excitement of that magical world. If I was a music director, I would put a work by a new composer in the first half of the program, have an intermission and then the Harry Potter so that people would have to sit through the new music to get hear the instantly recognizable “Hedwig’s Theme.” By the way, huge Harry Potter fan here : ) There was a social gathering a day before a program where a group of musicians (515 quartet) had a “instrument petting zoo,” where you could play one of their instruments. I think that was really creative and a cool way of appealing to an average person who just sees a violin as a box of wood and a bow!
Do you think we musicians can do something to attract young generation into the classical music concerts? How will you proceed?
Leonard Bernstein was famous for having “Young People’s Concerts” where he makes classical music something a layman could understand. I think there should be another person who rekindles this fascination and curiosity of what most people turn their nose up to, preferring rock and roll for their music enjoyment. I think technology makes available a lot of resources nowadays that we didn’t have before. Peter and the Wolf comes to mind as a very accessible piece for kids, by Prokofiev. I benefitted greatly from hearing it as a kid. Each instrument in the orchestra is profiled. So now what once was a mystery, a ton of people with instruments, now we can understand what a flute sounds like by itself and the bassoon and so on.
Tell us about your creative process. Do you have your favourite piece (written by you) How did you start working on it?
My creative process involves coming up with a melody that I like and then accompanying it with chords or broken chords on the bottom. It’s interesting because sometimes you think of something and it turns out it is a little too similar to something you’ve already heard by someone else. But they imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, right?! One of my favorite pieces is an organ piece I wrote for my wife for our wedding. I have a practice organ at home (Hauptwerk with a Hereford Cathedral Organ) that I sketched the melody out on. There’s a nice feature that allows you to record everything you play, so you don’t have to worry about forgetting something you just wrote because you were thinking of the next section. In the piece I tried to use all of the organ, the loud brass trumpets, the lush flutes, foundation stops and the deep and very low 32 foot double open bass. The best part of the whole process of writing the piece was playing it for my wife; she really liked it!
We, Moving Classics TV, love the combination of classical music with different disciplines: music and painting, music and cinematography, music and digital art, music and poetry. What do you think about these combinations?
I love the linking of arts. There’s something about a minor chord, or a sad or dark piece that has a connection to painting that is use dark colors, capturing a night scene, and the opposite is true as well. Bedrich Smetana wrote a piano piece called pleasant landscapes. We might listen to it while looking off into the sea next to the White Cliffs of Dover or some nice landscape. Going back to the beginning of this interview, it’s a very innocuous piece, you might even say of music that there is a piece of music for every occasion! In 2012, I wanted to write a book, but not like any other book I wanted to include pianosociety recordings (classical piano recordings) to accompany each chapter, giving a general mood of it. Going even further, I also wanted to have someone illustrate the beginning page of each chapter. Like Harry Potter, something that happened, a scene from that chapter. This was my exploration with intermedia.
Can you give some advice for young people who want to discover classical music for themselves?
Check out music at the library, find a composer/performer that you admire, and think about why it is that you like them. If you want a path as a performer, you have to put in the hours of practice. If you want to be a composer, you also must keep at it. Start small, but keep writing, you will be surprised, how fast you will improve and have a better understanding of the craft.
Now it is a common practice in the media to talk that the classical music is getting into the consumption business, do you agree? We are speaking about the supply and demand rules and how to sell your “product” in your case your compositions. How do you see it?
Honestly, I think this goes back to the YouTube thing. People love free, and they need to really be invested in a symphonic or a group before they would pay their hard earned money for it. I think it’s hard for classical artists (composers and performers alike) nowadays to sell their work. Crowdsourcing is changing that, Kickstarter and Patreon. I just submitted my first symphony, to Ablaze records. They produce a CD full of new pieces by new composers every year. In fact, they partially subsidize a recording of your piece. I think there’s a better chance of getting your work sold on a compilation CD like this one than selling it alone. Unless it’s your mom or close friend, or you’re followed by someone VERY FAMOUS or are VERY FAMOUS, I don’t think you have a good chance of selling new work, sadly.
Do you have expectations what regards your listeners, your audience?
First of all, it’s an honor for people to listen to my music. I understand in this day and age there are so many things competing for people’s attention. Work takes time away, relationships take time away, it seems now the only time we can listen to music is on our commute to or from work or maybe at the end of the day after dinnertime. I hope my music can lift people up and inspire them to do what they love.
What projects are coming up? Do you experiment in your projects?
I just finished my first symphony. It took so much time to write, I wondered before what it would be like. It’s basically hours and hours, trying this and that. But what a reward at the end, when I heard it all the way through! Imagine writing for 32 instruments, this is the challenge of a composer who writes for a symphony. It’s like you’re sitting in the seat of a 747, a very specific procedure can make the plane fly and land safely, but there is so much to keep track of, changes in dynamic, changes in texture and which instruments to use for solos and which instruments to only use once or twice throughout. It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun. Looking forward to writing my next one soon! Maybe it will be finished by 2020!