David Badillo

Software Engineer, Pianist and Composer

USA

Author

About

I was born in Los Angeles, California, in 1979. At a very early age me and my family moved to Mexico and I was raised in Tijuana, Baja California. I started to play the piano at the age of thirteen, initially by ear, and then taking a summer lessons, and was soon performing regularly, both as a soloist and as an accompanist to various groups and choirs at local churches.

From a very early age I saw myself pursuing a career in music, either as a concert pianist or a composer. From 1999 to 2000 I attended the Music Conservatory of Baja California, Mexico where I had obtained a scholarship. But due to life circumstances, in 2000 I moved to the Pacific Northwest, Seattle, Washington, where I briefly continued my piano studies at Northwest Music Works from 2000 to 2001, again obtaining a partial scholarship based on a musical talent competition.

For the next few years I pursued various other interests, none related to music. It was until mid 2016, when I decided to continue my musical passion, although still not professionally. Shortly after, these efforts resulted in the recording and release my first album "Piano Improvi-Sessions - Volume I" in September of 2016 and not long after that I completed my second solo piano album called "Still Here", in April of 2017. In 2018 I released my third album called “Piano Improvi-Sessions – Volume II”. Since 2019 I have been working on more complex compositions incorporating other instruments. Being a software engineer, these musical projects come to fruition in my spare time, and I love every second of it.

Videos

Sheets

Interview

What does music mean to you personally?

For me, music is a wonderfully unique vehicle of expression that allows the individual to communicate not just the informational aspect of an idea, but also a degree of emotion and state of mind that cannot easily be done through other natural languages or art forms. To a certain degree I became aware of this feature of music at some point during my childhood. Even though I don’t come from a particularly musical family, my dad plays the guitar a little bit and used to sing for us songs we listened to at church when we were kids, although not too frequently. My mom, even though she’s not a musician, for some reason or another, she would try to get us near musical instruments, be it in toy form, or “real” musical instruments. She would also have the radio on playing music of some kind or another as we were growing up. Some how at some point I fell in love with music and wanted to learn guitar, piano or whatever instrument showed in front of my face. That’s more or less how music became integral part of my life as I went through puberty, my teenage years and youth, and entered adulthood.

Do you agree that music is all about fantasy?

I don’t believe I agree with that. Music is as versatile as literature or the art of motion pictures. It can be used to depict and express a beautiful fictional idea or story, as well as the truest event placed in the real world in our day to day lives or in history. A beautiful melodic line combined with exquisite lyrics on many occasions can have a deeper impact on human psychology and real world issues than, for example, written prose.

If you were not a professional musician, what would you have been?

Actually, even though music is my life and passion, I’ve haven’t had the opportunity to do it professionally yet. I’m a software engineer by trade, however, I still haven’t discarded the possibility of one day becoming a professional musician. If music and software engineering were not options on the table for me, I fancy myself probably doing something related to theoretical sciences like physics or mathematics, or possibly human behavior and psychology.

The classical music audience is getting old, are you worried about the future?

Personally, I’m not worried about it. I don’t believe classical music is in any danger of going away any time soon, even though it may seem its audience is shrinking. I believe what’s actually happening is that more forms and genres of music continue to be born decade after decade and this causes audiences to “specialize” or lean towards a particular genre. The fact that hundreds of classical music works are still very relevant and loved by so many, even after hundreds of years in the case of music from the baroque and classical periods, combined with the fact that classical music has also permeated and influenced industries such as filmmaking and video games, should be clear indicators that classical music is here to stay for a long, long time.

What do you envision the role of music to be in the 21st century? Do you see that there is a transformation of this role?

As I mentioned previously, the filmmaking, TV and video game industries seem to be areas where music has had the most influence in the last few decades since the latter half of the 20th century. These industries continue to grow and innovate as the first two decades in the 21st century have practically come and gone, and their use and dependence on well crafted music has only intensified. The number of views on online videos of movie and video game soundtracks is just one indicator of the importance of music in these and other forms of art and entertainment. If one includes things like music therapy and the role of music in psychology and similar disciplines, everything indicates that the 21st century will likely be just the beginning in the flourishing of music as technology and science advances.

Do you think that the musician today needs to be more creative? What is the role of creativity in the musical process for you?

I think it all depends on what you are trying to achieve. Are you trying to come up with something innovative and original or are you more interested in creating something catchy or that is more likely to appeal to the masses? I think there’s a fine line of balance between originality and popularity. One can compose a piece of music so innovative that maybe only few people can understand or relate to it. On the other hand one could decide to keep using, for example, popular harmonic progressions on compositions that may appeal to a lot of people but will hardly ever come from under the shadow of what’s very well known out there, in which case originality is sacrificed. Therefore, it remains to be mentioned that the ability to compose something that is innovative while at the same time has the capability of capturing the listener’s imagination, is a skill of considerable value. Personally, I’m always trying to craft something that is well balanced in regards to both of these areas but, as with most if not all music composers, it’s always tricky to manage the amount of influence your own music tastes and what you have listened in the past has over your composition output. But at the end of the day, you have to give form to all of this from the perspective of what you are actually trying to express and convey with that particular composition.

Do you think we as musicians can do something to attract the younger generation to music concerts? How would you do this?

I believe there are quite a few things we can do to present music to the younger generation in a more appealing way. I think is all a matter of starting from a perspective of what’s interesting to them. For example, there’s an amusing experiment I’ve always done whenever I get the chance. Let’s say I'm at a birthday party or at a shopping mall where for some reason there’s a piano just sitting there waiting to be played. So, I sit at the piano and start playing some classical piece, like Clair de Lune or something, and this causes a few people, mostly older people, turn their heads with considerable interest in what’s being played. But then I switch gears and suddenly start playing, let’s say, the theme for Super Mario Bros. or other popular video game, and you can immediately notice how many more eyes, including most of the younger audience, join the listeners with a great deal of curiosity and interest. I’ve been to a few Symphony Orchestra concerts where the whole program is based on animated feature soundtracks or video games music and the amount of young people assisting to these concerts is very obvious. Once you have captured the interest of the younger audience with something they relate to, it’s not too hard to slowly introduce them to the rest of the classical music repertoire. At least that’s been my experience with some friends and family members I’ve gotten interested in how to enjoy classical music.

Tell us about your creative process. What is your favorite piece (written by you) and how did you start working on it?

I think it’s tricky phenomenon to explain because the creation process has mostly been different from one piece to the next one. Some times a melodic idea pops into your mind and you start developing it in your head days or months before you actually sit at the computer or piano to “officially” work on it in a tangible manner. Other times I’ve just sat at the piano and started improvising until I hear something interesting that I’d love to elaborate on. Or maybe I’ve recently become interested on a particular harmonic progression that I wonder if I can cook up some melodic material for it. Often it’s just a matter of deciding what type of “mood” would be interesting to explore at that particular time. I don’t think I have a piece I can say this is my absolute favorite, but one that has a particularly interesting beginning was “Ethereal Sway”. I think it was between 2006 and 2009, one day I had just listened to a beautiful guitar piece that made use of a very nice accompaniment that was very smooth and flowy, almost like some sort of ostinato that rarely varied through most of the piece. I wanted to make something similar for the piano but with different harmonic progressions and a wider range of notes. With this in mind, in a matter of minutes I came up with the first 16 measures of “Ethereal Sway”, although originally I had no melodic material on those 16 measures, I only had the accompaniment distributed across both hands in the original sheet music sketch. Then, incredibly, right then and there I hit a creative wall for this particular piece. I would go over it in my head trying to think of something that would connect well with this introductory material, and for days, months, even years, I was never convinced by the ideas I came up with to make some progress on the piece. It was until some time in 2016 that I sat down on the piano and actually played through what I had on paper. After a few minutes all of a sudden decent ideas kept coming in and I was able to settle on what most of the piece is now, including the addition of that simple melody one hears on top of that introductory material. For some reason this particular piece required me to actually sit at the piano and try things on it, which literally took me years to realize. When I compare that to one of my other pieces called “A Sunken Heart”, which literally took me less than a couple hours to compose from beginning to end, I’m at a loss of words. The brain and its creative process is a mysterious phenomenon.

Can you give some advice for young people who want to discover classical music for themselves?

Start exploring the most popular works of most popular composers: Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Tchaikovsky. Don’t force yourself to listen (or perform) in full a particular work that you don’t find particularly appealing initially. You can always come back to these works at a later time. Some times is just a matter of learning more about the historic context, life struggles of the composer at the time, harmonic and melodic subtleties of the piece, or the cultural impact a particular work had in history in order to be able to understand and appreciate some musical masterpieces. Read about composers, their times and lives. Getting to know a composer in a more intimate way makes it easier to appreciate their work.

Do you think about the audience when composing?

Often yes, but it varies from one work to the next one. Some compositions are of a more personal or introspective (or even experimental) nature such that, when creating these, as a composer one is more focused on the emotion, mood or idea one is trying to convey and less focused on what the target audience will be or how will the audience receive the work.

What projects are coming up? Do you experiment in your projects?

So far I’ve mostly composed either songs with lyrics or piano instrumentals. But considering that my passion is orchestral music, I plan to start incorporating more instruments in my next compositions. I already have a number of sketched ideas that are waiting for me to put some time aside to work on them to completion. My compositions in the immediate future will likely continue to feature the piano as my main instrument but I can see strings and percussion being added as the next step in my incursion into composing orchestral music. In regards to experimenting, I think I could be experimenting way more that I have done so far, so this is definitively something in my to-do list.