Melanie Spanswick talks about her passions: writing, composing and teaching and why she has been incredibly fortunate to have discovered music in her life.
Music has been a way of life for me since I was 10 years old (when I started to learn to play the piano). I‘ve been incredibly fortunate to have always made my living as a professional musician, and I hope it’s something I can continue to do. For me, music conjures memories, feelings and emotions; these might be happy or sad, but they have the ability to transfix our soul.
Do you agree that music is all about fantasy?
I agree, it is! Music can transport us to another place. Much depends on the style and genre – we are all affected differently, but when it resonates, it can simply fill our hearts with joy.
If you were not a professional musician, would you have been?
I’ve become increasingly interested in psychology, so the job of a psychologist appeals. However, I would absolutely love to fly a 747 jumbo jet – perhaps it’s still not too late to fulfill this dream!
The classical music audience is getting old, are you worried about your future?
It does generally attract an older audience, but it’s always been this way. When I was a student playing to a much older audience was par for the course, so I don’t think much has changed. The challenge is to interest younger people in classical music and the best way to do this is to introduce it in schools.
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?
I think it will continue in much the same vein unless there is a radical shift. If we can convince those in power to consider music education for all, enabling us to really inspire youngsters via music, then we may be able to change or transform the role of classical music in our lives.
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?
It will probably only transform via education – if it can be presented as an attractive, viable option for children and young people, then it will become accessible, as it has in other cultures.
Do you think that the classical musician today needs to be more creative? What’s the role of creativity in the musical process for you?
Yes, creativity is vital; both for the soul and in order to find employment. I love writing about the piano, piano music, and how to play the piano. This process is enjoyable for me, and I hope it is helpful and useful for my readers too. I also love composing; writing music, especially for my instrument, is therapeutic and fun. I started by writing educational piano music for students (who have enjoyed playing it), but I am increasingly accumulating more commissions from professionals, who also seem to like my tuneful, simplistic approach.
Do you think we musicians can do something to attract the younger generation into the classical music concerts? How will you proceed?
If we can help young players to discover their talents and we can nurture their ability, then this is probably the best way to attract the younger generation to this genre. Most children have some aptitude, and they tend to respond best when they are involved and are able to play instruments for themselves. I enjoy working with young people, teaching and coaching them to become accomplished players; this should ideally be done in conjunction with an introduction to classical music as a whole. Going to concerts, listening to lots of music, and sight-reading through pieces are all beneficial activities.
Tell us about your creative process. Do you have your favourite piece (written by you). How did you start working on it?
I need a deadline to work optimally. If a work must be finished within a certain time-frame and for specific performers or a particular project, then my mind whizzes into action! I usually start at the piano. I decide on a key (I tend towards minor keys), and then focus on melodic development. But for me, the importance of harmony outweighs the melody. I love harmonic progressions, especially the use of more unusual chromatic twists.
My favourite piece so far is a suite for piano duet commissioned by a wonderful piano duo. The work consists of five short movements, each one with a different sound. I worked on the last movement first, essentially working backwards (I like to do this). My style is influenced by Minimalism, so the movements are tuneful but with an emphasis on harmonic development, whilst also featuring repetitive structures. The piece was first performed in November 2017 in the UK.
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 think this is a wonderful idea. It kindles a stronger attraction to the music, and adds another dimension. I love music and poetry; a few years ago I regularly performed recitals with a narrator (or orator). We toured around the UK and Canada, performing many works written for this combination. Audiences were struck by how the music enhanced the text, adding emotional depth.
Can you give some advice for young people who want to discover classical music for themselves?
Listen to as much classical music as possible. YouTube, Soundcloud and the like have made it possible to hear almost anything instantly. Do some research, discover an assortment of diverse styles and aim to listen to a different work every day. By hearing a large cohort of music, favourite styles will be quickly identified.
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?
Marketing will perpetually be an important aspect of any business – music or otherwise. It’s a sad fact that if we don’t introduce audiences to our music, then it will remain undiscovered. I write a blog and run a popular Youtube channel, and I hope this helps in my quest to draw attention to my books and compositions.
Do you have expectations with regards your listeners, your audience?
I have no expectations at all. I hope they enjoy hearing tuneful, atmospheric, cinematic music. I also hope pianists like playing the pieces, and find them well written for the instrument.
What projects are coming up? Do you experiment in your projects?
I‘m writing more educational text books and I‘m also writing various compositions. At present, a two-piano work for a two piano team with who I am collaborating on several educational projects. I‘m open to ideas and therefore do like to experiment with projects and with many music combinations; whether that be writing, composing or teaching.