Mikah tells us why he thinks that there will always be a market for classical music, how to experiment with an idea and how to fuel the imagination...
Music means quite a lot to me, as it does I'm sure to many. To me, it is both comfort and companion in the lengthy solitude that accompanies contemplation. It is a bridge to the past; it can make sense of emotions that at the time were mysterious, or obscured. Music is not, to me, a mere tool; it cannot be invoked or used to create the same effect time and time again. Music is to be respected in its own right.
Do you agree that music is all about fantasy?
I do not think all music is about fantasy; unless science too is fantasy, I cannot conceive how the exploration of sound, how the variety of effects that it can create, even if these inspire fantasy, can be classed as a fiction. Though I posit perhaps all music can invoke fantasy, I would never say that fantasy is intrinsic within the music itself.
If you were not a professional musician, would would you have been?
Were I not a professional musician, life would be much the same for me. Music would remain my life's work, but for money I would likely seek to work in the financial industry.
The classical music audience is getting old, are you worried about your future?
I am not worried for my own future; I believe that there will always be a market for Classical music, even if that market becomes slightly smaller, or more selective. What it requires, nowadays, is to reinvent or reimagine works to be relevant, not simply to be proficient (although this is of course extremely important)
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?
Classical music is fast becoming film music, and vice versa; one need only look at the top rated 'Classical' music in charts to discover film music and video game music being put alongside the familiar Classical names. So too is the manner of listening changing; people listen to Classical music in their cars, increasingly so as time passes, or on a train, or whilst walking. I believe that the concert tradition will certainly survive, but that there will be a bias towards e-concerts, so to speak, in the not too distant future.
Weddings, funerals, religious ceremonies and many more events will always require music, and it will always be a sign of affluence and class to have this music produced live. The Classical tradition may be evolving, but it is just that; it is not dying. This would be the perspective, perhaps, of a traditionalist, or one with a more rigid view of what it means to be 'listening' rather than simply 'hearing'. This is not, I believe, a problem exclusive to Classical music, and that all genres of art, and even entertainment, are constantly being challenged and moulded to fit into the increasingly busy, rushed lifestyles of those receiving them.
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?
Unfortunately, I don't think Classical music is really getting a new face, just perhaps a little face-lift. Performers no longer always wear suits and formal gowns, and the Classical soundscapes are making their way through shop speakers and films into the general public. Not much has really changed in a dramatic fashion, but the way that people hear Classical music has changed an amount; it is passively absorbed, or alternately consumed after a fashion where before it might have been a rare, life-changing experience. With the increased availability of music, through downloads and Youtube, more and more music is being listened to by each individual. One no longer hears a piece of Shostakovich and buys one record from a shop, but rather searches on Youtube, or Spotify, or any number of platforms, consuming so much music from a huge variety of performers. Classical music is, perhaps, searching for a way to bridge the gap between the traditions of the past and the path of the future, to seem more consumable, perhaps. I'm not really sure, but I think, no matter what it does or does not attempt to do, 'pure' Classical music will survive untainted.
Do you think that the classical musician today needs to be more creative? Whats the role of creativity in the musical process for you?
The Classical musician today needs be no more creative than the Classical musician of yesteryear. I think many musicians actually become discouraged and shy away from their creativity; it's not that they lack creativity, it is rather that they are afraid of releasing their inhibitions and standing a little to the side of the tradition that holds them on a leash. Creativity *is* the musical process for me; it is the incorporation of personal elements into an impersonal narrative; the sound of an A major chord is an impersonal element of a performance, but the context of that sound, how it is done, the dynamics, the evenness, in either performance or in composition it is this very aspect that transforms music from an impersonal experience to a personal one; it is the inconsistencies of players, as they play in a fashion contrary to tradition or the mode of the day, or composers in doing much the same whilst writing, that demonstrate what art *is*. A communication of experience from one to another. Creativity, therefore, is key, in my opinion, to a performance of *art*, rather than, say, entertainment.
Do you think we musicians can do something to attract young generation into the classical music concerts? How will you proceed?
I have no idea how to attract young generations to Classical concerts other than to make them free, locally run events that feature a couple of very famous names and perhaps one less famous one. All we can do in our day to day lives is to de-mystify Classical music, to make it seem less austere and elitist (which obviously people who listen to Classical music are aware it is not).
Tell us about your creative process. Do you have your favourite piece (written by you) How did you start working on it?
My favourite piece written by me was a piece which involved symmetry, through axes of both pitch and time. I had just listened to Webern's variations for piano and, quite predictably perhaps, decided to 'have a go'. It then evolved into something a little less consistent, less concise and less beautiful than the Webern; probably because that systematic approach to writing absolutely does not suit me.
My favourite piece of my own composition, however, was never written; a lengthy, almost 12 hour improvisation, filled with rhythmical uncertainty, dodgy dynamic choices, unoriginal passages, finger slips, lapses of concentration and large sections of meandering. However, amongst it all there were moments where I truly connected with the material I was trying to express. So, even if only to me, it felt something was achieved in that moment.
Generally, I begin by being inspired by something other than music; a poem, a thought of walking in the rain, a memory, the concept of colour, it essentially does not matter. That inspiration will create a harmonic value (harmony is much more important to me than melody, usually) which I play around with, and try to get to from different angles. I'll have a cup of coffee, or tea, and by the time I'm done making it one of those angles or another will be much more important; I'll try and include another of the angles I discovered as a sub-theme, either in counter-point or as an extra section. It doesn't always work, but when it does, it feels very organic and natural, which I find satisfying.
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 approve entirely. I have composed works to coincide with works by Poe, inspired by paintings, I have watched films with the sound off and tried to improvise appropriate music to them; I don't understand at what point one could insist that music should be divorced from other mediums of art. Take any person's favourite film; the chances are it has a fantastic soundtrack. My own favourite, 'In Absentia' by The Brothers Quay, is an avant-garde mixture of live action and stop-motion, featuring music by Stockhausen and nothing else, in terms of audio. Classical music not only gets along with other mediums of art; it *thrives*.
Can you give some advice for young people who want to discover classical music for themselves?
Step one: if you don't like it, don't pretend to like it. Maybe one day you will, maybe you never will. If someone told me that all Classical music was like Mozart, I probably would never have liked it. I still struggle with his music, and probably always will. But not all Classical music is Mozart. If you don't like what you listened to, try a different composer, or a different instrument, or range of instruments. Classical music is as broad a genre as could really be imagined.
Step two: if you already know a composition or composer you like, Google it! Just have a little read about the composition; maybe it's part of a suite, or maybe you'll see other works by the composer that you know. You've probably been exposed to a lot of Classical music through films and TV, so you already have a firm grip on some of the sound worlds. And if not, that's fine too; most Classical music was written with audiences in mind. It's not about 'understanding' it, or analysing it; feel, hear what the composer is trying to say. This is usually easier with one emotion or another for a person. Maybe you find it easier to undrstand joy than sadness, or maybe dances ignite your heart more readily; whatever it is, there's thousands, if not tens of thousands of compositions that are available, if you have the patience to discover them.
Step three: start noticing similarities between works of a composer you seem to like; maybe it's Beethoven's firey, dramatic gestures, or Debussy's floating, suspended writing, or Schubert's endless melodies, whatever it is, try and notice it. Notice how other composer's approach that aspect of writing differently. Take a sonata by Beethoven, then one by Mozart, by Bach, by Chopin; notice the differences and similarities. Don't let yourself be overwhelmed; this music is here to please you, there is no exam, and nobody expects you to notice everything, let alone straight away.
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?
I touched on this question before, but on the whole I wouldn't say Classical music is getting into the 'consumption business'. It may be using aspects of various other market places to promote itself, but this is not the same thing as making itself a consumable; even though large sectors of it may be trying to become so, the art, at its heart, is not in the sale, the performance, the pricetag. As long as there is a purpose behind Classical music, and composition as a whole, beyond simply making money I could never consider it any different to how it has always been; where before were patrons to composers, now there is crowd sourcing, or patronage to the general public, perhaps. Ultimately, it is the same as it always was, all that appears to have changed is the target audience.
Do you have expectations what regards your listeners, your audience?
I try not to have expectations for anyone listening to my music, but I suppose I naturally assume that they will actually follow every single thought I have had for the composition, regardless of how long I spent on it. Of course, this is entirely unfair, let alone ridiculous, but it is the belief behind my music that the audience will understand that allows me the freedom to write, or play, as I wish to, without pandering to a perceived taste. This ultimately has the effect of polarising attitudes towards the experience, which I more than welcome. I don't ever want to leave people feeling like nothing unexpected happened, often to my detriment!
What projects are coming up? Do you experiment in your projects?
I don't have too much in the pipeline that I can say is going to happen; I have a nasty tendency to leave compositions a few bars in, or a few bars from the end. I take time regularly to experiment with an idea, here or there, but for now I'm content to just see where the wind takes me.