What does music mean to you personally?
It is a space with room for all kinds of emotions.
Do you agree that music is all about fantasy?
I read once that humankind invented music before languages. I think music still communicates something to us which words cannot. It is a more direct way of invoking specific emotions and kindling our imagination. That said, I don't think music is about fantasy only. It is also about community. Religious music and national anthems, for example, invoke specific emotions while also establishing a sense of community.
If you were not a professional musician, what would you have been?
To be honest, I am an organic chemist by training. I work as an organic chemist and compose music in my spare time.
The classical music audience is getting old, are you worried about the future?
Actually not, I think there are some nice people who are making an effort to rekindle the interest in classical music among younger generations. TwoSet Violin, for example. I think those guys are doing an excellent job.
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?
With the increasing demand for entertainment in the form of film and streaming series, I think a lot of the neoclassical music which will be composed in the 21st century will be theme music.
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 so, yes. With all the music that has been composed so far, and only twelve tones to work with (if we exclude microtones), what can be left of new inventions? Yet modern composers keep surprising, either with new music or innovative interpretations of existing works. I get a lot of inspiration from the works of music I listen to, but always try to come up with something different.
Do you think we as musicians can do something to attract the younger generation to music concerts? How would you do this?
That is a good question. I see more and more theme concerts with music from popular movies and TV series, and I think that is a good initiative to attract people who usually do not go to classical concerts, including younger people.
Tell us about your creative process. What is your favorite piece (written by you) and how did you start working on it?
I like to improvise on my piano. I think it's partly because it takes a long time for me to learn to play new pieces, as I never really became good at reading note sheets, so often it is more rewarding to just come up with something myself. I feel it's hard to point out a single piece I have written as my personal favorite, even though I haven't composed that many yet. Perhaps Ye Olde Scotsman's Tale from 2020. It has a certain joyfulness and contrasts many of my other works which are typically of a darker nature. It is very rewarding to play on the piano (I have also made a violin version, but since I cannot play the violin, I don't know if it is as rewarding). I composed it during the first lockdown after having listened to Katy Adelson's wonderful performance of Swallowtail Jig on YouTube over and over again. Then it just emerged while I sat improvising one day.
Can you give some advice for young people who want to discover classical music for themselves?
I think YouTube could be one option. There are multiple playlists available with all from "must know" mainstream pieces (which might be a good place to start) to more niche. Again, TwoSet Violin could also be a good place to start. They have a lot of humorous videos in which they try playing different classical instruments or tell anecdotes about composers, experiences from playing in orchestra etc. If they then find out that classical music is great, I would suggest they went to a concert.
Do you think about the audience when composing?
I do, yes. I try to come up with something which is "nice to listen to". Recently I have become aware that this is not only a matter of coming up with an interesting melody, but also to be able to make that melody travel through a lot of different harmonies to challenge the listener.
What projects are coming up? Do you experiment in your projects?
I am currently working on a second (and final) movement for my Piano Quintet, a project which started in early 2020. I am trying to get better at composing for other instruments than piano, but it is difficult, and how do I compose something that is rewarding for all the instruments to play? I think I have to learn a lot before I can do that. I would also like to become better at composing with counterpoint. So far I have composed two small fughettas in which I have tried to explore the use of counterpoint. I would like to do more of that. And I would also really like to try composing a piece of vocal music.
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