Piano Day – Day 5 – Lubomyr Melnyk

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I am not sure what to say about this man.  I think his playing speaks more about his gift than I ever could.  And it’s in his piano pieces that I am absorbed.  Not so much when his work employs the use of vocals.  In a similar way to Olafur Arnalds recent work, the vocals detract – for me – from the incredible technical abilities of the man.  Like Frahm and Arnalds, he is signed to Erased Tapes but unlike Frahm and Arnalds he is a much more complex pianist.  Not to say the other two are not technically gifted – Frahm, at least, is an incredible pianist – but where they seek space within their music, at times Melnyk’s work is suffocating with its intensity and unrelenting pace and nature.  And it’s in these moments that we see the true genius of the man.  Gifted wouldn’t come close to doing him justice.   The continuous waves of sound he creates are hypnotic, transporting you away from real life and in to a world he has created for us to exist in for the duration of his work.  It’s spell binding.  Which is of course, the intention.  His style sets him apart from his contemporaries and yet, sits him firmly in the same bracket.  To see this man live would be an incredible experience.  One I hope will be possible in the not too distant future.  See for yourself.

 

Piano Day – Day 4 – Dustin O’Halloran

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Dustin O’Halloran may be better known these days for his work as one half of A Winged Victory for the Sullen.  Fair play to him too because the duo have garnered a reputation for creating wonderful soundscapes laced with piano over the course of their two albums to date.  It’s hardly surprising that such attention fell upon the pair though given their respective backgrounds as musicians.  And it is in his solo guise that I first discovered his wonderful piano compositions.

Reading about guys like O’Halloran does make me feel like a fraud.  Like him, I started playing piano at the age of 6/7 but unlike him my thoughts turned to grunge and being cooler than I ever was whilst he was off composing his own piano pieces, enrolling in music school and developing his skill and craft.  My limitations as a pianist I am acutely aware of, so I love to listen to the beauty created by people like O’Halloran and tap in to the idea that more often than not, it’s the beauty you create and not the technical gift that you own.  With O’Halloran it’s obviously both and I adore his work as a solo artist.  Yes, he’s moved on and A Winged Victory do appear to be the focus of his work with his last solo album surfacing in 2011.  However, as a pianist his work as a solo artist, as well as AWVFTS is stunning and something you should definitely invest in.

Piano Day – Day 3 – Olafur Arnalds

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Really uncool thing to say in the world of experimental music – I love Olafur Arnalds.  It’s true though.  I do.  He’s seen as a bit of a popstar when it comes to modern classical composition.  This has a lot to do with the view that a lot of his work is obvious, accessible and pop.   It’s not really a view I share if I am honest although I do understand where it comes from.  However, if it is true then the only thing I can see him being guilty of is turning more and more people on to the modern classical movement, which is no bad thing.

My first experience of his work was ‘Eulogy for Evolution’ and this record is probably the one that made me stop wanting to be in the band I was in and spend more time writing piano compositions.  It’s simplistic in its beauty and totally accessible.  I do challenge anyone to listen to it and not be blown away by it.  There’s Found Songs to and Living Room songs as well – both wonderful pieces of composition.  However, my favourite record is, without doubt, ‘And they have escaped the weight of darkness’.  Personal reasons may dictate this choice – kind of me and my wife’s record from the early days of us – but it really is a wonderful piece of music and still soaks me to the bone with joy when I hear it.

So, to be honest, I don’t care if it’s not cool to love Olafur Arnalds and I don’t care if his work is pop music, essentially.  What I care about is the emotional response I have when I hear his work and on that front he really is something special.

 

Piano Day – Day 2 – Goldmund

It’s day two in the build towards piano day here at TSP.

It’s hard for me to talk about piano without talking about the influence Keith Kenniff has on my own work as glacis.  ‘Famous Places’ is one of my favourite pieces of piano composition.  Much like Nils Frahm’s ‘Felt’ and ‘Screws’, this record is truly all about letting the piano breathe and sing.  There is an elegant simplicity to his work, as Goldmund, that enhances the integrity of the music and produces work of such depth and character that will undoubtedly stand the test of time.  And maybe that’s what fascinates me about instrumental piano music.  It’s almost timeless in many ways.  The history – well that’s another story and one that David Byrne dives into in his book ‘How Music Works’ but imagining listening to Goldmund 100 years ago or 100 years from now and feeling the same emmotional connection is not beyond the realms of belief.   There is a honesty in the compositions that feels like Kenniff pours everything in to his work.  Like the pieces are an extension of him and the connection between piano and him is almost unbreakable.  This is music to live for.

So, here and now, let Goldmund in to your life.

 

Piano Day – 29th March 2015

Ok, so Nils Frahm and his label, Erased Tapes, have announced that 29th March 2015 will be the first official Piano Day.  It’s kind of sweet that Nils feels compelled to create a day celebrating everything piano and who better to drive such a day than one of the most gifted and talented modern piano composers around?

When I saw him in Glasgow back in 2010 I was blown away by him as a performer and pianist.  Since that very small show at the Captain’s Rest, supporting Balmorhea, Nils has gone on to become something of a star.  The Bells, his album of the time, was something quite magnificent but with each release Nils has not only changed his approach and sound but grown as an artist and musician.  His reputation is on the up and up so I imagine that the interest in Piano Day will be significant.  And so it should be.  There are so many wonderful modern day pianists out there at the moment, creating stunningly beautiful work that will always fly under the radar of what is considered mainstream or popular.  Possibly this has to do with the piano as an instrument as there is probably still the perception that it is an instrument synonmous with classical music.  And perhaps it’s because often, the music that is being created predominantly using the piano, is instrumental and there is still a major misunderstanding of accessibility in instrumental music.

Regardless, to celebrate Piano Day we are going to feature a pianist who inspires us or that we love, every day for the rest of March.

So.  To start – why not begin with the man himself, Nils Frahm.

As I said above, I fell in love with his work with his album ‘The Bells’ but have been an avid follower since.  And possibly my favourite of his records his ‘Felt’, which I think captures the beauty of the piano in such special way.  ‘Screws’ was similar in the simplicity that focused on the piano as an instrument and let it sing in a day and age when the piano is often a component of something bigger.  There are not many who can take the piano, break it down into its most simplistic and still hold the attention for a whole record.  Where ‘The Bells’ displayed the technical ability of Frahm as a performer, ‘Felt’ and ‘Screws’ highlighted his unquestionable ability to produce a heart breaking nostalgic melody.  But there is more to Frahm than a simple pianist.  His electronic work both with Anne Muller on ‘7Fingers’ and on his most recent record ‘Spaces’ is something very special indeed and not to be overlook.  However, it is a pianist that I personally believe Nils Frahm excells.  When I saw him, he was disappointed not to have a real piano to perform on.  Any pianist who has that much passion for the instrument is a pianist at heart.  So, please, take a moment and enjoy this wonderfully talented man and support his plans on 29th March.