Kathrin Christians – Interview

 

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Introducing the truly beautiful flautist, Kathrin Christians. Having played the flute from a young age, Kathrin is first class talent, with a clear unconditional dedication to her instrument and her art. It’s always so wonderful to meet young classical artists who carry such passion for this genre of music, and who play with such depth of emotion. I’ve heard a number of recordings by Kathrin, and was really blown away by the clarity of her technique and rich tones as a flautist.

Having won numerous prizes in international awards from “The World Competition” (Australia), to the Lions Music Competition, and actually winning in two successive years, the Music Competition of the City of Heppenheim, Kathrin has a seriously bright future ahead of her and I can’t wait to see her continue to rise as an international success.

Here’s our little chat below:

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Kathrin, thank you so much for joining Meander! How are you?

Hi, its a pleasure! I’m well thank you, just on the train to Leipzig for a few upcoming concerts I have!

Oh, that sounds exciting! Good luck. You’re my first flautist on the blog – pretty exciting! How old were you when you began playing the flute, and did you take to it quite naturally?

It was quite a challenge to start. I actually started to sing at the age of three, and at age four began to play the recorder, but it didn’t really give me the sound I wanted to produce. After lots of research, I actually told my parents I wanted to play the bagpipe – at the age of 6! Yes, their reaction was the same as yours is probably right now!  So they decided to help me find the right instrument…! When I was nine years old, they sent my to a music school to try out the flute, and I fell in love with it almost straight away! The minute I played the flute, I had no doubt this was the instrument for me.

Wow! That must have been a pretty amazing moment. So you mentioned singing, do you still sing?

I sang just as much as I played the flute when I was young, it was very close to my heart, but eventually I had to make the decision to commit to one or the other professionally!  I still do sing though, from time to time! This year I’m actually singing at a very dear friend’s wedding which I’m really looking forward to!

I read that at the age of 23, you became the first flautist with the Heidelberg Symphony Orchestra – that must have been an incredible experience? Did you feel you learnt a lot during your time with the orchestra?

Absolutely! Although I played with orchestras before, it was an amazing thing to play with the same musicians for a couple of years, and to record so many CDs together with them! Its great to work with colleagues so closely, especially during festivals where you also get to play chamber music – its a different experience every day! You really learn the essence of teamwork. Playing with a Symphony Orchestra like Heidelberg is almost like being in a different world with its own, and sometimes, very special rules. 

 

You’ve played all over the world for numerous concerts, from Thailand to Italy, South Korea, Africa and more! Where was your favourite destination and why?

I feel so lucky! Each and every country I’ve played in have been so special in their own magical way!  The deeper the culture, the more I love a country though. Being immersed within different cultures give me such a buzz, lots of energy and new inspiration. 

I do love the UK’s  sense of humour,  South Africa and its people, Italy for its joy of life and food (of course!), Thailand and its tradition within the cities, South Korea and its baths, Japan and its politeness, Burkina Faso and its cultural heritage, Denmark and its soaring landscape…I’d better stop, I could fill the rest of your blog talking about countries I love!

Haha! Wow, you’ve really seen a lot of the world. How wonderful! Who’s music do you like to play more than any other and why? And do you have any favourite general composers?

This isn’t my favourite question, only because its so hard to answer!

I’m really into contemporary music and try to encourage people to explore the different types of music within the genres! For example, you should definitely listen to  Jindrich Feld ‘s Flute Concerto, or Peteris Vasks’s Aria e Danza. I love music that explores expression and emotion, from joy to sadness, from hate to love… anything that conveys deep emotion is my music. 

But at the same time, I do love traditional Romanticism and Impressionism.  This weekend, its all about Richard Strauss, Paganini, Emil Kronke and Piazzolla time. And if someone gave me some Baroque to listen to, I’d say “that’s pretty wonderful!” 

Besides that, I do get my friends to help me appreciate other genres of music. One did send me James Blake’s music to listen to. 

You’ve taken part in a number of prestigious competitions, including the 2013 International ‘The World Competition, The 2012 International Severino Gazzelloni Competition and the 2009 International Mediterranean Flute Competition. Incredible! Are you taking part in any competitions this year?

Hm… we shall see!!

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Your great-granduncle was the infamous Danish composer Carl August Nielsen.  What’s your favourite piece of music he composed?

Oh, please listen to Hymnus Amoris and the Helios Ouverture!! And tell me your thoughts after!

Do you have any concerts coming up this year?

I have quite a few nice projects coming up. After Leipzig, I’ll be playing at a small church in the countryside. Following that, I’ll be going to Italy and France, then will take part in two lovely concerts with  the Württembergische Kammerorchester. And not forgetting my own concert series this Autumn!!

Thanks for chatting on Meander, Kathrin! Wishing you the best of luck with your upcoming projects! 

 

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Germaine D’Rosario – Interview

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Introducing beautiful soprano, Germaine D’Rosario. Artists like Germaine are exactly why I created this blog – I love to support musicians and artists regardless of who they are
where they’ve come from, or what they do. They are dedicated, committed and passionate. They work hard to get to where they want and need to be, and won’t stop until they reach where they are meant to be. I found Germaine, like many of other artists through the powers of social media, and from the moment heard her Soundcloud clip of “Un bel di vedremo”, I just had to get her on Meander to share her enthusiasm and her story.

Germaine’s story is hugely refreshing, and goes to show that pure love for something can go a long, long way. Her voice is a delight, it soars with an impressive range, allowing her to sing from heavy operas we know and love, to musical theatre classics, classical crossover and more. Her talent is undeniable, her fierce adoration for singing couldn’t be more obvious!

I’m so happy to share our chat, and hope that you’ll take as much inspiration from it as I did.

 

HI Germaine, welcome to Meander! How’s it going?

Hello, yes I’m very well, thank you!

So, lets talk about you. Can you give us a little history as to when you’re interest in singing sprang from?

I’ve always loved singing! My dad was a self-taught musician so I believe my musicality was inherited from him. I do remember that, from a very young age, I would sing along to my dad’s records which were mainly rhythm and blues and rock and roll. I was also an enthusiastic member of my primary school choir and over the years, I’ve sung with a number choirs, including my church choir.

I really can’t remember a time when I did not enjoy singing, but it was only after performing with a local theatre group and hearing some of the lovely comments from the cast and the audience that I realized I had a voice which was worth developing with singing lessons. After several years of study, which continue to this day, I felt ready to release two back to back classical singles in 2014.

Your repertoire is incredible. You sing opera, oratorio, musicals and classical crossover works. That’s a huge range – and all requires such different technique! What do you love to sing the most? 

The songs and arias I enjoy singing the most, and which I believe is right for my voice, tend to the ones with a powerful soaring vocal line, but the songs also have to be meaningful and move me in some way. I loved the ethereal feeling of “Winter Light” and the beautiful and emotive“You’ll Never Walk Alone”.

However, I suppose, what I enjoy singing the most are arias from verissimo operas, particularly those by Puccini. I loved recording “Un bel di vedremo” from Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly”; not only was it the fulfilment of a life-time ambition, but the wonderful music and the human story and emotions expressed in the lyrics was a just joy to sing.

Where did you learn all of your technique skills? 

I don’t have a degree in music or drama but instead developed a lot of the skills and techniques when performing with theatre groups, opera companies and choirs. Of course I have also undertaken the vocal training I mentioned earlier; initially this was basic singing lessons with John Yates, then later, classical vocal training with Colin Morris and more recently, advanced vocal and repertoire study with baritone and opera director, Wayne Morris.

Does your musical interest lie solely across the classical music genre or do you take pleasure in listening to all sorts of genres? 

I only started listening to classical music as a young adult, and opera, later still. Prior to that, I tended to listen to “pop” and “soul” music, as well as my dad’s music, which I mentioned earlier; so now, my taste in music can best be described as eclectic! If I want to relax, then I’d probably listen to classical music, opera, or the music of classical crossover artists like Sarah Brightman or Enya. The rest of the time I will listen to other genres including songs currently in the charts. I also enjoy listening to rock bands like Queen and some of my favourite female artists are Etta James, Aretha Franklin, Adele, Sia and Amy Winehouse.

 

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Who is your ultimate favourite classical singer?

I love Maria Callas in roles such as “Norma” or “La Traviata” or “Tosca”. I also enjoy watching Anna Netrebko because she is not only a very beautiful soprano with an equally beautiful voice, but she is also a terrific actress too. However, the soprano I tend to listen to the most is Dame Joan Sutherland; I just love the agility and sheer beauty and purity of her voice.

If you could perform on stage with any artists in the world, who would it be and why? 

I would love to perform with the world’s top opera stars, like Anna Netrebko, Rolando Villazón, Placido Domingo and Jonas Kauffman; I admire their talent and it would be both a pleasure and a privilege to perform with them. I would also love to perform with Sarah Brightman, not only because she is an amazing artist, but I love the sheer spectacle of her concerts and it would be great to be a part of that.

What is  your all-time favourite piece to sing?

It has to be “Un bel di vedremo”. I loved this aria the first time I heard Renata Scotto sing it, and it was then that I knew I wanted to sing opera.  It is a beautiful aria and I love singing it.

How do you prepare before a big performance?

Practise, practise, practise! I like to allow myself plenty of time for learning the music and for rehearsing, although I always stop singing at least a day before the performance date; during this time I will just relax at home and listen to my favourite music. However, a few hours before the performance, I like to have a quick, gentle vocal warm up. Poor health shows in the voice, so a healthy diet and exercise is important. As part of my training as a singer, I visit the gym and go swimming. Finally, on the day of the performance, I ensure everything is organized and that I arrive at the venue in good time so I can just relax and focus on the performance ahead.

What would say are the main qualities needed to become a successful classical singer?

I believe you to have natural musicality and vocal ability, but also the desire and ability to learn new skills and techniques. I also don’t think it’s enough to just have a beautiful voice; the world’s top opera and classical singers show us that you also have to be a superb actor and performer and have “stage presence”. It can also seem that there many obstacles in the way of you achieving success and it could be so easy to give up. I therefore believe that, whilst it is important to take on board constructive criticism, a positive attitude and confidence your own ability is essential.

What do you have planned for 2016? I read that there may be an album coming up in the near future…? 

Yes that’s right! There are a couple of singles that I am looking forward to recording, but I am also really excited about releasing my first album this year. It will be classical-crossover album as I am hoping it will appeal to a wider audience. I can’t write my own material so the tracks will all be covers, but they all songs and ballads that I’ve always loved listening to and singing, and which I think is right for my voice. There is a mix of traditional and modern ballads, songs from musicals and other popular classical crossover tracks.

Thanks so much for talking to us! We wish you all the best in your singing career.

Thank you. I’ve really enjoyed talking to you and I wish you continued success with “Meander”.

N’aw, thanks!!

Luke Navin – Interview

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‘Musical mastermind’ is the only way I can describe Luke Navin. I was so thrilled that he was brought to my attention and am now converted into an ever devoted fan! A first year student at Oxford , Luke’s talent is undeniable both in the forms of pianist and composer. His debut album 7 and a Half Visions of Love is a stunning collection of original compositions for the solo piano, emitting a romantic approach to a beautiful, modern real-life love story. Full of gorgeously rich, melodic phrasing throughout, the album is sprinkled with contemporary touches, creating a listen that’s appealing to anyone from new audiences to those who enjoy film music and works from the great Romantic composers.

‘7 and a Half Visions of Love’ follows a dreamlike journey of love that so many people can identify with along the way, from the moment strangers’ eyes meet across a crowded room, to infatuation; the blossom  of developing love. As the album flows, we are transported through a hurricane of emotion to a beautiful but tragic end, with tracks expressing the grief behind loss of love, when two people are parted from each other forever.

The album features inspiration taken from various forms of art, the classic Romantic composers (Rachmaninoff , Puccini) film composers, things he’s seen, places he’s gone, and of course personal experience. It offers a listening experience full to the brim of depth, meaning and stunning musicality.

I think it was the third listen to the album that made me reflect on the power of human emotion and love, how can we possibly feel so much, and with such depth? This debut disc is huge testament to Luke’s maturity and understanding of emotion, in composition and in playing ability – and he’s only just getting started. A bright, sparkling future for this chap!

Here’s our chat:

Hi Luke, really thrilled to have you on Meander! How are you? 

Thank you, I’m delighted to be featured. I’m having a great time – I remind myself each day that I’m so lucky to be doing something I love. So few people get to do that. I’m just heading back to Oxford for the summer term, which should keep me very busy for the next few weeks!

You’re a composer and a pianist, what would you first and foremost consider yourself?

A composer. Every composer needs some medium to express their ideas, and the piano has always been mine. The piano feels like an extension of me. Any idea that comes to mind, I will play through on the piano before doing anything else.

Where did you receive your musical training? Have you been playing the piano from childhood? 

 I’ve been playing for a long time – since the age of three, although I wasn’t allowed to have lessons until I was five as I was rather small and my arms could barely reach the piano! I had a wonderful music teacher who I badgered every single day non stop until she gave me lessons. I had a string of wonderful piano teachers, the last of whom was the concert pianist Warren Mailley-Smith. He’s always been tremendously supportive.

Much of your music is characterised by the late romantic style of playing, where did your love for this particular style stem from?

Like anything, I think it comes from experiencing different styles of music and discovering how they affect you. I found that there was something about the late Romantic style that really had a profound effect on me – harmonically in particular. I saw Tosca when I was very young and it sparked an interest both in opera and the late Romantic style as a whole.

You compose for a number of different things, personal commissions, to sacred events and for film and television – what projects do you enjoy working on the most and why?

I love anything with singers, and I love music that tells a story. Increasingly I enjoy writing more secular music as I find it better allows me to embrace my natural music style. That said, Christmas is always a fun time for sacred stuff – last year I composed a very uplifting carol for SATB for a large London choir, which was really tremendous fun.

Your debut album 7 and a Half Visions of Love is absolutely stunning. How did the creation process start? Did you tinkle about with a motif in yourmind or take inspiration from a particular piece?

Thank you, I’m so glad you’re enjoying it! I rarely compose at the piano. I started with really a lot of ideas in my head – for every day I thought about this album I found I had another ten ideas. I think a lot of the creation process was actually filtering down the multitude of ideas and piecing them all together in a way that made sense. It’s impossible not to take inspiration, especially when you’re young, and both Puccini and Rachmaninoff have been great inspirations for me. If I were to name one piece, I think the Intermezzo from Manon Lescaut probably had a big impact – I must have listened to that piece a thousand times!

 

 

As a listener, I grew incredibly emotional as the album developed. Following the journey of the various stages of love – how did you manage to capture such raw emotion and translate it into music?

I’m delighted to hear that. To me there is no right or wrong way of capturing emotion – it’s something every composer tries to do, and each will have a different idea of how to do it. You have to write in a way that means something to you, and I’m lucky that what appeals to me and what affects me musically is often in line with what will appeal to a broad range of future listeners. My music is in no way elite or specialist, and will speak very directly to the emotions of everyone.

There’s often a perception that classical music requires a trained ear in order to appreciate it, when in fact this is often not the case – particularly when it comes to romantic music, and particularly not here. The very words ‘classical music’ can be so plagued by this dogma that I’m almost reluctant to use the label on my music – it’s seems unfair as this album certainly has popular appeal.

 

Were tracks of this album based upon personal reflection?

The entire album, in fact, is inspired by my experiences over the past two years. I took a year to focus on composition before beginning my time at Oxford University last year. However, midway through, I met a wonderful girl in Covent Garden who lived in Rome, and my year of composing became somewhat sidelined by the wonderful love story that ensued. Nearly two years on, this album tells that beautiful story. You could say I’m making up for all the pieces I didn’t get round to writing a year ago when I was whisked off to Rome!

 

Well that’s just quite beautiful! Whilst it’s clear to hear that this album features huge amounts of Romanticism qualities, you can also clearly detect modern skill. How do you take modern technique and apply it to the Romantic style?

It’s certainly not a conscious effort. Neither is it a conscious effort to hark back to romanticism – it’s just what feels natural and expressive to me. Rather than harking back, I feel that I’m picking up where romanticism left off. Music went in many different directions in the first half of the 20th century, not all of them good. With the benefit of hindsight, I’m going back to a real musical high point and working from there. That’s not to say that the 20th century didn’t produce some fabulous new music – of course it did. I just feel that romanticism is far from dead and so much more can be made of it today.

Are there certain composers that you took big inspiration from through the creation stages? I imagine you took inspiration from a number of film composers as well as classical?

Film music is terrific – it’s perhaps the most exciting medium for musical expression around today. Puccini was a master of musical expression, and if he’d lived a little longer there is no doubt he would have got into film music. It’s such a terrific platform and allows some great music to reach more people than ever before. As far as inspiration, I love Schubert – his music is so exquisite. And Rachmaninoff – much like great a great film score, his music can transport you to the farthest corners of the earth, and of course as a pianist Rachmaninoff has an extra appeal in that so much of it you can play! That said, I’ve spent months of my life playing through Puccini and Wagner’s operas in vocal scores… just playing through the Liebestod from the end of Tristan and Isolde, even without a singer, brings tears to the eyes.

What else influences you as a composer and musician? Art and Culture? Travel?

I love the visual element to music as well as the emotive one, so both art and travel are very important. Rachmaninoff composed one of his most dramatic pieces based on a painting entitled ‘The Isle of the Dead’, and the vision of this place (a dark and gloomy island in the middle of the ocean) in the music is profound. Every place and every image can in some way be captured musically, and working out how to do it is a real joy. I suspect this is where my love of both opera and film music stems from, on top of the emotional element involved. Music that depicts and enhances both location and visuals, and deep human emotion seems like such a complete package.

What’s your personal favourite piece from 7 and a Half Visions of Love and why?

I like the fourth track ‘Till Death Do Us Part’. I think that as a single piece it has a very complete journey from start to finish, as well as some of the most lyrical and longing melodic phrases in the album.

What’s coming up for you over the next year? Do you plan to give live performances of your album?

I’m quite busy at Oxford for the next few weeks, but after that I will be focusing on concerts. I’ll be doing a concert showcasing the album in London in the summer – it will be something really special and unique, and definitely more than your ordinary piano recital, so definitely one to look out for. I’ll keep you posted!

Thanks so much for chatting on Meander, we wish you huge success with all your future ventures!

Thank you.

Aled Jones – Interview

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As a trained classical singer myself, on a personal level I was so, so beyond excited to get the chance to chat to the one and only Aled Jones on my blog. So many of us have grown up alongside the infamous vocals of a young chorister that warmed the hearts of the nation, especially with that timeless and truly treasured Christmas favourite,’Walking in the Air‘.

Released through the Classic FM Label, Aled’s new album ‘One Voice‘ takes us all down a trip to memory lane with him but with a bit of a modern twist, as he duets in the present day, with himself as a boy. In fact, this very album is the last he ever recorded as a boy before his voice broke, and as Aled says in our interview below,  is the best he feels he ever sang as a boy.

The folksong classics featured in ‘One Voice’ offer huge amounts of nostalgia, with songs including Danny Boy, O Waly, Waly and The Lark In The Clear Air. With works on the album composed by Britten, Vaughan Williams abd many more, Aled applies his modern-day technique to classic, traditional music we all know and love; the songs that take us back to the good old days. What rings true is the depth of emotion Aled carries throughout each track, as he journeys from boy to man in a simple yet beautifully executed record.

Here’s my little interview with Aled on ‘One Voice’ and his hugely exciting, upcoming Cathedral Tour:

Aled, welcome! Firstly, a huge, huge congratulations on the release of your truly beautiful album, ‘One Voice’. How have you found the response so far?

It’s been phenomenal and very humbling.  I never in my wildest dreams thought that it would resonate with so many people.  I’m thrilled!!

Not to mention that you have, ahem, overtaken Adele’s ’25’ in the best seller charts?!

Well I’m sure it’s a fleeting thing!! She is an incredible artist and I bought her album.  I have to admit it’s an amazing feeling being top of the best seller chart.  My producer still can’t believe it and checks the chart every hour!!!

What’s the back-story to the creation of ‘One Voice’? The last ever album you recorded as a boy was discovered almost by accident, where was it lying all this time?

It was in my mum and dads airing cupboard – lying there for 30 years – only in there to keep warm as moisture would have destroyed the original recording.  It was my last record as a boy but never released as my boy voice broke.  When I heard it a year ago I was bowled over by it – I’d forgotten that my boy voice was so sparkly.  I honestly do believe this is the best singing I ever did as a boy.

You spent years and years of your life avoiding listening to the 16 albums you had released as a child, what made you listen to this particular album?

I suppose I’m at an age now when it’s OK to look back.  I almost feel as if I’m the grandfather being proud of a grandson. I’ve listened to this album more than any other I’ve ever released.  And for the first time ever I’m proud of what I achieved as a boy.

 

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And so you should be! Do you remember recording the album as a boy?

No!!!

Haha! What was it like to sing alongside your younger-self for the very first time, were you struck with emotion?

There was no guarantee that both voices would blend or that the project would work.  We decided to record Eriskay Love Lilt first and the moment both voices sang in harmony – the producer and I stopped and at the same time said – ‘did you feel that?’ Hairs on back of neck and arms were standing on end.  It was the first time I had ever experienced anything like it.  People have said they feel the same thing listening to the album which is great.  After that it was the easiest most pleasurable recording session I’ve ever done.

 

Do you have a personal favourite track of the album? If so, which song and why?

I love ‘Eriskay Love Lilt’, ‘Danny Boy’ and ‘David of the White Rock’. Although to be honest I love them all!

 We have to agree with you on that one, they are all pretty stunning. Are these original duets something you’re considering to continue with in the future or was ‘One Voice’ a really special one off?

It’s a one off – apparently we’ve made world history with this one – so let’s end on a high!!

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A world-first, impressive! Your Cathedral tour sounds absolutely divine –  have you sung at all the venues before? Where are you looking forward to visiting/going back to the most?

I haven’t sung at all the venues so there will be a few surprises for me too.  It will be very emotional for me to sing at Bangor Cathedral again where I was a chorister – I haven’t sung there since I was 12! To be honest I’m really looking forward to all the dates.  What a treat to sing in these amazing buildings – and every one of them is different.

What can audiences expect from your tour? Will we be graced with hearing you duets in the live performances? 

Yes – the first half will be me duetting with my boy voice live as it were – with films and projections of little Aled being played.  The second half will consist of inspirational music – songs, hymns and special guests too!  It definitely won’t be a stuffy evening – but more a real celebration.

Thanks Aled!

Celebrate with Aled Jones as he embarks on his Cathedral Tour, kicking off in May! All the dates can be found below!

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AyseDeniz – Interview

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Hailing from Turkey, classical pianist AyseDeniz is nothing less than a musical genius. Her talent undeniable, her originality admirable. Following the major success of her Pink Floyd Classical Concept album, AyseDeniz has returned with a project that has, and no doubt will continue to blow the minds of music appreciators across the globe.

‘The Nirvana Project’ is a stunning interpretation of a number of grunge-band Nirvana’s most famous tracks, cleverly incorporating her own traditional, classical technique in the most authentic and nostalgic way. Grabbing inspiration from Kurt Cobain’s personal journals and musical motifs, AyseDeniz’s project reflects the last five years of Kurt Cobain’s life, symbolising his spirit, through to his wife, child and characters in the music he wrote. At the age of 27, which just so happens to be the same age as Cobain’s when he ended his life, AyseDeniz has dedicated this entire project to celebrate Cobain’s legacy through the connection of classical music, rock and grunge. When listening to ‘The Nirvana Project’, the clarity in what AyseDeniz is trying to achieve is easy to hear. Her passion for the project, for her music and what inspires her is portrayed so strongly in this album, you feel so connected to it. The album is not just a tribute to Nirvana, but also a project that conveys human interest, a dedicated concentration on the human mind and demonstrates the power of music.

AyseDeniz’s use of classical techniques is beautifully infiltrated throughout the album, from the polyphonic baroque style in ‘Come As You Are’, to a style reminiscent of Prokofiev in ‘In Bloom’ and even similarities with Chopin’s Funeral March in ‘Something In The Way’, this album is a stroke of genius and once you finish the album, you feel like you’ve taken a huge journey spanning across Cobain’s final years that were dark and full of mystery. This record is mesmerizing and I couldn’t think of anyone better to interpret Cobain’s last five years as thoroughly, creatively and beautifully as AyseDeniz.

I had a chat with the beautiful AyseDeniz below, see what she had to say!

Hello AyseDeniz! Welcome to Meander, thanks so much for coming on the blog.

It’s a pleasure for me to be on your blog.

For the readers that may not be so familiar with your work, can you tell us a little bit about yourself? How old were you when you started playing the piano and compose music? 

I started playing with my piano as a baby, and I would spend a lot of time singing and banging notes on it. Since I was 4 my mother would take me to a piano duo in Ankara, a Turkish couple educated at Eastman & Juilliard. The wife was the main teacher for all the kids and if you were good enough you would get the chance to study with the husband.

They were both very disciplined, however, they refused to take me on until I was 5 and a half, saying my hands were too small to start professional training. I was very keen on the piano and with my mother’s help in between her medical career (during lunch times she would call to have me play for her over the phone and then fix my mistakes), I started an accelerated programme and quickly upgraded to the same class as students double my age. When I performed JS Bach’s 5th Keyboard Concerto with an orchestra at 9, it was clear that I would be taking the path to become a concert pianist.

Regarding composing: it was actually a way for me to take a break from the pressure and perfection of classical music. I would seek mental escape from all the structure and discipline, by improvising whatever I wanted.

In middle school I took some jazz lessons and played with a band occasionally, learning about different scales and styles. When I chose GCSE Music Composition, this made me familiar with writing scores on Sibelius and later in university, when I got an Apple computer, it came with Garage Band, on which I wrote many 80’s-sounding pop songs, fuelled by failed romantic endeavours. In fact the lyrics to this day are in secret folders never to be opened!!

Generally until now, I treated composing as my diary – it was not something I wanted the public to hear. It was a way to channel my thoughts, express my craziness, my faults, my wishes and guilty pleasures. I could break all the rules of my education secretly and no one could tell me what to do.

Yet, as I grew up, the part of me that wanted to bring more personal ways to my performance style began dominating my thoughts so I started doing rock arrangements for piano, in order to merge the music I listened to growing up, with music I admired as a performer. I realised these had the potential to bring audiences together, and to attract younger people – especially those who are my age, for a change!! So I took my chance and released three Pink Floyd arrangements that I arranged in the style of Franz Liszt – who was the rock star of his time. This attracted surprising amount to interest from both Prog Rock and classical audiences that people wanted more. Thus came the Pink Floyd Classical Concept Album, followed by Nirvana Classical Album.


When did you begin to explore the idea of taking your classical techniques and 
applying them to alternative music? 

After graduating from university, I was very excited to finally have the skills and technique to experiment with the non-classical music that I listened to growing up. Mostly in my teenage years I had difficulty communicating with my friends of the same age, as they did not have any interest in classical music. I would be hanging out with their grandparents after my concerts… I had to find a way to bridge the gap between old and young people. I also thought classical performers were very strict, formal and unapproachable. I did not find most going to classical performances fun as a kid, although I absolutely loved performing. I preferred listening to CDs at home, where I could be myself without the formalities. I could dance to it, accompany it or turn it on so loud that the neighbours would complain.

I wanted to bring back the traditions of making music that people can relate to, and enjoy while they can actively hear what is going on. If you think about it, all famous composers were also great performers: Mozart, Schumann, Chopin, Liszt, Rachmaninoff, Paganini… They drew so many inspirations from visual arts to folk songs, from street music to ballroom dances in their compositions that their audiences could follow what they were trying to explain with notes.

As part of my Masters at Royal Academy of Music, I began searching for a new idea in which I could do the same. One day while practising I thought of how Liszt turned Dante’s Inferno into a musical work, which criticised society and talked about the wrongdoings of the people who then suffered in Hell. Victor Hugo’s interpretation of the book in his poem “After Reading Dante” emphasised how this was in fact all existent in the real world and that the whole concept was a metaphor by Dante. It clicked: the music of Pink Floyd had the same underlining messages especially in their philosophical film “The Wall” – criticising humanity, faulty education system, war and consumer culture. Liszt’s use of the chant: Dies Irae in Totentanz was so similar to Another Brick In The Wall’s theme that I started with this arrangement and continued with other songs.

 

aysedeniz

 

Your previous album was a Pink Floyd Classical Concept record – a huge triumph. Have you always taken inspiration from this kind of progressive rock and grunge genre? Were these the kind of bands you listened to growing up? 

I listened to a lot or Rock and Pop music in my teens because of my classmates who introduced me to Aerosmith, RHCP, Metallica, System of a Down, Offspring, Nirvana and Pink Floyd… I always thought of them as the post-romantic composers full of energy and contrast. I also listened to a lot of Cat Stevens, Freddie Mercury, Beatles, Supertramp, ABBA, and musicals like Grease, Hair and Cats because my parents loved them. MJ was my favourite artist of all time, and I also listened to some Turkish Rock and Pop artists: Tarkan, Duman, Mor ve Otesi and Teoman.

Just to add, Backstreet Boys, N’Sync, Destiny’s Child, Madonna, Cher, Celine Dion, Atomic Kitten, Mr. Big, Elton John and Britney Spears were pretty big in my playlist as well! I guess this is why I became a confused pianist!!

Haha, Atomic Kitten! Now that takes us back to the good old days! Now your latest record release is the Nirvana Project. As a listener, I felt strangely attached to a few of the tracks. Its quite an intimate experience, is that what you aimed to create? 

I really wanted to create a new experience of listening to the same melodies of Nirvana but from a much more personal perspective – from Kurt Cobain’s own imagined mind during his last years. As I would be 27, this was a perfect time to try to relate to him and understand what difficulties he went through. I also wanted to include his feminist, anti-racist and anti-consumerist social messages in the album.

I also composed a suite for him, with many sounds symbolising his struggle with drug addiction.

aysedeniz2

The Nirvana Project was a live experience too, involving not only yourself on the piano, but also using electronic music, and choreography – was this something you envisioned from the start of creating your project?

Although the core of the project is the Nirvana Classical tracks which are only for piano, the Nirvana Project developed into a collaborative work. I was always dreaming of collaborating with a dancer and a DJ. This was the perfect excuse to start, so I asked Ekin Bernay if she wanted to make a music video. Meanwhile I got in touch with Ivan Shopov, who was very keen on the project, and we began working on the whole album together. I learned a lot from them during our sessions.

You must have had to do a lot of research into Kurt Cobain’s personal life, I bet that was fascinating? 

I learned so much about him by reading his journals – he was so creative, unique and sensitive. The more I read, the more I was inspired by him. Too bad the media only focuses on his death – there are so many more important stories of his life that need to be emphasised – especially what he lived for and his social messages.

I imagine a few of the lyrics from Nirvana’s tracks were a personal inspiration for you when composing the music? 

The lyrics of Kurt’s songs were actually not that direct and he also did not like explaining their meanings. Most are almost surrealist and there are many different takes on what people think they symbolise. I think he was a wonderful poet, and because of his talent of being vague, he makes one question and think for herself/himself.

What really captivated me personally whilst listening to the album (many times!) was that you really do stay true to your classical roots, and adapt all your technique into creating something that a true music fan would appreciate as a tribute to Kurt Cobain and Nirvana. ‘Come As You Are’ for example, you can clearly distinguish the use of baroque style, then hugely washed over by the depth of romantic playing. The album is an incredible theatrical experience! How on earth did you do it?! Haha! 

Thanks :)) My roots are classical, and it would be dishonest if I tried to destroy those. I did, after all, have Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev in the same playlist as Nirvana, and whenever I was frustrated with the world I would do headbands in my room as a teenager listening to them. After many years I loved reconnecting with my past, and the journey of trying to link classical to grunge music.

Another thing I really love is the fact that you’ve reiterated Cobain’s viewpoint through this album. Watching the live experience version of ‘Rape Me’ is incredibly powerful, especially with his quote at the beginning, only to then translate this through the use of choreography and, of course your musical interpretation. Did you feel emotionally connected to this album through the creation process?

Coming from the Middle East, I have witnessed oppression of women and the amount of sacrifice they make in order to sustain peace and love in this world. I arranged “Rape Me” which is an anti-rape song, to be deliberately aggressive. The clusters and the crying ethnic voice represent the cries of women, facing terrible crimes such as rape, honour killings and child brides. Kurt was a feminist, and I thought the best way was really going for it.

That is so incredibly powerful, and effective. Its unbelievable, and actually soul destroying to think that it is still such a major global issue. Thank you so much for talking to Meander, and for giving us an insight into your world when creating the Nirvana Project. What’s coming up next for you, AyseDeniz? 

I have released the unplugged versions of the tracks as Nirvana Classical – they are available as well as my Pink Floyd Classical Concept on my website aysedeniz.org in signed edition!

I will spend most of May recording new albums, which include Classical Hits, as well as my own compositions that I have never released before. There are also a few Coldplay covers as well as jazzy surprises, so stay tuned! I will also be playing some of these pieces at Piano City Milano on May 22nd, which is really exciting! You are invited!

We’ll be there!! We wish you all the best and hope to see you on Meander again soon!

Thanks for the wonderful questions!

Reciprocity

I was born before the world knew how to look the other way.
‘I am’ by Darya Farha    

                                                                                               

Once commission, One composer. One poet. One legacy.

A canadian poet, therapist, filmmaker and clothing designer with a passion for modern dance; Darya Farha was a woman of extraordinary significance. She was sharp, intelligent and held a dry sense of humour; loved by many. In 2011, Darya tragically died from breast cancer.

Developed by the composer Daniel Patrick Cohen, Reciprocity is an incredible piece inspired by six poems by Darya, commissioned by her sister, Juliana Farha. Reciprocity is not a personal tribute, and it’s not a ‘cancer piece’. One may suggest that Daniel had a huge task ahead of him-  how on earth do you create a piece of music that although contains Darya’s work, isn’t a musical eulogy? How do you compose a piece that doesn’t say ‘health awareness’ written all over it?  Well the only way to know is to experience this moving, enchanting 28’ chamber work for voice, taped narration, eight celli, piano, and percussion live on Wednesday 10th June at the Forge, Camden.

Experience Darya’s work with it’s ‘humanity, joy, dark humour and occasional despair’ come to life  in two days’ time, the premiere will feature the captivating young jazz singer Alice Zawadzki.

Reciprocity is touching, amusing, sparkling. And Juliana captures the essence of  this piece beautifully: That’s art, I think: work that finds its origins in the particular, and then transcends them.