Milana Zilnik “Moonlight Stroll”

Editor’s Choice 26th October 2014

The Piano Cloud rather prides itself on bringing you the very best new piano music we can find on SoundCloud and beyond. So it is a particular pleasure to bring you this superb piano solo from Milana Zilnik, released earlier this month, because alongside the original “Moonlight Stroll” track itself we can also share with you a massive set of 50 other pieces – more than two and a half hours music – inspired by “Moonlight Stroll”, and featuring several artists who are associated with this site.

When Milana released her original she issued the following challenge:

“We decided to offer it for you to remix, arrange or orchestrate. You may download this file or download the following archive that includes both this version and quantized version (90bpm) with both WAV and MIDI files. Use your imagination…  You shouldn’t follow the original piano as-is but as well can cut parts of the MIDI, leaving some connection to the original, e.g. by incorporating the same motif.

At the end I will choose the most unusual and intriguing arrangements and send them to my publisher for commercial licensing – of course, upon mutual agreement about the split with the arranger :)”

The beauty of Milana’s music, together with the incentive of the challenge, inspired the huge response from other musicians, making “Moonlight Stroll” something of a SoundCloud sensation throughout October, appearing in several guises across the site. The remixes alone have received more than 76,000 plays this month, and combined with Milana’s original this adds up to more than 90,000 – vastly higher than expectations!

So what about those remixes – are they any good? Oh YES! Listening to the complete playlist below, the first thing that will strike you is the sheer range of styles and interpretations, from orchestration to ambient, from rock to dark and creepy, some guitar based, others with sax to the fore, with R & B, Pop songs and Ballads all making their presence contribute to an astounding musical tapestry.

Asked to select a few favourite interpretations, these were suggested by project producer Artyom Tchebotaryov:

Firstly this superb orchestration by Piano Cloud member Koen Janssen:

And then this wonderful song based on the piano original:

But as Arty noted, there are so many outstanding collaborations and contributions that it is only fitting to provide the Playlist containing the lot:

Milana Zilnik “Accidental Etudes”


Milana Zilnik is a talented pianist born in Ukraine and resident in Canada. She is known for her gorgeous improvisations, of which this album is composed entirely. “Accidental Études” is the second of her original piano albums, with the tracks recorded in 2013.

The creative process for this album also involved her husband Artyom, who invented some of the short melodic motifs upon which Milana based her improvisations.

Milana writes:

“It never ceases to amaze me how music finds its way to come through us from the world and back into the world. Anything that surrounds us can become the inspiration that ends up being a musical story, a journey on the ivory keys: a sight from a window, child’s laughter, bad weather, good weather, tranquillity of a forest, rumbling storms, pain and happiness, madness within and falling in love. Every time I get a chance to escape to my world of music with a touch on keys, I feel like I discover another improvisation hidden in my effort to compose. These improvisations of mine are purely accidental: they are moments in time that never repeat. I hope you will enjoy these little accidental études.”

 

Preview “Accidental Études” as you read the track by track review below …

It brings me great pleasure to review this album, which I first began listening to back in May. It starts with “Accidental Étude”, which builds beautifully with it’s dramatic moving harmony and stunning melody. The repeating melody resonates and sounds anthemic. Milana uses some interesting discordant patterns here and there to add to the ‘accidental’ nature of the piece. This track is the epitome of the album’s focus on moments in time which are purely accidental, and cannot be repeated. This is a captivating track which leaves the listener wanting more.

“Sunny Keys” sounds very buoyant in nature, and again features a glorious melody. Milana explores and develops this melody to its fullest, reaching the highest and lowest ranges of the piano in the process. The performance is exemplary, with passion being driven into every note. I particularly enjoy the fact that Milana chose not to make the ending too epic, thus letting the listener wind down to its airy goodness.

“Winds and Tides” starts off almost like a piano exercise with a simple melody. The “to and fro” nature of the melody creates the imagery of the tides, with a very grounded harmony playing the part of the strong, full wind. My favourite part comes around 1:22 where she comes upon one of those gorgeous chord progressions that any pianist would be proud of.

“Dare to Be Me” starts off energetically, almost tauntingly. The sense that I get from this track is one of accomplishment, underscored by the choice of chords and cadences. I love how the melody keeps moving, playing around the middle register of the piano. It is purely complimentary to the tracks we have already heard, and shines with Milana’s originality and graceful touch.

“Feel My Pain” is another quite personal track. The melody is emotional, played softly, and strikes right to the core. Milana adopts a slow pace, and leaves a lot of room and space for resonance between each chord. This track is successful in giving not too much, but not too little. It allows the listener to fill in the silence, and the bond created is passionate and unbreakable. It feels very much like a lounge track, and I would have loved to have been there at the time this was written. This track is one to drink a fine white wine to … but make sure it’s very, very chilled!

“I Won’t Give Up” continues the personal themes of the album, and is again based around a poignant, deeply felt melody. The movement, as always, is astonishing; everything is fluid. The piece conjures up those image of inner turmoil, and of the twisting tendrils of emotion which we go through daily. This is furthered in the following track “The Madness Within,” which is astonishingly powerful, and even more gripping. “Storms in my Soul” also continues this same theme, and starts in a more neoclassical in nature with its focus on accidentals at the start, before stirring into a rapturously powerful theme.

“Missing the Sun” is another slow track, and is my favourite on the album. Milana’s performance is fantastic, and is the reason why the track is so captivating. The dynamics are astounding, with the melody being so soft in places, but the chords being so powerful that they make my speakers buzz. It is also perhaps the first track that Milana lets her jazz side come out, with some beautiful flicks and chord choices.

“When I am In Love” is also simply a classic. It’s one of those pieces you would expect to hear everywhere. As usual, Milana’s melody is stunning, original, and one which you just know will capture the hearts of many. There are tracks which you come across, and you say to yourself “why didn’t I come up with that?!” But the fact is you just can’t, as these musical developments come from within the artist herself, and Milana clearly has her own passionate fire burning inside to produce a melody as stunning as this; one which we hope burns forever.

“Dancing with Hades” is an interesting title, named after the Greek god of the underworld. This is one of the sadder themes on the album, though not nearly as sad as “When I Can’t Fly.” The latter immediately portrays the image of a shackled person, unable to reach their potential. It represents another strife in life, with Milana’s heart shining through all of it.

“Waltz of a Dying Candle” is another of my favourites, and one of the finest improvised waltzes I have heard. The track rumbles with emotion, and despite its title I feel like it is so powerful that it could burn on forever. The candle might be dying, but I’m sure there’s plenty of wick left for the flame to engulf us!

The album then suitably ends with “Out of the Dark”, which provides some resolution to the emotional journey Milana has taken us through.

This is such a striking album, and I just know that you will enjoy it. Please support Milana by following the link below!

 

 

Steve Kohl “Time with you”

Editor’s Choice 19th October 2014

selected by Andrew Eales

In an age when too much of the music that achieves widespread popularity is manufactured or simply “calculated” to hit “the spot”, it is refreshing to discover new music that is simply an authentic expression of the artist’s emotions and intent. Steve Kohl is an artist who is consistently true to his spirit, and his piano pieces are becoming ever more popular on SoundCloud and beyond.

“Time with you” – his latest release – is one such. His track description tantalisingly tells us:

“Some things money just can’t buy, and for me one of the most valuable of those is spending time with my bride of 39 years.”

Eager to find out more about the background of the piece, and aware that Steve’s wife has recently been through a testing battle with illness, I asked Steve to tell me more about this beautiful piece. He explains:

“Time With You” was started one evening as I was playing around in the key of Ab which is not comfortable for me as I prefer stuff with less sharps/flats! However, a progression was emerging but was still lacking a good “chorus”. A couple of days later I stumbled across what is now the chorus and it fit perfectly. When I first started working on this music I thought it would be darker, but as I finished and added the flute, voices, etc it became quite romantic I thought.

And, my wife and I find ourselves terribly busy each with our own stuff as well as our nine kids (yes, all ours) and their life issues and new babies (we have 5 grand kids currently), it seems we have to really work at spending time together. I remember when we first met, I just wanted to spend time with her, be around her, listen to her talk and watch her as she did. Then over the years I’ve almost lost her a couple of times, including the recent cancer bout, and if I used to take her for granted some in the past I certainly don’t now! I can’t imagine life without her. This song is the second one I’ve dedicated to her; the first one is called “Desiree” which plays to a video I made of and for her to celebrate her life at http://youtu.be/8hOqV9-EH5k.

Thanks again for your direct effect on my music as when I first came to SC I was new to all of this, and wasn’t even sure anyone else like my music. The comments (especially) of you and others have helped me develop/mature quite a bit in my composing and even playing and hopefully I can get more time for it sooner or later.”

I am sure I speak for many in saying that I very much hope so too!

Purple Rhapsody “Momentary Muse”

Simon Reich reviews and discusses Terry Robinson’s great new album with him…

Purple Rhapsody Terry Robinson is a talented multi-instrumentalist  from Manchester in the UK (although piano is his main instrument). When starting his online musical journey, he decided that the name Terry Robinson was too common and would never end up ranking anywhere in the online search engines. So like Karl Wallinger, whose solo projects have the “World Party” moniker, Terry decided to have a band name!
Purple – because despite being red-green colour blind he loves the colour purple
Rhapsody – because it implies emotional music that captivates

“Momentary Muse” is the 3rd album release from the “Purple Rhapsody” project name.  The “Pianoforte” album came first, followed by “Interludes and Epiphanies”. Terry stated,

“I’m most proud of this one, not because it’s the newest but because I think it’s the most engaging with the greatest variety of moods and arrangements out of all my piano albums.”

He also went on to say that,

““Momentary Muse has been over a year in the making. During an exceptionally busy life, full of ups and downs. Finding the time to write music can be challenging, but making the time is so important because what more cathartic way is there to let the emotions run free and release the stress from the soul than playing on the piano? For me there is no other way.This is why the album is called Momentary Muse – the 16 pieces of music were snatched from the midst of stress, anger, frustration and, most importantly joy. Snatched in moments of tranquility in-between the madness.”

preview the album as you read on: track by track

Falling Cherry Blossom – a great opener to the album. It begins with a really light touch & gradually builds using a central melodic theme. The middle of the tune uses some really strong left & right hand parts to once again establish the melody. Eventually the tune trails off into some beautiful, lightly played arpeggios and restated melody. Terry explains the creation like this,

“The window was open & the blossom blew in on a strong wind and as I looked out into a whirlwind of pink blossom from the tree in my garden this piece came to me – not many things are as inspiring as nature herself.”
“This is my most popular track on SC with over 25,000 plays! Not sure why but a year after I put up on SC it’s still getting between 50 & 100 plays a week.”

Dilapidated – Like myself, Terry has benefited from The Piano Cloud challenges. This track was created for one, where a picture of a piano is in a derelict room. “A dilapidated room, all falling apart, wallpaper peeling off the walls, rotten floor boards, broken windows… and a piano in pristine condition. Sitting at that perfect piano surrounded by dreary dilapidation, what music might you play?”
Terry uses the full range of the piano keyboard during this one & also goes from tender, light touches, to muscular, pounded out tones. The idea is that even in horrible surroundings beauty can still exist.

Grasshoppers – Terry told me the background to this track.

“I hadn’t played the piano for a few weeks (!) and I sat down and played some old classical pieces to warm my fingers up (Tchaikovsky’s Seasons, some Chopin preludes, a bit of Beethoven). After I’d been playing for a while I stopped for a moment and this piece came to me. I’d been thinking about pieces where the left hand jumps over the right hand to play some notes & then jumps back again (Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata – First Movement)… and that was the inspiration for this.”

Keep Moving –  As the title suggest, this really has movement and pace about it from the beginning. The left hand supplies a driving rhythm that propels the lovely melody along. There are occasional beautiful contrasts within the tune to keep the interest levels going and then it dives back into full fisted chords & octave bass notes. Terry noted,

“This was written in a strange frame of mind and I think the music reflects that. It’s a strange mix of upbeat & dramatic, which seems to steamroller from section to section with only a little respite.”

Winters Chill – Once again, a track born from a TPC challenge – Written for The “Piano Cloud Winter Landscapes”. Terry reflected,

“I sat down with an image of cold, frosty fields and snow covered trees in my mind and this came to me.”

Legions of Poppies – This is one of Terry’s most popular tracks on SoundCloud with over 18,000 listens. The inspiration came from an original watercolour painting of purple poppies. This is the first tune I ever heard from Terry some time ago and I fell in love with it instantly. The lovely lightly played arpeggios that begin the tune and intersperse it throughout, contrast beautifully with the strongly played sections. The great thing about this track is the room Terry has left with space. Rather than fill every second with music, the gaps highlight the music so masterfully.

Looking Back – The Piano Cloud “End of the Year Challenge” provided the impetus to compose and record this tune. Members had just three days to write a piece of music that represented  the year they had just had. The melody gets you from the opening of this track. Chords in the left hand and tender right hand playing. But as I have found with Terry’s tunes, the strongly played contrast is just waiting to pop up and grab you. The outro is truly sublime.

Waves – Musically, this really has an aural feeling of the sea ebbing and flowing. The arpeggios played in the higher register keep the movement going and the lovely rising arpeggios in the lower register combine to form a recognisable ocean feel.

Waiting – Terry seems the best source to describe this deeply personal track.

“My family have spent a lot of time in hospital over the last few years – one of my sons has chronic kidney failure and had to have a transplant, my other son has had a deviated septum and has had many investigations to decide what to do to fix it. Due to this, I sometimes spend a lot of time at home with the son who isn’t at hospital waiting to hear from Sara about what’s happening with the son who is at hospital…”

Sometimes the most harrowing times in our lives can bring forth something inspirational to others and this piece is no exception.

Romance in E minor – Terry reflects:

“This was unusual in that it came to me in one solid improvisation. Apart from taking the time to practice it and iron out the kinks in my playing it didn’t change one bit. I don’t know where the inspiration came from either… I just sat at my piano, composed my mind into a ‘composing’ state of mind (don’t ask… I don’t know how I do it, I just do!), decided on E minor & then this started to flow out of me!”

… And the moon dreamed of greater things – This is one of my favourites on the album. The soothing beginning of left hand rising arpeggios interspersed with the striking melody had me captivated straight off. This moves gradually into strong, dramatic chordal playing, eventually moving back to the motif stated at the beginning. Really enjoyed this one!

Changing Direction –Terry makes full use of the 88 keys on the piano in this one. This tune features a striking melody and full muscular chords coupled with octave bass notes which then trail off into high register notes that made me feel like I was floating on a cloud. Terry muses:

“This piece couldn’t decide what it wanted to be… but one thing I deliberately avoided was left hand arpeggios because I was once again going through a phase of trying to be a bit different in my compositional style. There are also some deliberately weird chord transitions in there, like A minor to A flat major for example.”

Summer Breeze – This lovely piece passed the “Old Grey Whistle Test” with me. I was humming the melody ages after hearing “Summer Breeze”. It’s yet another piece inspired by weather. One can nearly feel that warm summer breeze coming in through the open windows, while listening to this tune. Music has such a way of conjuring up pictures in our mind & Terry has quite a way of harnessing that talent with his music.

Fire and Ice – Begins really strongly & contrasts with his later tender playing, polar opposites, much like fire and ice are to each other.Terry’s thoughts on the piece were

“Another improvised piece – well mainly. I’d had the first 2-4 bars already spinning around in my head for a couple of weeks but when I sat at the piano all the rest came out too. I practiced it a few times before re-recording it for the album but it is essentially the same piece that I came up with originally.”

(Un)resolution – A departure from his normal focus on melody, this piece has a large number of unresolved chords, lots of suspended 4ths, 6ths, etc., Hence the name. It’s another one that came to Terry all in one go and he said it just needed a bit of practice to record it.

Courage – Terry’s  thoughts on this tune, sum it up perfectly,

“I’d had a really hard day at work – doing something that is normally way outside of my comfort zone – and in the relief of having managed it I came home from work and that evening wrote this. The ascending chords are deliberately majestic and ‘proud’ and the piece as a whole is meant to be rousing and positive – even the tentative first steps towards the courage at the beginning of the piece and the gentle relief afterwards.”

The truly inspirational thing about this album and Terry in particular, is that even though he is not a professional musician and has a day job, he is still releasing world class piano music. In fact his experiences in the “Real World” are what has made this album such a personal and deeply moving musical look into his life. We have waited in hospital rooms with him, felt the summer breeze through his window & struggled through a hard day at work but which gradually eased by him playing it out on the piano.

Personally, people like Terry are the type of musicians I want to listen to, rather than puffed up prima donnas whose fan adoration goes to their heads and they start composing soulless music, because they’re not like us in the “Real World”.

Enjoy your journey through Terry’s life with “Momentary Muse”.

 


Luke Freeman “The Wandering Being”

Editor’s Choice 12th October 2014

selected by Andrew Eales

In another week in which the world reeled from one bad news story to the next, here’s some good news: Luke Freeman has released a brand new piano track – the first in quite a long while. And with “The Wandering Being”, Luke (aka Freemondo) doesn’t disappoint!

But why the excitement? Well, I first heard Luke’s beautiful playing shortly after founding The Piano Cloud group three years ago, and I knew straight away that in spite of his young age, Luke is a mature musician and an “old soul” – an individual whose experience of the world (and ability to express that through eloquent piano compositions and improvisations) goes far beyond his years. Piece after piece followed, each of which not only confirmed that view, but showed an artist reaching deeper with every fresh release. By the time he released “The Struggle for Perfection” I had no remaining doubt that he was one of the most exciting and best new artists I had come across on SoundCloud.

So why the hiatus? Well, Luke has been busy with other musical goals in recent months – taking his classical piano ABRSM Grade 8, working towards taking his diploma, and… singing Barbershop. All of which you can read more about on his Piano Cloud Profile Page, where you can also explore his previous work.

Speaking about his return with this piano solo, Luke says,

“Many moons have passed since I posted my last piece, I’m proud to be back with something relatively chilled out and introspective. Enjoy :)

Recorded on my Roland FP-7F and captured in Reason.”

And there it is – with typical humility, Luke launches this great new track – which is an easy selection for this week’s Editor’s Choice.

Brad Hill “Solar Wind”

Editor’s Choice 5th October 2014

selected by Andrew Eales

 

Brad Hill’s tracks shared on SoundCloud have impressed me time and again – his impeccable technique and musicianship pervading his own compositions/improvisations as well as his outstanding recordings of core classical piano repertoire. His latest track “Solar Wind” is no exception – a wonderfully realised piece that can’t fail to impress.

So I asked Brad more about his background, his life in music, and his process of producing tracks, particularly this latest track which I have selected as the piece which most particularly impressed me when I heard it this week. Brad takes up his story:

“I’ve worked in Internet media for 22 years in start-ups, big companies, and as an author. But my formal education was mostly musical. When I was seven years old my parents noticed I was writing small music pieces on note staffs that I drew on unlined paper. Piano lessons followed, straight through conservatory training at the Manhattan School of Music in New York. My two best-known teachers (though not necessarily the most influential ones) were Artur Balsam and Olga Barabini. I was a finalist in the International Bach Competition while a student.

In my adult life I’m an amateur pianist — evenings and weekends. I divide my time between practising repertoire and composing originals, and those two sides go in phases. I usually concentrate mainly on one for a while, then switch. Lately, most of my SoundCloud uploads have been classical. But I contributed “Solar Wind” to The Piano Cloud’s review of September uploads.

“Solar Wind” was recorded a while ago, but mastered recently. It is a live, single-take recording — which is actually unusual for me. I record on acoustic pianos using Pro Tools, and I’m a practised music editor. In this case, though, I merely tweaked the sound, without cutting into the piece. The playing isn’t perfect, but I like how it rushes along. the piano, a Kawai 6’7″ grand, is very bright, and quality enhanced by a mic technique I occasionally enjoy — two flat PZM microphones placed on the soundboard beneath the strings. Open lid.

I never improvise these days, although I used to. All my pieces are composed through to the final note. I sometimes sketch music out on paper, but almost never write down finished pieces. I intend to, but never get around to it!”

“Solar Wind” is a comparatively simple composition — most of my stuff has more material and development. But it has a passionate whirlwind quality that I like. I’m delighted to share it, and grateful that you are highlighting this piece!”

I hope you find this background increases your enjoyment of a simply great track, and inspires you in your own creative journey!