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!

Joe Alexander Shepherd “Lonely Hearts of San Francisco”

Editor’s Choice 28th September 2014

Selected by Andrew Eales.

Joe Alexander Shepherd is an outstanding up-coming musician from the UK. He studied BA (Hons) Music at Liverpool Institute Of Performing Arts (Paul McCartneys Academy Of Music) for 2 years and subsequently signed an exclusive publishing deal with Nettwerk Music Group who look after the likes of Passenger, Olafur Arnalds, Fun, The Stereophonics, Sinead O Connor etc.

Joe wrote the song ‘Lonely Hearts Of San Francisco’ after a holiday in Spain. He explains the background to this very moving piece:

“I met a wonderful lady who very sadly has terminal cancer. It really touched me emotionally because she was just a normal lovely girl who was full of happiness and joy. So I went home and was really inspired to write something with all my emotion possible…

I came up with the idea of ‘Lonely Hearts’ because I could tell that she didn’t want to get close to someone to tell them that she isn’t sure how long she has left to live. This girl really moved me with her words so i thought the only way i can express i am feeling is by writing a track on the piano & came up with ‘Lonely Hearts of San Francisco.”

This piece is just the tip of the iceberg though – Joe has more than 50 tracks for you to enjoy on his SoundCloud Page.

TPC Wedding Challenge Stage 3

wedding

 

TPC Wedding Stage 3, “Something borrowed”, is the next showcase we are featuring here.

This stage was broken into two halves. The first called for submission of original music that people were happy for other members to cover. Most people submitted these in notated forms. Speaking from my personal experience of the event, it challenged me to delve into my recording software and refine my knowledge of the notating section of my computer program, which was a huge benefit for me personally and yet another example of how TPC events can really push us to step out of our comfort zones.

Using either notation or just playing by ear, members then reinterpreted the submitted music, recording their own cover versions. The showcase of tracks submitted is a stunning example of the talent pool TPC brings together from all over the world. Twelve tracks were submitted by nine artists. Brad Stark from Vancouver, Canada, went way over and above the call of duty, recording and submitting four tracks. He then also had one of his own tracks recorded by Francis Loch (Dreamland Fantasy). At the time of writing this article, Shelby Lock’s reworking of Dirk Maassens “To the sky” has been listened to by a stunning 29,988 people.

As an example of how global The Piano Cloud is, the nine artists came from the USA, Canada, Germany, Australia & the UK. Listen through this showcase of fantastic tunes and if you want to cross reference to the originals, look on the SoundCloud pages of the composers & hear how much the tunes have been changed or remained faithful to the source.