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