Piano composition diary

Sept 21st, 2019 2:42 PM

Piano composition diary
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This post is for explaining and documenting the ideas and inspirations of the music I make.


Some of my earliest memories is deeply connected to music. My parents were believers in the “Classical music makes babies smart” school of thought, so I distinctly remember falling asleep to the delicate strings of Mozart and his contemporaries. To this day I often use music, ambience, and ASMR to cure the occasional bout of insomnia.

I started playing piano when I was young, around age 4. Back then I was more interested in Lego than music, so my mum would often have to drag me to the piano to sit and watch me practice. As a teen I realized she was never going to let me quit piano no matter how much I whined and complained, so I figured that if I was going to be forced to do it, I’d find a way to enjoy it.

One day I heard a song on the radio, Richard Marx’s “Right Here Waiting”, a sweet (albeit a bit saccharine) pop song, and an “AHA!” moment. I decided to learn how to play it on the piano. From that moment on, I loved the piano. To this day, even after having long forgotten how to play the very song that inspired this passion, I still love the piano. There was even a time when I wanted to be a composer for film score or producer for EDM; music has meant, still means, and will always mean a lot to me.

I took weekly lessons with a tutor until reaching grade 8 or something pathetic, before finally quiting and continuing on my own. Today I listen to music about 6-8 hours daily, (including the hours I play piano). I also play a bit of guitar and bang around on the old drum kit at home. When I’m feeling chaotic I’ll pull out my Otamatone (my wah wah boi as I like to call it). On Spotify I have playlists for just about anything, from EDM to Metal, Trap to Indie, Pop to Ambience, Electro-Swing to Future-Funk; if it slaps, it slaps. But a little less than half my time with music is spent with instrumental/orchestral music, all 15,000+ songs, which I keep locally on iTunes (MP3s, AACs, etc.) or Sony Music Center (FLACs, AIFFs, etc.).

It is to this genre that I must swear fealty. Almost anything I make owes its existence to Two Steps From Hell, Really Slow Motion, and Audiomachine. If you are familiar with the genre you may notice that my style, prose, and sound is noticeably similar.

“Music is the voice that tells us that the human race is greater than it knows.” - Napoleon Bonaparte

Throughout my life I used the piano as an emotional outlet. To vent and to release, to comfort me when I’m sad and lift me higher when I’m happy. I struggle to play in front of people because of how deeply personal the piano and music in general is to me. I feel as if I’m revealing my soul to the audience. Recently I figured that if I enjoy it so much, even if there’s a small chance someone else will enjoy hearing it, I might as well provide the opportunity. The final push was by my girlfriend, who inspired me to finish what I was working on and to publish them, however mediocre they might be.

Playing piano is like observing snowflakes; every time is different, every time you sit and play you create something new.

Playing piano is like having a conversation; you talk by playing a key and the piano responds by singing a note.

Playing piano is like giving yourself a hug; you play something beautiful and you get to hear it. Only you.

To quote a lyric from one of my favorite songs:

“No one knows me like the piano” - Sampha

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Chenille | Papillon

“My journey of writing songs, as a song.”

Papillon is French for butterfly, Chenille is French for caterpillar. Technically, Papillon was made first, but naturally, Chenille is played first. The caterpillar comes before the butterfly. Chenille was made in a day when I got bored of practicing Papillon and stumbled upon a “lazier” way to play it. Chenille is a version of Papillon where the chords are broken. The motion of the player’s hands mimic the patterned crawl of a caterpillar. Although technically it is its own song, it could be seen as the first part of a two part song.

The name “Papillon” (French for butterfly) comes from the way one’s hands are positioned when playing the song. The two thumbs are intertwined while the other finger are spread apart to imitate the wings of a butterfly. It’s played daintily with certain moments emphasized by volume, but otherwise fairly consistent throughout.

Papillon is the first song I ever publically released. It is meant to summarize the journey I took to creating my own music. The song starts small, change is hesitant, and the “wings” are kept close to a familiar and comfortable position. As the first movement plays out, the butterfly is forced to confront discomfort and change in pursuit of something beautiful. The key changes range from hopeful, to vigilant, and finally to joyful. But it always returns to its original verse. The song keeps its binary pattern up until the end, when the butterfly learns to break free. The final broken chords signify moving forwards towards an uncertain future, but the hands come together to imply that no matter where it goes, it will not forget its roots.

This story the song portrays describes my relationship with piano and composition. I think it’s fitting that my first release is a reflection of the journey to get to this point.