Dominique Charpentier was born in Nîmes, southern France and has played piano since the age of 8. He describes his music as simple but true, deep emotional music that moves the listener immediately. His new album ‘Réminiscence‘ is fantastic. In conversation with Dominique we discuss his new album, his musical background, improvising and more.
Hi Dominique, we hope you’re well and congratulations on the release of your new album Réminiscence! How did you feel in the build up to releasing that album?
I felt fine but it is always a phase when you have to work a lot doing things that aren’t creating or playing music. Indeed, you have to spend a lot of time contacting people, communicating about the release, in other words, doing marketing. I don’t particularly like it, although I know that as an indie composer I don’t have a choice. But so far people and friends from the modern classical scene have been very supportive, like yourself at Contemplative Classical. That is always a relief and it motivates me to keep doing it. I would like to take advantage of the opportunity to thank you (all the team of Contemplative Classical) for the faithful support you showed me. It is very difficult to be an indie musician and composer, so every help is comforting.
Are you happy it’s finally out there?
Yes, I am very happy! I hope people will appreciate it. So far the critiques were very positive, I hope it will continue this way!
What’s your favourite track on the album? Why?
“Miette” is my favourite track because it is a small, minimalist, humble, soft, intimate, delicate and childish piece of piano music. I always look for simple things in music. And it also represents well what I tried to express with this album: simple recollections of moments, emotions or feelings I experienced in some places and that I now want to share with an audience.
Is piano your primary instrument? What got you into composing music?
Yes it is, I started it at 8, and then learnt to play other instruments as well, but the piano remains my main way of expressing myself. It was a “love at first sight” I guess. I think I first started composing just because… it was fun! I began my piano studies with classical music, but I was always fascinated by movie soundtracks and I remember I tried to play some of them by ear. Sometimes I couldn’t do it, I didn’t find the right notes and would put my own notes instead. So I guess that is how I originally started composing.
I composed my first real compositions at 15, but it was only at 21 that I decided to dedicate my life to music.
How would you describe your sound to someone who hasn’t heard it at all yet?
If you mean the sound itself, it changed a lot this last two years because I started composing mainly with a felt piano sound. So my actual sound is soft, intimate and “inside” the piano, pretty much like Ólafur Arnalds & Nils Frahm, but it may change for the next projects. I do understand artists like Ólafur who think that the sound is more important than the notes, but that is not what I think. For me, the sound itself is very important but I think the notes, melody and harmony are more important. Why? Because if I remove this very beautiful, interesting modern classical sound, I want the compositions to be still interesting and appealing to the audience. I think that a good piece of music is a piece of music that you can play on any instrument, with any sound production, even with a very bad recording. A good example of that is “Für Elise” by Beethoven, or “La Dispute” by Yann Tiersen. I listened to these pieces played by almost every instrument existing and it is always beautiful and nice to the ears.
If you mean the sound as my music in general, I would say it is simple, cinematic, soft and emotional.
What do you find about your work that has meaning?
Sharing my music with other people is the most meaningful aspect of my work. Of course I would still be creating music if nobody was listening to it, but I don’t compose only for myself. Music is all about sharing. Sharing emotions, ideas, beauty, and trying to inspire and sometimes help people through Art. I can’t remember how many pieces of music helped me feel better when I was a teenager for example, or inspired me to do great things. So, if I can do the same, my work has a deep meaning and direct utility.
Do you have a studio/work place that you write in? What’s the setup like?
Yes, I do have a place, two actually, but it is a bit complicated right now. I live near Paris in a small apartment with my wife, so I can’t put all my gear in one place. That’s why I have my main tools here in my flat: computer (Windows), audio interfaces (Roland & Audient), speakers (Focal), my digital piano (Roland), microphones (Aston & Rode) and a bunch of other instruments that I play (guitars, ukulele, accordion etc.). But what should be the center of my studio, my upright piano (Schimmel) is at my parent’s house right now… So, I hope I’ll be able to move to a bigger apartment this year to have all the gear in one room.
When I compose I am either at home, on my digital piano, using inspiring VST instruments or when I can I go to my folks to play the second love of my life, my Schimmel upright. I’ll share some photos when I have a new place.
Is improvising something you enjoy doing? Would you say you use this as a tool for composing?
Yes! A lot! This is exactly how I compose: I usually start composing a new piece by improvising on the piano. When I find an interesting harmony progression I decide to stay with it and begin to look for a melody that fits. Then I conceptualize the form of the composition and I repeat the same process for the different parts. When I feel that “it works” I decide that it does, and the piece is finished.
However, when I compose an orchestral piece it can be a bit different, as sometimes I conceptualize a lot more in the creative process.
We very much view the Neoclassical community as a wonderful place where artists are incredibly friendly and supportive of each other. What artists do you find yourself listening to? Why? Would you say these artists inspire you to write music?
Ahah! There are too many artists I listen to so I can’t name all of them. But as you know I curate Spotify playlists to support indie composers like me so if you want to know which of them I listen to, just go to my “Soft Piano Music to Fall Asleep” playlist! They all inspire me to write music. That doesn’t mean I try to copy or get inspiration from their work, because anyway we are all different and I know what type of music I want to create. But yes, they do inspire me a lot, every one of them in their own way. I think it is more like an assimilation process. Sometimes I like what I hear, so I think “oh, that is nice and interesting”, and maybe when I compose a new piece, a little portion of that idea remains, survives and transforms into a different idea on my own, adapted to my piece. Anyway, I would say that 99% of the time it is an unconscious process.
But if I had to name some of my favourite artists in my playlist, (among the not yet famous ones) I would say: Luca Longobardi & Simeon Walker. Their music is actually quite different from what I do but I love their delicate, poetic, contemplative, yet inspiring way of saying things.
We realise you’ve been very busy with this lately! But are you already working on something else that we can be looking forward to?
Yes! I already started working on new pieces for the next album and EPs, some of them very different from what I usually do. I should also start composing for a new feature film in the next months and I am working on another project as well: I would like to create my own record label and recording studio to support young indie modern classical composers. So, a lot of projects, but nothing is done yet. Wish me luck!
Buy/download Dominique’s new album ‘Réminiscence’ here.