Photo Credit : Felix Broede
Enjoy this week’s interview with Jonas Hain, a composer, pianist and artist who released his debut album ‘Solopiano‘ earlier this year in April. In conversation with Jonas we talk about his musical background, ‘Solopiano’, the meaning of piano music for Jonas and more.
Hi Jonas, could you tell us about yourself – where, when and how did music begin for you personally?
Hi Katy, first of all, thank you for having me. I grew up in Munich, Germany, and I started piano lessons when I was very young. I remember my teacher telling me that I have quite some talent – but as a child, my young mind was wandering all over the place, so naturally, I made little progress over the years. One of my key musical experiences was buying a certain record back in 1999 when I was 8 years old: I used my allowance to buy the ‘Freestyler’ single by Bomfunk MC’s. I had heard nothing like it before, and obviously it was completely different from any other music I had been exposed to by my parents. At the age of 15, I bought my first turntables and aimed to be a Techno-DJ. I wasn’t really concerned with classical music before my early 20s.
Your debut album ‘Solopianoʼ is really fantastic. What led you to writing an album for solo piano?
Thank you very much, it’s great to hear that people are enjoying the album. Back in 2012 I interned at the studio of a film score composer. During this time, I noticed that my musical focus started shifting – I started taking piano lessons again and started focusing on composition as a craft. Later on, I decided to completely dedicate myself to composition after completing my degree at Abbey Road Institute. The period of study was quite intense, I was in the studio day and night with people working on various musical ideas, mainly in the electronic music realm.
The more I started learning about audio engineering and music production, the more I got lost in the vast pool of opportunities. It’s easy to loose focus if you have an infinite amount of options, not only regarding equipment, but also sound design. I started my studies to make sure I was doing everything right while creating and recording music. After a few months went by, I noticed that I was becoming more and more insecure. I lost the ability to be in the moment while making music, focusing on technicality instead of emotion. I realised that I had lost the ability to listen and enjoy music without analysing every technical aspect of it. I was trapped within my own perfectionism, which made it impossible for me to complete any piece of music I started working on. After my studies I came to the conclusion that I had painted myself into a corner. I moved out of my studio in Berlin and had my piano transported to a temporary studio, about an hour away from Berlin. To be honest, it was quite a cathartic experience. I had limited myself to one instrument and isolated myself from the noise and distractions of the city. I composed the pieces you can hear on the album during this time frame.
What is the meaning of piano music for you?
To me, it’s the purest form of creating music. A piece composed on the piano can go anywhere, but it doesn’t have to. Starting to compose on the piano exclusively was a very liberating process for me. The possibilities are endless, but also limited to a certain extend. In electronic music, you can absolutely loose yourself in sound design and mangling, each parameter of any single note of the composition can be manipulated endlessly. The piano is an incredible expressive element, but it let’s you focus on the actual core of the music: The composition. It also helped me to learn that recording music is nothing else than capturing a performance which can never be reproduced identically. It definitely helped me to further understand the value of imperfection in music.
Is there a piece you are very proud of writing on the album? If so, which is it and why?
That’s a very hard question to answer. There is a story, a certain timeframe and certain associations connecting me to each piece equally. The beauty of music is that everyone feels and interprets a composition differently. This is one of the reasons I wanted to avoid giving the pieces an actual title: Numbers are absolute and abstract at the same time. You can never listen to a piece of music for the first time twice. If music moves you, you will forever associate certain things with the first time you heard it, and I want to avoid taking away from that experience.
How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t heard it before?
Intimate, maybe also melancholic to a certain extend. I’ve always been obsessed with music, and I’ve composed pieces in numerous styles over the course of many years. Solopiano is probably who I am right now. I’m aware that this is not the best description to be provided for a publication, but I’ve always had a hard time communicating these things verbally. Maybe that’s why I chose music. The album is a result of everything that has happened in my life up to the day I finished recording it.
Besides from piano, do you play any other instruments?
I’m obsessed with synthesizers, if that counts as an answer.
What music do you enjoy listening to? Do you have any favourite composers tracks?
On the one hand, I’m very passionate for classical music, at the moment I am enjoying the works of Chopin and Grieg. There is a timeless beauty in their harmonies and melodies. I’ve also always had great interest in music for film, which obviously heavily borrows from the classical masters.
On the other hand, I’ve always had a big fascination for electronic music. An artist that I’ve admired for many years is Martin Stimming from Hamburg. Speaking for me personally: No other contemporary electronic artist manages to convey so many emotions. Over the years, he has found an incredible sonic signature which is very unique to him. His piece “November Morning” is still unrivalled in beauty, both in regards to the music and texture.
Are you working on any new music at the moment? Do you have an aim or a project that you are currently working towards?
Yes, right now I’m working on Solopiano II, the album will be recorded later during this year. My goal is to internalize and channel the freedom and light-heartedness which I feel while composing music on the piano. When I’ve achieved that, I will maybe return to electronic music again, without losing myself in technical details.
Thank you for chatting with us, Jonas!