Mikael_landscape_organ_by Sigga Björg

We’re revelling in the sound of tickled ivories today, as music fans the world over mark Piano Day! 

In celebration of Piano Day (taking place on March 28th, the 88th day of the year marking the 88 keys on a piano!) we catch up with Reykjavík based composer and musician Mikael Lind who is on the cusp of releasing a brand new album entitled Intentions and Variations, an record packed full of piano tracks that have been morphed into stunning new forms through digital processes. Mikael is part of an inspired wave of creators who revel in blending traditional music making methods with digital means, and Reykjavík seems to be a particular hot spot for this style of music, having produced the likes of Ólafur Arnalds and a number of other artists who expertly dip into this method too. Ahead of his album release, we asked Mikael to tell us more about the interesting methods used to create his latest record, as well as finding out about his own history with that sacred instrument – the piano. Hi Mikael! When did you first start to play the piano? Well, to be honest, I’ve always been more of a keyboard player than pianist, and I never took piano lessons. I started playing on the keyboards that my older brothers owned when I was a kid, until I later bought a keyboard of my own. I still only use an 88-key digital piano at home, mostly due to practical reasons, but I have places to go if I need to record acoustic pianos, so it’s no huge issue. I suspect I will very soon get a good studio that can house an upright piano. MikaelLandscape 960 x 610 Photo by Cameron MacNair What happened to make you realise that keys were something you wanted to pursue? Good question. I’ve always felt that when I witness someone playing the piano well, the sound from it kind of just seizes me and makes me speechless, almost dumbfounded, so the attraction has been there since I was a kid. Since I’m no professional piano player, I felt that my particular contribution to the already busy scene of piano music was to explore new ground in working not only with the pure sound of the piano, but also with electronic transformations of that sound, preferably in real-time. What’s your favourite piece of music performed on a piano? It’s hard to pick one piece, but if I really have to, I’d choose Dmitri Shostakovich – Prelude and Fugue No. 7 in A major. The whole cycle, 24 preludes and fugues, is adorable, one of my favourite suites of 20th century music, in fact. Up there with Arvo Pärt’s Tabula Rasa. I also enjoy the haunting simplicity of John Cage’s In a Landscape. And you’re about to release an album based on piano compositions, so can you tell us a bit about the album? How did you create it and what’s your favourite memory of the process? Yes, interestingly, the album is as you say based on piano compositions, and yet, the listener might not at first hear that many pianos in it, ha ha! The reason for this is that while I originally wrote all the songs for piano, I then gradually started to transform a lot of the piano sounds through electronic techniques such as pitch-shift, granulation, spectral freeze, and so on. Therefore, even tracks on the EP that sound like walls of distorted guitar, such as ‘Unyielding Rocks’, are actually almost solely made up of transformed piano sounds. There’s some viola and simple synths in there too, but not much. What was your main ambition when creating the record? I started working on the record after having finished a master’s programme in Digital Composition and Performance at the University of Edinburgh. There, I learned a lot of new techniques, but I ended up spending a lot of time on the sound designs and sometimes not enough on the actual compositions. The freedom of being able to write whatever I wanted again without having to hand it in to get grades was liberating, and I wanted to keep write melodic music that I have always done, but with a more unique sound than ever before. And finally, will you be doing anything special to celebrate Piano Day?! Yes, I probably will! Interestingly, two compilation CDs are being released soon – one in Japan the day before Piano Day, and one in Scotland on mini50 records to celebrate Piano Day. The Japanese release will feature a track of mine that was not released on the EP, and for mini50, I recorded a piano improvisation that I decorated with some spectral effects. But apart from that, I’m mostly anticipating the release on Morr Music, which will be the 8th of April. I’m working on different ideas to play the material from Intentions and Variations live… Very exciting!

We’re revelling in the sound of tickled ivories today, as music fans the world over mark Piano Day! 

In celebration of Piano Day (taking place on March 28th, the 88th day of the year marking the 88 keys on a piano!) we catch up with Reykjavík based composer and musician Mikael Lind who is on the cusp of releasing a brand new album entitled Intentions and Variations, an record packed full of piano tracks that have been morphed into stunning new forms through digital processes.

Mikael is part of an inspired wave of creators who revel in blending traditional music making methods with digital means, and Reykjavík seems to be a particular hot spot for this style of music, having produced the likes of Ólafur Arnalds and a number of other artists who expertly dip into this method too.

Ahead of his album release, we asked Mikael to tell us more about the interesting methods used to create his latest record, as well as finding out about his own history with that sacred instrument – the piano.

Hi Mikael! When did you first start to play the piano?

Well, to be honest, I’ve always been more of a keyboard player than pianist, and I never took piano lessons. I started playing on the keyboards that my older brothers owned when I was a kid, until I later bought a keyboard of my own. I still only use an 88-key digital piano at home, mostly due to practical reasons, but I have places to go if I need to record acoustic pianos, so it’s no huge issue. I suspect I will very soon get a good studio that can house an upright piano.

What happened to make you realise that keys were something you wanted to pursue?

Good question. I’ve always felt that when I witness someone playing the piano well, the sound from it kind of just seizes me and makes me speechless, almost dumbfounded, so the attraction has been there since I was a kid.

Since I’m no professional piano player, I felt that my particular contribution to the already busy scene of piano music was to explore new ground in working not only with the pure sound of the piano, but also with electronic transformations of that sound, preferably in real-time.

Photo by Cameron MacNair 

What’s your favourite piece of music performed on a piano?

It’s hard to pick one piece, but if I really have to, I’d choose Dmitri Shostakovich – Prelude and Fugue No. 7 in A major. The whole cycle, 24 preludes and fugues, is adorable, one of my favourite suites of 20th century music, in fact.

Up there with Arvo Pärt’s Tabula Rasa. I also enjoy the haunting simplicity of John Cage’s In a Landscape.

And you’re about to release an album based on piano compositions, so can you tell us a bit about the album? How did you create it and what’s your favourite memory of the process?

Yes, interestingly, the album is as you say based on piano compositions, and yet, the listener might not at first hear that many pianos in it, ha ha!

The reason for this is that while I originally wrote all the songs for piano, I then gradually started to transform a lot of the piano sounds through electronic techniques such as pitch-shift, granulation, spectral freeze, and so on. Therefore, even tracks on the EP that sound like walls of distorted guitar, such as ‘Unyielding Rocks’, are actually almost solely made up of transformed piano sounds.

There’s some viola and simple synths in there too, but not much.

What was your main ambition when creating the record?

I started working on the record after having finished a master’s programme in Digital Composition and Performance at the University of Edinburgh. There, I learned a lot of new techniques, but I ended up spending a lot of time on the sound designs and sometimes not enough on the actual compositions. The freedom of being able to write whatever I wanted again without having to hand it in to get grades was liberating, and I wanted to keep write melodic music that I have always done, but with a more unique sound than ever before.

And finally, will you be doing anything special to celebrate Piano Day?!

Yes, I probably will! Interestingly, two compilation CDs are being released soon – one in Japan the day before Piano Day, and one in Scotland on mini50 records to celebrate Piano Day. The Japanese release will feature a track of mine that was not released on the EP, and for mini50, I recorded a piano improvisation that I decorated with some spectral effects. But apart from that, I’m mostly anticipating the release on Morr Music, which will be the 8th of April. I’m working on different ideas to play the material from Intentions and Variations live… Very exciting!

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