By: Shayla Lee
Through all of the chaos that we are currently experiencing in the world, music is one of the things that never fails to bring humans together. Whether it’s a shared experience with others like a concert or festival, the special relationship between an artist and their fans, or listening to an album for the first time and feeling moved, music is something that connects all of us on a deeper level.
Something I love about classical music is that it’s calming, inspiring, and it is also scientifically proven to be a great listening tool while working or studying. I often find myself listening to Bach’s symphonies or Hans Zimmer’s scores because it relaxes me and keeps me motivated while I’m working. I have also recently added the beautifully talented pianist Joep Beving to my work playlist.
Joep Beving is a Dutch pianist/composer who just released his third album, titled “Conatus” on September 28th. For “Conatus,” Joep collaborated with many iconic artists including Suzanne Ciani, CFCF, and Tom Trago to create a full-length album of reworked pieces from his previous two albums.
We had the chance to chat with Joep about “Conatus,” how he became a pianist, and what fans can expect from his upcoming tour.
Femme Riot: Can you tell us about your journey as a musician? What lead you to becoming a pianist?
Joep Beving: My folks had an old white piano in their living room. My 3 year old self would sneak downstairs in the morning to tickle the ivories frantically, to the point my parents were probably so fed up with the same two chords that they send me to a piano teacher. It was fun and nothing too serious. I was mostly interested in playing jazz. Then Nirvana came into our lives and the last thing you wanted to be as a teenager was a pianist. So I dropped the piano and desperately wanted to be a guitar player or drummer. I picked up the drum sticks and only went back to the piano when I wanted to get into the Conservatorium. When I graduated from high school, me and a group of friends decided the best way to celebrate this memorable fact was to break into the public swimming pool for a night swim. We had at least 8 minutes of extreme bliss having the waterslide (that one of us managed to flip on by turning all the knobs on a switchboard he accidentally bumped into) all to ourselves.
Then the police came and all the kids went running in different direction except me. I wasn’t really the running type and thought I could explain the situation and hopefully get them to sympathize with our noble nightly cause. The police officer asked me to jump over the fence which I did, but my hand got stuck and was ripped open (I believe I did have my pants back on at that point). 26 stitches later I sit besides the bed of my mom and dad telling them everything is gonna be alright and that I could still do the admission exam for the conservatory that was planned for that week. I managed to get into the school playing with only one hand. But got kicked out a year later. That’s when I realized I was never going to be a virtuoso musician and that all I wanted to do was just make music. I finished my University studies and pursued a different career, but music was always a big part of my life. It was only until the disconnect, between what I was doing and what I felt deep down I needed to do, became so apparent that it left me no other choice than to return to the piano, that things started to fall into place and well ….. that kinda lead me to becoming a pianist.
How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t heard it before?
I am not a big fan of tag lines per se but I still feel the description ‘Simple music for complex emotions’ fits the bill. It is contemplative piano music. At least that’s where I started. But for the most part I would just kindly suggest to them to maybe check it out, as the more I talk about it, the less there is for the listener to discover for themselves.
Who are some of your musical influences?
Philip Glass, Keith Jarret, Bach, Arvo Part, Radiohead, Ruychi Sakamoto
On your website you explain that your goal as an artist is to connect with others through music. You have definitely achieved this goal being a pianist who creates beautiful music that moves people and allows them to connect on a deeper level. Where do you draw inspiration for your music?
I believe every artist’s goal is to connect with others. I hope it is the same for every human being. The difference is the art. Sometimes words are just too limited and one gets caught up in semantics. Especially when you are talking about this deeper level. When I turned to the piano it was in a time of somberness in which I experienced an increasing sense of alienation from the people around me and the reality we live in. I basically used the instrument to try and find some form of essence. Something I could trust and find comfort in. Once I got to that place the next step was to see if this was only me or that it perhaps could be something more universal. I remember seeing it as an experiment in existential communication. In hindsight I think a lot of people were (and I guess still are) looking for the same thing, something that we all feel and know deep down as humans. I feel that reconnecting on the basic human level is the first step in dealing with this odd version of reality we are living in now. This is my main inspiration, our relationship to reality in which I have a hopeful belief there is an ultimate and universal truth that we all need to find and embrace.
I feel that reconnecting on the basic human level is the first step in dealing with this odd version of reality we are living in now. This is my main inspiration.
Your album Conatus is composed of reworked pieces from your first two albums as well as a reworked version of a track from your upcoming album of originals. What inspired you to create an album of reworked pieces?
Haha, well in all honesty that was Christian Badzura my A&R label manager at DG. He called me with the idea to do a remix album. I think we both immediately agreed that remixing wasn’t really the right approach and that reworking or reinterpreting would be a much better idea.
For this album, you invited a range of musicians you admire to reimagine one of your pieces which resulted in an album of reimagined work. I think this is a beautiful idea and so unique! What lead you to making this decision?
When you see music as an organism, it has its own will to live and to survive. I for one don’t necessarily take credit for the music I make. Sometimes it feels like it just happens. So when we decided to do a reworks album my first thought was that it should be about letting the music go, letting it shift shape and find new ways to exist. We made a list of artists we thought could bring the songs to another level and had some anticipation on what the result could be. But I was really impressed by the music I got back from all of them. The title Conatus I found when I was reading on Dutch 17th century philosopher Spinoza. It is defined as an innate inclination of a thing to continue to exist and enhance itself. For the artwork of the album we took orchids as a symbol to this.
What would you like listeners to take away from your album Conatus?
I really hope that they will experience it as an album and not a compilation. Furthermore it is quite an accurate display of my personal musical interests and a ‘prelude’ to my third album that will be out next year. A bit of a teaser perhaps.
This fall you will be completing your North American solo recital tour. What can fans expect from attending a live performance?
That’s a bit difficult for me to answer. Let’s just say it’s more a matter of the heart than it is of the mind. And if they want reassurance, there’s some reviews out there on the internet that might help them in their decision to take the effort of coming to see me. I am just very grateful if they do and still amazed I get to play in front of an audience of people I have never met before.
Anything we haven’t asked that you would like to add?
Haha thank you for asking but I only interview myself when I can keep it to myself ; )
Joep will be performing live in major cities across Canada and the United States this fall. Information on tickets can be found here and tour dates can be found below.
October 23—Los Angeles, CA—Lodge Room
October 25—Portland, OR—The Old Church
October 26—Seattle, WA—Nordstrom Recital Hall
October 27—Vancouver, Canada—Biltmore Cabaret
October 29—Minneapolis, MN—The Cedar Cultural Center
October 30—Chicago, IL—Constellation
November 1—Montréal, Canada—Theatre Fairmount
November 2—Brooklyn, NY—National Sawdust
November 3—Brooklyn, NY—National Sawdust
Stay up to date with Joep by following him on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Listen to his beautiful music below!
The cover photo was shot by Rahi Rezvani for Deutsche Grammophon.