Part 1

Name: Carlos Cipa
Nationality: German
Occupation: Composer, Musician
Bands/Projects: 2 full albums on Denovali / EP on Denovali Records with pianist Sophia Jani / scoring for several short films
Labels: Denovali Records
Musical Recommendations: John Lemke / Occupanther

When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences?

I started playing piano at the age of six and began writing music for the first time I played drums in a hardcore punk band at the age of 16. At that moment I felt that only interpreting classical pieces on the piano was not enough and I wanted to go on a different path: improvising and creating my own music. When you’re involved in classical music, you’re captured in a world where you have no or only little reach to the outside world, so it is really hard to find a way out to create your own music. For me a very early influence or some kind of early idol was Ludovico Einaudi, because he did exactly that, and that gave me confidence in the beginning of my musical career.

What do you personally consider to be the incisive moments in your artistic work and/or career?

The most incisive moment so far was, of course, when I got involved with my label Denovali Records. It happened very naturally, some emails, they liked my music and we were already talking about a release date for my debut album. Since then, it’s only been two and half years, a lot has happened. I got the chance to play amazing concerts in amazing cities, met fantastic people and inspiring artists and have released an EP and a new album since then. Two years ago, I also started studying classical composition at the conservatory in Munich and it is a very strong contrast to what I am doing for my records and live shows. This dispute with very different kinds of people and ideas also has a huge impact on my work and my thinking about music in general.

What are currently your main compositional- and production-challenges?

After finishing my new album, on which I started to blend the piano sound with a lot of different instruments, like marimba, Hohner guitaret, bass guitar, hackbrett and a variety of piano-inside sounds, I am completely moving away from the instrument and working only with scores. 

At the beginning of 2014 I finished one movement for a string quartet and recently I've picked up the piece again to write the missing movements. It’s something totally different to work with scores, but it’s something I enjoy very much, because you can be very precise with the music, but it’s also very hard to do something innovative, since you put yourself in a very strong tradition with some of the best music ever written. 

The main challenge you face composing is, I believe, form. In contemporary (classical) music the form changed a lot, it became very free, which makes it so difficult for the audience to follow, compared to Bach, Mozart or Brahms. That’s something I think about a lot and the challenge really keeps me going. 

What do you usually start with when working on a new piece?

Of course, this also changes from piece to piece, you have a musical idea, a melody, a rhythmical/musical pattern, a phrase, a chord or some chords you like, and from there you go on a journey; sometimes I float away on the piano playing, or I immediately write the ideas down and just work along with the scores. On the new album, I followed a lot of different methods for each of the pieces, some are still only in my head, some were composed very precisely with scores, and some (mainly the fragments) also came out of improvisations during the recordings, based on ideas and concept I prepared before.

How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?

On my records most of the music is composed, I only leave space in some pieces for improvised parts. In my live shows, it’s a bit different. Right now I have about 20 minutes in my show that are improvised, where I only bring some ideas with me and build up a new piece of music every night, sometimes I also melt certain pieces together. Also, in some of the composed pieces I have tiny parts that are freer than others where I leave space for improvisation. This makes it much more interesting for me and hopefully also for the audience.

How do you see the relationship between sound and composition?

I can only speak out of my experience; I personally think you cannot really involve the aspect of sound or production into the process of composing (and I mean by that strictly working with scores). When you’re working on a composition with acoustic instruments, you know what the instruments can play; you can totally focus on what you have in mind for the piece. Whereas working on a production you have to think of totally different things, some things you imagined in your composition might not work at all, when you're recording/producing it. It gets most interesting when both sides learn from each other, and you start thinking in production terms during composing or the other way around.

Do you feel it important that an audience is able to deduct the processes and ideas behind a work purely on the basis of the music? If so, how do you make them transparent?

This is an interesting question. I think it’s always good if a listener has some ideas about what’s happening in the music or what the composer/songwriter had in mind for a piece/an album. On my new album All Your Life You Walk, I created a flow that spans over the whole album that helps the listener connect with all the new ideas and sounds I’ve been using for this record. Transparency is created mostly within the instrumentation, how it evolves throughout the album, but also within the order of the pieces; it was very important for me, which pieces follow others, so every piece has it’s perfect place. This was even decided based on the ideas I had for each piece before the compositions where finished, so I composed all the pieces and fragments on the album in this exact order.

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