Hi! “Nocturnes” is described as a journey through a range of emotions and soundscapes. Can you elaborate on the emotions and experiences you aimed to evoke with this album?

A: I composing Nocturnes towards the end of 2019 and before we hit lockdown in the UK. I was playing around with composing for two instruments in different ranges. Violin and viola was an obvious direction for me and I thought of an equivalent in the winds section: flute and clarinet. Both sets presented challenges and each instrument needed to co-exist together. Then the idea of nocturnal music came. I always had a fascination and a predilection for evocative nighttime atmospheres and I wanted to explore composing music to be listened to preferably at night. So I embarked on my own version of that great tradition of the classical format (Debussy, Chopin, Liszt and many more have composed nocturnes) and I was naturally curious about this idea of contrast, reminiscing conversations between two entities, essentially two instruments in a nocturnal setting. The more I developed ideas, the more it felt natural to ‘cocoon’ the instruments within ambient atmospheres, soundscapes that would evoke the night and the images it can conjure up.

The album is said to showcase your multi-layered and evocative compositions. Can you share your process for creating such complex pieces?

A: It is hard to explain that process as it just usually flows naturally when I compose. The only guideline was to compose for those instruments but other than that, it was to push and pull in various directions with the soundscapes I was developing. The acoustics of those live instruments reflected ideas back at me: sonic textures and sound washes to anchor and accompany violin, viola, flute and clarinet. 

My work is always multi-layered as my approach is more all-enconpassing, thinking of a whole picture rather than setting out with a chord progression. So melody lines are the starting point. They need to speak to me and conjure something up otherwise I move on quickly to the next idea. I then build everything around those lines: harmonic progression, sound FX, rhythm, tempo etc.

You collaborated with George Millard and Violetta Vicci on “Nocturnes”. How did their contributions shape the final outcome of the album?

A: I had previously worked with both artists back in the UK. With George I recorded some TV projects for the BBC (arranging and producing) and with Violeta, we recorded on many projects including a few of my releases (Aitaké Suite for solo violin, Viola Abstractions, Bygones). Both artists are fantastic musicians and artists in their own right. George is a seasoned Jazz player who has toured extensively in various bands and he plays woodwinds as well as many saxophones. Violeta is also an experienced touring artist who has a distinctive voice and who releases fantastic albums. I wanted to get the two of them on my compositions because I knew they would understand my vision. Working with real musicians is paramount to what I do: they breathe life, energy and talent into my work. When you develop a relationship with fantastic musicians you don’t have to explain too much, they understand what you’re trying to do. 

“Nocturnes” is described as a testament to your singular vision. Can you share more about this vision and how it influenced the creation of the album?

A: As I mentioned before, nighttime has always been more evocative to me than daytime. It’s more secretive, more intriguing, less practical, more dangerous and more fascinating to me. In my work, my approach is to paint abstract musical paintings, some of them have a soundtrack character to them and yes I do score films, but really they’re an opportunity to present freeform music, unattached to a commercial project. The freedom I take when I compose a project means I create these musical settings that the audience is free to interpret as they wish, and hopefully their imagination was engaged when listening to my work. When I created the album, I wasn’t composing at night (I’m usually fast asleep!) but I had the concept in my head all the time so I kept imagining mini movies, visual scenarios that could work.

The album is described as a conversation between musical entities and defined identities through duos of clarinet and flute, violin and viola. Can you elaborate on this concept and how it influenced the composition of the album?

A: Because I set out to compose for a duo of instruments (I had previously released albums for solo instruments), each track became a conversation between two voices. But it’s not strictly that, it’s also narrator and actor, observer and observed. Having two different musical colours that could complement and contrast each other was useful too. It allowed me to paint a different picture, more multi-layered than with a solo instrument. I also wanted to place the duos in an environmental musical setting that would react with or against, organically growing as each piece progresses. Half-way through there’s also a crossover, we start the album with flute/clarinet, then we have the quartet coming together as an interlude and then we have violin/viola. It’s like starting out a painting using watercolours, mixing medias and then finishing off with acrylics. All in all, the whole album is like a collage of mixed media to complete a bigger picture.

The album is also described as meditations and reflections illustrated by repetition and expansion, like mantras. Can you explain how this concept was incorporated into the album?

A: Yes there are repeated motifs in the album and somehow this idea of mantra or repeated thoughts kept reoccuring. I was quite influenced by Philip Glass at the time and in his music he uses repetition and expansion of musical phrases, arpeggios and rhythmic sections. It is also about conversations and about memories. But repetition is useful too, it allows me to state certain ideas more clearly with more intention. I regularly practice meditation so that feeds into my work too. Maybe these are meditations and reflections shared by two people or two entities, who knows. It all happens subconsciously for me!

The album is said to be a testament to your talent and vision. How do you feel “Nocturnes” represents your growth as an artist?

A: Nocturnes is a continuation of the ambient, atmospheric side of what I do. In the past, I explore ambient ideas on my E.P Downstream Blue and my album Bygones (both out on Slowcraft records). But I wanted to fuse something more cinematic into that ambient setting, something more musical. As I said before, I am a painter in sound (also an abstract painter in real life) and I think on this album, I managed to paint the pictures I set out to paint. The projects prior to Nocturnes were compositions for piano. In a way, that’s like using a different media. I like to surprise myself and keep my tools sharpened by exploring different sound combinations, different musical avenues rather than stick with one instrument. It certainly makes it more interesting to me. It also allows me to reach different audiences that way. This comes from my film composing background where we have to be versatile and be able to compose for different instruments depending on the project. Each release and each film is an opportunity to dig for new ideas, to go on different musical adventures. And no matter how much you think you know, with music, there’s always more to learn!

With the success of “Nocturnes” and your distinctive composing voice resonating with audiences, what does the future hold for you? What are your plans for your next project?

A: I am currently releasing a new piano suite called Douce-Amère (the first single was out October 16th, the second single comes out November 13th and the full suite on December 11th). This three part suite is inspired by a perfume by the great French perfumer Serge Lutens. As a starting point, I pondered how to represent fragrance in musical form. Can scent that usually conjures up mental images, memories, provoke musical ideas in me? This fragrance is all about contrast and so is the music. This became a deep-dive exploration of various melodic ideas, thematic ideas as well as dissonances underpinned by rhythmical motifs.

On the side, I have been developing more piano ideas for the distant future as well as scoring films and putting the finishing touches to my next album for 2024!