Project Teaser - July 2019

Hello everyone! It’s the 11th of the month, so it’s time for a monthly project teaser.

This month… grand plans are in motion, but I wanted to focus on my return from Europe: I have been making up for all the missed piano time and a backlog of new ideas have flowed out onto the keys. Here’s a snippet of one piece, which is now getting the orchestration love it deserves. I promise there are plentiful more ideas being developed in tandem and I wish I could share them all!

When will you hear the final piece? Sit tight. D-Day is a long time away.

Have you heard? 06. In Dreams

Have you heard? is a showcase for the unconventional, unique and inspiring music out there that never seems to get the limelight it deserves.

In Dreams - Howard Shore and Fran Walsh (2001)

Everyone knows the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Academy Award winning theme music composed by Howard Shore. But not everyone knows that the same iconic theme for Frodo Baggins and The Shire has a full suite of lyrics to accompany it. Official lyrics to the greatest film songs would almost seem like something you would expect… in dreams.

So how does a singsong set to Lord of the Rings music constitute an unconventional, unique or inspiring piece of music?

First and foremost it is totally unexpected. Nobody expected the Spanish Inquisition, nor did they expect a young soloist to feature in the most iconic Lord of the Rings song. The melody, rhythm and harmony is like-for-like the same as the orchestral version, but it is without the bells and whistles and glorious flourish. Instead, the piece is a mellow choral song about hope on an arduous journey. Of course, the melody and harmonics alone are remarkable, but it is the instrumentation that makes this piece truly unique. The blend between the young soloist and the choir, backed by a soft orchestra really emphasizes the emotion and spirit of the lyrics. The orchestra is there, but it is not the centerpiece of the music. Even when the iconic themes get their orchestral spotlight the music stays mellow and measured.

The lyrics are simple and clever, making enough reference to the journey undertaken in the film to be relevant. They never talk explicitly of the ring or of Frodo, but they do talk of the hardship and the hope within. Even at the end there is a direct reference to The Hobbit, a nice little touch.

This piece has absolutely influenced my music. Whilst I haven’t managed master the choir, you can find some influences from Howard Shore’s work in One World and Fantasia in F: Commemorating the Steward.

Happy listening and enjoy!

p.s. don’t forget to watch the movies.

Travel: Europe

Hello!

I am currently right in the midst of a modest adventure of central Europe. Already, I have visited the likes of Amsterdam, Lisbon and Stockholm. Soon, I will be making my way also to Germany and Spain. Every place is a unique experience and constantly I am gathering inspiration and ideas for new music.

My journey through Europe thus far has been very music-focussed. Before I had even made it four hours out of New Zealand I was playing a baby grand piano in the middle of Brisbane Airport, much to the delight of airport patrons - many of whom thanked me for the experience even after we landed in Abu Dhabi. Then, in Amsterdam I met the Nintendo Labo, a cardboard piano powered by the Nintendo Switch. In Stockholm I visited the headquarters of Spotify and discovered a world where music is life.

All this time I have been making fantastic use of being away from New Zealand and the responsibilities it brings. I have been avidly writing music, even without a piano or keyboard to compose new ideas on. Even the keyboard app on my phones crashes every few minutes. Nevertheless, progress is being made toward my next project, and this trip to Europe will surely play a role in shaping the results.

See you in July, New Zealand!

Camiel

Enjoying the music on the walls in downtown Stockholm.

Enjoying the music on the walls in downtown Stockholm.

Have you heard? 05. Ritual Fire Dance

Have you heard? is a showcase for the unconventional, unique and inspiring music out there that never seems to get the limelight it deserves.

Ritual Fire Dance - Manuel de Falla (1915)

Have you ever considered going to a ritual fire dance? I haven’t. But if I did I could absolutely imagine Manuel de Falla’s “Ritual Fire Dance” urging me on. Written for a ballet, the music takes a rather uncommon concept and attempts to bring imagery and life to it. The composer himself have since transcribed it into many different arrangements.

So how does tribal themed ballet music constitute an unconventional, unique or inspiring piece of music?

Right from the get-go, de Falla’s, “Ritual Fire Dance” does exactly what it says on the tin. The first half minute of ominous trills really sets the mood. The primitive woodwind that follows sets the tone for the rest of the piece: playful, inquisitive, mystical. The music then constantly jumps between moods. At one moment it is staring deeply into the fire, the next it is jumping around in ritualistic form. It draws you into its world and makes it so easy to imagine a bunch of cavemen with sticks dancing around a fire. It’s an interesting and different use of strings - Mozart would be confused. Frantic arpeggios are not dominant, instead being replaced by an unavoidably eerie plucking. Even the brass make heavy use of their mutes at the end of the piece. It’s creative and different in the way its been put together and how it conveys its story. That’s what makes it notable. Even the orchestra hits at the end are seemingly confused and random. But it works!

Although I am yet to delve into the realm of ritualistic dance music, this piece nevertheless serves as an inspiration to me that an orchestra can be used creatively and outside the usual expected bounds of the current trends. It’s different and unique. I like that.

Happy listening and enjoy!

New Website

It’s finally here!

For three years my website lay derelict and neglected - still announcing my studious efforts at university. Now, a lick of fresh paint has been applied and a whole new-look website has been created! Explore the albums and music I’ve published, the commissions I’ve written and the tips I have to share. You can even keep up to date with the latest news and thoughts from me here at this blog! Or, if you like what you see, simply head to the about page and get in touch. I can do anything!

Enjoy!

Have you heard? 04. Udan Mas

Have you heard? is a showcase for the unconventional, unique and inspiring music out there that never seems to get the limelight it deserves.

Udan Mas - Geoff Knorr (2013)

Take a traditional Indonesian motif, add an orchestra and what do you get? Well, if Geoff Knorr is in charge, you get wartime music for the Indonesian nation in the highly acclaimed video game Civilization V. Each nation gets its own set of peacetime and wartime music, based on traditional melodies and local instruments, but “Udan Mas” takes the cake for taking such a simple tune and turning it into something fierce and respectable.

So how does a battle cry for an army of Indonesian Kris Swordsmen constitute an unconventional, unique or inspiring piece of music?

The beauty lies in a simple four-note theme that creates the entire essence of the piece. Drawn from traditional music, it drives it forward while still keeping the traditional Indonesian feel. Traditional instruments are included alongside a full orchestra, giving it authenticity that would otherwise be lost. The masterful blending of the brass with the rest of the orchestra gives the piece the distinct ‘war’ feeling. The piece never stops moving forward. Always marching, it swells, it glares and it calls out. The entire orchestra is only a rhythmic conduit for the deep brass to annunciate their call for war. It’s tense, yet so craftily traditional. You can feel the army approaching, step by step. You can feel the hesitation and the deep breath before the plunge as the woodwinds trill, teeter and then strike in. From a tune so simple as four notes, Knorr has created a piece of music that makes you sit tense in your boots. When listen to this piece you know those swordsmen are coming.

This piece has had some influence on my music. It shows how the brass can be used in effective, but not overwhelming, ways. It has directly influenced two of my pieces: “Serenade in F: II. Sunset” and “Serenade in F: III. Nightfall”.

Happy listening and enjoy!

Have you heard? 03. Chevaliers de Sangreal

Have you heard? is a showcase for the unconventional, unique and inspiring music out there that never seems to get the limelight it deserves.

Chevaliers de Sangreal - Hans Zimmer (2006)

Everybody knows Hans Zimmer, the powerhouse of film composing. But not everybody knows all of his music. Shortly after helping Klaus Badelt write the first block of music for the Pirates of the Caribbean film series, Zimmer found himself writing for The DaVinci Code, a film based on a very popular novel where the protagonist deciphers a series of incredibly cryptic clues to save the world.

So how does an orchestra on a treasure hunt constitute an unconventional, unique or inspiring piece of music?

“Chevaliers de Sangreal” is one of those pieces where you feel the emotion building slowly over time, until it flows over into a crescendo of many feels. Zimmer’s mastery of the strings section is not lost in this piece. Starting gentle, the piece builds atmosphere with soft, but filling chords and harmonies. The string motif in the background brings a sense of continuity as the piece seemingly meanders through a variety of chords and builds in emotion. Eventually the choir even joins in. But for a piece where the rhythm and melody in every bar is just about the same, it stays relevant and interesting through dynamics, instrumentation and harmonies. Deep basses and horns fill out the chords and melodies, while strings and woodwind dance around to bring that extra little bit of embellishment. The piece itself is so simple, yet incredibly effective.

This piece has inspired me to explore the world of compositional and musical development in a different way. You don’t have to make something different to be interesting, just something more.

Happy listening and enjoy!

Travel: South America

Hello world!

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been travelling the Latin American world. In between ordering the wrong meals in Spanish and trying to figure out how Spanish actually differs to Portuguese, I thought I would come here to share some of my musical experiences.

Peru

My trip began in Lima, Peru, where I was immediately greeted with a lifetime supply of Latin music and street dancing. There was an air of relaxation, ease and normality in the way the South Americans approach life. They love expressing themselves, especially through music and dance. So there was no shortage of random public performances around the cities of Lima and Cusco as I travelled.

A short stop in a traditional Peruvian meeting house and I was quickly acquainted with traditional Peruvian instruments. But the real treat came in the city of Puno during the Carnival (yes, the same carnival as Rio). The streets came alive and people filled the main squares to dance and make music. There were parades and performances and celebration. The people were totally invested in the celebration. They love their music and it created an atmosphere so different to the streets of the western world. The style of music was vibrant and lively, creating a wonderfully joyful experience.

Bolivia

My musical adventures in Bolivia were restricted to La Paz because, well.. I was restricted to La Paz. Dire illness grounded me in the city whilst my friends adventured off into the salt desert and Chile. Nevertheless, Bolivia offered me a musical treat in the form of the Museo de Instrumentos Musicales. I was taken on a journey, not of music, but of instruments. I got to explore a plethora of new and interesting instruments. The historic people of the Andean Mountains found plenty of creative ways to make music. Plus, with Bolivia’s diverse geography, the variety of instruments and the history of them was huge. There were long horns that curled back like a hook, whistles sculpted into statues out of rock and guitars with five sets of strings in the shape of a star. I left Bolivian with a very sincere and informed appreciation of music, and how it can mean the same thing to so many people but in so many different ways.

Argentina

I have only just made it to the Argentinian capital, Buenos Aires. Already, I have found a vibrant and cultured city. Musicians are busking on the streets, the opera house is marvellous beyond belief. As win the rest of the continent, Latin, salsa and jazz are prevalent - a welcome change from the music of the west.

On the to-do list is to watch a tango show and visit the orchestra. Here’s hoping for the best!

Camiel

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Have you heard? 02. Drysdale Overture

Have you heard? is a showcase for the unconventional, unique and inspiring music out there that never seems to get the limelight it deserves.

Drysdale Overture - Douglas Lilburn (1937)

Douglas Lilburn’s “Drysdale Overture” is a New Zealand piece of music that takes the definition of ‘classical’ music, stretches it a bit and embellishes it into something far more ‘modern’. It is one of the first pieces of music published by Lilburn in a long-spanning career as New Zealand’s most recognised composer.

So how does a hybrid classical-modern orchestral overture constitute an unconventional, unique or inspiring piece of music?

“Drysdale Overture” is a fairly unique piece in its combination of delicate, yet lush, melodies and intricate rhythm and pace. It sets itself as totally different to the masterpieces that came before it. Instead of being about the tones, harmonies and structure that defines a truely classical pieces, it is all about the melodies and instrumentation. There are grand brass swells and soft woodwind solos, but never does any one theme overpower another. It flows through a variety of emotions, guided by a gentle pacing of the strings. Yet, the strings never go crazy, the brass never goes crazy, the woodwind never go crazy. The music is temperate, yet so well instrumented that it seems like it was written fifty years before it’s time.

Personally, my favourite section is from about 8:10 to 8:40. The delicacy of the strings, complete with the brass chords, invoke powerful imagery and emotion and are a fantastic development not he previous recurrences of the same theme.

Although Lilburn’s treasure has not directly influenced any of my own compositions, the style of writing and the instrumentation is something I find inspiring for future pieces.

Happy listening and enjoy!

Have you heard? 01. Red Planet Nocturne

Have you heard? is a showcase for the unconventional, unique and inspiring music out there that never seems to get the limelight it deserves.

Red Planet Nocturne - Christopher Tin (2016)

Red Planet Nocturne” is a short piece of music written for piano and synthesiser by grammy-winning composer Christopher Tin. Generally known for his work on the Civilization franchise, particularly “Baba Yetu”, Tin composed the work as the main theme for the economic strategy video game Offworld Trading Company.

So how does a mix of piano and funky space synth constitute an unconventional, unique or inspiring piece of music?

First, it is important to understand the context of the music. Tin is tasked with writing music for a video game set on Mars where almost every action taken needs to be carefully considered in a competitive live (space) market environment. Now, how many orchestras do you think there are in space? Believe it or not, we have an International Space Orchestra, but they haven’t actually performed in space. No, there are no orchestras in space and fittingly there are no orchestras in “Red Planet Nocturne”. Instead, Tin opted for a soft bell, a typewriter of some sort and a fuzzy firework when playing with his synthesiser, giving the whole piece the ‘otherworldly’ feel that it needs. Then, he ‘earths’ it with a soft piano chiming away in the background, bringing wholeness and familiarity to the music. After all, it is still us humans that are colonising Mars.

The result is gentle piece that meanders in its own way. The music almost feels as if it is floating around, curiously adventuring into a new unknown. That doesn’t sound too much different to Mars anyway. In any case, the music is mysterious, but soothing, and well worth a listen!

“Red Planet Nocturne” has influenced some of my work. Most notably, the piano chimes in the piece inspired similar chimes in my own piece, “Crop Circles” from the Adventure_RPG OST.

Happy listening and enjoy!

Journey: Remastered Released!

New Music!

Five years after the release of his debut album Journey New Zealand composer Camiel van Schoonhoven has released an revised version.

To celebrate the occasion, Camiel decided to revisit the original album, updating the instrument sounds and tweaking a few passages. Most significantly, Camiel added a eight, bonus, track to the end, titled Epilogue. He explains that the piece is intended to add a note finality to the musical adventure, noting that the original music took listeners out on a journey, but never brought them back.

Epilogue is an upbeat and heroic piece, which Camiel says is a testament to the achievements of not only the story told within the music, but the story told within his own career.

Indeed, it is a fitting piece to celebrate five years of publishing music and alongside it Camiel released a video detailing his own journey to date, including inspirations, interesting facts and times of adversity.

You can watch the video below and the full revised album is available on Camiel’s SoundCloud here.