Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?
Music was an integral part of my childhood, associated with happiness and freedom. I wanted to keep that going in my adult life.
Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?
My basic skills were planted in the early years, playing with my singing and guitar-playing father. Later, when I studied classical music in Stuttgart, choir conductor Dieter Kurz shared musical wisdom about phrase, breath and interplay that are still essential to me today. When I moved to New York City, jazz pianist Richie Beirach and producer Robert Sadin opened my eyes, ears (and some doors) too.
What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
Firstly: The balance between leading a good family life and an ambitious career. Secondly: challenging myself to step out of comfortable situations and reinvent myself. Several times in my career I started to build new “bridges into the mist”. PYANOOK is my latest undertaking in this spirit.
What are the pleasures and challenges of working with other musicians?
Interaction. Dissolving in the musical flow. Travelling and eating together, sharing lives. I have the privilege to do that with Joo Kraus, Veit Hübner and Torsten Krill for more than 25 years. With such a close-knit inner circle I am challenged to really open up in new collaborations and enable new sonic synapses. But that’s a pleasure as well!
How would you describe your compositional/musical style?
Colourful, surprising. Rich harmony. Full devotion towards the groove.
As a composer, how do you work?
The idea comes to me in an unexpected situation. With a sketchbook or a dictation app I grasp the initial thing and work it out later, mostly on the piano. I constantly switch between the composer and the listener’s chair.
When I write for big ensembles, I tend to associate a person or a character with every instrument, mentally diving into the rehearsal or concert and imagining their interpretation of my music.
Tell us more about your album ‘PYANOOK’….
PYANOOK is a futuristic piano project, an artistic exploration of technology. In it I discover poetry in the interaction of machine and human being that opens up new possibilities for my instrument, the grand piano. Based on its timeless sound, new music evolves that I would like to share with my audience and give them confidence that technology can make us fly in many ways.
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
Happiness and freedom. Playing or listening to the right song at the right moment.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Music is social. Focus on eco instead of ego.
Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?
In a world that has succeeded to repair environmental damages. In a society that has done major achievements towards equality. In an environment that values music and the arts.
Ralf Schmid is the first pianist to release an album using Imogen Heap’s mi.mu gloves, wearable tech which Ralf beliees can free up the potential of traditional instruments such as the piano.
PYANOOK is released on 8 November