Who or what inspired you to take up composing, and pursue a career in music?
I improvised on the baby grand in my mothers ballet studio and didn’t realise what I was playing until my mother said that was Beethoven… this triggered my appetite to try and become ‘something in music’ at the age of 12!
Who or what were the most significant influences on your musical life and career as a composer?
Again in that ballet studio I heard Stravinsky, Beethoven, Dave Brubeck, Villa Lobos, at a very early age therefore. Later, like so many others, I got in to pop music and next to that so-called world music (Cuban, African, Indian), and today I feel I have absorbed all of those influences in my work. Later on I did a lot of media music for documentaries, tv network programs, current affairs and news programs and for audio installations and big entertainment events, and that is where I learned all the intrinsics and clichés of popular music, and how to avoid these or at least use them for a clear purpose.
Who are your favourite musicians/composers?
Debussy, Ravel, Mompou, Miles Davis, Brian Wilson, Ennio Morricone, Poulenc, Paddy McAloon, Scott Walker, Bill Evans
What were the special challenges/pleasures of working in isolation to create, ‘Maison Melody?’
The challenge was the limitation I gave myself to only compose for piano and string-quartet and sampler. Other composers do that often, but where I come from you start composing first and then you choose the instrumentation, so this was a difficult task for me at first, but gradually that in fact makes composing easier. So a very interesting and stimulating lesson I learned from this: less is indeed more and doesn’t distract you from what you are actually trying to say musically.
The pleasure was: zero distrections, no one else in the house, no Netflix bingeing, no other sounds coming from the kitchen, heaven! That really brings you further in your concentration and enables you to dive deeper in the imagination; you start to develop a hyperfocus and I’d say this adds more profoundness in the work.
Why did you want to release the upcoming album for free?
In this current time (covid-19) I think it is kind of inappropriate to make people have to decide between spending their money on either food, rent OR music. So it’s my gesture to offer it for free; it’s the least I can do at the moment and think it would be slightly vulgar to also have an economic agenda with releasing an artistic msuci album with earnest intentions.
Of which works are you most proud?
This one [Maison Melody] as it’s my most vulnerable one, most personal so far, but I’m also very proud of having worked with some of the world’s greatest popular vocalists. So each project has its very own merits and I like to change course all the time to keep on challenging myself.
How do you work?
For weeks I think, I ponder, and then suddenly I know what to do and then I hope to execute it as fast as possible and, how about being unreasonable, to get in to divine inspiration.
What have been the greatest challenges/frustrations of your career so far?
Because I like to challenge myself all the time, I have a tendency to bring myself into a situation from which I can no longer escape. Like the time I had a piece of mine being perfromed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra; before that I’d never done it before with such a large line up, so I just throw myself off the proverbial cliff metaphorically and then see if I can land properly. It’s the only way I can achieve progress and this is typically something where you worry sick beforehand and the relief afterwards is soooo rewarding and fullfilling!
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
My definition of succes is recognition over fame. Longevity over short term. Fullfillment instead of just for kicks.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
Be cheeky, be adventurous, be flexible, persist and believe in what you have to offer and be willing to learn forever.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Where your art and personality overlap in a treasured moment
What is your most treasured possession?
My Blüther baby grand piano from the 1930s
What do you enjoy doing most?
My hobby is my work is my calling is my passion: musica
What is your present state of mind?
Hopeful, proud of the current work and grateful for having been able to realise it and getting good and well meant responses to it so far!
Stephen Emmer’s neoclassical album Maison Melody is available now. Stephen has made the album available free to support financially comprised musicians during the COVID-19 crisis. Maison Melody was written and recorded solely by Stephen whilst in lockdown and explores the idea of isolation, family and solitude.
Read more about the album and listen to it here
Stephen Emmer is an established musician, widely known amongst music critics & fellow artists for his creation of brilliant Œconcept² albums, from a spoken word album with Alan Ginsberg Lou Reed, Richard Burton &
Yoko Ono, to the critically acclaimed ‘International Blue’ album with Midge Ure, Glen Gregory Julian Lennon & Liam McKahey from Cousteaux to his more recent album ‘Home Ground’ for Warchild, a soul album with Chaka
Khan, Leon Ware, Patti Austin & Andy Bey. Tony Visconti has produced and collaborated on most of Stephen¹s albums and in is own right Stephen is an award winning composer and screen music producer in his home country of Holland. He spent many years in the Uk in his youth, where he was one of the Minny Pops, signed to Factory Records who made their debut supporting Joy Division and as a member of both The Associates & The Lotus Eaters during the 80s.