Dutch pianist and composer Joep Beving enjoyed unprecedented success in the contemporary classical music world, with nearly 300 million streams on Spotify. He sold out shows across the world including performances at the Sydney Opera House, Lowlands Festival and the 2018 Burning Man festival.
HENOSIS, the final version in Joep’s trilogy of albums was released in 2018. On 7 February, DG released a new digital deluxe version, with 4 brand-new solo piano tracks. ‘Klangdall’, ‘Orvonton’, ‘Sol and Luna’ and ‘Shepherd’ are stripped down to reveal the warm, intimate sound of Joep’s beloved Schimmel piano. We caught up with Joep to chat about his musical journey, HENOSIS and future plans.
How did your musical journey start?
Joep: The beginning was, maybe even before I was born [laughing]. I stopped making music for about 10-12-13 years because I thought I needed to find a job… But I never really gave up on the idea that I wanted to release an album. There was a point when a couple of things happened in my life culminating in a burnout situation when I just needed to sit behind the piano to stay sane, calm my anxieties down, and to find something that was part of me, that I could hold on to or find some comfort or trust in. Then this new music came out that I never played before and it felt like the thing I needed to do. It was like going through a little door and stepping out on the other side. That album all of the sudden gave me an audience and I started to perform live which was very scary [laughing]. I was extremely lucky to have all these things come together. Spotify picking up this music in a playlist that was very popular… It’s a gift, you know, you get a chance, and I realised when I got this chance that it’s probably once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go for it, so I did. Here I am 5 years later.
How did your past & upbringing influence your work?
Joep: Music was always welcomed in the family. I’ve enjoyed creating music since a very early age and had an opportunity to study a bit of music throughout my high school years. There I had a really great teacher who introduced us to new and experimental music, and that definitely planted a seed. Going to my mum’s choir recitals, listening to beautiful music without knowing what it was from 15-17th centuries – all of this definitely had an influence on my appreciation for music in general. I would never have thought that I would end up signing into a classical label though. That was such an unexpected turn!
You are now releasing a digital deluxe edition of HENOSIS, an update to the final version of your trilogy of albums. What was your highlight when writing it?
Joep: There was one epiphany moment. I don’t know which piece I was working on but I realised that this was absolutely not about me and it was also not up to me to decide whether this music should be created or published, I just felt like this is beyond me, I’m just going to create this and we’ll see where it goes. That was a very important split-second type of moment, but I kind of still feel that.
Or this other moment, Venus, for example, which is on HENOSIS… I went into the studio, almost instantly recorded the string part leaving spaces for some reason. I heard that, and then I picked a solo cello and I played the melody right in between these empty spaces and it was like…meant to be! I wasn’t thinking about this, and then it was ready [laughing]. It’s these moments when that happens, and you are just amazed…you don’t think, you just do it. That creates a way of looking at inspiration or reality that is very interesting, and very liberating for some. I’ve come to be conscious of the fact that these moments can occur, but you do not determine when they happen. And I’m not talking about my music, but it gives appreciation towards creation and art in general. You feel like there is importance there that we don’t realise, but it’s a voicing of collective unconsciousness that we all need to see and feel in order to communicate with each other.
You performed a tribute to Burning Man co-founder Larry Harvey at the 2018 festival. How does performing in the Black Rock City compare to other major events you’ve been a part of?
Joep: That’s just something else, it’s an amazing experience. It’s difficult to go there without a purpose beyond yourself. You have to contribute. It’s very much about inclusion and giving. If you see the level of energy and creation that people put in for such a small amount of time that they are there it’s just incredible, and a lot of it just gets burnt after. For me it was a great feeling to be going there knowing that I was playing a very modest part in the festival. It’s just really a different place. To me, it felt like being in Tokyo, Jaipur and Star Wars cafeteria at the same time, and then on some different planet also, it was just bizarre.
We were there for 5.5-6 days. The show was planned where the piece, FRANCHISE FREEDOM by Studio Drift who asked me to be a part of it, was scheduled to perform for 4 nights. One night got wiped out by a sandstorm, and one night there was an opera singer who wanted to do it, so I ended up doing two nights, which was still absolutely bonkers. We had my music amplified so it was all over the Playa and then the lights that everybody could see… It was crazy!
Has your vision of your music changed over time?
Joep: On a personal level I’ve had a very distant relation with the music for a long time and at the beginning not knowing what to listen to and why. At the beginning, it’s very much about the identity and then at some point, it became much more existential and spiritual. It’s such an amazing way to look at life. If you hear some things and you realise that it’s been produced by humans, it makes you love humans very much [laughing]. I’ve grown to listen to it on so many different levels – how is it composed, how is it played, how is it produced, how is it performed, what kind of effect it has on me… To ecstatic moments when it takes you out of yourself and grows into something bigger.
Which other musicians inspire and influence you?
Joep: Philip Glass, Bill Evans, Sergei Prokofiev, Radiohead, Nirvana and the other classics… I’m probably missing a lot but those are the main influences I’d say.
Do you still have stage fright?
Joep: Yeah, I still do. It’s sometimes more or sometimes less. In a way, I hope it will never go away [laughing].
Where do you see yourself as a musician in the next couple of years?
Joep: Ohhh, I don’t know. I’m at a very interesting point where I’m trying to figure out in which direction I’m going. Whether it’s the alternative, electronic, or more the classical direction. Obviously, I don’t have training in the classical direction, but it feels very exciting to go there and I have a lot to learn there. I don’t really have to choose because I think my role is to combine them all. We’ll see!
Images: Rahi Rezvani