by Gabriela Tedeschi
Photo by © Rahi Rezvani, courtesy of Deutsche Grammophon.
Solipsism refers to the philosophical idea that only the individual’s mind exists because nothing outside of it—others’ minds or the world—can truly be known. In other words, solipsism holds that there is no universal reality.
Dutch pianist and composer Joep Beving disagrees—his debut album Solipsism is meant more as a challenge to that philosophy than a statement in support of it. The up-and-coming artist, who has gained international acclaim through Solipsism, two follow-up albums, and several singles, uses music to challenge the notion that no shared reality exists. By distilling music to its aesthetic essence, Beving strives to create a universal language, something that disproves solipsism and speaks to everyone.
This week, Seattleites have the chance to experience Beving’s universal musical reality. Beving is performing pieces from his anti-solipsist solo piano albums in the Nordstrom Recital Hall in Benaroya Hall on Friday, Oct. 26 at 8pm.
But it’s not just about allowing audiences to experience a universal reality; it’s also about improving the way we experience the world outside of the concert hall. Beving believes in using his universal language as a way to provide comfort and solace in a chaotic world. Though generally soft and slow, there’s a gentle, rhythmic flow to his music that makes it majestic in an understated way. The warmth of his harmonies portray an underlying sense of hope even while the pieces traverse haunting, melancholy paths.
Beving’s music also stands out because of his gentle touch on the keys. After his grandmother’s death in 2009, he inherited her German piano and discovered that it required a lighter touch, ultimately leading him to adopt a more tender, classical style of playing. By working with a smaller range of dynamics and articulations, Beving is able to make a dramatic impact with the slightest changes in touch.
Though Beving’s music is dark and ruminative, its underlying tenderness leaves you with a sense of inner peace. You’ll leave the concert hall with a newfound connection to those around you, too, knowing that you’ve felt the same things and experienced the same reality.
Find out more about Beving’s musical philosophy in our interview below.
Second Inversion: In your work, music is the universal form of communication. How did you develop this philosophy as a composer?
Joep Beving: When I started to write music behind my piano at home, it was at a time that I myself was feeling more and more alienated from the people around me and the reality we live in. I lost track of the human scale of things and everything seemed to be more and more grotesque and unreal. The piano helped me to look for something essential, something to find trust and comfort in.
I stripped down the music to a very minimalist essence, to the point that it started to affect me. I had a hope that the music would resonate with people in general, and for this I strived to capture beauty in the hopeful belief that there is some form of universal truth in there. My only indicator of coming close to this were my own goosebumps, and I remember seeing it as an experiment in communication in the sense that if there was some sort of absolute aesthetic it could mean that my goosebumps should be yours too.
With music you can make a very personal connection to people you don’t know; they will find some form of recognition in the music and this creates a connection—a human connection that I feel is so needed in these times.
SI: You’ve mentioned that inheriting a German piano from your grandmother has influenced your style, leading you to adopt a more classical approach. How would you describe the way your music and playing have evolved over time?
JB: In my younger years I played a bit of jazz and the struggle was always to play as many notes as possible. I was very impatient and my technical skills didn’t allow for me to play what I was hearing in my head. When I grew older I started to dislike the way I was (trying) to play and looked at other ways to improvise, getting inspired by minimalists and pianists like Keith Jarrett who would create these magnificent atmospheres and tell what I experienced as more profound stories. I didn’t play that much piano but when I did, I looked for these type of stories.
It was only four years ago that all of sudden almost from one day to another my playing style turned into what it is now, and a lot of that has to do with the sound of my grandmother’s piano. It is the space between the notes played that contains the most magic, and with this instrument this empty space sounded so good that I didn’t want to contaminate it with too many notes.
SI: Your music can be mournful and haunting, but it also strives to be a soothing antidote to a chaotic world. Do sad and soothing work together easily or is it difficult to strike a balance?
JB: Absolutely. I believe that melancholy is like the default human condition or emotion. There is the element of sadness about the unfairness of life and many other things, but there’s also the hope that today or one day it will be better. Making music to that basic emotion feels honest and truthful or perhaps soothing, since it so well reflects how we really feel deep down. Music has the power to communicate on a level beyond the rational and establish this connection on a deeper level of understanding; it reminds us that we all more or less feel the same as humans.
Joep Beving is performing this Friday, Oct. 26 at 8pm at Nordstrom Recital Hall. For tickets and more information, click here.