It is always exciting to see artists expanding the boundaries of genres, blurring them and showing that ultimately all types of music are interconnected. Nils Frahm and Olafur Arnalds are a couple of international composers who are doing precisely that. Classical Piano Instrumental is a type of music that has been around for quite some time. For most people, it may not be seen as the most lively and youthful genre of music. Nils and Olafur are some examples of how contemporary artists are using modern technologies and additional instruments to put a spin on existing genres. The end result is something full of life and color. Something unique and all their own. Although the two artists use similar methods of making their music, each one has a distinct sound and effect on the audience.
After a brief introduction, Berlin- based composer Nils Frahm began at the synthesizer. Throughout the set Nils alternated between piano and the synthesizer, at times splitting between both. He built several different movements into each piece. During the set, he played a piece in which he used a timpani mallet to tap different parts of the piano. He would record the sound produced and loop it to use alongside the piano and synthesizer. The unconventional layering added complexity to the pieces; transforming the music into something that could not only be heard, but also deeply felt.
After the intermission, Olafur Arnalds took the stage. He began by recording the audience singing middle C in unison. This was not the only recording Arnalds used in his set. He also recorded the audience clapping to loop backwards amongst various things. In several instances, ordinary sounds gained increasing musical quality. They were being used as another instrument or another layer.
There was never a dull moment– Olafur was joined by Nils Frahm, vocalist Arnor Dan, violinist Viktor Orri Arnason, and cellist Rubin Kodheli at various times during the set. Extensive layering made their sound exponentially larger. Olafur Arnalds explained that he recorded the new album with a 90 plus person orchestra, while only a few people were on stage with him that night.
Nils Frahm and Olafur Arnalds seemed to move every single person in that room with their music. The audience sat silently in anticipation of what was to come as each performer glided gently from note to note. The finale resonated with everyone, and was hard to believe that it was played impromptu.
Words by Kristin Camacho