DAN CHADBURN
Nocturnes
(Dan Chadburn Music)

 

Described as ‘a journey through the night’, Nocturnes is a sublime sounding solo piano album from Oregon-bred, Washington, D.C. based Dan Chadburn. Commenting on his album, Dan adds, ‘Night has always been a special time for me. Much of my piano playing is done late at night and most of these pieces were composed at night.’ There is a somber eloquence in Chadburn’s music, almost as if these pieces were meant to be listened to at night as well. Nocturnes is Chadburn’s fourth solo album and overall it’s a fine introduction to his masterful piano work. Although Chadburn’s grand piano is front and center here, there is some light accompaniment from several other musicians on strings and English horn, while Chadburn also adds in several other keyboard like sounds. Commenting on his latest solo album, Dan further explains, 'For quite some time, several close friends had been encouraging me to create an album of music to "inspire, soothe, and heal." After the deaths of several good friends in a span of less than six months, I turned to the recording studio as a means of dealing with the loss. In its own way, spending time at the keyboard was very healing for me. Over a period of about a month, I recorded the piano improvisations which ultimately became the foundation for Nocturnes.' Fans of esteemed New Age keyboard icons like Suzanne Ciani and Spencer Brewer are advised to track down and enjoy the blissful piano sounds on Dan Chadburn’s Nocturnes. www.DanChadburn.com



mwe3.com presents an interview with
DAN CHADBURN



mwe3:
Where are you from originally and where do you live now and what do you like best about it? What other parts of the world do you enjoy visiting and do you consider yourself a citizen of the world?

Dan Chadburn: First, let me just say thanks to you and the folks at mwe3.com for the opportunity to share with you through this interview. I appreciate it very much. I was born and raised in Oregon—on the West Coast of the U.S. After I graduated from college, I toured the U.S. for a bit, eventually settling in Southern California, where I lived for several years. In the 1990s, I moved to England for two years to go to grad school. After that, I moved back to the States—the Washington, DC area, where I've lived for almost twenty years now. I've always loved to travel; to experience other cultures and customs. While I haven't traveled the entire globe, I'm grateful to have visited five of its continents... and although different languages may be spoken and different laws may be in force, there are positive commonalities among each. My travels have reinforced my hope that one day, among all of us as citizens of this world, there will be a greater understanding and acceptance of diversity among cultures and faiths.

mwe3: What were your early musical studies like? I understand that you came from a classical background? Who are some of your most important musical influences? Were you influenced by pop and jazz or mostly classical music and how about avant garde and electronic music influences too?

Dan Chadburn: I began piano lessons in grade school and continued through college as a piano performance major. While my studies focused primarily on traditional classical repertoire, I discovered early on that I also enjoyed improvisation. Not so much traditional jazz improvisation—with its general adherence to structures and patterns—but rather freeform, extemporaneous improvisation, "expressing whatever comes in the moment." As a kid growing up in the late '60s and early '70s, I certainly listened to a fair amount of popular music on the radio...my favorite artists or bands at the time included Chicago, Simon & Garfunkel, The Carpenters, Dan Fogelberg, and Elton John. To my young ear, there was a sophistication and relative complexity to each of these bands/artists' music which inspired my own creativity. The most important musical influences in my life, however, were my two piano teachers, Maxine Martin and Dr. Calvin Knapp. Each of them helped me discover the extraordinary beauty that is music and encouraged me to pursue music, in its various forms, as my lifetime vocation.

mwe3: Tell us how your Nocturnes album took shape and how do you feel it compares to your other CD releases? Where and when was the music on Nocturnes written and recorded?

Dan Chadburn: For quite some time, several close friends had been encouraging me to create an album of music to "inspire, soothe, and heal." After the deaths of several good friends in a span of less than six months, I turned to the recording studio as a means of dealing with the loss. In its own way, spending time at the keyboard was very healing for me. Over a period of about a month, I recorded the piano improvisations which ultimately became the foundation for Nocturnes. I then scored the solo instruments (french horn, english horn, viola and violin) to add texture, color and melody to those piano tracks. Most of the album, as with much of my music, was composed and recorded late at night—there's a certain serenity that only the night hours can bring. Compared to my earlier albums, I would say Nocturnes is less complex. And, because its primary intent is to calm the spirit, rather than stir it up, per se, its dynamic range isn't nearly as broad as my other albums.

mwe3: What instruments do you play on the Nocturnes CD and in addition to grand piano, what other keyboard instruments do you play? I had heard you also play electric organ? Do you have a preference when it comes to pianos and, from your experience, what separates different brands of pianos, such as comparing Steinways with say Yamaha and other grand pianos?

Dan Chadburn: On Nocturnes specifically, I played a Yamaha 7' acoustic grand and a Kurzweil PC3x synthesizer—utilizing piano, harpsichord, electric bass, and assorted string samples. And yes, I do play a little bit of organ—but I've never quite gotten the whole pedal thing down. If you know of a good organ teacher who takes students with clumsy feet, let me know. (laughter) You asked if I have a preference when it comes to pianos. I've played many different makes, including Steinway, Baldwin, Yamaha, Bosendorfer, Schimmel, Kawai, and others. It really depends on the specific piano itself, but generally speaking, I prefer Yamaha pianos. For my own style of writing/playing, Yamaha pianos generally have the most ideal action/touch—and resulting tone—to suit my music best.

mwe3: Can you tell us about the other musicians who worked with you on the Nocturnes CD and who were some of the other key people involved in the making of the CD, such as engineers as well as those involved in the mixing, mastering and artwork design?

Dan Chadburn: I'm grateful to have worked with some wonderful and talented people on Nocturnes. The instrumentalists included Helen Hausmann (viola and violin), Carole Libelo (english horn), and Marty Hackleman (french horn). The piano tracks for the album—with the exception of the first track, "Twilight"—were recorded in our home studio here in Virginia, while the rest of the CD, including "Twilight", was recorded at AirShow, Inc. in Takoma Park, MD.

Recording and mixing engineers included Tom Nichols, Charlie Pilzer and me. Charlie was also the mastering engineer. Martine Stein did the album design/artwork while Dave Heneberry provided the photographs. I'd be remiss if I didn't also mention the group of close friends who initially suggested and urged me to record Nocturnes...these include Anne Madison, Dave Heneberry, Rainey Foster, Holly Montgomery, and my husband, Tom Nichols.

mwe3: How has your background in scoring film and television music influenced your concepts and styles of writing and recording instrumental piano music? Where did you study scoring for films and do you still write music for soundtracks and other video music?

Dan Chadburn: I enrolled in the film scoring program at U.C.L.A. shortly after moving to Los Angeles in 1987. It was a marvelous opportunity to learn the craft of writing and orchestrating for the screen from well-established composers working in film and television at that time. I eventually came to the realization, however, that I prefer writing without the innate limitations that composing to picture presents. I suppose if it was all about writing "Main Title" themes I might feel differently, but so much of scoring involves writing short cues, 30 seconds or less, which must, if done correctly, be perfectly timed and synced to picture in order to properly support, but never intrude upon, the dialogue/action on screen. Not so easy to do day in and day out for one whose writing style favors freeform improvisation. That said, there are principles of scoring which can be applied to composing, whether for film or not—i.e. the use of different harmonic textures and instrumental timbres to convey specific imagery in music, recognizing and placing importance on empty space and/or rests in music, etc..

mwe3: Also what was it like receiving a masters of music degree in Electro-Acoustic composition from London's City University and how did that influence your writing and recording sound? Was that like an exercise into the avant garde of sorts? Your music sounds much more easy on the ears and cinematic as opposed to intense avant garde or even electronic sounds... Is that another side of your multidimensional musical vision?

Dan Chadburn: Compared to the classical piano concentration of my undergraduate studies, Electro-Acoustic Composition at London's City University was, as one friend aptly stated, like "musical whiplash." Two VERY diverse genres of music. And yet, there ARE common elements in each. I had the honor of studying at City when Simon Emmerson and Denis Smalley were both on faculty. Both are exceptional composers and pioneers in the field of Electro-Acoustic music. Smalley's composition, Pentes, is touted as one of the premiere classics of Electro-Acoustic music. It was exciting to broaden my scope as a musician and composer, learning and applying new techniques to record and physically alter sound, and then using those sound samples as elements in my own compositions. It also trained my ear to hear more spatially than ever before.

mwe3: Do you consider your instrumental piano music to be part of the New Age music world or is it more into the 21st century classical domain? Do you differentiate between musical genres? It often seems that New Age and classical music, at least when it comes to instrumental piano music, are sometimes closer than we think.

Dan Chadburn: Indeed, I think the two genres overlap in many ways, and may in fact, ultimately become one in the same... if not already. Certainly, "classical music", in the traditions of Western music, has evolved through the ages; its periods now are many—Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical era, Romanticism, Impressionism, 20th century, etc... I think it's reasonable to consider the idea that the New Age music of today may indeed be the latest period of "classical music" in this, the 21st century.

mwe3: You expound on your music by incorporating elements of improvisation into your sound. Would you say that implementing improvisational techniques is common in solo piano music and classical music and do you borrow from certain aspects of jazz when you improvise?

Dan Chadburn: I honestly can't speak for others' solo piano music, but in my own, improvisation is a common practice. I don't consider myself a jazz pianist in the least—in fact, I'm ignorant to all but the basic elements of jazz. So again, it's hard for me to know if my own improvisational style incorporates aspects of jazz. I suppose it may. It may not. Because of my classical training, I think I more closely identify with composers of classical music who often would include cadenzas in their orchestral works, cadenzas which typically would be improvised by the soloist... without a written score. In a very basic sense, what I can say is that when I improvise, I'm usually most content with the result when I simply clear my mind—"get into the zone"—and allow my hands to move freely on the keys as they will without my consciousness getting in the way. As soon as I begin to think or become aware of specific chord progressions or meters or melodic lines, any magic in the improvisation inevitably dies.

mwe3: What are your concert performances like and how do you set the sonic tone in a live setting? What was the most memorable show or favorite concerts that you ever performed?

Dan Chadburn: Simply said, I'm grateful for any opportunity I have to play for others. Over the years, I've played anywhere from small intimate venues to large concert halls. Most memorable in recent months, I've played for several hospice care memorial services. In that I believe my music can and does provide comfort and peace, I'm especially thankful to have been able to offer music at these memorials.

mwe3: What other contemporary artists and composers do you feel a kindred spirit with these days? I know you have appeared on several CD compilations alongside Suzanne Ciani and other gifted musicians. What contemporary artists that you listen to, do you feel are breaking new musical ground these days?

Dan Chadburn: There are many, many wonderful composers and artists today. I could name several, but then, no doubt, I'd fail to name others I equally respect. I'm certainly thankful to have been included on the 9/11 recording with Suzanne Ciani and other composer/pianists—each of them are artists I highly admire.

mwe3: Music seems to be the clearest link that truly connects us throughout our lives. In what ways do you find music to be the most healing? I think of music enhancing memory by creating a natural sound, scoring the soundtrack to our lives. Actual mental / physical calming aspects also seem to come to mind. Is there a soundtrack to our lives? What is the soundtrack to your life?

Dan Chadburn: In a single word, "YES!" While I can't even begin to fathom the full powers of music, I know the profound impact music has had on my own life. I've seen evidence of its impact on those around me. My hope and desire is that my own soundtrack is one of sharing, understanding, acceptance and peace.

mwe3: What have you planned for 2014 as far as writing, recording and performing new music? What directions are you moving into and heading for in the new year?

Dan Chadburn: One of my resolutions for the new year is to video record at least one piano improvisation every day of 2014. It's still too early to call, but so far so good. (laughter) While many of these pieces will likely not deserve a second listen, occasionally there will be one that gives me encouragement to keep writing, to keep doing what I'm meant to do in life: create and share music with those who wish to hear it. Thank you again for allowing me to share a bit about myself, and thank you for all that you and mwe3.com does to improve this world by promoting so many wonderful artists and their music!



Thanks to Dan Chadburn @ www.DanChadburn.com

 

 
   
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