It can take a while for an artist to find their true calling. For Pieter de Graaf, he’s been searching since he sat next to his father, aged five, and watched him play the classics and the classical; the Beatles, the Stones, Chopin, Bach. As a teenager, he immersed himself in the world of jazz, dedicating hours to practice, and studying at the Conservatory of Rotterdam. For de Graaf, it has to be real, and it has to say something. So for his new project, he went back to basics. His influences – Miles Davis, Nils Frahm, Rachmaninov, Bach, Chopin, Herbie Hancock, and above all Keith Jarrett – allowed him to combine easy melodies with more virtuoso passages without losing the meaning, or the essence, of each song. The first result of this search for meaning and depth is Fermata, Pieter de Graaf’s debut project and the birth of a new talent in the neo-classical world. The songs aren’t “written” in any traditional sense; instead he plays and improvises segments, records them, and listens back before deciding what to use, what to discard, and what to embellish. That’s why Fermata is a project, not an album; many songs are already recorded but he cherishes the freedom to keep pushing boundaries and creating.
1: Music, as almost everything, is all about tension and release.
2: “It’s not the note you play that’s the wrong note – it’s the note you play afterwards that makes it right or wrong.” (Miles Davis)
3: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
1. What is the biggest inspiration for your music?
Everything. The world. Emotions. Of course my two kids. And last but not least music itself is an inspiration. Often when I start creating I start by playing one single note and repeating that note until the music decides what happens next and so I let the music guide me in my improvisation. So the sound of a single note or rhythm can be my biggest inspiration.
2. How and when did you get into making music?
As a young kid.. There always has been a piano at home. My father played it quite often. From then on I never stopped making music.
3. What are 5 of your favourite albums of all time?
Miles Davis – Kind of Blue
The Beatles – Abbey Road
Michael Jackson – Off the Wall
Keith Jarrett – Facing you
Radiohead – Ok computer
4. What do you associate with Berlin?
Memories. One of my first bands was a live hip hop band called Illicit. Often did shows with them in Berlin, quite some years ago. Brings back so many good memories. Berlin is like a huge playground. Love it.
5. What’s your favourite place in your town?
I live in a very cosy street in Haarlem with lots of lovely neighbours. I’d say that’s my favourite spot.
6. If there was no music in the world, what would you do instead?
Probably I would be drinking coffee all day… My motto is: No coffee no music.
7. What was the last record/music you bought?
Vladimir Ashkenazy, London Symphony Orchestra, Anatole Fistoulari – Rachmaninov – Piano Concerto No. 3 In D Minor, Op. 30.
8. Who would you most like to collaborate with?
Thom Yorke. Yes. Or Artificial Intelligence. I’ve been looking for partners to set up something with A.I. lately.
9. What was your best gig (as performer or spectator)?
As a spectator: I once saw Toots Tielemans play. Pure magic.
As performer: so difficult to choose… But since I’ve been working on my project Fermata for the last years so intensely I’d say my best gig was my Album Release Show in Paradiso Amsterdam in March 2019.
10. How important is technology to your creative process?
It’s important. Because of technology a piano makes a beautiful sound if you press some wooden keys. And because of technology there’s all kinds of different instruments, sounds, computers, Ableton and many possibilities. Thanks to technology I have a live setup with an acoustic piano and electronics such as midi footpedals, midi keyboards and Ableton.
11. Do you have siblings and how do they feel about your career/art?
I have one sister, sixteen months older than me. She loves what I do and always supported me. So grateful for that.
Catch Pieter de Graaf at Silent Green Kulturquartier on Saturday, 18th May 2019!
Photo © I AM KAT