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Philip Glass: A True Master of Minimalist Composition 

As a music composer myself, I’m always so impressed to hear how much can be done with so little. Minimalism in music is something that it’s so deceptively difficult. It might seem easy to just play a few selections of simple notes or suspended chords on the surface. However, mastering the art of creating sparse yet rich compositions is something it took me a lifetime to master, and there’s always enough room to keep growing. 

When speaking about minimalism in music, it’s impossible not to mention Philip Glass. This iconic composer has a unique creative range, and he was inspired by classical music, as well as avant-garde, and even the pop and rock acts of his youth to inform a broad sonic palette. From Beethoven to La Monte Young and Stockhausen, anything goes. Yet, Glass managed to develop a very distinctive sound that is instantly easy to recognize and connect with on a deeper metaphysical and emotional level. I have been a fan of his work for a long time, and I think he is one of the most gifted and innovative composers in modern music. As it happens, I am certainly not the only one thinking that, considering that Glass made music that is still incredibly influential. 

It is not surprising that he is often hailed as one of the most influential musicians in the 20th century. Some say that modern composition might not even be the same without the influence of Philip Glass and his creative contributions. However, others with a more traditional view of composition have controversial opinions about his worth as a composer. Like it often happens with the best and most honest art, you can’t please everyone at once! 

Some of his most touching and memorable music is based on the concept of repetitiveness. By insisting on a simple motif or on a set of notes that keep looping, he is able to create some stunning textures. The listening experience is so rewarding because the repetitive patterns in the music are not static. Create a sense of motion, a unique way to let the music evolve, almost spontaneously. This is something that I love! 

One of the most notable compositions written by Philip Glass is probably “Metamorphosis”. The flow of the music maintains a relatively understated tone. The piano chords and arpeggiated patterns vary in terms of dynamics and intensity, leading to an emotional climax. However, the composition is not progressive in nature, as in there is no conscious effort to move from point A to point B, to point C, and so on. This idea of composition is really all about the idea of a central theme. This is what makes “Metamorphosis” such a powerful work. The concept was actually inspired by Kafka’s story of the same name, which is pretty fitting with this compositional technique! Back in the 80s, when this song was composed, the idea of minimalistic compositions was quite groundbreaking. Minimalistic music was considered on the fringe, but Glass elevated the concept and ushered in the sound to a much broader audience. Parts of the composition also appeared on a classic TV show, Battlestar Galactica, which gave it even more of a broader audience. Even the band Pearl Jam uses parts of this composition as an opening theme for their shows! There is a cyclical, theme-centric approach in Glass’s music. Because of this, it’s easy to see why these compositions have become so popular with filmmakers. This style suits visual storytelling in a really unique way! 

Glass also went on to inspire other major modern composers, including Hans Zimmer or Denny Elfman, among others.

Supertramp: The band that inspired me to play the piano 

Today, I want to tell you about my love for the band Supertramp and how it came to be! I’ve been into their music ever since I was only eight years old. In fact, I remember really starting to love piano from listening to their music, back in 1978. The world was a very different place back then, and discovering new artists wasn’t as easy as today. Right now, all you need to do is open up a streaming app, and you have access to thousands of songs pretty much instantly. Back then, you really had to either rely on radio or music programs on TV. 

I was watching one of them when the song “Cuba” by the Gibson Brothers really made an impression on me! I had liked it so much that I actually asked my dad if he could go to the record shop and get me the single. I was eagerly waiting for him to come back with the disc, but on his return, I was disappointed, since he came back with something different. He was holding an album titled “Breakfast in America,” from the band “Supertramp.” Who were these guys? I was so angry that I didn’t get the record I asked for, and I felt like a kid getting the wrong gift for Christmas! My dad explained to me that they didn’t have the “Cuba” single at the shop but that the record shop owner recommended my dad to get the Supertramp record instead. 

I was still angry, and I was even crying, so my father pleaded with me: “Alright, what do you say we listen to the album, and if you don’t like it, we’ll return it right away?” Begrudgingly, I agreed, and we got the record out of its sleeve and onto our player. I couldn’t believe it. It didn’t take me too long to completely forget about the “Cuba” record: this was a whole new musical world to me. The piano intro of the song “Gone Hollywood” was so big, mesmerizing, and epic, and it still stands out to me as one of my favorite musical moments ever! The singer, Roger Hodgson, was amazing as well. He has a unique vocal sound, and although I couldn’t really understand any of the lyrics in English at the time, I thought that his voice really spoke to me in a more personal, magical kind of way. The album features ten songs, and each of them had something a bit different to offer. 

I really loved the amazing electric keyboard sound of “The Logical Song,” with that crunchy Wurlitzer type sound, along with the big grand piano that makes everything sound so special on Supertramp’s records. The title track of the album, “Breakfast In America,” is another fantastic track, and many people might actually be familiar with this melody, even if they have not heard of Supetramp directly. A few years back, Gym Class Heroes released a song called “Cupid’s Chokehold,” which featured the chorus of “Breakfast In America,” exposing the track to a much larger and younger audience for that generation. 

Needless to say, I am so happy to see newer generations are still discovering this band. Back in the late 70s, I fell in love with the then-new Supertramp record, and I played it over and over again. I am still a huge fan of that band, which really inspired me to play the piano. Soon after, I asked my parents to take piano lessons, which they happily obliged! 

Sometimes I wonder, what would I be doing now if that record shop had the “Cuba” single, or if the owner had never recommended this amazing Supertramp album?

Ludovico Einaudi: Here’s why I love his music 

There are so many musicians and composers out there whom I really respect. However, Italian pianist and composer Ludovico Einaudi has a special place in my heart. Even if you are not familiar with his name, you might have heard his music, as some of his compositions have been featured on some incredibly successful feature films. From the classic British flick “This Is England,” down to the charming “The Untouchables” and the eerie horror film “Insidious,” anything goes. His melodic style is so simple, yet so nuanced and incredibly accomplished. In other words, he is the type of pianist who can say so much without saying too much. 

I really like the simplicity of his piano playing because I really think that sometimes, the silence between notes and using only a few chords can be a great way to build more emotion in a track. This is exactly what I try to do with my music as well, but Einaudi has mastered this concept to an astonishingly high level. There is a classical music sensibility to his playing, but at the same time, he made this style of music more approachable for people out there. I’ve often heard of people loving Einaudi’s music, even if they have no background in classical music, or if even if they don’t really listen to that type of music very often. How can someone with a classical background like Einaudi achieve such a significant mainstream success? Well, I really think that it is because of the inner “less is more” simplicity of his compositions. If you really think about it, some of the best melodies out there are those that people can remember and even hum along to them. Many of Einaudi’s melodies have this amazing, relatable vibe to them, and they are so memorable and full of passion. 

Not to mention the sounds! His piano always has a very incredible tone to me, something that I always strive to do with my piano sounds. At times, his piano is round and whisper-like, played with incredible delicacy and with a unique touch. However, he also knows when to push the bar higher and ramp up the intensity of his playing with great results. 

I could go on and on telling you how and why Ludovico Einaudi is amazing. Maybe, the best thing that I could say is: go listen to his music! Pick any track, get comfortable, and better yet, put on your favorite headphones, letting the music carry you away. I think then, you will immediately understand what I mean, as sometimes, such artistry is not quite easy to describe with words alone. I, for one, will always be grateful to this masterful composer because I learned so much by simply listening to his tracks. Not only has he been influential to me in terms of writing and composition, but also in terms of sound. I think that the way your piano and instruments sound is just as important as the composition itself because people really connect with the quality of the recordings. Einaudi knows how to match the right piano sound with his work, and as a result, his recordings are always so amazing and accomplish. My music would probably not be the same without his influence and impact! 

Any song recommendations? Check out “Nuvole Bianche” or “Experience.” These tracks are some of the artist’s most popular works, and there is definitely a good reason why! They embody his minimalistic sound and vision to perfection, and I think they can be a good starting point to get into his music!

Composer Franz Liszt: Biography of a Piano Virtuoso 

About Liszt 

Franz Liszt was a 19th-century composer and a pianist of astonishing skill. He was an influential composer and musical innovator with a profound impact on the evolution of music. He created the symphonic poem, orchestral music in a single movement without the pauses incorporated in classical compositions. 

Liszt also had the status of a 19th-century rock star. His piano playing was brilliant and showy, and he attracted an enthusiastic following by playing flashy, crowd-pleasing pieces. He became wildly popular in some circles, but was often dismissed by critics who overlooked the substance of his music in their disdain for his popular appeal. 

Biography 

Liszt was born October 22, 1811, in the village of Doborján, Hungary (now Raiding, Austria). His father Adam, a pianist at the court of Count Esterházy, gave Franz his first music lesson at the age of 6. Young Franz was a child prodigy, quickly learning to sight-read and playing with remarkable skill. In 1820 he performed his first concerts, attracting the attention of local aristocrats. 

In 1822 he traveled to Vienna with his family, where he was taught piano by Carl Czerny and composition by Antonio Salieri. In 1823 the family moved to Paris where Franz studied composition. That year he wrote his first significant composition, the Grande Fantaisie de Bravoure sur La Clochette de Paganini. 

In 1826 Adam Liszt died, leaving 15-year-old Franz to support his mother by teaching piano lessons. Liszt was troubled for many years by depression, and in 1829 he almost gave up music. By 1830, however, he was re-inspired and started composing again. 

In 1835 Liszt took the unconventional step of moving in with a girlfriend, the countess Marie d'Agoult. The couple moved to Switzerland and had three children. Liszt moved out in 1839. 

By this time Liszt was generally considered one of the best pianists in the world. In fact, he had only one serious rival. Sigismond Thalberg was another former child prodigy, virtuoso pianist, and composer. In 1837 Liszt returned to Paris for a famous “piano duel” with his rival. Liszt is generally considered the winner. 

From 1842 to 1847 Liszt was a wildly popular performer, traveling Europe giving piano recitals. Women adored him, and fought over his handkerchiefs. Serious musicians resented his popularity and accused him of pandering to the masses. 

In 1847 he gave up public performance, and in 1848 he moved to Weimar, Germany. He met Princess Carolyne zu Sayn-Wittgenstein that year. The couple hoped to marry, but the princess could not get her former marriage annulled by the Vatican. 

The later years of Liszt’s life were marked by serious composition and significant acts of philanthropy. Liszt gave benefit concerts for charities and disaster relief, and contributed to the Beethoven Monument. 

Liszt's daughter Cosima invited him to Bayreuth, Germany, for a festival for Wagner, her late husband, in 1886. While in Bayreuth he contracted pneumonia. He died on July 31, 1886. 

Liszt’s Legacy 

Liszt left a fascinating musical legacy. He wrote popular compositions that have been recorded many times, and compositions only a handful of virtuoso pianists in the world can play. He invented the piano recital. He has entered the pantheon of great composers, and has influenced the evolution of modern music.

Elucid Magazine publishes an article about me titled "How collaboration brings success: the story of pianist and composer Juan Sánchez" 

Elucid Magazine has published an article titled How collaboration brings success: the story of pianist and composer Juan Sánchez where they explain my story about how I got involved with lots of videographers, YouTubers, dancers, and other artists that have helped me to expand my music to a wider audience by placing my music on their visual productions. 

From video games to short films, Youtube videos, stories, reels and other projects, thanks to these fantastic artists, I have managed to create a nice portfolio, with my music being used by many creators who are equally as passionate and dedicate.

Click here to read the article on Elucid Magazine

How Slow, Quiet, Piano Songs Are Best For Sleeping 

Over the course of the last century, many psychologists and therapists have conducted field studies in how music helps the brain in certain areas, whether it is for recovery or set a specific mood. Today we will discuss how it can be a potential tool to aid sleeping and assist you in regaining a the benefits from a good night of sleep. 

The brain is highly influenced by the sound frequencies it is surrounded, for example, pop music has been proven to aid in generating feelings of positive and happy feelings, some genres that use a faster pace (Such as electronic music or trap) can be helpful while working out or staying awake during a long night of stressful work and maintain yourself at a calm and steady pace, music itself also influences the body, for example, electronic music which is written in 128 BPM can help blood flow and will tune with the heart’s natural beat. 

Of course, today we will observe the opposite situation in which we seek the possibility to aid our brain to rest and sleep, the studies that have been conducted go as low as piano music that plays at 60 BPM to help you fall asleep. 

The most crucial elements for a piece of music to aid in this are the following: 

  • Ideal 98 BPM.- Through the course of several studies by different analytic groups have concluded that the ideal BPM (Beats Per Minute) is 98 to not only help you fall asleep, but dictate the mind and the body that you are in a state of comfort and relaxation. 

A lot of tracks that go at this BPM in classical, Neo classical, Jazz and Funk Music even tend to generate a sense of trance, but there is a few other key factors to make a song sit in the tracks of becoming a tool of  relaxation and sleeping. 

  • The Right Instrument.- The best instrument to generate a sense of calmness and release anxiety and stress and aid the mind in relaxing is the piano, this is because the piano has all the frequencies (from the low deep notes to the high pitched ones) that can compose and create a sense of uniformity all on its own, one clear of example of this can be found in the Chopin Nocturnes, interpreted by François Chaplin or Erik Satie Gymnopédies, these are clear examples of how a piano can generate a sense of comfort in the mind over the course of 45 minutes, which takes us to the next part. 

(Another instruments that can accompany this sense of comfort and induce relaxation and liberation from stress are the flute, the classical guitar and the violin. All of these instruments have in common that they can stand on their own and generate a musical progression without the need of support instruments on the back, although the piano is the suggested one by far more than all the others) 

  • Taking The Time.-  The next and most important key aspect is for you to take the time to sit down and listen and focus on the music, you can make yourself a cup of tea (Coffee is not recommended as it alters the nervous system and makes you kick back with a boost of energy) 

and turn off the lights or have a warm dimmed light that is not directly facing you (This is important as it is processed by your brain as if it was a day light and tells your body to remain awake as it is not time to sleep yet due to the excessive light consumption your eyes are processing) 

  • Scale.- The scale In which the musical piece is written is also of upmost importance as it dictates a mood, a happy melody which is related to a major key will generate a sense of energy and upbringing, while this is good for even battling depression we want to focus on minor scale songs which set a gloomy, dark and sometimes sad feeling environment, which are in fact more calm and help the brain to enter a state of trance with more ease.
  • Volume.- Loud music is the worst for your brain! We want to focus on keeping a healthy amount of volume (especially if you are using headphones) which the ideal levels are between 20 -23 dB, if you do not know how to measure this you can find tutorial videos online on how to estimate the volume of a song, voice or pretty much anything. 

Volume can also be one of the reasons that could be generating a difficult environment for you to sleep, specially if you live in a large scale city or zone where there is traffic as the volume levels usually exceed this 20 to 23 dB mark with ease. 

If this is the case we suggest you use headphones that have the back closed, that aid in blocking the sound and have a cup shape in the ear pad (Make sure the ear pads are made from a soft material or your ears will warm up and cause discomfort) 

The volume of an environment is one of the main reasons in today’s society for constant stress and difficulty focusing on tasks, your headphones can also help you isolate yourself, which makes them a great tool for not just listening to music but making your surroundings more silent. 

These five key aspects determine if a song is really the best for relaxing and sleeping, a great playlist that features most and all of these elements is the following on Spotify: 

Slow, Sad & Quiet Piano Songs For Sleeping

Which are a collection of sad, calm piano songs for relaxing and sleeping. 

Now, what are all the benefits behind resting and sleeping with a brain influenced by music? Let’s begin by discussing the general benefits of a good night sleep and how if you keep it up it can help fight many physical and emotional symptoms. 

  • Overthinking.- Overthinking is one of the main reasons one does not achieve a good level of rest, This is usually because there is a saturation on your mind on how your day went by and how it adds up with past days on tasks to do and how you will solve them. 

Music helps break the cycle of overthinking and makes things a lot easier for your mind as it has a new, fresh thing to focus on that does not present a problem or requires solving of any kind, as this specific kind of music does not challenge the mind and goes at a speed it can keep up with ease and remain calm. 

  • Anxiety.- Anxiety is one of the most dangerous mental states and how it connects with the body aside from depression, not getting a proper sleep breaks the rest cycle needed for the body to withstand daily stress and this generates slowly symptoms that add up over the course of five to ten days, these symptoms can include, poor eyesight, faster heart beat, overthinking, emotional discomfort or drastic changes in mood, headaches, physical tiredness and even hand shaking, now, some of these symptoms are extreme cases they can present themselves little by little. 

Music helps also to break this cycle as Anxiety is directly related to overthinking and depression over the course of days, per to say, it is a result of excessive over thinking and the beginning of a depression. 

Around the world more and more people suffer of anxiety and many studies show that this is due to a true lack of sleep, it can be really hard nowadays to eight constant and peaceful hours of sleep with the world becoming more and more competitive. 

  • Fatigue.- Fatigue is a very common symptom from lack of sleep and can be accompanied by overthinking. 

Fatigue can present itself visually and mentally (not being able to think clearly and what is commonly thought to be blurry thoughts and unclear ideas, or just a hard time focusing)  but can also be a general physical symptom that many people ignore that can be easily fixed with a good night of sleep. 

  • Chronic Pain.-  one of the most common problems behind not having a good night sleep is Chronic pain, this is specially notable in people who spend a lot of time sitting down in front of a computer or their job, and their back takes a large amount of stress or they do not have a proper posture while sitting down or walking. 

During the sleep cycle, the body recovers from physical stress heavily and is oriented to a state of recovery that begins after the first two hours of deep sleep (which can only be achieved by falling asleep in a state of relaxation) 

To begin the process of how we will use the playlist we want to start by mentioning that you need to be in a space that is quiet and you will not be distracted as you will need a time between forty five to sixty minutes to use the playlist and listen to it before bed. 

The best thing you can do with this playlist is to simply lay down or sit in a comfortable space where your body is at rest with headphones on and slowly control your breathing, gather your thoughts and focus deeply on how the music progresses and how each song sounds.

Listen to the 'Slow, Sad & Quiet Piano Songs For Sleeping' Playlist on Spotify