Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Interview #2: Brandon Pieplow/Musician

(This is the second of a series of interviews that CDWM holds... interviewing young entrepreneurs and artists from all walks of life."

CDWM: “So, tell me a little bit about yourself."

"BWP: “I’m Brandon Pieplow (pronounced PEEP-low) and I live in northeast Ohio. I’m currently between 21 and 22 years old. I’m employed full-time in my family’s home printing business. The bulk of our work comes in the form of ‘print-on-demand’ orders sent by email from a large local company. Most of the items ordered are simple to produce, but the volume is relatively high. Thus it keeps me busy and thence comes my paycheck.

“I’m a Homeschool Alumnus enrolled part-time at Stark State College of Technology, and am taking the current (Spring) semester off. My [two-year] major there is something they call Commercial Music. Classes include music theory, audio recording/mixing, music synthesis, as well as more universal things like Psychology (which they tell me everybody takes,) and English Composition. So far, I’ve completed most of the classes I’m not looking forward to. :)

“I guess you could say I’m a bit of an amateur photographer. I purchased a Canon digital SLR camera last summer and am greatly enjoying my discovery of ‘real’ photography. Besides my dad, who stopped using his film SLR [it broke] earlier than I can remember, our family has only ever had point-and-shoot cameras (both film and digital.) I was always frustrated by – especially when taking indoor shots – either the flash utterly ruining the original lighting and atmosphere of the scene, or getting a blurry picture because the shutter speed wasn’t high enough. The Canon solves these problems (and more) and lets me take the pictures I want. Photography is an art which can be taken in many different directions; I strive to take pictures that are God-honoring and uplifting to others.

“My favorite hobby, by far, is making music – or, perhaps more accurately, making music ‘happen.’ I love doing whatever it takes to make music happen, whether it’s singing harmony or arranging a classical piece or hymn to play with friends or recording my own tambourine tracks. I call myself a multi-instrumentalist because frankly, I am one. God has (I believe) given me a talent for figuring out a few certain types of instruments with little or no instruction, and those which can play, I do fairly regularly.

“Aside from two large, orchestral, soundtrack-type pieces which I wrote about a year ago, I do not do much composing, per se. The area in which I feel more gifted (and which I am far more inclined to pursue) is actually arranging. That is (as I define it,) taking a preexisting melody and writing one or more harmony parts for it. In the past couple of years, I have arranged tunes for recorder duet, recorder trio, recorder quartet, string trio, string quartet, string orchestra with flute and piano, woodwind quintet, and more. Of course, several of these have never been off the written page – some, because I arranged them for myself to record and I haven’t gotten around to recording them yet, and some, because I just don’t know enough musicians.”

CDWM: “What first inspired you to learn music? Was there a specific event that spurred you on?”

(The Recording Studio...)

BWP: “Music has always been there. I don’t think I can point to a specific event as the inspiration for my entire interest in music. Rather, I can point to various aspects of my upbringing which I believe have largely influenced my musical tastes, both in listening and in making music. I have been exposed to what is broadly termed “classical”music practically my whole life and I have been exposed to musical instruments for almost as long – I have an old picture of me ‘playing’ my uncle’s ARP Omni synthesizer in which I couldn't have been more than a toddler.

“At an early age, I learned how to work the record-player (I distinctly remember Dad teaching me, though Mom insists that she did.) Some of the favorites were titles like “The Cambridge Buskers” (an exciting flute/accordion duo playing everything from Renaissance to ragtime,) “The Unusual Classical Synthesizer,”“Switched-On Bach,” an album of fife and drum music from Colonial Williamsburg, and an album of excerpts from Handel’s Water Music. Thus, early in my life, I was exposed to a varied mix of playing styles and ways to arrange and play ‘classical’ music.

“I think my parents have always striven to make music (in some form or other) a part of the education of me and my siblings – not just in making sure we did our music theory workbooks, or encouraging [several of] us to pursue formal music lessons, but in other things as well. Whether it was the [much-loved] series of tapes telling the stories of the Great Composers, or the Akron Symphony Orchestra kid’s concerts (and later, Tuesday Musical) or the ‘Music Day’ we hosted at our home (one of the highlights of which was getting to try out a carload of instruments rented from the local music store,) or the frequent play of the local classical music radio stations.”

CDWM: “What instruments do you currently play?”

BWP: “Currently, I play [soprano, alto, tenor and bass] recorder, bass Kelhorn (a reconstruction of a Renaissance reed instrument,) violin, viola, octave violin, and just about anything with a keyboard. These are the instruments I record with regularly. If I’m feeling adventurous, I might get out the accordion or the guitar and noodle a bit, but I don’t feel I can play these instruments ‘well enough’ to use them in a recording, nor do they fit the type of music I’m playing and recording these days.”

CDWM: “Is there a specific style or time period that you specialize in? If so, what do you find particularly interesting about it?”

BWP: “For about the past year, the music of the Renaissance has been my staple – both in terms of listening and playing. I primarily record English and German vocal music (madrigals, hymn-settings &c,) and dance music. What I’ve found greatly interesting about this music is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It’s astounding to me how the composers could write parts which are so seemingly simple on their own, but when played together, interlock and form something much more beautiful. Not to say that other music is not like this. But in most Renaissance music (unlike music of later periods,) the parts are generally limited in range and usually‘fit’ so well on the instruments that after only a couple of read-thoughs, I’m ready to record. (No practicing for days and days to get a part tolerable!) There’s nothing quite like recording one line at a time and hearing the piece take shape as each new part is added.

“I have also become quite fond of English Country Dancing and ECD music. While most folks tend to associate ECD with the Regency period and Jane Austen, it actually had its origins in the Renaissance. The fact that the tradition was so long-lived (it spanned no less than three musical eras) and the fact that it is still so relevant and loved today gives the music a timeless quality. To me, it almost requires its own genre. Dance music was almost always published as ‘melody-only.’ This tells us that the musicians who played at ECD balls were used to arranging the music themselves and improvising their own harmony parts, &c.

“Moreover, the music was played on whatever happened to be available. (I read of one early American ball that was accompanied by a single musician playing a natural horn!) These facts are particularly liberating to a guy like me who uses Baroque counterpoint on a Renaissance melody and combines finger-cymbals with violins. It all works because it always has worked. Certainly, as the music of ECD has come down to us, attitudes, playing styles and even instruments have changed drastically, but the music itself has weathered the winds of change and has come out the better for it. My recordings of ECD tunes draw upon [at least] three centuries of musical aesthetic. I try to include elements – souvenirs, if you will – from each of the eras through which ECD has passed. For example, a particular recording might include an iteration of the tune arranged for recorder consort – a Renaissance sound, to be sure. Then a Bach-like version for solo harpsichord – Baroque, of course. Next you might have a clarinet solo (the clarinet was introduced in [roughly] the Classical period.)"

CDWM: “I’d love to hear some examples of your work – is there a place online where we could find some?”

(Playing the Kelhorn at our state Homeschool Alumni event)

BWP: “There is, in fact: http://www.macjams.com/artist/LonePineMusic

CDWM: “Do you have any pieces you are currently writing/recording at this time?”

BWP: “Yes. I’m currently in the middle of recording a medley of Renaissance dance pieces by John Dowland.

Dowland, an English composer, was revered as the greatest lute-player of his generation. He wrote a great many pieces for the lute, including dance tunes and lute-songs (pieces for soprano voice accompanied by a lute – a hot genre in those days.) These pieces were hugely popular not only with lutenists, but with other musicians as well. Composers (including Dowland himself) took the lute intabulations (the equivalent of what guitarists would call TAB notation today) and ‘exploded’ the music onto separate staves for use by a four- or five-voice consort of viols, recorders &c. The pieces I am recording are of this type.”

CDWM: “Any advice or anecdotes that you’d like to share?”

BWP: “How about a piece of advice and an anecdote? :)“If you buy a second-hand [violin] case, be sure it latches properly. My dad (who also took violin lessons during the same period I did) learned this the hard way after very cheaply obtaining just such a case. Upon arriving home after lessons one wintry day, he proceeded to pull his violin (in its case) from the back seat of the car. Without warning the unworthy case sprang open, unceremoniously dumping its contents onto the snowy gravel! Thankfully, aside from some tuning issues (which are to be expected from such a jarring), the instrument itself was unharmed.”

CDWM: “If you could describe yourself in one word, what would it be?”

BWP: “Eclectic.”

CDWM: Thank you so much! I really enjoyed this interview!


Patrizia said...

Good & interesting read!

Anonymous said...

Well written and an easy read. Kept me hooked till the end. Thanks for sharing Brandon and Kate! :D

Lady Amanda