Following on from October’s Piano show, Soho Classical meets composer and pianist John Kameel Farah. His latest album Time Sketches is out now on the Berlin-based Neue Meister label, both digitally and on vinyl.
When did you start playing the piano and why?
When I was seven, I heard my sister practicing Bach’s “Two-Part Invention in F”, and also every morning at school, they would play bits of Wendy Carlos’s “Switched-On Bach” over the loudspeakers to get us to our desks, and I became obsessed with Bach, and wanted to play it, and so I asked my parents for piano lessons.
What is your favourite piece of music for the piano?
Recently, it’s “Have With You To Walsingham” by William Byrd… (though it’s really virginal/harpsichord music.)
Describe your own music in 3 words.
“Baroque, Mid-Eastern Cyberpunk”
Tell us your first memory of London.
Playing a live concert at the Foundry, for an ad-hoc radio broadcast. I remember thinking what a cool place it was, part biker-cafe, part music venue, art gallery and bar.
What is one piece of classical music you couldn’t live without? I couldn’t live without Chopin’s Études, Op. 10 & 25.
Enjoy John’s latest video here:
John Kameel Farah:
“Both the video and the musical composition of “Simple Rotation” are based on one of my pointillistic ink drawings, one from a series of about 200. The drawing is a set of circles, each containing a smaller circle, each made up of many rows of dots. The contrasting directions of the rows creates a kind of perpetual motion that is both steady and uneven. The background of the music reflects this with a gently repeating ostinato on one note, like an endless row of point-dots, alternating between synthesizer and piano tones, as other chords and textures unfold around it. When video artist Sahar Homami and I discussed making the video, I asked if she could somehow use the drawing as material. Sahar transformed it into different planes and layers of depth in her video, and in the last few seconds it reveals a semblance of the original drawing.“
Sahar Homami (film maker for “Simple Rotation”)
“Simple Rotation” is an open living system that evolves from a geometric system to an organic one, with chaotic and orderly spaces, that are interacting with each other.
I believe that the essence of life is process and progress. In “Simple Rotation”, I explored the idea of a living system that maintains itself while it develops and changes. And like a living system I wanted it to breath. To breath to John’s orchestral landscapes.
The whole process, started with the music, which was resonating with these atmospheric landscapes. I could almost immediately visualize flying through this endless space.
I knew that John, being a visual artist too, is drawing a lot besides composing. Tender doodles that relate very much to his music. So I suggested to use one of these drawing as the ground to work on. Then I had a problem.
The pieces I create, are usually less organic and now I had to turn a 2d drawing into a 3d organic system which you can fly through much like the john’s atmospheric spaces.
and then something beautiful emerged. I realized that this rigid yet fluid body I was creating, connected the geometric lands to something organic and gave birth to a unique and unified living system. All the seemingly conflicting identities of geometry and organic, order and chaos, rigid and fluid, came together in whole, as two sides of the same.
I see the process of creation or even better, LIFE, in this piece, from the beginning to end.