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From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's booksToday I’m sharing with you an unusual interview. For the first time, I’m not featuring an author, but a musician. You may have seen Mihran Kalaydjian hanging about and leaving comments. I listened to his music and was fascinated by it. So, I decided to find out about this musician who has such a passion for reading!

Hi Mihran, it’s good to have you here. Your music style combines east and west. Would you like to tell us more about you and your music? What inspires you?

This is also a difficult question, as whatever I might think of it may not have any relation to what someone hears. 

Playing the piano has always been one of my greatest passions. During my childhood, while being influenced by other masters of music, pianists and composers, I started teaching myself to play, developing my own style over a span of 25 years. My technique and unique touch combines my inner emotions to various genres.

I am all of these things and more, wrapped in a human being of boundless enthusiasm, musical passion, and love of life. The artistry and virtuosity of Michel Camilo bridges the genres of Jazz, Classical, Popular and World music. He is a pianist with a brilliant technique and a composer who flavors his tunes with the spice of Caribbean rhythms and jazz harmonies.

What was the first piece of music you ever wrote?

I quit my classical piano training at age seven, seeking a more glamorous life as a professional athlete. I still hear my Father’s words ringing clearly in my head “someday you’ll thank me” referring to the childhood piano training I so gladly abandoned.  An eighth grade basketball knee injury eventually proved detrimental to my childhood dream. Oh well!

I started playing on my own aged around 7 or 8. At 11 I had a handful of lessons by a teacher who struggled to sight-read my Grade 2 pieces. At 14 I found an inspiring, quite brilliant teacher called Colin Stone.

The experience at my parents’ house in Jerusalem, Israel marked the beginning — in my memory anyway — of a journey full of curiosity and a passion for coming closer to the sense of the mystery of life that revealed itself so gently to me that morning.

It no doubt opened the soft place within me from which the music seems to rise — a place of felt grace and communion, of not being separate. The themes and concepts in psychology and spirituality – and the way in which music helps us open to the deeper truth sometimes held within them — often found their way into my conversations with people. I guess I could say it became my heartbeat.

You seem to follow a number of book-related blogs. Any hobbies or interests that you enjoy in your spare time?

I take delight in physical activity (running, Cross Fit, baseball, track and field, soccer, ultimate Frisbee, etc.) and public speaking. I also enjoy spending time with family and friends, reading a good book, and traveling.

What are you working on at the moment? Tell us a little about your current projects. 

Composing is, for me, an inner necessity: music is a fruit of the spirit that can sometimes lead us to the Absolute. When you compose, it becomes possible to fulfill the desire to create a world of your own, a personal microcosm where you set the rules and also make their exceptions.

Make music that I love and be happy.

I’m very excited, and challenged, by a commission project to write a work for three string quartets: the Kronos Quartet, the Providence String Quartet and the latter’s students at the amazing Community Music Works program in San Francisco, CA. USA.

I will keep enjoying my collaboration as soloist, Composer recording for the music publication ‘Pianist Millennium Production’; a tour in Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, New York for Christmas Melody, Texas,  at the end of the year with other concert activities as usual; and learn more Rachmaninov pieces!

Congratulations, that sounds really exciting! Which are your favorite musicians and what do you love about them?

Mine are Andras Schiff (I love his Hammerklavier sonata interpretation in particular, & his lyrical tone) & Wolf Harden for his Busoni Fantasia Contrappuntistica interpretation. But Busoni actually indicated breathing places in certain of his works.

So many it is difficult to pick! I love Pierre-Laurent Aimard, he is an inspiration. Argerich as well. I cannot live without her Prokofiev.

With a piano style somewhere between Chopin and George Winston, I cherish this music which brings melody and heart back to instrumental music.

Other classical music influences came through some of the many composers whose works I have studied, conducted, played and listened to: from medieval plainchant to current contemporary pieces of different trends, passing through Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic and 20th-century music.

What are the things in your life that you’re most grateful for?

I would have to say—musically and non-musically—I have amazing parents. My mom has influenced me musically a lot. She has an incredible ear, and an amazing instinct. And I think that’s where I get my musical instinct. My father taught me to be a good person over all. They’re both awesome; they’re a great dynamic duo! I’m infinitely influenced by my parents way more than anyone else.

But musically—if we’re talking about the masters out there—there’s a wide range of people. If I’m talking about pianists, then I think I’d have to go with Richter, or Horowitz. Piotr Anderszewski, who’s a Polish pianist, he’s been a great influence to me. It’s an eye-opening experience every time I play for him.

You’re also influenced by people around you, and not just from listening to them play or interpreting music or anything like that. I think it’s just being around these people, feeling their vibe, getting their energy, sharing the passion that we have for music. It’s sort of what keeps me going. My friends have always influenced me musically. There’s a constant going back and forth of friendship, of love, of sadness, that kind of stuff really fuels my engine to play the music.

What kind of music do you enjoy?

I judge a lot of music by asking: “Would I like to have written it?” The fascination with sound and the urge to share the music the way I hear it in my head with other people.

My interpretive playing incorporates freedom with an eye toward frame of reference. While never letting go of the reference points in tunes, I journey in and out of harmonic dissonances and rhythms, chaos and unity, creating a lovely dance of tension and release. With the basic structure of the tune always central, my whirlwind of colors and rhythms swirls around it, allowing the listener to be inside and outside of the tune at the same time.

 

The unusual

 

As  musician, you must spend a lot of time on stage. Do you ever get stage fright?

 

I’m sure it applies to every other performer out there: when you’re on stage, it’s a home away from home. I get to express things I could never really express with words. From a very early age, I thought music was pretty ineffable, and it seemed to me like a second language. And to this day, I’d say I’m not a very personal person. But if you come to my performance, I get super, super personal.

That’s one aspect that’s intriguing about being a performer. There are a lot of guys who ask me what I think about when I’m performing. I don’t know what I’m thinking about really. Time stops. I guess that I like the fact that time stops for an hour and a half. I just really love emerging in my own little world, and being able to share that with other people.

In terms of my music-making and the way I interact with the audience—even my body—they fully get the scope of who I am as a person. I don’t necessarily have to talk to do that. There are great performers out there who, you go to their concert, it’s stimulating. But sometimes I don’t think it necessarily speaks to their personality, so I think the audience is left with wondering who they are as people. And that’s great, but I’m very in-your-face about who I am as a person on stage, and how I play. Good or bad? Well that’s up to you to decide. But I like it. I really, really pour out everything on stage, and by the time I’m done, I’m just a floppy piece of something.

Is it true you’ve been abducted by aliens?

I was probably about  years 9 old or so … and a bright blue light would come in to the room and the door would open, and there would be like, a foggy kind of misty blue light, just shining through the whole house, “And these two figures would come in. There would be a tall one, they had black capes, but they were bald and had big eyes.”

I’m so going with “yes” then… Name one musician you admire.

Ray Charles was a pioneer of soul music, integrating R&B, gospel, pop and country to creat hits like “Unchain My Heart,” “Hit the Road Jack” and “Georgia on My Mind.” A blind genius, he is considered one of the greatest artists of all time.

What is the weirdest thing that’s happened to you?

My Aunt had a recurring nightmare in which the mirror at the end of the room, facing my parent’s bed, would turn transparent and there would be a man standing behind it.

Wow – the beginning of a great horror story, perhaps? Which one do you prefer: Elephants or tigers?

Everyone wants to ride elephants in Thailand. Including me during my trip last year. Asian elephants are an endangered species. Experts believe there are now less than 2000 wild elephants living in Thailand.

So… tigers then? 😀 Seriously though, there’s even fewer of them left out there! If you had to live over again what would you change in your life?

I would not chose to live my life over again, because we make these memories that mean a lot to me and if we go back and change one mistake, it could lead to us not making those memories or not even meeting.

Fair enough. Where in the universe would you live if you could travel anywhere?

I think I would travel to the edge of the universe, just to know what’s going on and see if there’s truly “another side” that we don’t yet know about or understand.

Mihran in his Own Words

I am originally from Jerusalem, Israel. I am of half Armenian & Jewish descent.  Both my parents reside in Jerusalem with my 3 youngest brothers. I also have an adopted brother, who’s married and lives in London.

I graduated from College Des Frères in Jerusalem, then joined the Hebrew University for my higher education and obtained a B.A in Political Science and Islamic History.

My parents encouraged me from a young age to study hard and earn good grades in order to enroll to a Master’s Degree. Getting into college wasn’t the problem; it was finding a way to win a scholarship.  The scholarship support I received helped me achieve my dream. I obtained my Master of Music with Honours in Composition and Performance Piano from Nottingham University in London.

I have won a number of awards and scholarships, including the Kiwi Music Scholarship, Patricia Pratt Scholarship and a Dame Malvina Major Arts Excellence Award, which enabled me to complete my studies. I’m extremely grateful to them all!

My honours’ degree took two years to complete because I majored in both composition and piano performance. In my master’s degree I focused solely on composition.

Connect with Mihran

Listen to Mihran’s Music

Pearseus: Rise of the Prince will be on sale throughout November. Read the second book in my best-selling epic fantasy series for only 99c (no, you don’t need to have read the first book to make sense of it).

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