An interview with Niels Mori: I have a new challenge for each new composition

The composer Niels Mori album entitled “O.” has just been released. We met him for an exclusive interview. Niels Mori (FR) was born in 2011, with the desire to offer an intimistic music, between delicate minimalism, imprinted with repetitions, and a sweet electro music, produced by analog machines. After performing several tours in Europe, from France to Russia, Niels Mori offers us the opportunity to rediscover him with his sixth album, simply called “O.”

We met the artist for an exclusive interview that you can find below.

Welcome Niels and thank you for this interview.

• What are currently your main compositional challenges?

I guess I have a new challenge for each new album, and even for each new composition in a way. In the past few years, and especially since my previous album « Aftontland », I tried to work differently than I did before, more like a composer than as a listener. With my new album, « O. », I tried to understand harmony theories and how to use them, how to take them as the beginning of a new creation. It’s always a better thing to know the rules than to ignore them, especially if you want to play and to turn them in different ways. However, the most important and interesting challenge with composition, is to be able to be a transparent as possible about your feeling, through your playing. In other words, to be as sincere as possible.

What do you usually start with when composing?

There are so many different ways to start composing, that is difficult to talk about « usually ». Very often, I don’t start playing piano, telling myself that I have to compose now, that I have to work now. Usually, I’m playing and after a while, consciously or not, I realize that I’m playing the same theme, adding variations, modifying the rhythm, the nuances and I understand I’m already composing. You can waste a working day, trying to catch something, somewhere, but in the evening, the score will still be unwritten, but sometimes, I’m just playing and it’s like a sea of ideas, and everything seems to sound perfectly. These moments are very rare and precious, and this is where really starts composition, when you are miles away from your seat, in a tiny but confortable bubble. The most difficult thing is to rearrange all these ideas, parts of works, in a correct and organized piece. The other difficult thing is to travel back to earth, it could take some time.

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“O.” has recently been released with Blue Spiral Records, can you tell us something more?

Yes, indeed, and first of all, I would like to thank BSR, and especially Roberto, for this special release. Actually, I was looking for a music label, in Europe, with an affinity for neoclassical and minimalist music, and BSR is one of the most representative and respected in this way. We can find a lot of very talented musicians, pianists, and I’m very proud to join the team ! I guess it’s always a big deal to find an appropriate music label, and the thing is not easy both for musicians, and for the music label. It’s a bet to put in faith in an artist, sometimes everything is blue, sometimes it’s not. However, I think music is the most sincere way to tell something, and so, you quickly understand if you can thrust in somebody or not.

How do you see the relationship between timbre and composition?

As for me, timbre and composition are completely and deeply united, the first one leads the second one, and vice versa. Each instrument has his own timbre, body, color, and so, a theme can be interesting when he’s played by cellos, and a little to weepy when he’s played by violins. It could take some time to find which instrument may be the best one to present a melody, to decide which color, which strength or which sweetness is the most appropriate. Sometimes, only the timbre, or the color, or the sound of an instrument can be a source of inspiration, and you feel like you don’t have a lot to do, because the sound is already touching you.

Do you feel it important that an audience is able to deduct the processes and ideas behind a work purely on the basis of the music? If so, how do you make them transparent?

I think it depends on the music you’re working on, and the reasons why you are writing this music. Each album has to be different from the previous one, and sometimes, you can choose to compose only with your ears, listening to your feelings, no matter how does it sound, but sometimes, you can see a work as a try to understand a new way to compose, to use your instrument, to break your own rules to create something new, which could be confusing in a first time. Each album has to be a new challenge in a way, and I think it’s not really necessary that the audience is able to deduct the process. With the first albums, my music was built with sound textures and sound designing, with kind of organized improvisions. It changed with the solo piano album « Aftonland » (2016), and I tried to give a different look to my music. I wanted to write the music, trying to clearly understand what I was composing, where I had to go and who to do it. With « O. », the things are a little different. I wanted to start with the idea of the american minimalist music, with the main theme repeatedly played again and again, and evolving to finally become something different, and to disappear. I think this idea, especially on Part I, can easily be understood by the audience, and so, is totally transparent. « Less is more » is what the audience can deduct, and it offers so many possibilities.

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What’s a typical work week like?

I don’t really have any typical work week, and it depends on my mood, my feelings, and so many other reasons. I can spend a week learning only parts of piano works, sometimes the full score, and after several days, playing different pieces by different composers, there is something like a hidden thing deep inside you, like a color, an unreadable word that you got to understand. Since few years, my way to work changed, and I’m today more interested in theoretical work than in technical challenges, and I can spend some time working music without touching the instrument. The typical work week is something between taking time to think about the things, and learning to correctly speak to tell them the best I can.

What is most challenging about what you do and what is most rewarding?

The most challenging is certainly to take the decision to compose music, in a solo project, all by myself, because it means that I accept to show my deepest and personal feelings. You are no longer a part of an ensemble, where you can briefly hide behind the other musicians, or to take some rest when it’s not your turn to play; in a solo project, you always have to be the frontman, the composer, the performer, and meanwhile, to be able to keep an outside perspective. The other thing is that you can really be surprised by the difference between the music you listen to, the music you would like to compose, and the music you composed. The most challenging is to accept to show without any filters, whatever you have to show, and being watched both by strangers and friends’s eyes. It’s both interesting and very confusing.
About the rewarding, I think is to had opportunities to play in different countries, from France to Russia, and to meet so many interesting and passionate people, cultures, ways of lives. It’s a real deep breathe to know this parallel world really exists, and I think it misses most of the musicians.

What are your goals/dreams for the future?

In today’s world, the future is very difficult to predicate, and the atmsophere is not really full of happiness, but I guess this confusing period could also be regarded as a new beginning, as the alarm ring to regain and to refocus our lives on what it makes life interesting. In other words, spending more time making something you really like to do, an activity which makes sens for you and which makes you grow, in the way you would like to grow. As a musician, I’m actually working on different albums, in different music genres, and I would like to take the time to prepare and to record them. I made some records, some of them are interesting, and the painting begins to be clear, but it’s only the beginning.
Dreams about the future ? What was our dreams in the past.. ? 🙂

What else would you like people to know about your job/career?

Thank you for the first part. To be continued…

We thank you for your time!

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