Rebecca Jean Rossi is a pianist, composer, and producer who studied at the Eastman School of Music and splits her time between New York and Milan. She has written and produced music in a variety of genres including electronic, pop, dance, and indie under her pseudonym, Krystalmath, and has collaborated with artists such as Prodigy from Mobb Deep, Snowmine, and Emmrose. She has toured Europe and the US supporting other indie groups as a pianist and vocalist. Her shift into composing cinematic piano music was inspired by revisiting some of her favorite pieces by Yann Tiersen and concurrently discovered the music of Nils Frahm, Agnes Obel, Hania Rani, and Max Richter. All of these influences and more can be heard on her most recent EP, “Epiphany”, to be released on Blue Spiral Records in 2021.
We met the artist for an exclusive interview that you can find below.
Welcome Rebecca and thank you for this interview.
When did you start composing – and what or who were your early passions and influences?
Thank you for interviewing me! I started composition after the events of 9/11. I lived very close to where it happened and also went to school there. It was an assignment from school to compose my first piece, but I remember feeling really passionate about it. My early influences were film composers like Yann Tiersen and Thomas Newman. I remember having the strange goal of finding the place where classical music intersected with pop music, and that was what I wanted to compose.
What do you personally consider to be incisive moments in your work and/or career?
I have noticed that every time I’ve felt like I’ve “failed” at something, it’s actually been an opportunity to take my music in a different direction, and find out what kind of music I should be making. I started out as aiming to be a classical pianist, which didn’t exactly work out. I also played oboe for a while, pretty seriously! But then, a doorway to writing my own music opened up. I tried with pop songs for a while, and tried to break into just doing production, but that wasn’t exactly my thing, so then I decided to write and produce my own instrumental music more seriously. That’s when things started to click and I found my “voice” as an artist!
Can you tell us something about your last release “Epiphany”?
One of the songs, “Tribeca”, is very personal to me as I wrote it about my hometown, and is more or less dedicated to my father, who did the artwork for the EP. He was the one who first came to Tribeca in the 1970s as an abstract artist.
How long did it take to prepare the album?
“Epiphany” is pretty short, so not much more than 6 months, with the exception being one of the melodies I took from something I’d written earlier and never published.
What do improvisation and composition mean to you and what, to you, are their respective merits?
Good question. I think improvisation is kind of like “stream-of-consciousness” in writing, and composition is more like editing and revision. With music, though, sometimes the lines between composition and improvisation get blurred, because improvisation is just composing really quickly, and composition is improvising really slowly.
The role of the composer has always been subject to change. What’s your view on the (e.g. political/social/creative) tasks of composers today and how do you try to meet these goals in your work?
I would say that composing at it’s best is ideally tapping into some sort of collective unconscious. I try to write what I want to hear, and since I’m a person living in the world, hopefully others can relate to what I’m trying to say. I think writing music is kind of therapeutic in the sense that you can take all of your chaotic emotions, and organize them into a more symmetrical framework that hopefully helps you process them as you are going. I hope that my music can help others to process their emotions as well.
What equipment do you use to compose your music?
Just my MacBook pro, Kawai upright piano with USB cable, Logic pro X, and some Kontakt piano plugins like Noir and Una Corda. I like to find the right piano sound and get inspired by that. Sometimes I get to compose on my parents’ Steinway, but I haven’t had the guts to record anything acoustic with it yet! I’m more of an in-the-box recording engineer for now.
How, do you feel, could contemporary compositions reach the attention of a wider audience?
Great question. I feel like it’s already happening with platforms like Apple Music and Spotify with their curated playlists for music like mine. I would like to see more visibility in the media for instrumental composers, as we focus mostly on singer- songwriters. Perhaps on the radio, like the radio you turn on in the car! A station just for us 🙂 But I’m personally just happy I get to make music that reaches any kind of audience!
Could you tell us something about your future projects?
I’m working on some more piano pieces, and have a special cover song planned where I will use my own vocals. In the future, I plan on performing live and hope I will have the opportunity to do so!
Where can our readers find more information about you?
I update my Instagram fairly regularly, but still can’t hack it on Tik-tok. Stay tuned for that one, it may be a while! Thank you again.