Born in Copenhagen in Denmark, Europe, Peter Bille Larsen developed a craving for art and music at a young age. When he was 11 years old, he enrolled in the Royal Academy of Music, where he first learned to formally read and write music. By the prime age of 12, Peter was familiar with playing some of Beethoven and Mozarts most famous pieces, most of which were his grandfather’s favorite. Peter’s grandfather served as a main influence for his work, learning multiple techniques, tips and tricks that have formed him into the piano player he is today. As he grew older, his piano skills grew as well, Peter attended college where he refined his talents, which have led to where he is today. The mixture of traditional music in the structure of sonatas and mixed with modern music is the basis for the music. A strong visual element follows the music with poetry and short stories. Short stories by reason of surrealism. We got to know Peter Larsen a bit better in the exclusive interview below!
Entertwine: What can you tell us about your personal and musical background? What was it like growing up in Copenhagen in Denmark?
Peter Larsen: Very early, as far as I can remember, we had a large piano standing in my mother’s bedroom. One thing I noticed very early, was that when I walked past the piano, the strings moved, and the piano kind of spoke to anyone passing by.
The piano reacted to everything, all movement, all sounds. It sang in its own way, talked back to everything you said.
All the work that goes into making a piano, the carving, the style. The piano was a greeting from the piano builder, to build a musical instrument all for me, for me to use. I thought the piano was an extreme priceless gift. A huge tall wooden instrument made for adult composers.
When I sat at the piano I could feel the breeze from hundreds of years of classical music. It was an honor to learn to play, an honor to touch keys, that great masters, had touched the same way many decades ago.
I quickly learned that I could please everyone else with the music, a child seeking appreciation. Still today, I never think about how I play, but it is important for me to make music, that other people really like. In many ways, I must still be a child within, I can not seem to let that go.
As a very young boy, I was sent to the royal academy of music in Copenhagen. In that part of Copenhagen were many of the large museums also located. So going to the academy you had to walk by several monumental entrances.
I remember passing by the windows of the academy, people playing all kinds of instruments; trumpet, cello, violins. Those people standing in the rooms with ambitions reaching out like sunrays. The winter evenings are very dark in Denmark, so the windows lit up the streets.
Copenhagen has many cultural institutions and scenes. My father took me to numerous ballets, operas and classical concerts, he told me about Verdi, Puccini, Mozart, Shakespeare, Holberg. Also modern theater, with complex political stories. I loved the scene, and the smell of the warm spotlights and many people, the theater with the greek inspiration of beautiful decoration and red carpets. Those moments were so magical to me as a boy. After school I went to the library and read theatrical plays, to learn about stories and performance. I think it was special to sit there reading theatrical plays, nobody really came to those sections of the library.
After the academy I had two music teachers, who continued to push my talent into a combination of modern and classical composition and playing. From that on, I think that the rest of the story is just a refinement of my works.
ET: What is the music scene of your hometown and the surrounding area like?
PL: Here in Viborg, we have a theater and one performing musical arts scene. I think there is enormous quality in the concerts being staged here. The nearby area, is a wast wild Danish nature. The whole area, which makes up of thousands of square kilometers is formed by the hands of the Glaciers of Northern Europe. There are steep hills and low valleys, of where the water has flushed out the ground, as the ice melted. It is an extremely inspirational and beautiful place, where many writers and artists come to find serenity and inspiration.
ET: What inspired the writing and recording of your new composition ‘Piano Sonata No. 8 (Porcelain Snowflakes)’?
PL: I imagine the hills where I live to be deep buried under the Glacial Ice. As the snow and ice ruled the earth, there was no place for man anywhere near. I can not imagine anyone have lived in these areas at that time. The solitude must have been tremendous. Most of the natural elements has both a gentle and rough way of handling us. The soft touch of a first and fresh snow flake on your warm cheek, but also the crushing ice, which hammer though everything we have build.
The “porcelain” in the sonata is my pale skin, in the winter, the snowflakes whispering around me. The Sonata is the second in a series about natural forces in Denmark. The first was rain, this one is the second, about snow and ice.
ET: There are three distinct parts to this piece, are there not? Could you tell us about each?
PL: The Sonata is build technically as three parts, where first part if an ease into the score. The first part resembles an ice cave, where the ice glitters in the lights. You can hear the ice moving, freezing and glowing. Next part is the was ice landscape. No one is around, you are cold, alone, wandering in the endless ice desert, only to see the sun hardly visible through the skies. As the snow becomes deeper, the listeners are whiskered away into the snowflakes surrounding in thousands. I find the beauty of such mental images enormous.
ET: What can you tell us about each of the projects listed on your Soundcloud page?
PL: At the moment there are 4 albums. I am building the two of them as I go along. That is the beauty of modern distribution. I can change the scores, alter them, publish them, mix, blend them together to new albums. No one can say I can not do it. I decide when the album is done, and at the moment there are 2 albums in the making.
The “Creative Patriot” is a piano album mostly based on dark Nocturne scores. I found a huge inspiration in the Danish poet Kaj Munk. He was a Danish priest and poet. He was also a patriot and he loved Denmark and the Danes more than everything. I wrote a nocturnal waltz, with inspiration of one of his poems, and also a nocturne for a love poem Kaj Munk wrote for his wife. The “Metamorphic piano album” is a blend of many things. The music is about finding strength, overcoming death, meeting the after life.
It is called metamorphic because I see our life, as if we were butterflies. No one knows whats is after death, but I think it is new state, and we will blossom like a butterfly with new wings. I can hardly image that something as complex and beautiful as people can just vanish away. There must be something that we do not know, that nature is keeping from us.
ET: What does a typical writing or composing session look and sound like for Peter Larsen?
PL: I always start out with many images in my head. I know exactly what kind of mental images I want to have, when I play the music. As the composition grows, it is like a theatre play for me. I see the actors, the stage, the light and embrace the audience. All those elements must be complete in my head. The rest is finding the correct keys to complete the theatrical play. Sometimes I imagine a ballerina dancing, some leaves falling from trees or perhaps a walk through a garden made of yellow roses. The images follow the music for me, and creates the music as I go along.
ET: Whose pianos are your favorite to play?
PL: In my home where I grew up, it was a Hornung & Moller. I do not think it is the brand of the piano which matters so much, but as which audience I have, when I play. I have played on Bosendorfer concert piano, with a fantastic sound.
The feeling of sitting at a concert piano is amazing, but I am sure that I could find a really expensive piano somewhere and then tell people that I hated it, maybe because it stood on a pedestal in a restaurant and was not put there for art, but for entertainment.
It must be artistic, everything must be theatrical and artistic in performance. The piano. It could be old and worned out. But put on a small smoke filled cafe stage in Paris, it would make as much sense as a concert piano in the academy, where people would enter the room with dignity.
ET: What do the remaining months of 2014 hold in store for Peter Larsen? What new projects are you currently working on, and when will they be released?
PL: My plan is to finish at least 4-5 more nocturnes or sonatas this year. So I can finish most of the 2 new albums. I think both the albums are done next year.
ET: When will you be performing live next?
PL: I am working on a performance, where I will use video background and lightning. It takes a lot of preparation. I am not planning at the moment any official concerts, but I am sure that there will be a small secret happening soon in Viborg.
There is also in Viborg a large park, with a fantastic small pantomime stage, my plan is to suddenly appear, without any notice, and just start playing. When and where, that is a secret at the moment.
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