Belle Chen, an Australian-Taiwanese pianist, has joined us for an interview to talk about her latest recently released album Departure.
Hi, how are you?
So, when did the love for music come about?
I’ve been playing piano since I was 5, although I think the real love for music came during my teenage years – during this time music became my vital way to truly communicate to the world. I knew I wanted a life in music then, and this thought stays the same to this day!
How did the idea for ‘Departure’ came about?
The idea for ‘Departure’ came from listening to traditional music from around the world — I had been listening to a lot of Gamelan, Chinese traditional music, Flamenco, Zimbabwean Shona music… and I became obsessively curious about how these timbres may able to be achieved through the piano.
It was one of these ideas that I could not stop thinking about, so I knew this would be my next album!
What are the challenges of creating ‘Departure’?
I often joke about the challenge of creating ‘Departure’ was trying not to break the piano… but in all seriousness, one of the main challenges of creating ‘Departure’ was to be brave enough to make the choices.. “to call the shots” so to speak.
Traditional instruments and sounds come with their respective contexts of culture, meaning, history… each instrument is indicative of the belief system and ways of living of the people who the instruments belong to. And thus, to take these timbres and refer to these instruments out of their original context and to develop new pieces based on Western language was a decision that only came after many, many nights of back and forth.
It was all very much in my head – but this would be one of the big hurdles I had to mentally get over (apart from not breaking the piano).
My manager would probably say arranging for a 200kg piano to be lugged down to a basement recording studio was also a challenge too… And my engineer would probably say the session that ran consecutively from 10am to 4am was particularly memorable (I had written a chart with 32 overlay parts, some to be looped, and each with 6 microphones in capture…).
In the end, it was really fun – we’re all very proud of the album.
Do you have a favourite piece from the album?
I advocate for equality — love them all.
If you had to describe your music style in three words. Which three words would you choose to describe it?
Original, provocative, curious.
Having released your album, what are your plans now?
I am playing quite a few live performances this year, with shows taking me around the UK and to Italy, Sweden, China etc.
There are also plans to transform ‘Departure’ into a live multimedia show with a very respected artist, which is cool.
And… I’ve started drafting my next ‘thing’ too!
Our final question, what is your definition of culture?
For me… Culture is both the result of and the essence behind humankind’s behaviour and actions. Culture is to humanity what colours are to painting.