For his Sony Classical debut album Ocean, pianist, composer and Internet phenomenon Dirk Maassen lets the expanse of the sea inspire him to compose piano meditations about the origins of life and where life takes us.
Now 49, the electrical engineer first experienced the sound of the organ as a child while attending church in Herzogenrath. It was the beginning of a lifelong love for music. Maassen learned piano and organ and has composed and played music for his personal musical journal ever since: “I pour everything that occupies me, moves me, and impresses me into music. It might be natural events or interpersonal things. When I sit down to the piano I enter into a dialogue with myself,” he explains. A feeling like at the ocean shore: “You calm down, centre in on yourself and can put all the everyday distractions behind you. The knowledge that we humans came from the ocean gives me a strong sense of connection, a similar feeling to attending church earlier.”
In his everyday life, Maassen is responsible for the development team at a software house in Ulm. He had never even imagined launching a career as a musician. But a few years ago friends and his family convinced him to upload one of his compositions to SoundCloud. It immediately made No. 1 in the classical category on the platform. His career took off among streaming platforms. His self-published piano recordings went viral and turned into genre hits earning millions of streams worldwide. Ocean is Dirk Maassen’s first album with a record company, and a step towards achieving a goal: “My great dream is to play all over the world and be able to meet my listeners from all cultural backgrounds in person.”
Ocean brings together meditative works for piano full of emotional contrasts. “With swirls and confusion, sometimes slow and sometimes fast”, says Maassen about the music. Feather, which he composed for his ill father, is fragile and pared down. A duet with Norwegian violinist Eldbjørg Hemsing depicts a scene at the beach, with seagulls wheeling overhead above the ocean. The title track, Ocean, is a song having cinematic density and turns the ocean into music, with all its force: beautiful, heaving, deep, ominous, familiar – full of mystery. Maassen is accompanied for this piece by an orchestra whose panorama of string sounds can be heard on over half of the titles on the album. Producer Francesco Donadello is responsible for sound of the piano in the recording and previously helped Ludovico Einaudi, Hauschka, Jóhann Jóhannsson or Dustin O’Halloran achieve their unique pianistic sound. For Dirk Maassen the Ocean album is thus a destination and a new beginning.