For his new album TIME, pianist and composer Dirk Maassen retreated to a remote mountain hut, exploring solitude and stillness to find his inner melody – and his true self.
For German pianist and composer Dirk Maassen, quieting both the body and mind was key to the creation of his new album TIME. “Working on new music needs time and space – and you have to be patient and listen to yourself,” he explains. And so, seeking tranquillity, Maassen retreated to a remote mountain cabin in Alto Adige in Italy, with only inspiration, a piano, and the stunning wilderness vistas of the mountains for company, and got to work.
The spartan existence aided his concentration. So too did long walks, and just basking in the majesty of nature. “Living in that small hut reduced everything to its true essence,” he says of the days he spent there. “And this simple, basic world opens up so much room to find your true self.” He talks of needing silence to find one’s “inner melody”, and letting it naturally rise in your consciousness; so too the importance of waiting, of teasing out strands of creativity. “Then it all comes together, and something magical happens”, he says.
That magic, and the splendour of Maassen’s isolated surroundings, power all fourteen tracks on TIME, a sublime collection of modern piano compositions. A masterful manipulator of moods, the music shifts from sad, soft, melancholia to bright optimism. Completely written and arranged by Maassen himself, his piano is occasionally joined by subtle orchestral flourishes: in places, strings gently bloom; in others, they’re menacingly plucked. Yet his simple, affecting piano lines are the star, as are his spellbinding melodies and gentle evocations.
All this is evinced on the first single Time, where a wary sense of unease underscored by the ticking of a clock as a beat. Wonderfully taut and poised, plucked strings accentuate the ascending and descending piano lines, adding to a tension that’s never resolved. Its drama is matched by Top, a sprightly track where Maassen’s piano builds in intensity throughout, his repetitive arpeggios, possessed of a hypnotic effect. Powerful and intense, it’s the albums deepest track.
Maassen is equally adept at precise beauty, and conveying quiet solitude.Thru Landscapes is slow and thoughtful, gentle crescendos blooming before fading away to nothing. It’s intensely meditative, as is Ethereal, which more than lives up to its name. Elegant and beautiful, it perfectly captures the majesty and awe of the mountains that inspired it.
That hushed sense of reverence shines through TIME, from the haunting, fragile beauty of Ascending to the sparse yet bright Mountains, a song that sounds like sunlight glittering on a wet mountainside after a storm.TIME may be something of a contrast to Maassen’s previous release, ECHOES, which looked at music’s power in connecting humans across time and space, but it’s every bit as assured and accomplished. A retreat to the wilderness served him well, and provided a fitting new chapter in his development as pianist and composer.