Music Interview: Jonathan Grow
We were fortune enough to catch up with classical composer Jonathan Grow, following the superb release, ‘Les Trois Vies De Marie-Laure’. Enjoy the full interview below!
Hi Jonathan, how did you first get into music?
I don’t know about firsts. But I fell in love with music listening to David Foster’s Saje. It’s a beautifully moving ballad for piano. That’s when I knew I wanted to write music always.
Your latest release, ‘Les Trois Vies De Marie-Laure’, is written in three acts. Where did you find your inspiration for the piece?
I wrote Les Trois Vies as I was reading the novel ‘All The Light We Cannot See’ by Anthony Doerr. The novel begins in Paris, and it tells the tale of a young girl who becomes blind at a very young age. Her father helps her learn to navigate Paris. They’re tossed into war and have to flee, ultimately ending up in Saint-Malo on the coast, where she has to learn to navigate once again, this time in the midst of war and without the assistance of her father.
Turn-of-the-century neoclassical music figures prominently in the story, notably by French composer Claude Debussy. Inspired by the story, I wanted my piece to feel as if it had been written contemporary with the time, and in the style, so I chose to pay homage to the great Erik Satie, a contemporary of Debussy’s at the time.
The three acts of the piece are my interpretation of Marie-Laure’s life in three significant stages, and I try to use subtleties in the meter and cadence, as well as a departure from the melody in the B section to convey things like uncertainty and tumult. The composition has a simple structure, yet it was a challenging piece to compose.
‘Les Trois Vies De Marie-Laure’ is written in three-quarter time; was this a conscious decision when composing the piece?
Yes. Primarily, I chose ¾ time because it conveyed for me the sense of lead/follow of a waltz, which added a metaphoric element of Marie-Laure following the lead of her father in learning to navigate without sight. In her three lives (les trois vies), she is always following someone’s lead until, in the end, she’s following her own lead. The waltz form was a nice vehicle for that story.Drums
You write wonderful cinematic classical music; what draws you to the genre?
Cinematic music, for me, is wonderfully illustrative as a form for telling a story. Telling a story is what I most love to do with music. I write a little for film, but even in my studio work, I endeavour to tell stories that capture the human experience. I want to honour the human experience by telling it with music. Grief. Loss. Uncertainty. Joy.
We all experience these and more. I think we’re all drawn to art that we can see or hear our story in. It has a way of soothing, inspiring, helping us connect with our own story, and maybe even giving us permission to tell our own stories in our own ways. I think our stories matter greatly.
We see ‘Les Trois Vies De Marie-Laure’ is the first single to be taken from a new album. Can you tell us any more about the full release?
Les Trois Vies de Marie-Laure is the first of three on this EP project. This is my third studio project. My focus had been cinematic first, so for this project, I wanted to return to my roots: the piano, where I taught myself to play as a boy. And while I can’t help from cinematic gestures in my music, I wanted the piano to be at the core.
My third project is titled simply “3”. And so there are three compositions on the project, all written in ¾ time (in part or as a whole), and each composition will have a three-act structure. 3-3-3.
What’s your favourite venue to play?
In a little English stone cottage sits a small grand piano on the wood floor of a living room. That’s my favourite venue above all. It’s where my wife listens from the other room and ambles in and out, listening and talking with me and occasionally dropping a kiss of affirmation on my cheek.
Our dog will come to lie near the bench or under the piano whenever I play. My son is there, doing homework on the sofa, and he’ll remark, “Dad, I think that’s my favourite one…” or “what was that one that you played?”. It doesn’t get more gratifying than that. At home, with my favourite people as an unintentional audience, just enjoying life together.
What are your other passions aside from music?
I enjoy running. Reading a good book Mostly just spending time with my family, playing games and making moments together.
If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?
The music industry. I don’t even know what that is in some ways; it’s changed so much.
You know, for the most part, I think I like the music industry as it is. It’s a bit hard to crack, to figure out how to find your way in it. But that’s part of the process. I haven’t found my way all the way yet, but I’m learning and trying.
If there’s anything, then I suppose it would be to change the way that only the top few labels dominate the major playlists in streaming. There’s so much great music out there that artists are never rewarded for with wide listenership, while some of the music, you wonder how it ever made it onto the editorials at all. I mean, it’s fine but unremarkable. This is the same as it’s always been, from early radio to now.
These composers and artists work hard and produce some amazing work. It would be lovely to see their arduousness rewarded.
What new music are you listening to at the moment?
What feels like a holiday to me is to listen to whatever my kids are listening to at the moment. I like the connection. The most recent music up on my phone is by a French composer, Harry Allouche. His work in the film ‘Au Bout Des Doigts’ is remarkable and tender. He’s a very expressive composer.
What musical plans do you have for the next two years?
I’ll write production music. I’ll keep trying to land scoring work for short films. And I have a long list of studio projects ahead of me. My biggest undertaking is a piece I’ve been composing as a sort of elegy to the Cathédrale Notre Dame as it was before the fire. This will be my first time composing for choir; I hope to have it ready in time to release by April 2023 as a commemoration.
FVMusicBlog April 2022