Australian composer and pianist, Emili Rackemann weighed in on the top five composers and performers who influence her work.
Who are your favorite top five composers and why?
I have a soft spot for Clara given her courageousness as a female composer in a world full of male figures. Her connection to my ancestor, Professor Frederic Rackemann has always fascinated me as well, although that aside, her music undoubtedly aligns with male composers of her time and still shines through today.
In 2015, I was invited to arrange “Concerto in A minor, Opus 7 for string quartet.” Throughout this period, I was constantly listening to her work.
Jóhann’s work has always drawn me into the dream world. His blending of traditional orchestration and contemporary electronic textures reflect two worlds I have always enjoyed. His stately, slow-building and hauntingly melodies combined with electronic processing truly showcases the strength of both technology and tradition which I equally love and respect.
I never was a huge fan of jazz until listening to this man. My first encounter with Iiro Rantala was on Youtube late one Sunday evening, when I stumbled across his amazing arrangement of John Lennon's "Woman." Continuing through his playlist, the beautiful ambience of “Tears of Esjborn” and the quirkiness of “Freedom” and “Misty” completely enveloped me; creations which I feel truly capture the beauty of story-telling on the piano.
“Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2” and “Dante Sonata” are undoubtedly my two favorites. I can still hear David Helfgott chatting away while showcasing these technically intricate works.
Liszt was a master of the piano; his playing ability could be considered far superior to anyone that came for decades after him. Although I love Liszt for his emotional depth, his reputation was bolstered even further by the fact that he gave away many of his concert proceeds to charities and humanitarian causes. This is something I truly admire in any human being.
I also have a soft spot for Liszt having constantly played “Consolation No. 3” for my father as a young girl. It wasn’t uncommon seeing my father quite emotional whilst playing the wide palette of dynamics and nuances.
Mary drew me in when I first performed her work “Elite Syncopations” at age 16. Having studied her work extensively at university, my love for Mary’s music further grew after reading her collection of lyric essays on nature themes.
Mary writes - ‘Through my music I always seek to communicate something fresh, new and expressive to the performer/s and listening public. Music must communicate - it must say something of meaning that will engage each listener in a satisfying artistic journey.’
It is refreshing to hear these words given storytelling is also part of my journey as a composer.
Who are your favorite top five performers and why?
Iiro Rantala - for his vibrancy and incredible use of rhythmic texture throughout his compositions.
David Helgott - for his courageousness and childlike character whilst performing highly technical works.
Bjork - for her artistry and exploration as both artist and human being.
Anoushka Shankar - for her willingness to explore her instrument through collaboration with both eastern and western music.
Ludovico Einaudi - for his desire to create awareness regarding environmental issues on Earth through simple although beautiful melodies.
Top three favorite songs?
My taste in music is constantly changing. Currently, I am still immersing myself in Iiro Rantala’s playfulness, “Freedom” in particular. Bjork’s “Crystalline” and Anoushka Shankar’s gorgeous performance of “Raga Pilu” with violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja. Tomorrow there will a new top three and the genres will most likely change!
How have your musical tastes changed over the years?
I would say my musical tastes have expanded rather than changed. Raised in rural Australia, country music surrounded me. It was my constant companion until I sat at the piano and started creating classically inspired melodies. It was in these moments where the beauty of classical music equally enveloped me. I was always bouncing back and forth between two worlds.
Throughout my childhood and mid to late teens, I was a huge fan of artists such as Garth Brooks, Dixie Chicks and Johnny Cash. Their music gave my life on the land a sense of importance, however when we sold the station I gradually adapted to full time life in the city of Rockhampton in Central Queensland which gradually steered me into the world of pop. I was always changing the tapes my eldest brother stacked on his desk, trying to find the music I briefly heard when visiting my best friend. It was on the shores of Noosa Heads Australia where I was introduced to dance/electronic music. Artists such as Underworld, Massive Attack and Cafe Del Mar propelled me into a decade of constantly searching for big beats, bleeps and deep bass. Listening to these artists encouraged me to let go of my past and introduced me to the many genres within the music world.
I wasn’t one who was immersed in classical music because I studied it. I rarely played classical music aside from sitting at the piano, although would always take the opportunity of attending classical music recitals with my parents.
During my early adulthood, I was busy exploring the intricacies of music technology, having bought my first digital audio workstation at 18. During the day I attended lectures and spent a minimum of 3 hours locked away in a practice studio; while of an evening I would throw on my headphones and explore the ambient sounds of my Roland synthesizer, trying to capture that same feeling of freeness I felt when listening to 8 minutes dance tracks.
Today I enjoy a mixed playlist, ranging from classical with composers such as Erik Satie, Sergie Rachmaninoff, Clara Schumann and Prokofiev, although my love of dance and electronic music is still part of my daily mantra. Groups such as Hybrid, Massive Attack, Phaelah, Bjork, Trifonic and yes, Underworld and a Cafe Del Mar’s Volume No. 5 still get a look in.
Dream duet with a living performer/composer?
Classically speaking, my dream duet would be with David Helfgott. His story is powerful beyond measure. I would also adore the opportunity to collaborate with Bjork and Anoushka Shankar, two women which truly capture the beauty of women in music.
Who would you like to see live that you haven’t?
What styles of music did you listen to as a child and who introduced them to you?
Country and classical music were the two most prominent genres I listened to when I was a child. Country music I naturally gravitated to because of my environment and those who surrounded me, although my parents loved classical music; I was always listening to Mum’s Pavarotti and Marina Prior tapes playing in the background. My parents always encouraged me to listen to and attend various concerts and musicals during my mid to late teens.
Upcoming Australian and North American Tour
Emili Rackemann is set to tour Australia and North America during 2018-2019. She will be performing a brand new theatrical avant-garde stage show of her original compositions and will also release her new album titled, Elysian later in 2018.