Michael Green Interviews... Adrian D. Holmes
By Michael Green, Nov 3 2016 09:05PM
Here I talk to composer & arranger Adrian D Holmes, about his experiences in music.
Where did it all start for you getting into music?
Music has always been a vital part of my life. I have photos of me as a baby, before I could even walk, pressing the keys on the family upright piano and exploring the sounds that each one made. When we moved from Phoenix, Arizona, to Florida, I left behind everything I had ever known to live in a place where I knew absolutely nothing and knew absolutely no one. My mother felt it would be healthy for me to pursue my interest in music, so she signed me up for piano lessons with a local teacher. I would take lessons from four different instructors over the course of the next decade, two of whom were music professors at a college nearby. I would also independently develop my own tastes for orchestral music and began dabbling with composition
Who are your inspirations e.g other composers?
That’s an easy question. My all-time favorite composer of any genre of music is the Russian composer Peter Tchaikovsky. I fell in love with his music as a kid, and have loved listening to it ever since. When I first became interested in honing my compositional abilities, I ordered the full scores of each of Tchaikovsky’s six symphonies from Dover and read through them with recordings literally dozens of times. I did the same thing with The Nutcracker, and a couple of his other works, and I’ll often exercise to his orchestrations for Sleeping Beauty.
Besides Tchaikovsky, I’d have to say my favorite inspirations are Gustav Holst with The Planets, and of course, William Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan with The Pirates of Penzance.
When it comes to composing what is your creative process?
This is a tougher question to answer, because whenever I create or compose, I don’t necessarily consciously think about the process I use. I just sit down and write out whatever comes into my head. It could be good, it could be bad, it could be anything you want it to be. That’s what makes music so incredible. In my opinion, music is both a language and an art. What’s a language? A language is a system of symbols and sounds people use to communicate a message. Does music follow that pattern? Absolutely. What’s art? Art is a form of communication used to express ideas, concepts, and feelings that language simply cannot capture. Does music fit that bill? Of course!
When I launched my professional music career in 2014, I only had one original work under my belt. It was my Cello Canto No .1, The Lullaby. An acquaintance introduced me to a young lady who could really play the cello well, so one afternoon I sat down at my keyboard, beat on the keys for a little bit, and a tune began shining through. I didn’t try to pressure myself into writing a specific style, genre, or anything regimented like that. I just had one idea in mind: it would be cool to write a cello solo. So I took that idea and ran with it. I said to myself, “Let’s see where this takes me.” And today, you have Cello Canto No. 1.
I followed the same process a few months later when I needed a piece for a Christmas concert. I didn’t find anything in the existing holiday repertoire that particularly appealed to me, so I sat down at my keyboard one Sunday afternoon and three hours later I had completed my most recognizable piano work to date, Piano Rêverie No. 1.
With your album coming out in December, what made you want to do an electronic re-imagination of the original score created by Gilbert & Sullivan for their operetta The Pirates of Penzance?
In a way, this whole project was kind of unplanned. I wouldn’t call it an accident, but I will say this time a year ago, I would never have imagined how far the music I was working would come.
The groundwork for the project was laid while I was still in college. I had a friend who would go with me to practice music and play on the pianos in a rehearsal room on campus, and we would have so much fun playing our hearts out and really just having a great, great time with music. She was a voice major, and I was an interdisciplinary major, so we rarely crossed paths in our academics; but we both attended the same church for a while, before I moved to Palm Bay, and we had been friends since we first met in college, and were aware of our mutual interest in music, especially classical music.
If I remember correctly, I introduced my friend to The Pirates of Penzance while preparing for an intramural talent show at the end of my sophomore year. I performed “Modern Major General” before a live audience, and it took me almost a year to master that song. It was incredibly challenging. In the meantime, my friend fell in love with “Poor Wandering One,” especially since her vocal range matched the optimal range for the character Mabel in The Pirates.
By the time I graduated from college, I had already launched my musical career, and I had this inkling of desire to perhaps create soundtracks for a couple of the more recognizable songs from The Pirates that my friends and I could sing to. Ironically, the first song I orchestrated, however, was one of the more obscure ones. It was “When Frederic Was a Little Lad.” I finally got around to “Poor Wandering One,” which at that point I realized the potential for this project, and for the first time I began treating the music I had been arranging as worthy material for a full-length album release—not just a fun personal project to work on in my spare time.
By December of 2015, the reception from friends and acquaintances prompted me to cement my decision to formally announce work on my debut album which has since been titled The Pirates of Penzance: Revamped and Revisited, and is set to release on Saturday, 31 December 2016.
A sample of the song "Oh Here Is Love And Here Is Truth" from T he Pirates Of Penzance Revamped And Revisted album
How important do you feel it is to listen to current music as well as music from the past?
I think it’s very important. The very definition of my upcoming album is to bridge any gaps there are between the old styles of classical music and the fresh new techniques and instruments that are popular today. I love listening to all kinds of new music. There’s much to enjoy in the work of neoclassical minimalists like Philip Glass, as well as your “standard” pop artists like the Pentatonix and Cody Simpson. If Gilbert and Sullivan were alive today, I believe they would seek out the latest and greatest of what the music industry offers musicians today. If they couldn’t find what they were looking for, they’d take the materials and equipment available today to invent something entirely new that they would then present to world for others to enjoy and use.
As a composer how important do you feel it is to watch live music?
Live music is definitely important. Attending a live music event is kind of like community service for musicians. Whether you pay for a ticket or not, by attending a live event or watching a live event online, you’re paying homage to the work that the performer(s) invested in their craft to prepare for such an event and thereby promoting the sustenance of the music community in general. You
also might learn a thing or two yourself. Always be open-minded and be willing to learn from others, even those who you may not be crazy about. That’s the beauty of music.
Finally, what tips do you have for people wanting to go into composing & arranging?
The greatest piece of advice I ever received was this: “The key to becoming a great musician is to study great musicians. The key to writing great music is to study great music.” Whether you are just beginning to learn how to play an instrument or you’ve been an avid musician for over fifty years, the only way to improve yourself as a musician is to study those people who you admire and to find musical role models who possess those skills you wish to achieve. When you master those skills, set your sight on greater goals. That helps to make for a fulfilling career.
Also, networking is an important ability for anyone who hopes to make it in the industry. Since I began work on my latest project a year ago, I’ve brushed shoulders with some of the finest in the music industry. I’ve received kind regards from Maureen McGovern; I’m receiving endorsements from Kaye Ballard and Simon Gallaher; I’ve enjoyed interviewing Patricia Routledge, one of Britain’s leading actresses, and John Bolton Wood, one of Australia’s most decorated tenors; and I will even be chatting with Robby Benson and Karla DeVito soon regarding their experiences with The Pirates of Penzance back in the 1980s. Music is a community effort, and if we’re open-minded about every avenue of the industry, we have the potential to create many new things that our kids, our grandkids, and many more generations beyond them will be able to look back on and thank us for.
To learn more about Adrian D. Holmes, you may visit his official website at http://www.adriandholmes.com/ You can also follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Soundcloud, and Spotify. His album The Pirates of Penzance: Revamped and Revisited will be available for purchase on Saturday, 31 December 2016 on all major digital music sites.
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