Adrian Lane, I Have Promises To Keep

Adrian Lane: “I put sheets of tin foil inside the piano to give a percussive, almost hi-hat like sound”

The British composer and artist on writing his new album I Have Promises to Keep, which was inspired by John Cage's prepared piano pieces.

Adrian Lane is a self-taught musician, composer, and visual artist from Essex, UK. His compositions are influenced by quiet instrumental music, including composers such as Erik Satie, Philip Glass, Steve Reich, David Sylvian, John Cage and Max Richter.

What characterises the sound of your new album I Have Promises to Keep?
I wanted to produce pieces where every sound was generated by the piano. This led me to explore ways of getting different sounds out of it.

My initial inspiration came through listening to John Cage’s prepared piano pieces, which led me to thinking about what a piano could potentially sound like.

All of my albums are quite different, often with differing instrumentation. On a compositional level, each has a strong sense of melody, while on an emotional level, there’s a sense of calm and melancholy. My work, both musically and visually, is about layers and how one layer interacts with another.

How did you make I Have Promises to Keep?
All the sounds are generated in some way by a piano, but not all parts are played on the piano. There was fair amount of sampling involved with some parts being time stretched to create long drones, others reversed or heavily reverberated.

Very few of the tracks were played in the traditional sense of sitting at the piano and playing the tune. I put various things inside the piano to give certain sounds and then recorded phrases which I layered with other sounds. For example, I put sheets of tin foil inside the piano to give a percussive, almost hi-hat like sound, and hit the strings with a pen to give an almost hammered dulcimer like sound.

I also recorded various hits on the wood of the piano to create percussion samples, and had my friend, Bryan Styles, play rhythms on the piano with various drumsticks, beaters and wooden chopsticks.

How do you generally record?
I tend to record everything at home, using a very modest recording set up. Phrases get recorded quite spontaneously and are then cut up and put together on the computer at a later date. The recording and composing are often completed simultaneously, and I never know what the piece will end up like until it has been layered, cut up and arranged.

What significance does the album cover have?
The album cover is one of my paintings, and uses the same cut-up and layering technique as the music. It was painted at the time I was producing the music and has a similar emotional feel as well as a rhythmic quality that I felt worked with the music.