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Jan Mulder reveals musical roots and origins of 'Soundscapes'
(Published: July 31, 2016)

Q: What musicians have influenced your music?

A: I was born in a very musical family. My mother was a pianist and cellist, and my father played the guitar. I grew up with classical music around me. I learned to play the piano and clarinet at a young age and also played in a youth symphony orchestra during my teenage years.

I choose the clarinet because it allowed me to experiment with both classical music and jazz. However, it was not until much later in my life that I got seriously involved with jazz and also took on playing the saxophone. Influences? On the classical side the composers that touch me emotionally are the impressionists: in particular Debussy and Ravel.

On the jazz side, I have always admired Miles Davis and John Coltrane. Also, contemporary composers like Maria Schneider I would list as an influence. More closer to home I have studied with and been inspired by Canadian musicians Hugh Fraser and Phil Dwyer. A common thread is that both of them are as good at classical music as they are at jazz.

Q: How would you describe your musical style?

A: I am a hybrid between classical music and jazz and write music that is influenced by both styles.

Q: Where does your musical inspiration come from?

A: Let me first say that I consider myself more to be a composer than a performer. For me composition is a three stage process: imitation, assimilation, and creation. You start imitating musicians that inspire you. You assimilate their music into your own personality and from that you create something new: music that is yours. A perfect example of that is the tune "Hughmungous" in my album Blowout. It was inspired by a tune written by Hugh Fraser. I imitated the style and feel, but created a whole new melody in the process.

Q: How do you think music impacts our lives?

A: Music has an immense influence on people's lives. It can make you happy or sad. It can energize you, help you focus, or help you relax. As a musician, music is a major part of my life. Music is inside my head nearly all the time. Sometimes it is an existing melody, sometimes something completely new. I can't imagine living without music.

Q: How did the Jazz Winds Chamber Jazz Ensemble form?

A: The formation of Jazz Winds was part of an evolutionary process. Shortly after becoming a professional jazz musician I started a saxophone quartet that performed both jazz and classical music.

After three years I extended that with a rhythm section and the combination of the two became Jazz Winds. It started out as an octet that allowed us to perform almost any type of music. The saxophones could double up on flute and clarinet. The rhythm section could perform on their own or we could play in any combination of horns and rhythm. As a composer to work with a group like that creates infinite opportunities to experiment with music styles and instrument combinations. Over time we have shrunk to a quintet and sextet.

Q: How do you feel you have grown creatively as an artist?

A: I have three major passions in life: music, science, and the outdoors. When it first came to choosing a career I chose science. I studied math, physics, astronomy, and psychology, and eventually became a computer scientist. Computer science is a sophisticated combination of arts and science and this has helped me in my later career as a professional musician.

Music creation is also as much a science as it is an art. There are a lot of scientifically based techniques behind music writing and arrangement and it took me quite some time to learn that, but my computer science background definitely helped with that.

As many composers I started simple, first writing for small ensembles such as saxophone quartet and string quartet. After a few years I expanded that to writing for Big Band jazz, the sound of which I love. I have now written several works for Big Band. The tune "Blowout" on the Blowout album also has a version for Big Band jazz. I just finished writing a major work for Big Band jazz and choir. On top of all this, spending time in the mountains gives me much inspiration for writing music. The album Soundscapes combines my passions for the outdoors and music. Each tune on this album is motivated by and developed from a nature or animal sound.

Q: You were a musician for 15 years before releasing your first album. Why the delay?

A: Two reasons. As mentioned before, I have many interests, music being an important one, but not the only one. This limits the time I can spend on music and has slowed down music production over the years. The other reason is financial. Recording and producing music in a professional studio with five other professional musicians is expensive, and I had to save up before I could do this. But in the end it was all worth it.

More Information: http://www.janmuldersounds.com

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