trptk – it’s not about genre, it’s about the sound
trptk – it’s not about genre, it’s about the sound
Recently I had the pleasure to work with the new CD label trptk, which is based in Utrecht, Netherlands, for my piece “The Collectors” part of a great new CD by the duo Simons/Napolov and featuring music by Jan-Peter de Graaf, Yiannis Kyriakides, Samuel Penderbayne and me.
In a time where the CD as a medium is constantly declared extinct it is quite remarkable that new labels are founded. It has been long known that it is easier for smaller labels (usually run by only a handful of people) to survive in the constantly changing music market than for some of the former major players, who were used to work with big budgets and big outfits and now are slowly becoming more like agencies, mainly living from the promotion and marketing of their stars and taking a share of their concert fees.
The “small” labels work differently. Usually run by enthusiasts and music lovers instead of corporate executives they have become a major independent voice. They are doing much more to spread interesting and different music than most of the former “big” labels, who work under immense artistic constraints that usually tend to be mainstream. “Small” labels like the excellent NEOS (for contemporary music) or also the versatile “Act” (for Jazz) in Germany have become very important for the spreading of New music via sound media – without these labels the scene would be much poorer, even though they will never reach the high sales of the major companies. And in a way this a good thing, because they enjoy much more freedom in what they do. They can dare to constantly tread new ground because they don’t risk failure of a multi-million-dollar marketing campaign that is only designed to promote one single product.
I have recently tried to coin a new term for contemporary or “New” music (with a capital “N”), calling it “craft music”. Obviously, I am taking a cue from the “craft” scene that has become a major changing factor in the spirit and beer industry, where independent bottlers, breweries and distilleries have completely changed the way that the traditionally dominating big companies are running their business. There certainly is and always will be an interest in “craft” music – music, that is not mainstream, that is not toned-down or average, that is challenging and inspiring. The most honest composers in our scene are not satisfied with delivering an average product, they take great care to “craft” something that is special and that takes a lot of time and dedication to create. The same dedication must be realized by the performers of this music, of course. It is the same as the difference between a cheap fast-food meal and a lovingly prepared dish that takes days to prepare. The latter is uncommon and an experience, the former is the norm. And don’t we all want to experience something that is “out of the norm” from time to time?
trptk takes an interesting approach in that they are concentrating mostly on the “out of the norm” aspect instead of sticking to a specific genre like “classical” or “pop”. Instead for them the main aspect of a CD production is … quality. Quality of sound (in which they excel, working with the most up-to-date recording and editing equipment available today), quality of performances, quality of content. Their CD’s published so far are quite eclectic – ranging from chansons to ambitious chamber music to rock music. Each of these projects has been personally championed by members of their team (who have a wide range of tastes that is not always congruent…and does not have to be), labours of love that are put together with the great care that permeates absolutely everything up to the CD booklets and covers.
What is interesting: Because they work with cutting edge audio technology, they have created their own fanbase of buyers that buy their CDs (our downloads) simply because they trust in the quality of the listening experience itself. Some of these listeners might even be audiophiles, who love to listen to their high-end equipment even more than listening to a particular type of music genre. But that is ok, because in the end they…listen! And it is a different audience from the “typical” contemporary music audience.
During a visit to their studio I could listen to this CD with music by the composer Maxim Shalygin, the incredibly impressive piece “Lacrimosa” for 7 violins. Discovering the music by Shalygin has been a revelation for me – At first, I feared it would be some kind of Arvo Pärt-style soothing religious Muzak, but the music turns out to be an incredibly intense experience of the highest artistic quality imaginable. Listening to this piece on a fantastic loudspeaker set was a bit like seeing the end of “2001” for the first time – a truly mind-blowing experience that transcends everything that one would expect from 7 violins placed around the listener. This music is highly expressive and deeply authentic, “crafted” by a highly talented composer that I can only recommend checking out. An important work of New Music. Or should I say Craft Music?
Whatever may be the case, it is worth following the work of trptk, because everything that is done with love has the power to lift us all up. And that is a rare experience.