Music I Am #11 – Douglas Knehans, composer

The moment when you knew you wanted to be a musician:

I was a little kid looking at a record cover of a Brahms disc with a photo of old Brahms on the cover. There was just something about that that I thought “wouldn’t it be cool to be a composer?” Several years passed and I only took up music in my last year of high school but made rapid progress and attended an excellent conservatory at the Australian National University  the following year.

An important skill for a career in music that does not have anything to do with an instrument or making music:

Analysis. Being able to think through problems and solutions with clarity and not with fantasy. It is a difficult one to balance reality with aspiration, but I think clarity of mind is an essential skill no matter what career path one takes.

Two ways you stay motivated:

Break big challenges or problems into a collection of smaller, more easily achievable ones. Stay curious to keep challenging yourself. BONUS one: don’t delay, start today.

Latest album or recording project:

Latest album is CLOUD OSSUARY, which just won its tenth recording award. Next recording project is my second cello concerto BLACK CITY which reflects on the degraded cityscape of rustbelt America as a metaphor for internal challenges and emotions.

What inspired it:

Cloud Ossuary was inspired by a brilliant poem of my daughter’s, who is a writer, called BONES AND ALL. []

Who’s on it:

For this disc I was so lucky to work with the brilliant Brno Philharmonic and my longtime friend, conductor Mikel Toms. As soloists on the disc I was so fortunate to have Pavel Wallinger as violin soloist, a truly gifted musician, and the young Dutch soprano Judith Weusten who absolutely nailed the very demanding vocal solo.

How do you discover new music?

Through the Grammy community mainly and through listening to the radio when I am driving.

One living and one dead musician that deserves more attention:

For a living musician I would say baritone Matthias Goerne. Absolutely one of the most masterful musicians I have ever heard. For a dead one, I would say French/Swiss composer Arthur Honegger, an absolutely wonderful composer.

Where can we find you online?

Backwards From Winter (opera) 


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