Tony Roe is a Dutch composer and pianist. He started playing piano when he was 6 and has received both classical (in Royal Conservatoire The Hague) and jazz (in Conservatorium van Amsterdam) training. Furthermore, he also took Industrial Design Engineering and Music Technology lessons, and has experience in the field of sound design. In 2009, just before graduating from the Conservatorium van Amsterdam, Tony founded the band Tin Men and the Telephone, for which he composes the music and develops interactive visuals and software.
This year, he’s our mentor or coach for the Residency Project in the Master’s Degree in ArtEZ Conservatorium, just like the Ragazze Quartet was last year. The project gives us the chance to learn from and work with a renowned artistic company, offering us new perspectives and helping us to grow our network. I must admit that, unlike last year with the professional string quartet, I couldn’t help thinking that it was going to be hard for me as a classical violinist to learn something that I can apply in my violin playing from a jazz pianist. Luckily, I realized very quickly that I was completely wrong.
During the first few months of the school year, Tony is helping us develop a performance in which we reflect how we think a musical performance will look like in the future. In order to do so, he first played a small concert with his band Tin Men and the Telephone, which was one of the most innovative and audience engaging performances I’ve ever been to. They took us on a “journey” in which improvisation was present not only in the music but in every aspect. Improvising with the violin is something that I find particularly hard, and the fact that it was the core of the performance made me admire and respect the musicians very much. I was also amazed by the way technology was used to enhance the music and how they both complemented each other, creating a very unified and ever changing performance which varies depending on the audience’s input and participation. Looking at it from the performer’s perspective, I believe it’s a very attractive project because even if you need to follow a kind of script and have some guidelines or skeleton of the concert, the result is different everyday, so you keep getting surprised and not falling in a predictable routine. Furthermore, I think it helps to know your colleagues in a more intimate and personal way, try to anticipate how they’ll react and understand their body language. All in all, it was a very inspiring performance that opened our minds and from which we got a lot of ideas.
After explaining to us what the residency project was about this year, they put us into groups and we started brainstorming. I'm so happy to share this project with Ana because I’ve already worked with her and we have quite a similar way of creating, we’re both very open-minded and we have tons of ideas. We came up with an initial idea that was quite hard to bring about, but then a second one came to our minds and quickly escalated from plan B to plan A. We developed the whole concept in around an hour in a very natural and intuitive way, we were bursting with creativity and couldn’t stop adding new ideas. We instantly fell in love with it and were so looking forward to starting working on it!
We chose to combine music, video and audio to create an interdisciplinary performance in which we represent how the day to day of an average young adult looks like. It’s been the first time I’ve ever worked with video, meaning that we had to record and edit the material ourselves and then integrate it to our performance in a way that makes sense. It’s been a great challenge as it has taken us a lot of time and effort but on the other hand it’s been so cool and fun to do it. We’ve learnt a lot from it and it’s helped us grow as musicians and artists and broadened our frontiers.
Apart from the initial concert of Tin Men and the Telephone, we’ve received coachings in topics related to technology (such as how video game music works) and how to make a performance interesting for the audience. Tony has given us tools to develop a concert that some months ago would be impossible for us to even picture, as we had little to no idea on how to make the most out of the possibilities of combining music and technology. Moreover, he has helped us look at our performance from the outside and see what works and what doesn’t, giving us ideas and encouraging us to achieve the best result possible.
Besides being the first time we’ve incorporated video and audio to a performance, we have faced a couple more challenges. The first and most stressful thing has been to work against the clock in order to accomplish everything that we wanted to do. Ana and I are both very perfectionists and demanding with ourselves, so we’ve had to work very hard to get the results we were looking for. Another thing to take into consideration is the amount of projects -both personally and in school- that we had going on contemporarily, so it was sometimes hard to find the time for everything. I’ll explain more about other projects in a following post.
I don’t want to give too many details about the performance because we’re going to premiere it in the Conservatorium at the end of January, so feel invited to join us and discover what we’ve created!