In 2011, after a few EPs and off-shoot releases, German composer and pianist Nils Frahm released the album titled Felt on Erased Tapes Records. The liner notes of the album were written as a letter to the listener, in which Frahm explained that he used felt to dampen the hammers of his piano at night in order not to disturb his neighbours. The album was an instant success. So much so that, suddenly, many other contemporary musicians ran to their dampened pianos and began recording quiet music. I am at fault as well. In 2016, I unhinged the cover of my piano to expose the inner workings of my beloved instrument, positioned microphones closer to the strings, and began to play at night. In the next half-decade, the modern classical scene became more than just a little saturated with that type of sound. Spotify even employed license-free music from “fake artists” to slowly push out the “real artists” from their playlists and replace them with bland and templated plinking that they didn’t have to pay royalties for. Something has gone awry. And what was lost among the cacophony of all these muted hammers was the actual musician and their soul and the ability of music to transmit that special something that truly connected us as humans. There is still a lot to celebrate – and I try my best to pick out sounds worth your time – but the signal-to-noise ratio is pretty low here. So when an album truly touches me, I must speak out.
Muriël Bostdorp first appeared on my rotations when my dear friend Julien Marchal released her debut album, See, on his Whales Records in March 2018. I have been a huge fan of Marchal’s output, and so I implicitly trusted his careful curation of the label. Even then, I had already picked up on this Dutch pianist’s particular approach to piano music, and I wrote: “Neither too sombre nor too saccharine, Bostdorp’s dampened piano and wistful melodies create an air of bittersweet melancholy buoyed by a lively rhythmic style that flows as effortlessly as water.” Her album has subsequently appeared on my Best of the Year lists, in the only appropriate category for this type of sound, which I call “Music For Watching The Snow Slowly Fall In The Moonlight“. A year later, she has put out En Route on Whales once again. And then, in 2021, I was honoured to premiere a single piece, “Inside”, from her 4-track EP, Pianoramix, during my celebration of Piano Day, which, incidentally, was started by Nils Frahm. We now arrive at Resilient, Bostdorp’s third full-length on Whales Records, and… as you can see, I am devoting more than just a blurb towards its beauty… it’s something that I truly love.
The chords that I hear and choose always have some kind of melancholy in them. I think it’s part of who I am. Playing the piano, composing music is my way of going through life.
— Muriël Bostdorp
Without a doubt, Bostdorp’s music is intimate, slightly downcast, and incredibly personal. There are moments when the melody becomes almost familiar – an echo of something I may have dreamed up [yes, I have dreams where I play the piano]. But then Bostdorp effortlessly adorns a simple melody with beautiful progressions and deep chords. Each carefully pressed key expresses feelings with its weight, and this control of the dynamics flows out naturally as an extension of her self. And I imagine that if it wasn’t piano keys that she was brushing, there’d be emotion nonetheless, beneath each fingertip, behind each ringing note, and in the space between each sound. This is music best listened to at night or very early in the morning when melancholy is a little sleepy and lacking courage to wake up.