Max Cooper

Max Cooper’s Favorite Neo-Classical Pieces

March 19, 2014   Guides + Lists
Photo: Shaun Bloodworth

Words by Max Cooper

It’s strange how classical elements have found their way into my music. I started off making purely electronic music with little consideration for using piano or strings. But soon I found that what seemed to sit naturally for me musically also seemed to lend itself to these elements. For some reason I find I can work more efficiently in building melodies and chord progressions if I use string and piano parts, even if I later turn them back into purely electronic sounds. It may be that my childhood with a mother as a piano and music teacher, and father as a classical/hi-fi obsessive may have influenced my technique in this sense, even though I didn’t actively learn to play or consciously engage myself. Or maybe it’s just that the rich overtones of real string and piano instruments provide a good base for composition.

Whatever the reason, I love the moods that can be created with classical elements, but I also have a strong connection to modern musical forms, so post-classical has been an obvious source of a lot of my favorite music over the years.

Here are some of them, which you probably already know, even if you didn’t know it…

1. Deaf Center, “White Lake”
I love the contrast of feelings in this piece. It’s somehow sad and reflective, but very playful at the same time; it’s a really interesting combination that I’ve rarely heard elsewhere. And of course, it’s just a beautiful piece of music.

2. Michael Nyman, “The Heart Asks Pleasure First”
One of the greatest film scores and piano solos for me, from Michael Nyman’s score for The Piano. My mum and my sister used to play this a lot when I was a child, and it was always my favorite then too. I did some work with Michael Nyman remixing some of his music, and I tried to remix this and totally failed—some pieces of music just can’t be built or improved on.

3. Nils Frahm, “Said and Done”
This was the first work of Nils’ that I fell in love with, and of course there have been many more since. It demonstrates his amazing capacity for minimalism, improvisation and total captivation of any listeners who happen to get sucked into his stream of consciousness.

4. Philip Glass, “Glassworks Opening”
One of my all-time favorite classical pieces, and a great example of minimalist classical music that shares a lot in common with techno and other electronic music—all simple loops, but the simplicity has to be designed in a manner that yields interesting interactions and a sort of emergence. It may not look like much on paper, but it causes some sort of subjective explosion. I particularly love Branka Parlic’s rendition of this piece; she adds an extra layer of human ebb and flow that really enhances the piece for me.

5. Max Richter, “Horizon Variations”
A simple, subtle, short, beautiful piece of music.

Max Cooper’s latest album, ‘Human’, is available now through Fields. Watch a few official videos from it below…