Joep Beving has created a rich new sound world for his latest extended track, Post. The piece evolved gradually and organically from a string intro composed several years ago into a piece also featuring synthesizers, ney flute, percussion and female voices. “I always felt Post needed to be a soundtrack to a story,” says Beving. “I was waiting for the story to reveal itself.” The idea came as he was writing lyrics for the choir and has now been realized in a short film by Hugo Keijzer, which portrays a mother helping her daughter move from a place of darkness towards recovery. Together, music and images send out a message of love and hope for anyone struggling with the challenges of life today.
You began working on what became Post five years ago. The piece grew into not only an independent piece for strings, synths, ney flute, percussion and a female Bulgarian folk choir, but also a striking synthesis of music and film. How did Post evolve to the place where it is now?
Joep Beving: I’d already worked on the string introduction of Post for my last but one album, Henosis. But it felt like a new beginning or something that didn’t belong on that recording. I didn’t know where it would lead, so it was a bit like running towards a cliff and stopping just before diving over the edge. Christian Badzura, Deutsche Grammophon’s Vice President A&R New Repertoire, suggested that I should take up that track and see where it went. I experimented with it but wasn’t happy with the results, so I let it be. And then came the Corona pandemic, which gave me an opportunity to develop the song’s ending.
I struggled to find a fulfilling resolution, partly because the piece had no protagonist and partly because I didn’t have the skills to get the mix to where I wanted it. For the latter, I received help from some very talented people; for the former, I realized while I was writing the lyrics for the choir that this piece needed a story. That made me think about what it might mean.
The idea popped into my head of a mother singing to her troubled teenage daughter that she needs to wake up, that it’s beautiful outside and that life deserves to be lived and experienced, no matter what. She decides to take the initiative in bringing her only child back to life.
Sadly, there are many reasons for teenage kids to question the purpose of their existence. And many parents are struggling with the fact that they brought kids into the world in dire times where our extinction is a topic beyond the absurd. While I was finding the song’s meaning, so much was happening in the world. That moved me to focus on something that’s affecting kids in so many countries. Everything in the world can seem so dark to them.
This piece is mostly a story of love and hope for young people who fear for the future and are suffering because of it.
I am a father of daughters and I know this fear. Even though I consider myself very privileged and living in a relatively safe part of the world.
You then also worked with director Hugo Keijzer on this project. As you say, the darkness and despair of the characters in his film for Post reflect an experience shared by so many young people who’ve been consumed by chronic depression or are struggling with overwhelming anxiety. What do you think the film and your music have to say to anyone who is living day to day with mental illness?
I don’t know, to be honest. I just feel that love is the strongest force known to mankind. In my mind the film is set somewhere on the eastern side of Europe, it is about a mother and her child, but its message is universal. I wanted it to be a film without words but where, thanks to the acting, we can easily recognize the progress the two protagonists make. We must use whatever we can to spread this message of love. The most powerful version of that message is in the relationship between a parent and child.
So many of us are inhabiting a system that causes severe alienation and mental disorder – that’s something we could talk about for a week! The film is an attempt to offer a positive response to that. I’m not going to define the purpose of life, but there is a purpose. And the experience and power of love are a universal force. Post is about that and the fact that life is worth living, no matter what.
Hugo Keijzer has already made his mark as director of short films, the sci-fi drama The Occupant perhaps most powerful among them. Did you know him before collaborating on Post?
My old neighbour in Amsterdam has a film production company in Los Angeles. One of my managers suggested that we should ask her about possible directors for the film. Hugo had worked with her and I already knew his work from years back. He got in touch really quickly and liked the music and short script I sent to him. He “got it” and wanted to be invested in the film on a personal level. I knew his aesthetic would be good, but he and his team really went the extra mile in making the film despite only having a small budget. Because it’s such an important subject, I was ready to let Hugo and his colleagues develop my idea. There was a real trust there that allowed the work to evolve. He had a terrific cameraman and an excellent production team, and the casting was great. The girls made the film! We were very fortunate.
While millions know you for your solo piano works, Post involves other instruments and a women’s folk choir. How did you find your collaborators?
I had already written the choir parts and the lyrics long before we chose the group to perform them. Christian [Badzura] found Bulgarian Voices Berlin and sent the music to them. They felt it suited their style of singing and wanted to make the recording, so we had a session in Berlin at which I was “present” over Zoom.
We had a software tool that gives high-quality streaming for recording sessions which allowed me to play in real time with them. We used the same tool to record the drums, which Luke Flowers of the Cinematic Orchestra played in Liverpool. The ney flute player, who I’d discovered on YouTube, recorded her part at home in Istanbul. This was all done during the time of Corona.
What do you hope Post will achieve?
My hope is that it will reach and speak to a young audience, girls in particular. We can’t underestimate the need for them to be seen and heard. It’s about conveying the power of love and the resilience (wo)men are capable of.
There’s also a remixed version of Post on the EP. I’m known for melancholy music, so I deliberately chose to do something cheerful that people can dance to. It’s like something you’d hope to hear at a summer festival, something that is joyful and hopefully gets the message across that life is worth living.