Dan Tepfer Performs Bach Like You have Never Listened to It Before: Upside Down : NPR

Pianist, composer and coder Dan Tepfer confronted pandemic isolation with ingenious technological options.

Josh Goleman/courtesy of the artist


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Josh Goleman/courtesy of the artist


Pianist, composer and coder Dan Tepfer confronted pandemic isolation with ingenious technological alternatives.

Josh Goleman/courtesy of the artist

Sitting at the Yamaha grand piano in his Brooklyn apartment, surrounded by two laptops, an iPad, a keep an eye on, a video clip camera and studio lights, Dan Tepfer performs the initial of Bach’s “Goldberg” Variations. The piano is a Disklavier, which can history and engage in back. When he finishes, Tepfer faucets a button on his iPad, triggering the piano to engage in again what he’s just recorded with the notes inverted, as if the rating ended up turned upside down.

Tepfer suggests the task, termed “#BachUpsideDown,” was a outcome of his stay performances grinding to a halt final calendar year. “As quickly as the pandemic hit, I asked myself, what can I do?” he states. “What can I do that’s heading to be meaningful musically right now, when the bottom has dropped out? And the initially matter that arrived to intellect was this #BachUpsideDown undertaking, mainly because it was some thing I understood I could do from household simply.”

It served that the 39-12 months-aged musician could also publish code to method his piano to invert the common Bach get the job done. “When you describe what he’s performing, it appears like a gimmick,” suggests New York Periods chief audio critic Anthony Tommasini. “But then when I truly listened to them, I thought, oh no no no: it can be over and above gimmick. It’s genuinely exciting. Eventually, I believe the issue of the upside down stuff is to make us hear improved, or in a new way, Bach’s ‘Goldberg’ Variants.”

The up coming job Tepfer tackled for the duration of the pandemic was a sequence of jazz concerts with other musicians in their flats miles absent, streamed reside over the internet. But to make that transpire, he experienced to come across a way to prevail over the lag between the alerts.

“Necessity is the mother of creation,” he suggests. “I identified this software package, JackTrip, that is truly about 10 many years aged, this rather obscure academic piece of software package that is brilliantly created. And it ferries musical info over the net as promptly as possible—much, considerably a lot more promptly than something like Zoom, for example.”

Tepfer began to host weekly concerts, more than 50 in all, with pointed out musicians, which includes saxophonist Melissa Aldana, percussionist Antonio Sanchez and bassist Christian McBride. Very last summer time he streamed a application of French tracks with vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant, who states she admires Tepfer for the breadth of his information. She describes his skills as extensive—beginning with his mastery of livestream technological innovation.

“He teaches people today who are totally technologically inept like me how to set it up and make it work—that’s a person detail,” Salvant states. “But then to convey it in with his attractive piano enjoying, his unbelievable taste, his sensitivity as a musician, and then he writes his songs… it truly is just so exciting to see any individual that daring with how they blend their passions.”

The son of an opera singer and a biologist, Dan Tepfer pursues connections among the music, math and science.

Maria Jarzyna/courtesy of the artist


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Maria Jarzyna/courtesy of the artist


The son of an opera singer and a biologist, Dan Tepfer pursues connections amid songs, math and science.

Maria Jarzyna/courtesy of the artist

Dan Tepfer was raised with blended interests. He was born in Paris in 1982 to American parents: his mother sang at the Paris Opera, and his father was a biologist. He began classical piano classes when he was six, but put in his summers in Oregon with his grandfather, who was a jazz pianist. He commenced crafting plans for his father’s Macintosh Additionally when he was 9.

At the College of Edinburgh, Tepfer majored in astrophysics. “This is what constantly fascinated me, is the framework underlying the surface area of what we see,” he says. “And physics shows you that you can reveal an awesome sum of that in the language of arithmetic.”

That way of looking at the environment, he says, has specifically motivated his work: #BachUpsideDown is about extracting the music’s DNA, then improvising on it. His history in math is at the heart of yet another undertaking he calls All-natural Equipment, a challenge that involves an algorithm he wrote that makes it possible for his piano to accompany him when he improvises.

Tepfer states his upcoming job is a digital reality app that will make it possible for consumers to expertise Purely natural Machines inside 3-D visualizations of the new music. But the extra he branches out with algorithms and Bach experiments, he claims, the additional he feels the need to deepen his roots by enjoying with jazz musicians. Tepfer analyzed jazz composition in graduate university at the New England Conservatory. When he moved to New York, he played and recorded with the late saxophone legend Lee Konitz to launch his profession.

Now, amongst 60 and 300 lovers from around the entire world log in for every single of his present-day livestream concerts, in the course of which and he reads and responds to their remarks in actual time among the musical figures. Tepfer suggests that is the point he’s most very pleased of accomplishing throughout the pandemic: “partaking in a real dialogue with my audience and producing a feeling of neighborhood.

“At the end of the day, I imagine the most essential detail about songs is that it delivers us jointly,” he adds. “Which is its position. And in particular when we’re so isolated, we require that far more than at any time.”

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