Close-Up: An Interview With Pianist Nina Platiša

Ontario-based composer and pianist Nina Platiša joins us on Close-Up Culture to talk about her upcoming album, Za Klavir: For the Piano. The album is a collection of 26 original compositions that blend minimal, contemporary, classical roots with elements of Balkan folk.

You will release Za Klavir: For the Piano on April 21st. What was your starting point or initial inspiration for this album?

I was first inspired to create a collection of solo piano pieces by my piano students when I began teaching in 2018 in London, England. I noticed all the happy accidents that happened in my students’ playing and how beautiful they could sound. The suite began as a collection for elementary students but turned into a more dynamic project as I embraced the Balkan sounds of my childhood that started almost right away to come through.

I understand the album represents elements of your upbringing and musical life. Can you tell us about your upbringing and early musical memories?

Traditional Balkan folk, often passed down orally, was some of the first music I learned to sing and understand. It has shaped melodies and harmonies in the music I create, and these twenty-six pieces certainly carry that influence. I began learning to play the piano at the age of seven and also attended singing lessons for several years. I was affected by music across many genres and cultures. Even if I didn’t understand the language or genre of the music I listened to and learned, there would always be a melody, harmony, or rhythm that would be hard to forget.

How are your past experiences felt in the music of Za Klavir: For the Piano? 

When I’m creating new music, I try to capture a moment, feeling, experience or character within each piece. The intention is always clear to me as I begin composing or improvising towards finding the piece. Many  of the pieces on this album address experiences and feelings from my childhood and adolescence, especially experiences that left me longing for something, someplace or someone.

These pieces will be accompanied by six original mini-films made by independent filmmakers. What can we expect from these films?

All the filmmakers were asked only  to produce something that was a direct response to  a piece of their choice on the album. They were given complete freedom to create what they desired while in some way addressing the idea of combining traditional and contemporary elements. The videos vary a good deal in some ways, but they share a certain sensibility, and all feel quite personal. 

There will also be book of notations about these pieces with original artworks by designer Aleksandar Todorović. What was your collaboration like with Aleksandar?

Aleksandar is a multidisciplinary artist whose skills and training combine art and design very holistically. He creates many of his designs through practical methods like silk screening or creating by hand new typography that is later digitally transferred. His methods of developing work by hand add nuance and texture to his practice. This deeply committed and layered approach can be seen and felt in the Za Klavir: For the Piano book, for which, among other things, he silkscreened the covers and designed a new typeface. He even bound the books by hand.

I know you’ve composed for several short films. Can you tell us about your interest in films and what you’d like to explore in this medium? 

I have always had an interest in cinema and the role that music and sound play in supporting a story on screen. I’ve worked for the Toronto International Film Festival, supporting filmmakers in various capacities, and have attended film festivals around the world. I am really drawn to multidisciplinary work and collaboration, so it feels both natural and exciting to bring my composing into that kind of equation. Through composing for film, Ihope to explore ways in which sound and music collide, experiment with compositional techniques and compose for different genres of film. It would be a dream conduct to an orchestra playing my own compositions to experience first-hand how the music is felt and played by others.

What are your hopes and ambitions for the future? 

At the moment, I have two other solo piano projects I’m working on, one of which explores elements of prepared piano. Both will have collaborative components much like my project Za Klavir: For the Piano. I also continue to work on LEVELSEVEN which will be an album of intimate soul/pop music. So far I have released two singles that are an extension of this project: I Wove A Garment For You and Your LustI hope to be afforded more opportunities to create new work, not only for my own projects but also for others in support of disciplines like film, theatre and dance.

Photo credit: Leydon Photography

For more of Nina’s work: ninaplatisa.com

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