over the last few years minimalist piano solos seem to have benefited from a surge in popularity. In my personal opinion This started with Einaudi and his album “Le Onde” in 1996. Einaudi had been a professional composer since his post graduate studies since 1982 where he was employed in the tangle-wood music festival. This is where he first became exposed to american minimalism and it is from here where I certainly became interested in this particular type of music and, also, therefore, How I cam across the beautiful music of Yiruma
Yiruma is a south Korean pianist-composer. His name literally translate to “I shall achieve” he was a promising pianist from the age of 5 and moved to England in 1988. In 1997 he graduated from Purcell School of music and moved on to complete a composition masters at the Kings College London in June 2000. It is here he released his first album “Love Scene” where he achieved South Korean History and became the first south Korean pianist to tour Europe. Whilst in the music industry Yiruma renounced his British citizenship so he could enlist in the South Korean Navy and perform his music in his own country. In his own country his music was always on issue and because of that, he sold out in 10 South Korean Cities.
Kiss the Rain was released in 2003 and is a typical woeful song of “I love you but you have never loved me” However the beautiful melody floating high above the ledger lines and with its gorgeous 8va really does paint a beautiful picture of the rain falling down. This piece or song has a typical verse chorus structure. Verse 1, chorus, Verses 2 and 3, chorus then Verse four and Chorus.
The melody remains (mostly) the same in the each verse but there are many ways in which Yiruma maintains the song’s interest is to add harmony in the right hand during the second and third verses which helps to add a think texture and likewise in the fourth verse However the fourth verse has been modulated to A major. It gives us the impression that he will be okay, not being loved by someone that you love does hurt but by modulating back in to A major, I believe Yiruma is saying he will just have to cope and get on with his life. However the last question Yiruma asks “so why am I still here in the rain?” drifts away high up as a pianissimo, to me this feels somewhat like a melancholy sigh or someone dreamily staring out the window questioning their life choices!
However, the reason I used Einaudi as an example is the interpretation by the person playing it. I am trying to teach myself piano and I can play some of Einaudi’s works and I am struggling but can play some of kiss the rain. The amount of expression that you can put in the phrases is phenomenal. This piece of music is so open to interpretation that it allows a performer so much freedom. I can play the first verse every day for a week but it would never be the same twice, depending on how the day has gone. The way the phrases are shaped and how they sing, up in the ledger lines, is a complete musical canvas. Like an ambiguous join the dots, where no matter what order you join the dots, you can get a musical masterpiece.
In the Verses the chord starts on the tonic before jumping up to the third and then up to the VI (this bar is in the relative minor of F minor. We then descend down in steps VI, then V, then progress chord by chord back down to the II where we then end the phrase on the V before the cycle then begins again. The chord structure in itself is relatively simple but so beautiful and effective. The verse lasts 16 bars and we are then in to the verse.
We begin the chorus on the Db , down to the C then breifly down to the Bb and Eb before spending a bar in the tonic and then in the 5th bar of the chorus we see a D natural (funnily enough the bit, I can’t get my fingers around at the moment!) We build through D major, G minor, C minor and F major up to the Bb in a beautiful Minor 7 chord that takes us so comfortably back to the Verse and the Ab minor of the next verse.
This build up, in particular the last four bars of the chorus feels to me almost like the part where the emotions are really getting to Yiruma. “But how can you love me, Like I loved you when, you can’t even look me straight in my eyes?” This makes sense that it would be the most emotionally climactic part of the song but that is only my personal opinion. I definitely find that in the chorus is where I find my favourite writing, I love all of it but the chorus, definitely – to me, holds a kind of musical and emotional climax.
As a composer, If I look at the chorus I look to see how the chords are put together to build the effect on the audience I think the D natural completely violates my musical expectations because I just don’t expect it, That D minor does not turn up anywhere else. Then we just build on The D minor with a G major, C minor and F minor (the dominant of Bb) then down to Bb (the dominant of the key signature of Eb) before we land safely back in the key.
I do not know if Yiruma meant this to be the case but with his stunning melodies, open harmonies and descending chord progressions through the verses he has created a universal piece of music that absolutely any performer can relate to and add a bit of their own personality.