“Trance is at once deeply personal and fiercely universal, a state within the self that can also be collectively attained and shared,” says Berlin composer and pianist Meredi, who named her latest album Trance inspired by the immersive experience she would feel in her city’s famed – now faded – nightclubs. “I’m inspired by the intensity and power of the music in techno raves and I wanted to express it in my own words in this album.”
Meredi’s “own words” are the white and black keys of her Bechstein upright piano. With the instrument, the 29-year-old has developed a unique vocabulary by mixing meditative tones and abstract, quasi-electronic structures with a classical grounding. Her style, at once delicate and riddled with longing yet also invigoratingly modern and surprisingly intense, has awarded Meredi countless compositional prizes in Germany as well as landing her commissions in film and TV. Until recently, Meredi had also been an avid club-goer, and her music often took queues and inspiration from Berlin’s hedonistic nightlife, “The city’s nightlife gives me this freedom to be able to heighten my state of being whenever I want to, to feel as much as possible and to experience these really extreme emotions,” says Meredi, “And what does composing do to me? It gives me the opportunity to tell stories through these very intense emotions for which there are no words.”
Trance is a journey through nine evocative compositions for piano and strings, simple melodies that nonetheless hit deep. “The pieces are about the longing for the here and now. The longing to lose oneself, to let go and to forget time,” says Meredi of the album. The track’s titles each tell of a specific part in the process of letting go, referencing mostly club contexts. Album opener, Welcome home for instance, alludes to the greeting that has become a staple amongst those who attend Burning Man Festival, the cult electronic music event in Nevada. The track gently lures in listeners through ambient strings and escalating piano keys on a journey within. The use of subtle repetition – an ancient mechanism for inducing states of trance – means the piece never fully “arrives”. Yet, somewhere along the journey, listeners have forgotten the destination altogether and found a place of comfort in the never-ending ascension. “Sometimes a sound opens up whole worlds within. The album represents a journey to find oneself, a kind of self-discovery through the loss of control,” explains Meredi.
Title track, Trance is the piece that rings closest to the abstract compositional style of techno tunes. A fast-paced motif on the piano repeats itself with subtle changes opening up new musical patterns and directions. It’s a piece that induces surrender. The looping hypnotic piano keys are reinforced by poignant strings that pull at listeners forcefully, bringing them deep into an abstract world of pure potentials and emotions, “It deals with the limbo and trip that one achieves when one surrenders to trance. You cannot fall because there is no bottom. This piece is the transition to the surreal in the album,” notes Meredi of the piece. Then there’s the enlightening album closer, When I was you, a piece so intimately recorded one can hear the soft sounds of Meredi’s fingers pressing and releasing the piano keys, as well as almost picture the room that surrounds the instrument by the reverberation of the sound bouncing off its walls. Of the piece, Meredi says she wanted to convey the feeling of merging with the surroundings where “You are everyone and everyone is yourself.”
With Trance, Meredi manages to recreate the transcendental experience of nightclubs. She taps into that heightened state of being, often associated with ceremonial rituals or sweaty dancefloors, from the intimacy of her home. Trance showcases the power of music in its purest most abstract form where, regardless of medium or genre, it manages to magically dissolve the personal and unify the collective. “My gaze went inwards to an intimate and private club experience for this album, a becoming one with the surroundings.“
Meredi always knew she wanted to compose.The27-year-old’s introduction to music didn’t come via the allure of glittery stages or the hedonistic lifestyle of rockstars, but rather out of pure need to express herself. Today, the world seems to overlook composers (let alone female ones), making a career in the field risky to say the least, but Meredi didn’t have a choice. She knew she had to get those melodies she heard in her head out into the world, “I was about nine when I found out that my friends didn’t have this kind of experience of music playing out in their heads, these trance-like moments.” Stardust is Meredi’s debut album, and a collection of early and more recent music.
Meredi’s certainty towards composition, and an old piano which lingered at her home’s hallway, meant she had an early start, “I don’t really remember when I started to compose, it feels like the music was always in my head and I just learned how to bring it to live,” she reminisces, “The piano was always my island or retreat.” The pastime developed into a passion, the passion uncovered a talent, and soon enough Meredi was studyingmusic and composition at university
While developing her technical abilities, Meredi had always felt her studies to be a constraining experience, “I felt limited and overwhelmed with prejudices and rules. It was about reaching the mind, not the heart,” recalls Meredi. Her classes, although useful, lacked the emotional energy she searched for in music. The trance of nightclub goers was alluring to her, much more than the coldness and stiffness of those in concert halls. “The party scene in Berlin was very fascinating to me. I went to lots of techno clubs and the energy in these clubs… again, this kind of longing that the crowd felt was so mesmerizing to me.” A youthful sense of freedom, as well as a cosmopolitan grasp of different cultures can be felt subtly throughout Stardust. Take a track like Circles in the Skyfor instance, which superimposes a simple, stripped-down melody over such a punctual bass line that it almost feels electronic.
Notice how the peaks of intense emotion in Crane,could have come straight out of the chorus of a pop tune, “I never thought in genres, for me it was always about what I felt when I listened to a song,” she says.But while Stardust captures the infinite possibilities of Meredi’s generation, it also manifests something of the longing, and some-times alienation, caused by these circumstances. In listening to Stardust, it is clear how much the feeling of longing has inspired Meredi. Every track seems to be connected by a nostalgic yearning for something that wasn’t fully consummated or lived. Maredi says that the melodies in her head will often play full blast when she feels this unique kind of craving, “There are these special moments, moments with a certain kind of energy, like for example when you see something very beautiful you feel very much this longing, you want to take it, to have it, to be that. You want it so much, that you don’t want to be separate from it.”Stardustembodies Meredi’s desire and need to compose. It’s a visceral and personal expression but it’s also something external to her. It’s her relation to her surroundings, her connection to her past and generation. Meredi’s tracks are as much her compositions, the melodies in her head, as they are compositions of and about her time. Stardust, the album and the matter, connects the personal to the collective.