Interview with composer Reinhold Poehnl

Reinhold Poehnl is one of the most versatile composers I have had a chance to interview. All you need to do is search his name, and you come across an array of compositions that range from classical to jazz to hip hop. Every piece is clear and precise. Following, find out what has contributed to shaping this multi-faceted personality.

PM: When did you discover your love for music?

Reinhold: Maybe it was at the age of 5, when my older sister had her first piano lessons and I was allowed to stand next to the piano.

PM: If you were not a musician, what other path would you have taken?

Reinhold: I am excited about photography, and maybe this would have been my alternative choice. I am also interested in mathematics. There are so many fascinating paths other than music! There is: science, physics, computer graphics, parachuting…., but I think, I never would have become a lawyer or a business manager.

PM: Do you have a favorite composer?

Reinhold: There are, first of all, of course, the three greatest of all times: Bach, Beethoven and Mozart. Nevertheless, there is unimaginably much more music now. If somebody is going to buy a luxury car, it is possible to get some kind of market overview before you do, but when it comes to music, several lifetimes are not enough to browse through the existing music. And every day there is new music. So let me name a few artists or composers I like:  Astor Piazolla, the Beatles, Prokofiev, Ravel, Debussy, Count Basie, and Skrillex. It might not make sense because they are so many and so different.

PM: How would you describe your style?

Reinhold: My style is varied. I write and produce very different music. Above all, I like colorful harmonies and surprising changes. I enjoy trance and techno, as well as creating a traditional polka, which then takes a not-so-traditional turn. I like experimenting because I’m inquisitive.

PM: Is there a musician who has influenced your style?

Reinhold: There are countless. As with the question regarding a favorite composer, there are too many.

PM: When did you start composing?

Reinhold: I started soon after I began to play the piano. Of course, that could not actually be considered composing.

PM: Do you write, play, and produce all your pieces?

Reinhold: I write, play and produce, and together with other instrumentalists as well. There is also music which I have written for other performers, such as a string quartet, or music for accordion, or short piano pieces for students. There is a great deal of music I have written that has been performed by others, but which has not been recorded yet.

PM: How many pieces have you written?

Reinhold: More than 500 so far, although I’m certain there will be more. I must admit, some pieces are just for mass production, like musical wall paper, but there are some pieces which I consider little jewels and take a little longer to write.

PM: Do you play an instrument? Which one(s)?

Reinhold: My main instrument is the piano, but I have played the viola for many years, I had to play the unavoidable recorder in elementary school, I still play guitar, and I also have some experience with drums. I have tried the accordion, the upright bass, and the timpani. I have played the traditional organ at church service, as well as a Hammond organ when performing jazz and rock. I have yet to master any of those, except maybe the piano. Still, the experience with so many different instruments, in my opinion, has been quite useful.

PM: What is a normal day like for you?

Reinhold: I am lucky, I think. Most days, when I am not traveling, I can just do what I feel like. Apart from writing, creating and producing my own music, I also work as a freelance musician for Yamaha, producing musical content or training new members. Last week I was sent to a place near Marseille to train a French musician on how to create musical content data. My job is to explain the technical details to make that musical data work best on a particular (digital) instrument. Yamaha wants local specialists to create musical data to perfectly fit the local taste and demand. For these projects I have traveled to Turkey, Spain, Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece and the USA, among other countries. The interaction with musicians from different parts of the world and cultures is very exciting, interesting and inspiring to me. I also love to explore the local cuisines and enjoy trying new food, new spices, and experiencing new impressions.

PM: Do you follow a ritual when you write your music? Do you take special measures?

Reinhold: No. Most of the time, I have music paper and a pencil with me; whether I am on the beach or on a train, and certainly, next to the piano. I take notes, write songs, and I have plenty of music notebooks filled with ideas that have not come to fruition yet. I browse through these notes and check and compare once and again. At times, I just sit and play and I start to develop a piece of music based on a kind of improvisation or a spontaneous idea.

PM: What advice would you give someone who is thinking about becoming a composer?

Reinhold: On the one hand, there is the creativity, the genius, the divine inspiration, the unexplainable, which probably cannot be learned or trained. I am not sure why, it is just so. Then, there is also the basics, the craftsmanship, the knowledge about music theory, harmony and all the stuff found in music books. I think it is a good idea to learn what is learnable, and to hope to just have that special something.

PM: What would you say is the hardest thing about what you do?

Reinhold: After having composed, performed, recorded and produced a piece of music, it is hard for me to find a suitable name for it. I am not good at finding catchy titles, so I share the music with my daughters, or I play the music for my wife and I ask for their feedback and suggestions. Most of the time, they have nice recommendations I would never come up with.