pianist Jeff Herge hails from Alexandria in
Virginia, USA. His only release to date, Jeff
Herge, was released in 1993 and quickly met with
critical acclaim. Jeff was nominated for the
Washington area's "Best New Age Artist" in 1995,
and his music has received warm praise from the
highly-regarded Peter Kater. Jeff's music has
featured on national and international radio, and
has been used in commercials and even a White House
presentation! Currently Jeff is indulging in some
DIY at his home, as well as compiling material for
his eagerly-awaited second album. He kindly took
"time-out" to speak to Piano-Heaven.
Well, first of all, Jeff, a very belated
"Congratulations" on your self-titled CD, some
sixteen years after it was released. Have you
generally been pleased with the response to your
album over that period of time?
have been very pleased with the draw and attention
the album has received. Being a limited self-taught
composer/musician, I was surprised that these
excerpts of self-expression and musical exploration
would be welcomed and respected so broadly around
the world by music fans and critics alike.
back to the beginning. How did the concept for the
CD come about? Was it a case of, "I want to release
my own piano CD" or did other events take their
Not being a
formal or trained musician, I originally wanted to
record my music to share with friends and family. I
didnít really look at this as a possible album until
I put together a cassette copy of my songs and found
people wanting it, and suggesting that it be
released into a CD for broader use and interests
(i.e. radio air play, compilation albums and
come from a musical background? When did you learn
to play the piano? Were you classically trained?
When did you start composing your own music? Was
Not really. My
brother played the guitar and trombone for a couple
of years and my mom learned to play a Korean
instrument called the kayagum and drums when we
lived in Korea. My background prior to composing
piano music was playing the drums as a teenager in
my room. I never played in a band. I only started
playing the piano when I took a music class in my
senior year in high school. But because I am
dyslexic, I found it difficult to read sheet music
correctly or to tempo. There was a requirement for
my class to read and perform from sheet music, but
because of my disability, my music teacher and I
worked together to find an alternative approach to
my assignment. He assigned me with the task of
attempting to compose very small piano measures and
told me to transcribe them to written score. From
there I finally found a place of musical and
artistic expression. I was eighteen at the time.
Just like all parents, they loved hearing me play
music, but werenít sure how long I would be
interested in it. So they offered to buy me a piano,
only if I was still interested in music a year from
then. I stuck with it by playing any piano I could
get my hands on (the neighbours' piano and a piano
at local historic park building in the community).
They soon realised that it wasnít a fad and offered
to purchase my first upright piano. Iíve had a
number of pianos since then, even owning two at one
time. Now I have a Roland digital piano.
Let me ask
you about that tree- it's even named in the
CD insert (Princess Ann). As well as featuring on
the cover of your CD, what significance does it
have? Has it been a source of inspiration to you?
Have you always been interested in nature?
Ann tree was a tree located in the park that was
located at the entrance to my neighbourhood at that
time. I worked as a park employee at the time that I
took that picture. Iíve always loved nature and
photography. That particular tree was not a music
inspiration, but a photographic inspiration. I loved
its lines and how it resembles a large bonsai tree.
I guess I have always been interested in nature. Iím
always picking up bugs and intrigued by something
while Iím out in the great outdoors.
piece on the album is Raindrops- I just love
the melody. It appears in various forms at different
points of the CD- is this because it had a special
appeal to you? Would it be fair to say that this
track has generated the most response?
I love that
piece too, because of the imagery it evokes. I
really love nature and like the challenge of
creating something that draws those mental pictures.
But truth be told Autumn Snow and
Jeffreyís Theme have always been the songs that
have drawn the most appeal to fans and radio
Can you talk
us through the composition process? Are these
carefully crafted pieces or improvisations- or
indeed, somewhere in between? How long did the album
take to compose?
Thatís a great
question. Composition for me is a cross between
improvisation and crafting pieces found through
improvised exploration. I find myself messing around
with certain rhythms and sounds. I later find a way
to piece them together to create a cohesive melody
or melodic path. When you take the time to hear what
youíre producing, you soon find out whether itís a
keeper or weed it out. You either use it now or
later in another composition.
The full album
took four years to come up with enough material
suitable to share and record.
quite some times since the original release. Have
you been composing music during this time? Can your
listeners expect a new release at any time soon?
I know it has
been a long time since the original release.
Unfortunately, life got in the way of my musical
endeavours. You know- bills, work and family. I
donít regret taking care of those other things, but
I do regret having my music hit the back burner the
way that it has. To be honest, I really havenít
played in years. I sit down every so often; I find
myself a little rusty, but Iím often pleasantly
surprised to find that I still have that love and
interest still in me. I have several new songs in my
head that I want to go back into the studio to
record for another album. Iíve promised myself and
my family that Iíd love to do that this year. My
daughter is eleven now and has never seen me perform
in concert. That tears me up. Sheís got to see that,
especially since one of the new songs I have is
dedicated to her.
certainly looking forward to that! I read about your
musical influences- no great surprises apart from
one, the identity of whom was new to me- Bob Olshin.
Could you explain to the readers why you rate this
pianist so highly? (I've ordered his CD by the way,
purely out of curiosity- couldn't find sound-clips
anywhere on the Web!)
Bob Olshin was
a local pianist to the Washington D.C area where I
live right now. He was hitting the musical scene the
same time I was. I met and performed with other
artists before meeting Bob. But when I was looking
to pair up and perform concerts with someone, I was
soon impressed with the style, capabilities and
talent of Bobís music more than any other artist
that I came to know. But just like me, I suspect
life got in his way of his musical career. I hope we
will hear from him again soon.
received much-deserved praise from the
highly-regarded Peter Kater. How did the great man
himself come to hear your music?
All in all he
was a friend of a friend of a friend. I got his
permission to send him a copy of my album and was
fortunate enough to talk to him one day to get his
opinion regarding my music and the new age genre. It
was truly an honour.
difficult times for musicians in the genre,
especially perhaps independent ones.... or do you
see your independence as an advantage? Why do you
think "New Age" music has taken something of a
bruising in recent years from his undisputed
popularity of the 1980s? Can anything be done to
halt the decline?
Itís actually a
difficult time for most musicians, with the
invention of peer-to-peer music sharing on the
internet. Itís kind of a double-edged sword. On one
hand our music is being shared and becoming more
broadly known, but on the other hand we donít see
the financial return or rewards on the sharing of
Iím glad that
Iím an independent artist for the mere fact of being
able to see more profit on the sales of my music,
but I wished that my music was picked up by a record
label to help in promoting the CD. Itís hard doing
everything by myself.
As for the
popularity of New Age music, itís always had a
certain stigma attached to it. But like anything,
there are always peak times of popularity. Yes, New
Age music is not as popular as it was in the 1980s,
but I feel that it still has a strong and sustaining
presence in the evolutionary track of music.
I love the
sound of the piano you use on the recording- please
could you tell the readers the make and model you
used? Were you happy with its performance?
The piano I
used to record my album was a Yamaha C6 Conservatory
Grand Piano. I was extremely pleased with the sound
and feel of that piano. It was a little stiff, but
not overly. That piano became a dear friend to me
and enabled me to produce the beautiful sounds
emulated in the songs on my album. Iím grateful to
have been able to record using it.
finally, Jeff, how do you relax away from the piano?
I love to
listen to music, audio books, and take pictures.
you, Jeff, for your fascinating answers, and the
very best of luck with the production of your second