Glamcult - In conversation with Joep Beving
Invigorating change often lies beneath the realisation of truth. Opening the soul to such actualisation bids the fear of failure, but when the subconscious speaks, our conscience must listen. Joep Beving’s journey from desktop to piano came with spiritual force. Having just released the final act of his trilogy, Henosis — preceded by Solipsism and Prehension — this concluding album marks the final chapter of Beving’s spiritual exploration. Having received an Edison Award for his outstanding achievements in music, many look towards his work for guidance. Beving shares with us a tale of change and his motivation in doing so: love.
I have loved your work since your debut release. How would you describe your sound?
I play piano. I’m a composer, writing music, creating and searching for essence and tranquillity. My sound is commonly described as post- or neo-classical — the latter being somewhat confusing since this description was already taken some hundred years ago. That said, I do feel there are similarities with that period in art history where there is an emphasis on beauty and simplicity, inspired by Greek art and Platonic philosophy.
And where do you see your personal narrative lying?
My main creative narrative is the investigation of our relationship to reality and the question of what constitutes reality.
Presumably, within this reality lies the journey you’ve taken as a musician? How did the adventure begin for you?
Music has always played a big part in my life. I grew up playing piano. Mostly improvising and trying to become a jazz pianist. But when the time came to choose an education and future vocation, I didn’t have the confidence to pursue that path. Instead I studied public policy and public administration, but was drawn to the creative industry halfway through my studies. I moved to Amsterdam, hoping one day I could make a living off making music myself. The disconnect between what I was doing and what I felt I should be doing deep down led to me seeking comfort behind the piano I inherited from my grandmother.
Healing is certainly a journey, but finding strength in your passion is such a beautiful beginning to your career.
It became my therapy and stronghold. It reconnected me with my true self.
Did this restorative connection to yourself also help you reconnect with the world?
I certainly wondered if this music could then connect others with themselves and with each other on a deeper level as well. I wondered if there was something like universal truth or absolute beauty.
What does the search for universal truth or absolute beauty look like?
For me, goose bumps are a physical tell to recognise when beauty hits me. When I played something that triggered that physical response I would know something special was happening. I wanted to try and search and connect with true beauty that could give everyone the same goose bumps. At a certain moment, I felt all doubt and fear had left my system. I felt I had made the connection. The music came to me and it resulted in Solipsism, my debut solo piano record.
Solipsism was such a beautiful record, very vulnerable and certainly personal.
I made the album for myself, for friends and family. But Rahi Rezvani, a good friend who would later be in charge of my artwork in photo and film, sat me down and told me it would not be right to keep this music to myself. That gave me the push I needed and I approached a record label. But they didn’t show any interest. I then decided to release it myself, digital and vinyl. The first show was for an audience of 100 friends. Something magical happened that night. It told me my little experiment in existential communication was working. Five years later I got the same confirmation from people from all over the world. It still amazes me.
Since then, there’s been a distinct development in your sound. What prompted these changes?
I’ve always had a love for synthesizers and synthesised sound. The fact that I became known with piano was more of a surprise to the people around me, than turning to my oscillators and tape machines on my last album. On my sophomore album, Prehension, I had already wanted to bring these in, but at the time it didn’t really fit or make the songs any stronger. I had to park my curiosity for blending acoustics with electronic sounds till after that release. So, when the time came to work on Henosis, I was like, “Okay, I’m going all in now.”
What signalled to you that now was the time?
I often have the feeling the music I write already exists. I just create the circumstances for it to manifest itself. If you see music as a living organism, it makes sense that it wants to evolve.
Does this living organism manifest as a subconscious vision, for which you are the medium?
That’s exactly what it is! I really wanted to create an experience that feels ‘as a whole’. But it needed to also originate ‘as a whole’. To become something that in its entirety goes beyond what is purposefully designed. When the recordings were finished and I looked back, being witness to the process, I realised most of the music had originated in the subconscious. Originated from a place that we all have access to, like a unified field. I loaded the program of what I wanted
to create, but the actual creation happened haphazardly.
Within this creation comes a feeling of purity and truth. This appears to be something innate within the genre…
Yes, I certainly think it is something characteristic of the genre. It’s allowing things to be simple or essential, but also allowing things to just be beautiful. Beauty has long been something that was considered almost kitsch. Something that would sedate the mind, even. But like I mentioned before, there’s also a universal quality to it.
Within this universality, where does the subjective lie?
We all have our own subjective taste, but the whole goal is to go beyond the fragmentation. There’s this longing to feel united, and move past the differences we encounter on the surface of things. I try to step into this energy by not overthinking or over designing. During the making of this album I pretty much embraced everything that presented itself to me. Trying to minimise my rational involvement. Trusting the process.
Within the trilogy a world within a world is explored. How would you describe it?
With every step I zoomed out. Solipsism is the individual, the level of the self. It represents the shift from the persona, the role you play in the outside world, to let’s say the voice within. Prehension, my second album, was zoomed out to the level of the collective, us humans. And in a way a melancholic soundtrack to the unfolding of reality in which we as humans play an active role and bear responsibility for its course with our actions. Henosis, being the final step, represents the search for what is fundamental in ultimate reality. I envisioned this as a journey into the cosmos, yet at the same time a journey within. Like travelling through multiple dimensions and coming back to realise that everything you need to know is already somehow present within you. I am not stating this to be the truth, but a hopeful thought it is.
The context the album has been released into is certainly unique. Where do you feel your music fits in such transitional times?
I feel we’re seeing the end of an era. Especially within Western society; our idea of reality has been hijacked by a never-ending production chain in which we identify ourselves by the position we take in this chain.
Ideological emancipation, you could say.
From the moment we’re born we’re seen as an asset, a resource to be usurped by the system that controls the very boundaries of what we deem possible or even desirable. One of the first questions we ask someone we’ve just met, besides their name and where they’re from, is, “And what do you do?” Of course, we’re interested in finding out what drives a person, but we’re also immediately trying to assess where this person stands within the chain, basing our initial valuation on this assessment. We do this, unaware of doing so and even when we hate ourselves for doing it.
You place this end-of- an-era specifically in the West?
In the East, and especially in a place like India, for example, mysticism is still a vital part of people’s belief system, of their experience
of reality. In the West, esoterism and to some extent the metaphysical have been discarded and for a long time stigmatised and ridiculed. Resulting in a metaphysical nihilism. I believe we are currently witnessing people starting to realise our concept of reality has reached bankruptcy. We are abusing and destroying all available resources, including human beings, in the pursuit of growth and more affluence and power for an increasingly smaller number of privileged people. So we are starting to revolt, which greatly enhances global tension, even without a pandemic.
So, a hierarchical tension has been released via the catalyst of the pandemic?
We are, I believe, present in what could be described as the biggest step in human evolution in modern history. We are in desperate need of a paradigm shift, an alternative reality system. One way to deal with the situation is to actually start seeing this sensory reality as a dream. One we can wake up to. What we are perceiving with our senses is not all there is. And deep down we know this. So we can free ourselves from the restraints of the hegemony of this materialistic reality system that we inhabit. From all the egos we carry within us. To the point we are nothing and everything at the same time.
How does your music explore this theory?
I guess my music is an invitation for the listener to start looking at reality in a different way. At the same time, it’s an attempt to communicate and unite the ones who are trying (or doing) this already. Is there a specific audience you believe this unity speaks to? I believe connections are extremely vital at this point in time, as they serve as a reality check and they keep us sane. I think my music speaks to people who are trying to keep in touch with the truth. I see metalheads, young parents (with babies and pets), hipsters, elderly people, firemen, goths, hippies, old school friends and yoga pants at my concerts. There’s not really a subculture for this music.
A true vision of unity, then!
Yes. It tends to go through all layers of society.
The theme of this issue is RISE; creating and building a new world… How do you envision a ‘risen’ world?
This is incredibly difficult, if not impossible, but we should start by swapping fear for love as the main motivator for our actions. People are turning to political extremes because they fear the Other and because that’s where they feel they are heard and find a sense of belonging and understanding. Even though, ultimately, this will lead to more polarisation and eventual conflict. If we are to rise, we can only rise together, with all living things and our planet as benefiters. For love to stand a chance we need to fight inequality on an institutional level first. We need to be prepared to redistribute wealth and opportunity. I believe the biggest density of billionaires is on the west coast of the USA, but if you turn to the streets of, let’s say, San Francisco, you see a lot of people who have fallen out of the system and are hopeless. That’s where I feel a new reality system needs to come in place. We can’t continue this usurpation legitimised by a system that rewards the rich and renders the vast majority close to powerless. Then what should take its place? I think the West needs to learn from the East and open up to the idea of Oneness.
So, love is the answer?
It helps to love yourself first. Listen to that voice within; it’s your talent speaking. It will bring you purpose. Something money can’t buy. Find yourself in the other. Don’t judge and don’t feel judged by the opinions of others. Find joy in little acts of kindness. Smile at strangers. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Read, listen, keep an open mind. Reduce your meat consumption. Clean your shit up. Vote for reason and with empathy. Become aware of ego. And lastly, always act in
consonance with the spirit of truth.
Words: Grace Powell (https://www.instagram.com/g_piddy/)
Photography: Arthur Couvat (https://www.instagram.com/arthurcouvat/)
This interview was first published in Glamcult issue #134 ‘RISE’ – OUT NOW (https://shop.glamcult.com/collections/frontpage/products/glamcult-134-the-rise-issue)