16 February 2023
By Ellie Palmer
The pianist and composer introduces himself and his music
Doeke plays "Tijdreizen" (Time Travel) from his new album
For those that don’t know you – tell us a bit about yourself
My name is Jorn Swart, a.k.a. Doeke. I’m a pianist and composer, originally from the Netherlands but now living and working in New York City. My background is in jazz, but I’ve ventured off into many other directions. My latest solo piano project is my most personal and intimate, and I describe it as ‘cinematic piano nostalgia’.
How did the name ‘Doeke’ come to be?
Doeke was my grandfather’s name. He played the accordion, which inspired me to pick up that instrument as a kid, which later led me to the piano. I feel like I owe part of my musicality to him, and when choosing a name for a project that’s so much about memories and nostalgia, dedicating this project to him felt right.
"I hope that my music can make people experience the most powerful human states of being, including joy, melancholy, reflection, excitement – and take comfort in knowing that we all feel this way sometimes."
Your music has been described as ‘melancholic and comforting’, with a sense of nostalgia. Why do you want to create this feeling with your audience? What made you choose this type of music?
My compositions are inspired by personal memories, which often express themselves through feelings of nostalgia. Nostalgia is very double, because it’s both sad (missing a certain memory) but also happy (being grateful for that memory), and I think many people find this ambiguity strangely comforting. I hope that my music can make people experience the most powerful human states of being, including joy, melancholy, reflection, excitement – and take comfort in knowing that we all feel this way sometimes.
Congratulations on your new album, Herinner! How long had you been working on the album for?
Thank you! I wrote most of the music in 2021, but some of it is older. When it’s time to record an album, I usually dig through hundreds of voice memos of compositions ideas on my phone, so sometimes I find things that are many years old but happen to fit well on the album. Most of the work is in finalising the compositions, making them fit together, and finding a good balance of mood and style. The recording process usually only takes me a few days once the composing process is finished.
What inspired the album?
Herinner is Dutch for ‘Remember', and it’s a meditation on the power of music to transport you to a different time and place. Similar to how a certain or smell can evoke something that happened a long time ago, music can send you on these little time travels. Each song on the album captures such a memory, feeling, or experience.
Doeke's new album 'Herinner' is out now on all major platforms
Can you tell us the story behind some of the names of the pieces on the album?
Op Reis (Traveling) is about the excitement and joy that appears when you travel somewhere new. The first time I left the Netherlands, I was about 9, and my family and I went on summer vacation in Scotland. I still remember the smell of the ocean when we arrived at the ferry to cross the English Channel, and the feeling of anticipation and discovery of the unknown that overcame me.
Op IJs (On the Ice) is a moody and winter-like piece that recalls the cold winters where everyone in the Netherlands would get their ice-skates out and go out on the lakes and canals. The slow, steady chords evoke the strokes of skates on ice, cutting through the crisp winter cold. We shot a music video for this song, that features dancer Jenna Riffkind who choreographed a dance performance that expresses this memory. Take a look at the video below.
Tijdreizen (Time Travel) is a nostalgic piano piece that embodies the theme of this album, and the idea of travelling back through time and space through music. The gently arpeggiating chords capture this feeling of reliving, slowly building up and ultimately coming back to reality.
Vliegen (Flying) is a piano piece about the childhood dream of flying. It builds slowly, repetitive in its structure but also melodic and ultimately triumphant. I had never seen art that really expressed this soaring feeling until I watched Hayao Miyazaki’s movies. His many flying scenes – featuring birds, flying bicycles, airplanes, broomsticks, umbrellas, and many magnificent fantastic creatures – always bring me back to what I imagined flying would be like as a kid. I hope this piece does the same.
"When it’s time to record an album, I usually dig through hundreds of voice memos of compositions ideas on my phone, so sometimes I find things that are many years old..."
Any future plans you want to share with us?
I’m currently working on a new full album, my second for Nettwerk [label], which is due to be released later this year. This one will be less inward, and more focused on the outside. It will be a sort of homage to the world, to earth, and the beautiful things nature has to offer us. Times that I feel most whole, happy, and free of worries, is when I’m on a hike, or visiting the ocean, watching birds, and I’d like to express this feeling through music. So stay tuned!
Follow Doeke on Instagram and Facebook, plus take a listen to his new album below.