A conversation with Pianist Keenan John Meyer
Keenan John Meyer, a person gifted with the hands to play the keys in a heartwarming manner.
South African born and bred Keenan John Meyer describes himself as a classically trained pianist, composer and scholar. His calling to music has accompanied him since the beginning. As a young boy growing up in Bosmont, he had beautiful encounters with music on concert stages. In addition, his musical gift held his hands into university where he graduated with a Bachelor of Music Degree (Honours) from the University of Pretoria.
He expresses that he has had a lifelong relationship with music and that this relationship has seen no end because his passion has led him to other worlds of academia. His honours degree dissertation explored the relationship between music and the embodiment thereof. It explored the role that music played during the Apartheid era and the Fees Must Fall movement. In the ordinary, music is merely an amalgamation of sound and rhythm. However, Meyer proves that it has its own voice that speaks on important subjects.
His relationship with music moves past the encounters he has had with it in the academy.
Music knows Meyer personally and she understands him. And Meyer, too, seeks to understand music in a way that brings him sustenance. He explains that in learning, he ‘gained a deeper understanding of music’s ability to galvanise human consciousness, a central theme in his upcoming debut body of work, The Alchemy of Living’. Additionally, he expresses that the influence of the study of music from Impressionistic composers such as Ravel and Debussy combined with the melodic elegance of the Romantic style in Rachmaninoff’s music are reflected in his own composition and performance style.
Every encounter with music is the foundation of what houses his career and creative expression. Meyer expresses that his debut album is a deeply personal snapshot of his journey thus far. For him, it is an ode to the music he grew up listening to, a tribute to the soil in Asia and South America that his feet touched. It also honours South Africa’s musical traditions and ancestry, and the composers he has studied and loves.
We had the privilege of talking to Meyer about his reason for playing the piano, pianists he listens to as well as his inspiration.
Why the piano?
I have always been musically inclined as a child. The roots of where I come from have played a great role in my relationship with music. We had a piano at home that I was always captivated by. I believe that my fascination with this instrument has led me here. I always used to beg my Gran to unlock it and I remember how delighted I would be after tickling the ivory keys.
In music psychology we cover child development and the discussions surrounding nature versus nurture are presented; I believe that I chose the piano because of how I was nurtured over and above my clear aptitude for the instrument.
Who are the pianists you listen to?
Ben Schoeman (my honours piano lecturer).
Who inspired you to play the piano ? What would you like to say to them? What would you play for them on your keys?
It all began at home, like I mentioned in my answer to the first question. My family as well as those I have had the honour of finding family in, have been a great pillar. They are my safe space. In addition to this, their words of encouragement have affirmed me and helped to overcome the cancer that is imposter syndrome. It is because of them that I am and I will be forever grateful for their guidance and love. So, to them all I can say is thank you and I hope I have done you proud.
Mitsuko Uchida is a pianist who inspires me. Her commitment to excellence and interpreting the Divine music of the Western Art school, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in particular has been seminal on my own artistry. I think she is an enlightened soul because of how she prizes the sanctity of the Present Moment; that once something is played that moment will never happen again. There is a lot of wisdom there and I have come to understand the impermanence of my own music too and how it always morphs and changes every time it is performed. The piece I would play to her is the first movement of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata Op.27 No.1. There is a certain level of emotional maturity that one needs to channel to effectively communicate the turbulence and desolation in the music, I am certain she would appreciate my offering.
If you weren’t a pianist, you would be?
Be a part of Meyer’s musical journey here: https://instagram.com/keenanmeyerpiano