Eben Meyer is another one of our unusual guests to have been feature on the Lavatory Records platform. He is the guitarist, who alongside the talented flautist Tatiana Thaele, form the group Duo Bel Canto, whose Latin inspired sounds of instrumentals are very evident in the name.
The man with the initials E.M. has a penchant for making Easy Music (befitting for a person whose life is centred on music) for listeners with “cultured ears”. Eben also happens to be a music scholar and a graduate in musicology, and works as a social media marketer during the day.
We are honoured to have had the chance to speak to Eben about his background, get his insight on music education, the Musikmesse Trade Show, his forthcoming projects with Duo Bel Canto and other things.
Lavatory Records: Describe Eben Meyer to the world of music fans?
Eben Meyer: You know, it’s not easy to be accurate about this kind of thing, but I generally try to be as honest as possible. When I play music, I try to be honest as well. What I think this means for a musician is, don’t play a phrase unless you believe in it! And don’t try to convey an emotion unless you’re feeling it. If you’re honest to yourself about creating art, many other things fall into place.
LR: Where are you from and what was your upbringing like?
EM: I grew up in Durbanville, in the northern suburbs of Cape Town. I enjoyed a pretty comfortable life growing up, with a great family. But it’s a different world out there, and my outlook changed a lot when moving to the southern suburbs when I started my studies. I had a chance to meet and learn from people with very different perspectives. My worldview was definitely opened up as a result.
LR: When and how did your music journey begin?
EM: One of my good friends in school played the guitar, and I sort of played around on his axe whenever I went to visit him. When I was 16, I got my own guitar and started learning the styles of music that I was listening to at the time. The more time I spent with music, the more I became obsessed with it. By the time I had to decide what to do after school – music was definitely the first choice (by a mile).
LR: Who would you credit as your musical influences?
EM: Chopin, Brahms, Beethoven (even though they are all composers). I prefer the dark, melancholic stuff. They have managed to express the longing of the human spirit especially well – something which I think many of us can relate to. That unspoken yearning each individual experiences in their own way – it is one of the common denominators across the human race. The Germans call it Sehnsucht and the Portuguese call it Saudade. This is what I look for in music.
LR: How do you categorise your style of music?
EM: Somewhere between old-school folk and new school classical.
LR: You and Tatiana Thaele form the group Duo Bel Canto. How did that come about and how’s the musical vision panning out with that?
EM: We studied together at UCT’s music college, where we met and found out that we share a lot of ideas about music and art. We ended up playing some of our exams together – the guitar flute combination is very well represented in the classical repertoire. I was a beginner at the time and she was a veteran, so I was just so lucky to be playing with her, and I still am… (she’s a damn good flautist!). We love folk music (of any kind, but especially South American and English) and arrangements of well-known music. Our vision is to engage with new listeners, and to play music which leaves a lasting impression on them.
LR: You studied Musicology/Music Theory, what do you feel is lacking and should be done in order to advance musical education?
EM: That’s a great question… I think music education is evolving and improving – in the sense that the resources available to an individual today are far superior to what was available ten years ago. This progress is also moving at an increased rate, thanks to the democratization of knowledge in the internet age. At the same time, some musical institutions are failing to see the potential in this, and are falling behind in efficiency as a result.
I think a part of the problem is that institutions are threatened by what can be achieved by anyone with a device and an internet connection today. However, in the world of music, institutions offer an incredible service which is not easily replaced; the opportunity to study in great detail with masters in your respective field, in a 1-on-1 setting.
I think this should be given priority, as the foundations leading up to this point can now be learnt with increasing ease through online learning applications. If resources are focussed on that irreplaceable human experience which occurs between student and master – the institution will only grow in strength.
LR: You have made use of the Musikmesse organisation, which is based in Frankfurt and has beddings in other nations. Can you explain what this organisation is and what it does for the benefit of those who don’t know?
EM: Musikmesse is a massive trade show and music festival which takes place annually. It essentially allows music businesses to trade with one another, creating lasting networking opportunities. The whole of Frankfurt lights up for the week with lots of non-trade visitors who come to view the products for sale or to enjoy the live bands and workshops. If you want some more info you can look around on their website.
LR: What’s your typical day-to-day life like?
EM: Typically…I start the day by running (depending on the time) over to Arnold’s (a restaurant on Kloof street) to grab their early bird breakfast, which is dirt cheap. I move on to my work, where I am a community manager for an international social media marketing company. Very social and transparent work environment so it’s a great place to be. After work I’ll ‘work’ on music and any upcoming gigs or projects. This is actually a great time to digest what I’ve heard that day because I listen to music 90% of the time while at work. I like to see how I can diversify, or add depth to my style, based on what I’ve heard.
LR: For those who follow you, what are some of the things you’re involved with that they would find surprising?
EM: I love eating (maybe this is not surprising?) and surfing and hiking. I’m involved with some preliminary ideas for a production initiative which provides cross-art entertainment. Still early stages, but it’s exciting!
LR: Do you have any forthcoming musical projects/ events that you’d like people to know about?
EM: Tatiana and I have been working with Cornelis Jordaan, a South African composer, on a project of his involving ancient Greek music. Very excited to hear the end product – which we’ll make a bit of noise aboutJ! I’m also working on a concerto which is based on middle eastern scales – it’s very haunting music (right up my alley). That will be ready sometime towards the middle of the year. As I said, there are some exciting productions coming up from Tatiana and I… but more on that as it develops!
LR: Any shout outs you want to send out?
EM: Tatiana (Tuts) and to Thato Keikelame (on behalf of the Lavatory Records Team)!