This Music Made Me

This Music Made Me: Tom Rogerson



Tom Rogerson

Tom Rogerson

In December 2017, Tom Rogerson released his debut ‘solo’ album Finding Shore, a collaboration with legendary musician and producer Brian Eno.

Released through Dead Oceans, home of Slowdive and Shame, the album was born from a simple construct, sometime Three Trapped Tigers member Rogerson improvising at the piano and Eno manipulating those signals with a piece of equipment called the ‘Piano Bar’ that focusses infrared beams on each key. The result is an elegant, expansive record with meditative piano improvisations, looped and cut up chord sequences and Midi and physical sounds in juxtaposition.

In its creator’s words, “the piano is fairly integrated into my emotional communication”. Ahead of a headline date at London’s Kings Place, Rogerson returned to his formative years to find the music that influenced him most for his This Music Made Me

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I’ve tried to run with the concept by choosing exclusively albums I came across before I was 18, which is fairly limiting, as I hardly heard any rock, pop or electronic music in this whole period. And obviously, we all go on hearing new music that influences us our whole lives.

But I think there’s something interesting about the stuff we hear first and how that makes a pretty deep mark in the subconscious whether we liked it or not. In fact, on those grounds, you could just as well do a list that stops at anyone’s 10th birthday, but I thought a survey of my parents tape collection wouldn’t be all that interesting.

A common thread below is the music that opened my ears up to a whole new genre or method, or that gave me license to do something that I hadn’t realised I could pursue. Wherever I am today is the sum of hundreds of these and similar pennies dropping at different times.

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Reflections: Original Instrumental HitsVarious Artists – Reflections

My parents had a bunch of diverse tapes in the car when I was growing up – Mozart, Gershwin, choral music, Motown, The Dubliners, Dire Straits, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Chris Barber – but this easy listening ‘moods’ tape made a real impact.

Vangelis’s music for Chariots Of Fire would be the first synth music I ever heard, Geoffrey Burgon’s Theme From Brideshead was responsible for me playing the oboe for a few years, and every time I hear Fleetwood Mac’s Albatross even now I get shivers.

By the time I was learning the piano, I was obsessed with TV themes, so I started trying to learn them off the telly, and then improvise around them.

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Hymns Ancient and ModernHymns Ancient and Modern

I suppose the most obvious, consistent musical presence in my childhood would be hymns. My family went to church fairly regularly, and I was brought up in C of E schools from six to 18 where I was in the choir throughout.

I could still sing you most of the words to a lot of the classics, and the descants and basslines too. This whole canon is incredibly rich, and I learned so much craft from these songs without even realising.

If I come from any musical tradition, it would be this one, and that informs my melodic and harmonic sensibility to this day, regardless of my current theological opinions.  

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Britten – Young Person’s Guide to the OrchestraBritten – Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra

My mum bought me this tape (with Prokofiev, Peter and the Wolf on the other side) narrated by Sean Connery.

Britten went on to be a huge influence in all of my music, as he was our local musical hero in the area where I grew up. So I choose this to stand for all his music.

But when I first heard this tape, it was nothing to do with Britten, it was all about loving the instruments and the different sounds. From about six, I was already skewing heavily towards the orchestra and classical music.

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U2 – Rattle and HumU2 – Rattle and Hum

Almost the only contemporary ‘pop’ music I was exposed to until I was about 13, was my brother’s music collection. The U2 Rattle and Hum video was the very first VHS we bought (along with Botham’s Ashes obviously).

I loved the music, and I can remember every note of it, and when I got to work with Brian Eno it was emotional partly because of that memory.

There’s an amazing moment in the vid at the start of Where the Streets Have No Name: you see Larry Mullen in silhouette take up his postion at the kit over the classic Eno DX7 intro and then he counts them in and it cuts to a helicopter shot of a packed football stadium. Impressive.

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Messiaen – TurangalilaMessiaen – Turangalila Symphony

By the time I was 13, I was composing non-stop and only listening to classical music. That was an amazingly exhilarating time on this steep learning curve, hearing more and more diverse stuff.

Britten was a major prop because of the Suffolk connection, and Stravinsky blew my mind the way Nirvana was blowing everyone else’s at school.

But Messiaen would be the one I loved the most. The scale and the soundworld, the intent and the expressivity are so personal and unique: this is music as an entire worldview.

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Art Blakey - MoaninArt Blakey – Moanin

At 16, I was still improvising loads on the piano as a counterpoint to the composing (some kind of id and ego thing as they were completely different musically.) And my friend Luke heard me and persuaded me to play in his jazz group even though I had no idea about jazz.

Moanin’ was the first track we learnt, and I ended up collecting Blue Note CDs and lining the spines up in my cupboard feeling sophisticated.

In 1998, for me jazz was about the peak of contemporary rebelliousness! This was my first taste of performing in public, and with other people, and it felt really great.

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Steve Reich – Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices and Organ

The minimalists were my gateway to any music that wasn’t bebop or orchestral. Reich came first, and then everything else followed pretty quickly. Hearing this music almost forced me to change course: you had to respond to it either way.

I was already playing a lot of quite busy but static music on the piano, just for fun/therapeutically, that would build and build over 25 minutes. And now here it was systematized into something far beyond my ability or imagination.

From thereon, I think I was drifting away from the scholastic craft of composing into making music that I enjoyed and was emotionally engaged with.

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Brian Eno - Music For AirportsBrian Eno – Music for Airports

My first encounter with Eno other than as the local celebrity who had worked with U2. Typically, that encounter was actually through Bang On A Can rather than the original recording. I think they performed this at the Proms and I taped it off the radio.

The piano is so prominent and simple, and I can remember I immediately felt able to play more simply. Since the very first moment when I was three or four, the miracle of the piano for me was what happened when you held the pedal down and the notes could carry on.

Now, it turned out there was a whole genre that felt the same way.

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Keith Jarrett – The Koln ConcertKeith Jarrett – The Koln Concert

My friend Jess gave me this on minidisc for my 17th birthday. For weeks after I heard it, I was inconsolable that someone was already doing what I was doing and so much better.

This wasn’t jazz, but it was purely improvised, and it was clearly the mash-up of so many influences.

Up til this point, I’d never really considered myself a pianist but that year I ended up doing my first full free improvisation gigs as a piano player, and Jarrett was the benchmark.

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Orbital – In SidesOrbital – In Sides

In retrospect, it’s pretty crushing that I was a teenager in the ’90s and I didn’t manage to catch any of the incredible music that was going on first time round, but came to it much later (and the same thing happened to me when I lived in Brooklyn in 2003/04 AND Camden in 2006/07!).

So my only real claim to being up to date is that my friend at school played me this record in about 1997. The first track remains an all-time favourite of mine. It’s so dense with different synth layers by the end. As ever at this time, it felt as though the way to my heart was through the head: I could appreciate the artistry of the track and only then could I lose my shit to it.

I’m happy to say that I’ve shed that approach to music as I’ve got older. My 20s saw me trek to Fopp weekly where I would spend hundreds of pounds on CDs by bands that I ought to have heard of in a pre-Youtube utopia of enforced listening. It felt like cramming for an A level: I’d work through wikipedia and buy whole discographies chronologically. Some of this stuff blew my mind and altered my course again, but inevitably nothing ever matched the excitement of youthful discovery when you don’t know what you’re doing and each new thing feels life-changing, because it genuinely is.

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Tom Rogerson and Brian Eno’s album Finding Shore is out now through Dead Oceans. Tom Rogerson plays London’s Kings Place on 30 March 2018. Tour dates and further information can be found here.


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