Solo piano recommendations.
April 7, 2011 8:02 PM   Subscribe

I've found my ideal music for reading and studying - Ryuichi Sakamoto's solo piano albums (BTTB and Playing the Piano). The pieces are unobtrusive and calming, and there aren't too many elements that draw my attention away from what I should be doing. Yet they're also melodic and carefully composed, not just ambient tones. Draws me into that certain headspace that is conducive to reading and focusing. Where do I find more music like it?

Energy Flow
Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence

I also find myself drawn to the piano versions of Final Fantasy soundtracks, e.g. To Zanarkand.

I usually find my music through the Pitchforks and indie blogs of the world, but they won't recommend me anything like this. So I turn to you, MetaFilter.
posted by naju to Media & Arts (30 answers total) 126 users marked this as a favorite
I adore Yiruma. You might want to check him out. River Flows in You is one of his most well-known pieces, but definitely listen his other work out as well.
posted by sums at 8:06 PM on April 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think you might like Eric Satie. Here's Gymnopédie as a taster.
posted by likeso at 8:07 PM on April 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oops. Here's the wiki.
posted by likeso at 8:09 PM on April 7, 2011

Response by poster: Wow. Yiruma, yes.
posted by naju at 8:21 PM on April 7, 2011

posted by past at 8:39 PM on April 7, 2011

he seems to be doing a bit of improvisation in his live performances - his album is more sedate, less of a dynamic range, more controlled, more suitable for your purposes
posted by past at 8:43 PM on April 7, 2011

seconding yiruma ... It's in my playlist for study music as well. You can try certain albums by George Winston as well, but it might depend on your taste
posted by joewandy at 8:44 PM on April 7, 2011

"I also find myself drawn to the piano versions of Final Fantasy soundtracks."
Try Piano Pieces "SF2" Rhapsody on a Theme of SaGa FRONTIER 2. It's a bunch of piano pieces based on the excellent SaGa Frontier II soundtrack.
posted by Redfield at 8:56 PM on April 7, 2011

Maybe Yann Tiersen (best known for this song from Amelie).
posted by Monsieur Caution at 9:36 PM on April 7, 2011

I second Yann Tiersen and also recommend Philip Glass. He's a contemporary classic, and his score for The Hours is wonderful. Also, his album Solo Piano. It's simply beautiful.
posted by willhopkins at 9:41 PM on April 7, 2011

Ken Muramatsu, perhaps? He's got over 30 albums out and I can't say I like them all, but some of his songs can be gorgeous. The one he's playing in the video is called Natsukashii machi ni kaero (Let's go back to our hometown) from his album Kaze no tabibito (TSMW-0001, Traveler of the wind). I like the ones like songs numbers 3 (Aete yokatta (I'm glad I met you)) and 12 (Hoshi no matataku youni (Like glittering stars)) off this album called Love Collection. You can hear a bit more at his official site (sound warning, Japanese only unfortunately), where you can also order his albums.

Also, Jo Hisaishi of My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, etc.
posted by misozaki at 10:14 PM on April 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you decide to check out, and enjoy your first taste of Philip Glass, there is a really awesome way to thematize your listening experience;

The IBM Glass Engine enables deep navigation of the music of Philip Glass. Personal interests, associations, and impulses guide the listener through an expanding selection of over sixty Glass works.

posted by infinite intimation at 10:20 PM on April 7, 2011 [3 favorites]

Charlie Chan's East and West fulfills this need for me. Sorry I couldn't find a better link but it's a fairly old & obscure album that I have no idea where I got from. It is beautiful though.
posted by Wantok at 10:24 PM on April 7, 2011

I love this kind of music and play Satie and Glass all the time when I'm working just to have something intelligent going through my head.

There's a bunch of Estonian piano music as delicate and complex as an ice bound forest on the first day of spring by people such as Urmas Sisak and Erkki-Sven Tuur while Ludovico Einauid's solo "La Scala Concert" is deceptively wonderful as well.

If you like the Satie, and it is amazing how such a dissolute life produced music of such stillness and grace, you might like Jacques Loussier's jazz tinged interpretations. Tord Gustavesen's and Marcin Wasilewski's respective jazz trios produced piano based albums of crystal clear beauty but as they're not strictly solo they may not be what you're looking for.
posted by joannemullen at 11:12 PM on April 7, 2011

Great question. I use the inimitable Eno and the Penguin Cafe.
posted by greytape at 11:52 PM on April 7, 2011

There's a bunch of Estonian piano music as delicate and complex as an ice bound forest on the first day of spring by people such as Urmas Sisak and Erkki-Sven Tuur while Ludovico Einauid's solo "La Scala Concert" is deceptively wonderful as well.

No love for Arvo Pärt - Alina?
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:59 AM on April 8, 2011

Also seconding others mentioned above, eg Satie & Philip Glass (*especially* Solo Piano).

I really enjoy this 9 CD collection "Minimal Piano Collection" by Dutch pianist Jeroen Van Veen, which includes a number of composers recommended above, plus some of his own compositions.

Leaving the strictly piano tip behind (but still including piano) maybe try the Harold Budd double, Avalon Sutra / As Long as I can Hold my Breath.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:08 AM on April 8, 2011

It's Rachel's for me. Great on my headphones when I need to concentrate on what I'm reading. I find ambient conversation, lyrics, and really dynamic music distracting, but I also find boring, cliched crap distracting because I can't stop thinking about how terrible it is. Rachel's are beautiful, mostly quiet, and perfect all around.
posted by cilantro at 2:48 AM on April 8, 2011

Off the top of my head and excluding that which was previously mentioned, you might enjoy Goldmund, Eluvium, Max Richter.
posted by prithee at 5:12 AM on April 8, 2011

Here's four and a half wonderful hours' worth of just what you're asking for: November, by Dennis Johnson, performed by Sarah Cahill and Kyle Gann.
posted by dfan at 6:08 AM on April 8, 2011

Oh, and a good one for "introduction" to glass similar to the noted songs is Metamorphosis... And definitely seconding Max Richter, you should check on the nature of daylight, and others.

Throng: cobalt and iridium (not solo piano; but definitely has filled the described role for me in the past), is a 25 minute ride, the concept behind the work of the group drew me in before I heard them (they also have a website that allows visitors to basically make "custom versions" using all the raw material recordings; "limited feedback interaction", multiple people in concert together, only each can hear only certain others at any given time, but mathematically linked enough to be hearing the parts that relate... possibly too stimulating to operate as study material.

There is a young person under the title "bark cat bark" who makes some really cool stuff also; Iceland, Ballroom, Antarctique, I am also pretty sure he spends the off season making the accordion a really cool instrument.

I have a bunch of links on the Bayan that I had meant to make a post of for a while, but, and I think this is the right artist, Alexander Hrustevich, a particularly amazing Bayanist (what is a bayan if not a solo piano just with wind instead of hammers and strings) who is really impressive.
posted by infinite intimation at 6:33 AM on April 8, 2011

Response by poster: Wow, so much great music here, I'll be exploring for days. I'm now a big fan of that Gonzales piano album (I know that guy from his electro dance stuff, what a world of difference!) And I'm familiar with Satie and Glass, but the pieces recommended are perfect. Also, it looks like I need to get my hands on that Minimal Piano Collection.
posted by naju at 8:33 AM on April 8, 2011

Simple Lines of Enquiry by Canadian composer Ann Southam.
posted by azure_swing at 11:54 AM on April 8, 2011

Seconding Rachel's. The song I just linked is my go to for focused study time.
posted by Lieber Frau at 1:41 PM on April 8, 2011

Here's who I listen to when I write. None of it's solo piano but you might find it useful:

Sylvain Chauveau
Cliff Martinez
Max Richter
Leyland James Kirby
James Blackshaw
Richard Skelton
Deaf Center
Greg Haines
Rafael Anton Irisarri
posted by dobbs at 2:34 PM on April 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

The absolute, hands down, very best of solo piano by Ryuichi Sakamoto is a couple of albums he did with Alva Noto. I adore and love the album Vrioon, here's a sample. And another album is Insen. As for Harold Budd, he's done this splendid solo piano album: La Bella Vista. And of course a ton of classical - Satie, Debussy, Ravel, de Severac, Chabrier, Chopin, Field, Massenet, Bizet etc., etc., etc. A lot of jazz solo piano is also great, notably Monk, Tatum, Iyer etc.
posted by VikingSword at 6:43 PM on April 8, 2011

Sala Santa Cecilia, a live collaboration between Sakamoto and Fennesz, is one of my favourites for writing or, it's not piano, but if you've heard that, I hope you've given Fennesz a shot too. (Black Sea, Endless Summer and Venice all work very well for me.)
posted by carbide at 2:46 PM on April 9, 2011

Seconding George Winston. So lovely...
posted by MediaMer at 8:02 PM on April 11, 2011

Philip Sheppard ("Crystallised Beauty") I just stumbled upon his music via post on the Blue, his music is the soundtrack to the youtube "April 12 International Space Day"- there seemed to be a positive reception in comments on the music, and it fits the sound-scheme well.

The album is "Cloud Songs" (allows preview by mouse-over song titles, and pressing play), and this page has an interesting genesis of how his music came to be used for this commemoration of the first manned orbit of Earth.
posted by infinite intimation at 9:47 PM on April 11, 2011

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