It started as a “rant” on a Piano Pedagogy Internet forum. Nikolas Sideris, a prolific, “living” composer of Greek origin insisted that piano teachers were not providing students with a balanced diet of pieces. He faulted them for habitually dishing out Classical and Romantic masterworks minus an ear to the pulse of the 21rst Century. He lumped Kabalevsly and Prokofiev into the old-fashioned mix, as well. They didn’t represent the cultural hear (here) and now.
While Sideris conceded a common embrace of both beloved Russian composers– he emphasized that an old music retread was snuffing out modern-day voices.
Yet Nikolas’s Piano Stories (for 4-hands) revealed otherwise. His voice was clear, colorful and expressive.
In short, Sideris had relentlessly refused to stack his music and that of his colleagues in a dark, obscure closet.
In a bold Millennium gesture, he published his compositions under signature Editions Musica Ferrum, including catalogs of Jaap Cramer, Ben Crosland, Barnabay Hollington among others.
A mini cultural revolution was launched, and the Sideris took the lead, framing his vision:
“I’ve been trying to offer some great sounding music to students who are otherwise entangled with dull music.”
He would level the PLAYING field, giving his 21rst Century peers a New Materials boost that would trickle down to his pupils.
A Millennium inspired fervor had previously steered Sideris in unorthodox directions:
An immersion in the computer games industry as a composer and sound designer blended with his GAME-CHANGING activities. Uncannily, the game that he scored, Privates by Size Five Games won a BAFTA for best Educational – Secondary Game. (Add in a co-ownership of North by Sound, an Audio Production company based in Norway and Greece.”)
As it played out, my personal exposure to Nikolas’s compositions took the form of a foray into his 4-hand character pieces contained in Fairyland in Treble, a collection filled with enticing harmonies, lively rhythms and articulations.
The “Bold Barber” was my first exploration, and others followed.
Here’s Nikolas playing “A Playful Countess,” (same album) with a mix of media tricks up his sleeve:
Sideris had tagged these particular duets “for a semi-beginner (Primo) and a teacher with considerable skill.(Secondo)”
Studying these compositions instilled “a love for interesting, complex music.” At the same time pupils learned how to play repeated notes in fast tempo (“Fifi on the Moon”), clusters (“Pirates”), and C# major (“Noya and Ayla in the Jungle”), etc.
All 11 of the composer’s 4-hand selections, were introduced with allegorical stories.
A Composer/Author Collaboration:
“Author Nefeli Tsipouridi wrote the stories as an intro to music that was in pre-existing orchestral form for computer games, or other media” that I (Sideris) had worked on. Basically I handed these recordings to Nefeli, who listened to them and wrote the stories. (Elements from all 11 are found in the cover artwork.)
“I really wanted a narrative for such music, because it sounds a little like a movie soundtrack, but at the same time the stories are in a different part of the score, separated from the music itself, so the student/pianist can bypass them all together.
“In fact, I was having a lesson, today, with Vivian (the same student in the two youtube videos) and I was teaching her “A Deaf Girl’s Music Box.” She’s Greek so her English is less than decent, and as such she doesn’t even know the title of the work.
“So far I’ve been explaining to her, how the music works, phrasing, etc, and giving her all the musical details, which are completely detached from the story itself.”
About Dynamics as noted in the composer’s music:
“I don’t think one should abide fully in a music score, which is, in a sense, a rather abstract way to offer instructions. If I wanted precise instructions I would’ve handed out midi files instead of a music score.
“By the way, the child playing in the video is 9-years old and she’s had less than 1 year of lessons, which reflected the level I planned for most of the duets.. Still, not everything is that easy, but it’s still audibly interesting.
The Pedagogical Dimension
“As for the educational goals of each one, I can’t list them all, but there’s a common thread: to instill in children, the love for interesting, complex music and by their exploration, they learn how to play repeated notes in fast tempo (“Fifi on the Moon”), clusters (“Pirates”), and C# major (“Noya and Ayla in the Jungle”), etc.
Sideris had come full circle back to his original beef:
“I’m sensing a dumbing of our children and I truly believe that kids at about age 8-9 and onwards can handle quite a lot. So why not give them what they need, sooner than later.”
Nikolas’ works, published by Editions Musica Ferrum:
Piano Stories for Piano, 4 Hands
Perniciosus for Solo Piano
Sketch Music For Solo Piano
Non-Unique for solo Flute and Piano
Le Hasard et la Nécessité for String Orchestra
Superabimus for String Orchestra