We’re thrilled to be releasing an exclusive compilation album of Timbre Cierpke’s original music to our patrons this month. She shares about her experience recording with Jack White, her band’s fanbase in Sweden, and the night she felt like she was Lucy in Narnia. We hope you enjoy this Love Good Perspectives interview with her!
Can you briefly describe your career trajectory thus far? What have been some of the most pivotal moments?
I have been writing and touring for 14 years, playing throughout the US and Europe. Its been a really growing experience for me, coming from an all-classical world. I went from playing concertos and competitions to playing shows in bars & festivals. At my first show, I didn’t even know how to adjust a mic stand. Luckily, a group of bands kind of adopted me and helped me learn how everything works.
Some moments that opened doors for me came through playing harp with some really incredible artists. I recorded harp with Jack White for his album, Lazaretto, as well as for a 7’ vinyl release he did with Tom Jones. This has opened up a lot of new opportunities in Nashville.
Early on, I played harp with a band called mewithoutYou, and ended up connecting to a lot of bands through them. I get the unique opportunity of bringing a new sound to other people’s music when we collaborate, and through that. I end up connecting to their fans.
My band also was invited to headline a festival in Sweden, where we still have an active fanbase.
What music reminds you of your childhood?
I grew up in a classical family. My dad is an orchestra conductor, my mom was a children’s choir conductor at the time. So, I only listened to classical music until I was about 12. My earliest memory is listening to “The Planets” by Gustav Holst. I was maybe 2 years old, and I remember so clearly connecting emotionally to that music, and waiving my arms in the air, wanting to conduct like my dad.
How does your writing process unfold?
I tend to be a “pouring out” kind of writer. I can feel when there is something unfolding inside me, and I try to give it space to come out. I usually just sit down at the harp (for songwriting) or the piano (for orchestral/choral composing), set up a room mic, and record while I just play and explore. I try to just let it flow until it feels like life is in it. Later, I go back and listen to the recording to piece it together and find the thread.
How have your ambitions developed over time? How do you define success?
From the beginning, my goal has always been to create something that gives people a visceral, spiritual experience. In my music, I want to create space for people to truly feel, to open, to connect to beauty, no matter their background or spiritual beliefs. Dostoevsky said that “Beauty will save the world.” I truly believe that.
I often get caught up in American culture’s definitions of success, of making enough money to support myself and my band, or playing bigger and better venues, and I find myself feeling like I’m perpetually missing the mark. But when I stop and remind myself of what I believe matters, I can line myself back up with my own definition.… If I see people crying at our shows, or telling me they felt peace, inspiration, or love, then I know I am successful. If I am making beautiful art, I am successful.
Who, or what, inspires you?
I am deeply inspired by nature. I often walk in the woods when I need to focus and connect to creativity and beauty. Although I don’t write “Christian music”, I have a close and very mystical relationship with God, and feel like inspiration flows from that relationship.
Who, or what, keeps you grounded?
My bandmates (Chris Leidhecker & Camille Faulkner) really help hold me together. When I’m exhausted or discouraged on tour (which happens often), they pour love into me and remind me that what we’re doing is important. I also have some really amazing friends I can reach out to, who can remind me who I am when I forget, and remind me of my internal song. My sister Tetra and my best friend Rachel are both always accessible to me and believe in me even when I don’t believe in myself.
How would you describe this collection of songs?
Sun & Moon is a double disc album I wrote that explores the relationship between classical and commercial music. The album circulates around the idea that classical and commercial music are intrinsically connected, that art always influences art. Sun features chamber-folk songs written for my band, while Moon features classical pieces I wrote for full orchestra, choir, and harp. I wanted to use these two musical languages to create something new. I wanted to show the full spectrum of color that beauty can come through, of the light, the joy, the passion of modern music, the darkness, depth, and richness of classical music, and that together, they can communicate beauty in greater depths than either can alone. For this exclusive release, I chose songs off the album that best demonstrated this vision.
The clearest imagery on the album is the pairing of the orchestral “Day Boy: Photogen Sees the Moon” and its counterpart on Sun, “Night Girl: Nycteris Sees the Sun”. They are based on a short story by George MacDonald, “The Love Story of Photogen And Nycteris”, about a boy (Photogen) raised entirely and light, and a girl (Nycteris) raised entirely in darkness. Neither one knows that the other half of reality exists. As they meet and fall in love, they learn of the other’s world, and must learn to love it out of love for each other. “Day Boy: Photogen Sees the Moon” is a sort of orchestral tone-poem that pulls in themes from both discs, weaving the vision of the album into one exultant piece.
If you were to pick a story from your life to share that presents an accurate picture of who you consider yourself to be, which story would it be?
I remember at the premiere of “Day Boy: Photogen Sees the Moon”, I felt like I was floating the whole night. We were recording/performing it in this beautiful cathedral, all marble and pastel and mysterious. Over 600 people came out to the concert and were totally still and silent as the piece unfolded. I was onstage with over 100 performers, all immersed in my piece, all pouring their own passion and talent in the notes I had written. I felt like we were all transported into a different world.
For months, I had locked myself away, writing this piece. I had been totally alone, usually writing 9pm-5am. I felt like Lucy in Chronicles of Narnia, wandering alone through a beautiful land, no one really understanding where I had been when I came back.
But on this night, I felt like the whole room came with me, like the music had opened a door into something new. We were all in Narnia together.
The moment the last chord died away, I burst into tears, there on stage in front of everyone. I was crying with joy, ecstasy, that this had finally come into the world. This is exactly who I feel like I am… a translator between this world and another.
How can we keep up with you and your career (social media etc)?