The Night I Saw Joep Beving, a Dutch Composer and Pianist Everyone Should Know
A powerful, earnest evening of vulnerability and fun
There was a childlike innocence to Joep Beving as he sauntered out onto the stage that night at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. He looked like a bashful scarecrow hipster treant standing around 6sixfeet 10 inches. I know I’m a tall one, Joep joked. But a lot of us are. I could barely make out the face of the 42-year-old Dutchman with his head bowed and his wispy, almond hair with an overwhelming beard hiding his lips. The energy in the room was a mix of mystery and stoicism only furthered by his music.
What I could see through the minimalist off-white stage lights and his shy demeanor was a pair of his soft, pearl grey eyes. Not that the hipster giant needed to talk. His set, which consisted of four sets of three or four
songs, was a rhythmic, melancholic glimpse into Beving’s existence. As his shoulders hunched and his head rocked from side to side, I felt the “existential experiment in communication”, a line in his about section of his website, he was trying to accomplish. There was a sense of reaching not just from the notes being played, but from the silence before, during, and after his songs. One realized the creaking of his splintered chair colliding between the sometimes gentle, sometimes pounding of the keys was all part of his set.
If at times he coughed — he noted that he had been sick and apologized — or there was a slip of the finger on a note, that spontaneous error became a
part of the score, a part of Joep’s music.
One of the most beautiful and inspiring aspects of that night was the reminder that simplicity, here in the form of just a man and in his piano, can be the best vehicle for staying present and existing in the music if one allows themselves.
Joep did chat a bit during his hour or so long set. He talked about his current residence in Amsterdam, which got a steady round of applause, inciting a stoner joke.
“I was a huge pothead, but not so much anymore,” He chided. “But I always appreciate the applause.”
Beving also seemed to sense that everyone was a little unsure of how to handle themselves in such a classically formal environment.
“So I’ll do a few,” Beving explained. “Maybe three, maybe four, I’m not sure you know, but then you guys can clap…if you want to.”
Which brought another round of laughter and cheers.
Beving was quick with a turn of phrase or joke, but could just as quickly steer into a deeply introspective, vulnerable place, obviously uncomfortable with the responsibility of the showman, knowing for the audience to truly connect, he couldn’t just rely on his talent and apparent skill.
“This album…uh…I forget the name…” Beving stammered, triggering another round of sympathetic laughter, “Solipsism. That’s it. Anyways, this album came from a very dark time in my life. A time where all I wanted to do is communicate, all I wanted to do was to connect to the world and the people in it, but my soul and my body just didn’t know how.”
He paused, wrung his beard, tapped at a few keys as if reminding himself where he was with their vibration and sound.
“A friend of mine died in a freak car accident around that time.”
Another pause. His hands were motionless on the keys.
“The illusion of this grand ocean of time is funny because it is, not for us. We think it is, but it isn’t. We show up, reside, and then are ushered out against our will, that force indifferent to where we were in our lives. I was hit with that truth, quite hard actually, but it reminded me that we only get so many chances to create something great.”
Joep arched his back and prepared to play.
“I just hope I did.”
If I can speak for everyone there that night, you did Joep. You truly did.
Mitchell Duran is a freelance writer of fiction, poetry, and non-fiction. He holds a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Acting from DePaul University. He has been featured in Black Horse Review, Drunk Monkeys, Broke-Ass Stuart, Music in SF and more. More of his work can be read at MitchellDuran.com. He lives in San Francisco.