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Victor Spiegel


A Tribe of Noise Spotlight Interview with an industry veteran.


On Victor’s SoundCloud you will find:

Recording artist, teacher, composer, director, actor and voice over professional. His study of world music cultures gives his music an added edge and depth. Spiegel's singular piano sound is a fusion of lush harmonies and rhythms of jazz, classical and musical influences from India, Japan, Indonesia, Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. He continues to score for film, television, theatre, dance and other media.

But when did Victor start, what has been his biggest surprise/lesson along the way and what is he working on right now?


Featured Song



… and watch the short documentary about Victor at the bottom


What got you started?

When I was five, I discovered that a piano teacher lived next door. For some unknown inner reason, I wanted to play piano. I was also one of the first students of Bruce Sutherland.

There were 6 beads on a wire. If I made a mistake, I had to redo the mistaken section 6 times in a row perfectly before the lesson would proceed. Even if it was a very long, complicated passage, if I messed up on the fifth one, all the beads would be returned to their start position. Many tears and hours were spent correcting mistakes.

Bruce Sutherland was an excellent piano teacher. Technique, memory, performance, everything went into making the music. I remember waiting often for my lesson, looking through his book collection – especially the drawings of the Addams Family.

I was not normal. Somehow, my grandfather's spirit of a composer, an artist, musician and composer inhabited my soul. I saw the world from a different perspective than my dad and mom, from most everyone else, and the questions I asked were usually answered in a prescribed and unthinking formula. Why? Because it just is.

In elementary school I was beat up regularly for being a Jew. I was followed home by these same bullies and taunted with unspeakable hateful insults. I felt ashamed and unable to tell my father about this. I could smell the hate, and yet taboo.

When I first entered Santa Monica High (SaMoHi) in 1964, I just wanted to take music classes and make new friends. My father's counsel was to keep my lips tense so I would not appear so Jewish. I couldn't seem to blend in like everyone else. I gravitated to the classes involving music and discovered the dance band. This was a transitional period of music, where the big bands were giving way to jazz, rock and roll and blues. It was exciting and vital, the guys in the band were confident and worldly. I was a virgin on many levels, including the world of popular music and jazz. But in 1964 the director of the band and the group itself entered a competition known as The Battle of the Bands, where the finalists would eventually compete in The Hollywood Bowl.

I began to feel a sense of belonging, knowing that this group might enable me to fit in better.

That night in the Hollywood Bowl was magical. We took our places on the stage. It rotated bringing us to face the massive crowd as we played with amazing energy and joy. And took home the first place and sweepstakes award.

I never heard anything from my father regarding this achievement except perhaps, "pretty good." Though the rest of my family and relatives were ecstatic.


Did your father eventually end up supporting your passion for music?

Because my father only knew about coaching athletics, he felt that his son should be top in his field, and compete for top prizes. If the athlete did not put his full attention, concentration and will to being the best, it wasn't worth it. When I didn't practice, there were several times Dad would be Coach, remove his belt and beat me until I acceded to the proper state of subservience and practice the 2- 4 hours on the piano.

After several months of emotional, physical abuse and just being a teenager, I came home from school one day and no one was home. I had no friends to see, no one to call. I was abandoned, lonely. I thought I should practice piano now but I couldn't because of the emotions brewing, building inside. I sat there, stuck.

Suddenly my perception shifted. The keyboard became my life, and every note contained pictures, images, movies of all that I had been experiencing: pain of breaking up, the joy of life, desire for a girl, rejection and defeat of not being popular. I wept as I played - tears rolling down my face and onto the keys. The fountain of the unspoken upwelling from my guts and heart into my fingers, into the notes created a feeling movie of my life. I could hear-see the beatings, the humiliations, the family dinners, the fear and rage of my father; and at the same time I could understand that maybe this is what music is really all about - an outpouring of raw soul. This is the harmony of life at its most intense moment. There can be relief of pain through sharing music, as a kaleidoscope of the intensity of being human.


What about Bruce Sutherland?

One morning the ambulance had come next door. I remember going to Bruce for a lesson, and there was a stillness and grief around the house. He came to the door with tears in his eyes. “What happened?” I asked.

“Norma, my wife died. No lesson today.” And the gently shut the door.

After that, Bruce and his sister Mitzi put their attention towards remodelling the house and gardens. A pool and extra studio were added. After we moved, Bruce bought our old house and began storing his various souvenirs from his world travels in every room.

It is probably at this point I realised that music could be my salvation. It could help me stay sane enough to get through the trials of my father and mother, school, anything, everything.

I began to see a through-line: that music is vast, i could never really master it, but if used as a tool, it could take me places I could not even imagine at this time.

I also began to understand about art in general. There are basically two kinds - the show-off, therapeutic; and the intimate communication from the deepest wells of human experience that transcended time and place (but needed a cultural context). This started me on a quest to understand music and art on a completely new level.

And at that time of adolescence and discovery I had no one to talk to about this new art-world I had found. I still had Bruce, but he was my piano teacher and not open to this, and my father - though I tried - had no idea what I was raving about. I also began to see that there was a music inside me and I had no idea what it was.

So when I turned fifteen, my father and Bruce and I met outside one spring afternoon between our homes.

"Well, Vic, it's time to make a decision," said my Dad.

"That's right," said Bruce, "You've been doing recitals, receiving scholarships, performing the Grieg Piano Concerto, and getting ready to go professional."

"I don't understand," I said.

"We've been preparing you to be a professional concert pianist. You know, touring, performing with orchestras, being a Real musician," said Bruce.

"I can't keep paying for your piano lessons all your life if you're not going to see it through," added my father.

"I see. You want me to play other people's music and that would be "professional" and my career, as it were, is that right?"

"Yes," they both said.

I thought for a minute. I reflected on all the new music I was learning with the school jazz band, and how they encouraged me to improvise and play the blues and ...

"I can't. It's not something I can do, besides I don't even know what music is inside me. How can I play other people's music, if the music inside me isn't getting played? So Dad, Bruce- I guess I'll stop taking piano lessons and you won't have pay for them anymore. Bruce, if I want to start again, I will pay for them myself. Is that okay?"

They were both stunned. This was an unexpected turn of events. The boy was turning out to be rebel. But it was his choice, so all they could do was agree.


What has changed since you started out?

Digitisation of everything including music. I can now record symphonic scores, odd ambients, solo pieces. But all the study of scores, music calligraphy, composition, orchestration seems to mean nothing. Anyone can do anything. Which is good. Now the value of music has diminished. Music has the value of piss. Monetisation of songs is so minimal it seems not worth the effort. The quality of most pop songs is no longer important. Making money with music is depressing. The ability to listen as an art has been forgotten.


What has been the biggest surprise/lesson along the way?

Music is always surprising. But more in the way of John Cage than Drake. To be able to listen to the sounds around me as the ongoing composition of the moment…


What would you do if you were not doing this/making music?

I am writing stories and screenplays, directing and learning film making. Meaning I study lenses, lighting, storytelling, dialogue, acting, film grammar, editing, composition and motion. I also enjoy photography and Sufism.


Do you have any advice for other musicians?

Find your own voice. Copy and study, but don’t be derivative. Learn what your music is. Keep a spiritual or deep rooted anchor that helps you to know who you are. When things get bad or especially when things get really good, you need to remain humble and sincere. Don't fall into arrogance or pride. Those will sap your soul and take away the beautiful music your soul is.


What are you working on right now?

An album for turning, like a Dervish. Film scores.


Short Documentary


Like to learn more about Victor Spiegel?

Check Victor’s online presence!