Meet the talented former contestant and finalist of the UK’s hugely popular Channel 4 TV series The Piano, and star of the BAFTA award winning short film Harmonic Spectrum. And that’s just the beginning; the self-taught composer Sean Logan also debuted at last year’s Edinburgh fringe festival with his music and comedy. A thought-provoking multi-instrumentalist, he has already accomplished so much as a young musician and raconteur.
For the second part of our series, Sean gave us an insight into his world as a neurodiverse musician.
How did you discover your passion for music?
As a young boy I quickly understood how the non verbal communication of complex emotional and conceptual notions expressed in musical performances held parallel to the shortcomings caused by my condition.
From the age of six I dedicated myself to copying the television and radio in order to develop the skills of communicating myself in an artistic manner and how it bridged a gap between myself and other people.
Alien body language, tone of voice and non succinct facial expressions suddenly held a lot less precedent to others when viewed through the lens of an artist expressing an artistic medium.
With a distinct lack of ‘stage fright’ caused by a natural dulling of chemical reactions usually brought upon by the stimuli of ‘social pressures’, I realized my condition predisposed me to a career of performing and public speaking and engagement, and it would be wrong of me to fight against the tide.
Giving people enjoyable, entertaining and thought provoking performances, to hear people laugh, cheer and to see them dance fills me with a love and joy.
A simple need to be understood, accepted and appreciated for what I provide regardless of the differences that reside underneath is an underlying drive that I believe most people who are on the spectrum can relate to.
What goes through your mind when you play the piano? How does it make you feel?
The art of understanding Synthesia, how a sound can relate to a shade of color, physical sensation or emotional connotation in the mind's eye. How a tone can be construed as either prickly, acute and sharp, or soft, round and smooth is the palette in which I paint.
If I play in the scale and rhythmic structure of an ancient world musical scale, I am instantly transported to the hot sands and still winds of the place and time in which the musical concept was born. Peruvian medicine rituals, traditional Indian music to modern Western pop to underground dance music; I must see, feel and immerse myself into the motif and emotions in order to fully and effectively communicate them to the audience.
Although I play for myself and my own experimentation and enjoyment, the dominant focus is using these palates to paint narratives that leave an audience in a captivating, different and positive place than where we began.
Even without words for any lyricist/vocalist, music is storytelling. The same concepts that make good theater, creative writing, television and so on, are the exact same in what makes a good enjoyable piece of music. Leaving my mind racing to make sure my work garners the desired effect at the highest possible standard is what moves through my mind when composing or performing these days.
How do you use music to communicate or connect with others?
On a stage, a person like me has a clear line of communication between myself and the audience. They can choose to tune in or out at their leisure, my strange body language or abnormal facial expressions are of little matter when I am in my element.
In my life, I have seen time and time again how music connects people and brings them together, as much by its age-old tradition as a communal social activity, as by its medium of an individual or individual expressing something in a positive and emotionally charged manner.
Things like money, geography, history and politics as examples, are concepts that create perceptual barriers and divisions. These are concepts that control people's lives and actions that I see only as a negative evolutionary hang up.
When we come together to talk about Art, which by definition is someone's subjective individualistic expression of their own life and their deep well of emotions and thoughts, it provides a focal point for us to come together and talk about the deeper, more intrinsic aspects of life here on earth and our place in the universe with one another.
I believe true friendship, love and appreciation for oneself and each other can be found in the shared enjoyment of artistic mediums.
We are not conversing because we want something from each other; it is not about money, power or other trappings that great civilizations have fallen to the weight of.
It is for art and art in itself and how we have appreciated it personally through the lens of our own lives.
How does music help you overcome the challenges of life on the autism spectrum?
Beyond a career where I am able to put my neurodivergence to use in a way beneficial to society in a manner involving a colorful and rich sociality on a personal level. My musical practices can be likened to an act of prayer to me.
Music exists in a moment then is gone. Much like a mandala of sand to be swept away once completed or by extension, the innate fleeting nature of human mortality and our experiences here on this earth.
We are but specs of dust on a planet that falls through space indifferent to us. Statistics show just how lucky we are that our spec of moldy dirt has managed to continue to radiate into new forms of complexity within the confines of the periodic table and see life rear its head again and again despite cataclysmic events nearly rendering all organic life extinct.
I owe my existence to the mammal-like reptiles, the first fish to drag themselves out of the salty water and the pre-avian dinosaurs that by chance did not devour or cause the end of our ancient ancestors some hundred million years ago.
Regardless of either creation or happenstance, disabled or privileged we are all very lucky to be here and although I must create and express through the lens of Sean Logan the human typing this text, on a personal level I make my sounds to hold reverence in all things.
I have long held great importance to religious musical practices and spiritual communal music, how it positively impacts and increases the sense of community, belonging and a personal sense of wholeness.
When people tell me how my music, art, speaking or writing has touched them it is an extra piece of fulfillment and sense of purpose and direction.
Something I am sure all artists share.
How do you express your emotions or personality through your music?
With music, the choices of sounds we choose to make are the same as paint on a palette, in my eyes.
The beauty that comes from the uniqueness of how each artist decides to tell their stories, gives me a sense of joy and freedom to continue creating music that explores new less trodden paths and it goes back to what Lang Lang said “Playing an acoustic instrument as if you were using a computer to program the music.”
What are some of the most memorable or meaningful experiences you've had as a musician?
Being a musician has allowed me to enjoy a life rich with meeting new people from all backgrounds regularly. It means a lot to me because growing up, I was acutely aware that due to my condition such a life might have been out of reach for me.
To be able to bring joy to people through my entertainment and be appreciated for it in turn means the world to me. The understanding of other people along the way was an important factor in getting me to where I am now.
Take for instance Mika and Lang Lang, I put an exorbitant amount of pressure on myself to make sure I was nothing but reassuring and open to any and all input and direction, yet was at a loss to stop myself from some classically ASD related behaviors causing me stress about how they must be perceiving me. There is nothing like staring off into a wall scowling whilst in the middle of a conversation despite being completely present. And, answering in an overly out of place exaggerated tone of voice or avoiding eye contact is not great when you’re trying to assure people you were indeed the right choice to be mentored for the Royal Festival Hall.
It takes an amount of understanding and time to think about where I must be coming from and help me along where I need it and, Lang Lang, Mika and the production company showed me that in spades.
What are some things you wish people knew about autism and what advice would you give to other autistic people who want to pursue music?
This goes for everyone I believe; if you are passionate and real about your ambitions, your vision and your work, people are out there for you.
I personally had a breakthrough when I learned that I could develop skills such as people reading and the ability to understand social dynamics to the best of my ability via a means that suited the ways my mind works despite being told from different angles that such things were beyond me.
Have you ever created a score with MuseScore 4?
Musescore 4 is an incredible program that is able to help musicians at any stage of their career. For someone like me, being able to quickly convey a musician's concept to someone who works better in the realms of sheet music has been integral in my work.
Easy-to-use programs have allowed me to have created a solo piano score of Meet Machine from the final episode of The Piano which is soon to be on sale from my website.
Film still from Harmonic Spectrum (dir. Austen McCowan and Will Hewitt, 2021)