Daniel Klingmann, Frontend Tech Lead and Music Composer

What I love the most about music is that as soon as I sit at my keyboard, I usually forget everything else. Everything else just falls off and it’s just me and my music. In a certain aspect, you can create worlds with music – it leaves up a lot to the imagination of the listener. For example, you could compose something jazzy where you feel like you’re standing outside a bar while it slightly rains and this music is playing.

The beauty of it is that you don’t need to say anything to make a point or make someone feel a certain way. You can convey emotions and meaning simply by an arrangement of notes, and it is mostly universal. You don’t need to speak the same language as someone else to enjoy it, and it can be a total rollercoaster of emotions.

My name is Daniel “Dan” Klingmann, I’m 31 years old (born in 1989), and I’m a frontend tech lead at enmacc GmbH. We’re digitizing the energy industry by building a bilateral trading platform. In my role, I’m leading the frontend team, architectural decisions, and I offer consultation to the product team when they need to know if certain things are possible.

I kind of fell into my current job – originally, I wanted to become a 3D artist. When I was a child to teenager, I had really harsh nightmares and thought that, as a 3D artist, I might be able to show others the crazy worlds and things my mind would drift into! Funnily enough though, it started quite early with programming when I was around 12 and was collecting Magic the Gathering cards. At some point, I felt I had too many cards and wanted to build an index of all my cards, so I learned HTML. I think I got to around 800 HTML pages until I wanted to change something and realised how tedious that was and that there must be something better for this. Somewhere around 2003-2004, when I was 14, I stumbled over PHP and MySQL and got into the whole dynamic web development and toyed around with pirated versions of Photoshop (I’m not going to defend piracy, but Photoshop wasn’t necessarily cheap back then as a 14-year-old). After switching schools and growing sick of French lessons, I actually got a spot at a vocational school to learn media design for digital and print media. Funnily enough, I spent more time coding than designing in there! As a fun side note, I lately started playing Magic the Gathering again with colleagues at work – full circle, I guess.

Originally, I’m from North-Rhine Westphalia, Germany. However, my then-stepfather got a good job offer here in Munich, Germany, so we moved here. After all these years, I would consider Munich to be very much my hometown and I can hardly imagine being somewhere else. Most Bavarians are relaxed – the culture here is very diverse and very welcoming.

Outside of my job, I love music. I started quite early on with learning instruments – in this case, the accordion at the age of 5, where I got private lessons. At the age of 7, I had to choose if I wanted to play in an orchestra or wanted to continue playing soccer in a club. In hindsight, it should’ve been an easy decision; I totally sucked at soccer, but ask that question to a 7-year-old. I picked the orchestra though and was glad about that. Music kind of became a big part of my life, even though I think I was only playing there for maybe a year – I then had a long pause and even forgot how to read notes.

Fast forward to a day after my uncle’s birthday party, where I picked up his guitar and started to play around with it. I can assure you that the intro to Nothing Else Matters by Metallica is by far the easiest to learn as someone who never held a guitar before. However, it kind of piqued my interest, and my uncle gifted me a brand new acoustic guitar when I was 17. It didn’t take long for me to play a few known songs – however, I much more enjoyed coming up with things on my own and experimenting with which tones sound good together and how I can arrange them piece by piece. I would say that was the very start of where I am today.

I have a few favourite music composers. For the first one, I would say it’s Nobuo Uematsu. His works are just great and he manages to deliver emotions with his pieces which are just beyond belief. Then I’d go with Hans Zimmer – the diversity he has and the intensity of his tracks are great; the Inception soundtrack is definitely one of my favorites. For the last composer, I’d say Austin Wintory, more specifically the soundtrack of Journey. The build-up of the whole soundtrack is so amazing and overwhelming that, especially towards the end, I get very emotional.

From a workflow perspective, I usually set the tempo first, which I then record. Depending on what piece I’m doing, I would then either program the drums or percussion first and then go with the more melodic instruments. Otherwise, I mostly start with a Piano simulation, where I get the sound right and then go into things like strings, woods, and brass instruments. From a planning perspective, I don’t plan ahead. For me, it’s mostly an experimental workflow.

In general, I’m proud of every composition which leaves my PC and is shared with someone else. I have the problem that I want to get literally every aspect of it perfect, which results in only a small fraction of things being shared. If I would have to boil it down though, it’s the first song I wrote with Piano called “Fade Away”, which is about losing someone you love to someone else and slowly fading out of their mind as if you never were there in the first place. I actually took singing lessons just to nail this one.

I would say that my favourite music experiences by far are when I send previews to friends and family and they ask me if they can listen to it on Spotify – I usually get questions like “Wait, you made this?”, and that makes me proud.

My future goal with music is to finish an album and get that released. Maybe even hearing it on the radio someday or getting it played by an actual orchestra would be a great achievement for me!

In terms of similarities between music and tech, I would say that they’re both very heavy in theory and there‘s a lot of things to learn. Quite possibly, music genres are comparable to different programming languages. It’s the differences that are important though – composing in the evening after work allows me to calm down and get my mind off of work.

My advice to anyone interested in playing music is to start small, commit to single pieces, and don‘t try to make it perfect on the first try. Try to learn and understand the tools at your hand and learn basic music theory. I didn‘t do that for quite a while, but understanding that helps tremendously in better feeling which notes and harmonies sound good together.

There‘s absolutely always more than tech, but it makes it much easier to share everything through tech. The internet and social media have made it more than easy to show off and learn new creative skills from others; it even makes collaboration on certain things super easy. I personally always like to see things being made in workshops online.

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