To label someone “at the forefront” of a musical movement is to make a bold statement. Trendsetters are only as good as the trends that they set, and whether they withstand the test of time issues the true final verdict on someone’s overall contribution to the musical landscape. That said, having the rare opportunity to sit down with two composers who have helped bring the modern classical sound into unexpecting ears worldwide is something that I just couldn’t pass up.

Ólafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm come from different backgrounds, and their musical trajectories have taken them on different paths. Yet, the two friends have remained parallel in step, both releasing fantastic new albums this year that each could be the defining albums of their careers. Arnalds, the Icelandic composer who used For Now I Am Winter to springboard his minimalist, modern compositions into more electronic and ethereal realms, and Frahm, the German pianist whose effort Spaces could be argued as his most accessible, most focused and most rewarding effort of his young career.

The youth of the two musicians is one of the key hallmarks of why they now find themselves taking on the roles they are — as the faces of a old, classical style of music presented to a new generation. Both Arnalds and Frahm have far-reaching musical interests outside of the classical realm, and it is their ability to experiment with a melting pot of influences that has helped turn the modern classical world on its head. Thanks to a dual U.S. tour the two embarked on this fall and their Decibel Festival date in Seattle, I was able to sit down and speak with the two of them — still noticeably jetlagged from their cross-global excursion — on their creative processes and their important role in the musical landscape.

“a2” from Stare (2012)