Archive for the ‘5 questions to’ Category

25
Mar

5 questions to Dana Jessen (Bassoonist, Improviser, Entrepreneur)

In true modern musical artist fashion, Dana Jessen has her fingers and her feet planted in multiple roles and realms. Her new recording of Michael Gordon’s Rushes, performed with the Rushes Ensemble of seven bassoonists, is released on Cantaloupe Music today, March 25, 2014. Dana has recently relocated to Oberlin, which gave us the opportunity to sit down with her and talk about Rushes and her ongoing projects.

Bassoonist Dan Jessen (photo credit: Philip Forti)

Bassoonist Dan Jessen (photo credit: Philip Forti)

How was the Rushes project with Michael Gordon conceived and brought to reality?

The idea started in 2009 when I arranged Michael’s The Low Quartet, in its version scored for low-sounding solo instrument with three pre-recorded parts, for a solo program of contemporary bassoon music. Until recently, the bassoon hasn’t had a strong presence in new music and I’ve often found myself battling the Grandfather stereotype, from Peter and the Wolf, that many still associate with my instrument. We have notable works like Berio’s Sequenza XII, but the amount of contemporary bassoon repertoire pales in comparison with what exists for percussion, piano, strings, or even other wind instruments. When I finished the bassoon arrangement of The Low Quartet, I emailed it to Michael to tell him of my plans to perform it. He responded enthusiastically and said that he really enjoyed the sound of multiple bassoons. Shortly after, I approached Michael about writing a large-scale work for bassoon and that I would organize a consortium of bassoonists to fund the commission. He was thrilled with the idea and we set to work on it. Soon Michael’s concept began to unfold and the piece evolved into an hour-long composition for seven bassoons. We met several times to discuss ideas and play through sketches. At one point I brought five bassoonists to his living room so that he could hear the sonorities produced by multiple players. Once the final version was completed, I organized the Rushes Ensemble, a phenomenal group of bassoonists from all over the US: Saxton Rose, Rachael Elliott, Jeffrey Lyman, Lynn Hileman, Maya Stone, and Michael Harley. We worked closely with Michael to finalize the piece and recorded Rushes at the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center in New York. Collaborating with composers is one of my favorite aspects of new music and my experience working with Michael has been hugely rewarding.

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24
Mar

5 questions to Robert Sirota (composer) about Pange Lingua Sonata

On Wednesday, March 26, Hyeyung Julie Yoon (violin, Chiara Quartet) and Soyeon Kate Lee (piano) will be performing the New York premiere of composer Robert Sirota’s Pange Lingua Sonata at SubCulture. Pange Lingua Sonata for violin and piano was commissioned by Yoon in 2012 in memory of her grandfather, Myung Il Paek. We decided to learn more about this commission…

The choice to write a sonata around a plainchant is somewhat reminiscent of Ysayë’s Obsession sonata or even Duruflé’s Requiem. I’m wondering two things: when in the compositional process did the idea emerge to base it on a chant? And did the suggestion to use this particular chant come from you or from the violinist/commissioner, HyeYung Julie Yoon?

The idea of basing an extended work on the Pange Lingua was mine, and it came at the very beginning of the process. A number of my recent works are inspired by or literally based on hymn tunes. A new work, Apparitions for organ and string quartet, consists of four movements each based on a different early American hymn. it will be given its premiere in Boston in June at the national convention of the American Guild of Organists. I would say that Christian hymns have become something of a preoccupation of mine (bordering on an obsession!).

Robert Sirota - Photo by Brian Hatton

Robert Sirota – Photo by Brian Hatton

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20
Mar

5 questions to Jennifer Walshe (composer)

THMOTES, a project by Irish composer Jennifer Walshe, involved a number of text scores sent via Snapchat. After a few seconds’ viewing time, the scores vanished forever. It ran for several months in 2013. Here, Jennifer tells us a little about the motivation behind THMOTES, explaining her fondness for GIFs, “Imaginary Pieces,” and technology in general.

Tell us about THMOTES, your Snapchat project. What prompted you to turn to Snapchat?

I’m very interested in how we use the web now, how intertwined our lives are with it. William Gibson, one of my favourite writers, often uses the descriptor “the internet in its current iteration” when he’s talking about the web, and it’s important to remember that, that the internet is a massive organism which is growing and changing. When I heard about Snapchat I thought it was a platform with a lot of potential and I wanted to jump in and work with it and see what could be gained. I’ve been involved with text scores for a long time, performing everything from Fluxus event scores to Wandelweiser compositions. I thought it would be interesting to take that world, and pump it through Snapchat, with all its constraints and freedoms and see what the result was. Part of it was to do with my own frustrations with text scores. There are lot of composers using text scores, and a lot of them are really wonderful. But I sometimes feel frustrated that the language, the descriptions, the syntax, the grammar, is often essentially the same as it was in the 60s. I’m very influenced by writers when I’m writing text scores—Donald Barthelme, Ben Marcus, Lydia Davis, Tao Lin have all been very important to me, and so with the THMOTES I could sort of work out some of my frustrations/inspirations and ideas of where it could all go, knowing the results were going to self-combust after just a few seconds. Very liberating.

Jennifer Walshe

Jennifer Walshe

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5
Mar

5 questions to Tracy Silverman (violinist, composer, producer)

The recent release of “Between the Kiss and the Chaos” on Delos was a great opportunity to ask five questions to violinist, composer, and producer Tracy Silverman.

In the notes to your CD, your discussion of Axis and Orbits is fairly technical while your discussion of between the kiss and the chaos focuses on the imagery and the relationship between the artworks and the music. I would be interested to hear some of the musical considerations you had as you were writing that one too.

Interesting! I hadn’t noticed that. Axis and Orbits doesn’t have the same direct visual and dramatic starting point as Between the Kiss, which originated as a puppet opera about artists and therefore had some very tangible inspiration. Axis was more of a technical challenge in it’s inception—to try to create a live semi-improvised work for a single person using loop pedals which retained the type of musical interaction that we expect from ensemble playing. With that as the challenge, each of the 4 pieces ends up in a different emotional place, guided there by the different approaches to using the loop pedal which I was exploring in each movement.

In the first movement, Axis and Orbits, I loved the image of these bodies in space moving silently and consistently and without any regard at all to the random alignments in which they find themselves. I love the idea that one alignment of harmony is no better than another, and I like the nihilism of starting out all lined up and slowly but steadily dissolving into chaos. I wanted a nice contrasting feel to the first movement, so the second movement, Camshaft, has a hard funky, rocky groove. And once I got into the funk, it wanted to turn itself into a band playing a song, complete with different “instruments,” sections, breakdowns, etc. It’s very complicated to pull off live, but hopefully listening to it makes you forget that it’s all done by one person. Sacred Geometry was inspired by the polyphony of crickets, and the simple kaleidoscope of the shifting harmony within a regular rhythmic pulse, (as opposed to Axis and Orbits which has no pulse or meter,) inspired Terry Riley to give it its title. Mojo is me trying to call up the spirit of those crazed eastern european roma violinists who play with a ferocity like they have bleeding entrails still caught in their teeth.

Tracy Silverman

Tracy Silverman

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25
Feb

5 questions to Ursula Oppens (pianist)

On Thursday, March 6 at 7:30 pm, Symphony Space will be hosting a concert in honor of the renowned American pianist Ursula Oppens on the occasion of her 70th birthday. Pianists Winston Choi, Ran Dank, Soyeon Kate Lee, and Anthony Molinaro—all former or current students of Oppens—will perform pieces that helped to define her legacy, such as Frederic Rzewski’s, “The People United Will Never Be Defeated!” and Conlon Nancarrow’s “Four Canons for Ursula,” along with other selections.

Ursula Oppens

Ursula Oppens

You are known for commissioning and collaborating with dozens of celebrated composers of our time. I know from my own experience that collaboration and the commissioning process are often also explorations of the musical relationship between performer and composer. Is there (or are there) a particular collaboration(s) that grew in an unexpected direction either, in the resulting work or in the musical relationship?

I am almost always surprised by the works that I have commissioned. Perhaps the greatest surprise was “The People United Will Never Be Defeated” by Frederic Rzewski. Not only because the work is almost one hour long, but especially because I had mainly heard Frederic in the improvisations of Musica Elletronica Viva, which were wildly atonal at that time, and here was a composition which in its first 12 variations goes through the circle of fifths, and then has two sections (12 variations) in D minor. But the essential situation is that I know the previous works of a composer, but cannot imagine the next one.

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18
Feb

5 questions to Dwight Currie (Curator of Performances, The Ringling Museum in Sarasota, Florida)

For over 85 years The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota has been a important bastion of arts and culture for the entire state of Florida. During the 2013-14 winter season, residents and visiting snowbirds alike are enjoying an ambitious program of contemporary visual art and performances. We interviewed Dwight Currie, Associate Director for Museum Programs at The Ringling, to find out more about their current season.

R. Luke DuBois: Fashionably Late for the Relationship, 2007-08 (video still), courtesy of The Ringling Museum

R. Luke DuBois: Fashionably Late for the Relationship, 2007-08 (video still courtesy of The Ringling Museum)

What was the driving force behind your Winter 2013-14 programming, integrating visual and performing arts disciplines?

The Ringling Museum’s founding director, A. Everett Austin, Jr. – known throughout the world of art as “Chick” – revolutionized modern museum practice by leading the way in the presentation of performance art in American museums. “The function of a museum,” Chick declared, “is more than merely showing pictures. The museum is the place to integrate the arts and bring them alive.”

Inspired by Chick’s words, The Ringling launched the Art of Our Time initiative in 2011 with the mission to present exhibitions and performances that exemplify and explore the rich diversity of ideas and forms at play in the world today. For the 2013-14 season we have mounted NOWHERE: Finding Our Way in the 21st Century, a cross-disciplinary journey into the oft-perceived “nowhere” of contemporary culture through a series of dynamic encounters with the art of “here” and “now.” Within that context, New Stages 2014 is a five-part art-of- performance exhibition.

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