Posted by Arlene & Larry Dunn »
Composer, vocalist, and curator-producer Nick Hallett presents a concert of his songs later this month at Joe’s Pub, curiously titled Hallettiade, in the vein of Schubert’s legendary salons. We talked with him about the community he is creating for this evening, along with other highlights of his fall season.
Nick Hallett (photo by Sabine Rogers)
Your multifaceted artistic practice begins with the voice, how did your early training set the stage?
My musical education was primarily performance-based. I resisted the temptation of composition and studio art classes in favor of studying voice pedagogy, opera, electronic music, avant-garde theater, film/video, and dance. My current practice centers on the voice not only as a means of musical interpretation, but as a source of embodied creativity and inspiration for all kinds of cultural production. Just as my voice box is capable of communicating a diversity of sounds and genres of music, my proverbial voice extends way beyond singing, into art-making and community building, especially through my activities as a curator and cultural producer. At the core of this concern is what voices are drawn to do, and for me this starts with singing songs.
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Bridge Records released All the Things You Are, Leon Fleisher’s first solo album in nearly a decade. Consisting largely of works for left hand, the album also features works composed for Leon Fleisher by George Perle, Leon Kirchner, and Dina Koston as well as renditions of favorites by George Gershwin and Jerome Kern.
Leon Fleisher – Photo Joanne Savio
After seeing pictures of your studio, I was struck by the prevalence of satellite imagery of galaxies and nebulae hanging on the walls. What does this imagery convey to you, and what is its perceived relationship to music?
It’s my feeling that a lot of the music that we play, specifically German music actually, reaches heavenward, it seems to be involved with existential questions: What is man’s purpose in life? How does he relate to the universe? How is he like a brook? How is he like the leaf of a tree? These are all things that, I think — specifically German music — relates to as opposed to, for example, French music … which is sensual and sensory … and Russian music, which is very subjective, personal. The universe conveys movement; it passes through time and I think that it is subject to the same … you know, people talk about music and math, but I think the much more relevant comparison would be music and physics, and because it is movement I find that is subject to the laws of movement in physics.
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As a young musician who applied to music school with the intention of receiving a classical training, how were you personally introduced to the idea of contemporary classical music?
My first day at the Shepherd School, my Music Theory professor asked the class why the tritone was considered diabolical by early critics. The rest of the class was wise enough to remain silent, but I raised my hand, and, when called upon, answered that there was an inherent harsh ugliness to the interval. I was mocked by my professor, a composer, who dismissed my answer laughingly by declaring that he thought it was a beautiful interval. In the years since, I have decided that not only was my professor wrong to mock me because it’s rude, but he was wrong because I was right: the tritone is inherently harsh. But he was also right. The tritone is beautiful. That was an unfortunate but early exposure to contemporary musical thought.
My second exposure was much more positive. My classmate and friend Takuma Itoh, now a respected composer and professor at the University of Hawai’i, wrote a piece of chamber music–I can’t remember if it was a string trio or quartet–and asked me to help premiere it. Performing music is always an act of creation, but playing something that has never been played before has a different feeling to it. I loved it immediately. In the years since then, Takuma has written me a piece for viola solo, and one of the groups I perform with, Ensemble: Peripherie, is preparing his work entitled Pins and Needles for our next tour.
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On July 20, 2014, the Glimmerglass Festival presented the premiere of a new version of composer Tobias Picker and librettist Gene Scheer’s An American Tragedy, originally commissioned by and premiered at the Metropolitan Opera in 2005. Nine performances in total will be presented until August 24. We asked Picker five questions…
You have said that you knew the Dreiser novel, An American Tragedy, had to be your subject when the opportunity to write an opera for the Metropolitan Opera arose. What was it about the story that made it a particularly good subject, a good pairing, for the Met’s commission?
I felt it was the greatest story for the greatest American opera company because it goes to the heart and the heartbreak of the ‘American Dream’. The gap between rich and poor during the Great Depression, is no less relevant today than it was just before the Great Depression when Dreiser wrote the novel. At the core of the story is a doomed love triangle with an unconventional conclusion. A poor boy from the Midwest with dreams of making a success of himself goes about it completely the wrong way in large part due to a rigid fundamentalist upbringing. He makes terrible mistakes and pays the ultimate price. An American Tragedy is the dark side of the American Dream.
Tobias Picker – Photo by Harry Heleotis
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Following the release of their debut album “Wish The Children Would Come On Home”, The Westerlies made their way back to the west coast from New York for the summer, and celebrated Canada Day with a performance at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival. We asked 5 questions to The Westerlies.
How has geography influenced your music and your musical approach?
The four of us grew up in Seattle which is a very laid back, nature-oriented place. This has certainly shaped us as individuals, and in turn our music reflects the environment in an organic way. On the other hand, we all moved to New York to study music and it is a really intense city – super busy, super exciting, but chaotic. New York is essentially the opposite of Seattle, so our music comes from and is informed by these polar extremes of our living experience.
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