Georg Friedrich Haas

5 questions to Georg Friedrich Haas (composer)

On Tuesday, November 19 at 7:30 PM, JACK Quartet will perform Georg Friedrich Haas’ In iij. Noct., String Quartet No. 3 as part of this year’s White Light Festival at Lincoln Center. Haas kindly found the time to answer our 5 questions.

You recently joined the composition faculty at Columbia University. What are your first impressions or plans, and what makes you most excited about now being part of the New York new music scene?

It is fascinating to teach at this amazing location. The artistic level of the students is great and my colleagues are open minded. It is an honour to be a part of the new music scene in New York. There exist great ensembles, great performers, and great composers.

How did you become interested in spectralism, and particularly the microtonal and micropolyphonic textures that are often found in your music?

I do not feel myself as a “spectral composer”. I use some chords, which have relationships to the harmonic series. I use them because I love them and because they sound great. But I never used spectral analyses.

Georg Friedrich Haas

Georg Friedrich Haas


Your chamber opera Thomas was premiered last spring at the Schwetzingen Festival in Germany. Do spectral techniques influence the subjects you choose to explore in your operas? And how do you treat the voice in the microtonal sound world your works create?

I always write for concrete musicians. I compose those microtonal structures for them, which they are able to realize (or, which I assumed they would be able to realize….). The experience of microtones happens on a higher level here in New York than in Europe. I assume that my next pieces will use possibilities, which I did not dare to use before.

On November 19th, JACK Quartet will be performing your third string quartet In iij Noct.. The piece calls for the audience and performers to be shrouded in total darkness, and the performers to play the score from memory as far away from each other as possible. How did you conceive the piece, and what are you trying to explore or say?

I want to express myself. Every composer wants to express himself or herself. Darkness is one of the possibilities to give the audience – and the performers – new and intense artistic adventures.

In your music, the timbral quality and texture of the sound of the overall ensemble seem to be the most important facet. How do you choose to treat rhythm and form, or other components like melody and harmony in your music? Is there a certain hierarchy, or is the product born of the spectral process?

I trust my sensations. I try to find out how sound and colour and time and dynamics fit together. I do not have any system. I do not trust systems at all.

R. Andrew Lee reviewed another JACK performance of In iij Noct back in April 2012