Watch, listen and compare!
Nicolas Collins, composer and Editor-in-chief of the Leonardo Music Journal, was invited to host the evening of the Mondgewächse premiere. Bridging the gap between technology and traditional instruments by introducing the evening’s program, including Vox balanae by George Crumb, Alessandrini’s Mondgewächse and his piece Roomtone Variations. The latter was performed by musicians of the ensemble Gageego! and members from the In:fluence Ensemble. Nicolas, who is also a professor in the Department of Sound at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, explained to us what it is that connects all three pieces.
Hosting the evening, are you going to give some insight into the pieces and the context of these works?
There is a very interesting range of music on the programme. We have three generations of composers where George Crumb is the outsider in a sense, because his work is exclusively instrument domain. But he is very a kind of a classic American composer. When I hear his work I say that this is almost American folk music. I am sort of in the middle, pooling primarily on post-Cageian and experimental music tradition in America. And Patricia has worked for a long time in Europe, she worked in Paris, she has much more connection to French contemporary avant-garde. So we are three different worlds put together.
How would you describe your work and the piece Roomtone Variations?
My little brother likes to say to me: your music is on that fine line between simple and stupid, and I’m never really sure where on that line it is. So my pieces are very simple work in terms of the technology. The only technology is a computer programme I wrote that analyses the resonant frequencies of a room whether it is strong notes in a hall. And then the programme arranges the notes on a staff like tone row in serial music. From that point on it is just a question of moving through this score and the musicians do all the work. I suppose what the musicians do is complicated because they are pulling on all their training as musicians and bring to it whatever they can. But the technology is really very simple.
Comparing Mondgewächse and your piece, are there any similarities?
Patricia´s piece also involves the use of computers but in a much more sophisticated fashion. She is doing everything at once. She is like a jongleur on stage. But I think that we both have the same background. We are both Americans and we come from traditional “engineer-technician”- composer. If you want to work with computers as a composer, you have to learn to do it yourself. You noticed the way Patricia is working, she has these collaborators who are people like herself, moving back and forth between, the artists and engineers. So I think there is a connection there.
Did it work out as Patricia expected to?
Yes, it worked quite well. There is a characteristic to my music, which involves a lot of improvisation whether it is solo work for myself, or for unusual electronic instruments or for conventional acoustic instruments. I give my musicians a small amount of material that is specified and then they have to perform a variation within certain guidelines. It’s either a sign of a lazy composer or it’s a sign of a trusting composer. It’s difficult to realize this work without a little bit of rehearsal time in which I communicate what’s important and what’s not.Share Music interviews Nicolas Collins