This concert season RenegadeEnsemble is collaborating with local visual artists. What effect do you think this collaboration will have on the ensemble and their performances?
I don't think this collaboration will have a strong influence on the performers while they are performing, but I do think it will have a strong impact on the artists. From the artists perspective, I think they will be listening actively to what we are playing, opening their ears and minds to the soundscapes, and letting that guide the art. For the performers, I think they can more appropriately observe and reflect on the artwork that came out of our performance. They can think about how what they did led to the artwork that was produced.
The Feb. 8 concert features works using extended techniques. What are extended techniques, and how do you feel they enhance the music on this program?
Extended techniques are non-traditional ways in which to make sounds on traditional instruments. This might involve plucking or hammering the strings inside the piano, growling into a saxophone, slapping or smacking the mouthpiece of ones instrument, or using fingerings that create strange sounds. Though extended techniques are becoming an accepted norm for composers currently writing music, many newcomers to modern classical music may have not heard the likes of these unusual sounds. I feel strongly that having a concert focused on extended techniques opens up a number of possibilities to the audience and raises the question..."What is music?" For some, these sounds might be considered bizzare, ugly, and unpleasant; however, in context, these sounds really enhance the musical themes and ideas that the composer is trying to bring to the foreground. Expect to hear new things, be open, and enjoy!
When you work through a set of repertoire for a concert, do you have a specific vision of what the result is going to be at the beginning of the process?
I don't really! In fact, I'm NOT a fan of themed concerts, so I don't pick music that is forced to fit into one larger idea...if that happens, so be it! I do pick music based upon the likes/preferences of the players, variety within the collection of works, and things that I enjoy aesthetically. I am aware that I have a strong affinity toward minimalism and; while I usually slate a piece or two of this ilk, I am trying to steer myself and the ensemble away from this "rut."
What analogy would you use to describe what performing contemporary music is like to someone who is unfamiliar with new music?
I would say that performing contemporary music is much like reading Shakespeare! One might be forced to read a play once, not REALLY understand it, but perhaps have a marginal idea of what the play is about initially. Then, when you read the same play again, you learn a bit more that you didn't notice the first time around. The more you "get into" the play, the more you keep finding! You start to get the jokes, the puns, the analogies, etc., until you really understand the play. Performing contemporary music is much like this. You learn the notes and rhythms (which, in and of themselves, are sometimes unusual and hard to grasp). The more you rehearse, the more you "get over" the notes, rhythms, and "unusual" sounds, and begin to understand the structure, construction, phrasing, themes, etc. You rehearse some more and then notice some things you hadn't noticed before. Even during performances, I'm finding new things with contemporary music! What is great about this process is that, I'm usually finding things that no one else EVER has discovered--especially if I'm one of the first people to ever play a piece of music!