Composer/keyboardist/producer Elodie Lauten creates operas, music for dance and theatre, orchestral, chamber and instrumental music. Not a household name, she is however widely recognized by historians as a leading figure of post-minimalism and a force on the new music scene, with 20 releases on a number of labels.

Her opera Waking in New York, Portrait of Allen Ginsberg was presented by the New York City Opera (2004 VOX and Friends) in May 2004, after being released on 4Tay, following three well-received productions. OrfReo, a new opera for Baroque ensemble was premiered at Merkin Hall by the Queen's Chamber Band, whose New Music Alive CD (released on Capstone in 2004) includes Lauten's The Architect. The Orfreo CD was released in December 2004 on Studio 21. In September 2004 Lauten was composer-in-residence at Hope College, MI. Lauten's Symphony 2001, was premiered in February 2003 by the SEM Orchestra in New York. In 1999, Lauten's Deus ex Machina Cycle for voices and Baroque ensemble (4Tay) received strong critical acclaim in the US and Europe. Lauten's Variations On The Orange Cycle (Lovely Music, 1998) was included in Chamber Music America's list of 100 best works of the 20th century.

Born in Paris, France, she was classically trained as a pianist since age 7. She received a Master's in composition from New York University where she studied Western composition with Dinu Ghezzo and Indian classical music with Ahkmal Parwez. Daughter of jazz pianist/drummer Errol Parker, she is also a fluent improviser. She became an American citizen in 1984 and has lived in New York since the early seventies

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Friday, August 31, 2007
C versus C

In the beginning, I never thought of myself as a ‘C’ (composer) but rather as a ‘double M’ (music maker ) which was at the same time, more inclusive of non-traditional processes and sufficiently low-key. It’s not until Greg Sandow called me a composer in a Village Voice review in 1983 that I began to realize that maybe after all I was a composer, if he said so. Along with this approach, for many years, the idea of a having a real ‘C’ (career) did not seem a possibility. Even now, strangely enough, I feel compelled to shield my ‘Composing’ from my ‘Career’.

Let’s just for a moment suppose that over-focusing on one’s career creates a distortion of perspective, similar to what happens to pianists who play in lounges or dance classes too long and somehow lose their own musical pulse, or film music writers who are so used to making music that’s a backdrop to action that they lose the ability to create music for its own sake. I never had the opportunity to become a film composer (although I may have been happier doing just that), but such reverse opportunities (like the break-up of my rock band) are in retrospect the best things that happened to me, from a strictly creative standpoint, as I am now practiced at creating my own thread without leaning on images or people.

I identify the tensions between career and composing in terms of orientation and allocation. I don’t really like to have an ‘orientation’ such as a goal, even a Commission - C vs C again, unless it is unavoidable, like “an offer one cannot refuse”, and when I do, the challenge is to integrate the commission goal with my own composition goals at the time. But it’s all really difficult and fragile at a certain level. The commission can be a total creative disruption and sometimes an impossibility – luckily commissions are not difficult to avoid...

When writing music, one may think about certain performers, voices, instruments, certain moods and moments, some experiential transference. I may compose from the ambient sounds that I hear in my room or outside, from potential cyclic synchronicities with natural phenomena, from spiritual realms discovered while cleaning under the kitchen sink or in the essence of a cup of tea, from carefully laid out hierarchies and correspondences, or simply from direct playing, but essentially it is the weaving of a new fabric of sounds that gets hold of me and I’ll be immersed in it for whatever time it takes to complete the work – in some cases, several years. The first thread is at once the easiest and the most difficult, torn out of spontaneity, to be later assessed and possibly discarded, trimmed or left unchanged.

In addition, there is an obvious career-versus-composing opposition in terms of time allocation. Career calls for social interaction, composing calls for introspection and to some extent, isolation. As much as I love to spend time with people (and love pleasing them)I find my mind so filled with people-related thoughts - and their problems - that distract me from my composing purpose. My approach to this dilemma is to alternate the periods of creation of new work and periods of presentation of the work. During the creative periods, I may do very little ‘business’ and see very few people (my friends know this) even though it holds me back later on (where have all the gigs gone while I was busy composing?…) but I still haven’t found any other way to function.