Posts Tagged “Experimental Music”

On Monday, January 24, 2011 at 8:00 p.m. at The Bushwick Starr in Brooklyn, violist Wendy Richman of the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) will present “Viola & “, the first program in her “Vox/Viola” project, in which she presents new and important works for singing violist and/or electronics. The program features works by Arlene Sierra, Lou Bunk, Hillary Zipper, Kevin Ernste, Kaija Saariaho, Giacinto Scelsi and Sequenza21’s own Senior Editor, Christian Carey. I caught up with Ms. Richman via email to speak with her about the project’s origin and her interest in performing “one-woman duos.”


“It’s not entirely fair for me to say all the pieces are one-woman duos,” she says. “There’s a very active partner, sound designer Levy Lorenzo, doing much of the program with me.” The idea for these programs goes back several years, growing in part out of Wendy’s involvement with a number of composer friends who happened to work extensively with electronics, but “also because I liked the idea of having a recital program that was totally self-contained. In my imagination, I could pack my laptop, mic, and a pedal, meet with a sound guy for 10 minutes, and—bam!—the show would go perfectly.”


The reality of doing recitals with live electronics proved more complicated than Richman imagined, however, until she met Lorenzo while performing Kaija Saariaho’s Vent Nocturne at an ICE Saariaho portrait concert in New York’s The Tank, where Lorenzo was the audio engineer. “I really experienced the piece differently during that performance. Levy is a fantastically sensitive musician, in addition to [having] great technological skills. Maybe it was in part the rather cramped quarters of the Tank, so we were essentially onstage together, but I’d never really approached playing this music as a duet. Now, it’s really important to me to approach it that way, so the electronics part is not only ‘live’ but ‘alive’.”


“About five years ago,” she adds,” I began playing Scelsi’s Manto, a three-movement work whose movements can be played separately, all together, or in any pairing. The last movement’s instruction states that it is for ‘altiste/chanteuse (necessarily female),’ and ‘the text is a speech of the Sibyl [a prophetess or seer].’ I was learning the piece during a really hard time in my life, when I was recovering from a bad accident, and I think I was looking for music that really spoke to me. Well, the Scelsi did! I guess I was speaking/chanting to myself, (because) it was the first piece in a long time that I had an extremely visceral response to, and that particular commitment seemed to speak to audiences. I received really positive feedback about it and began to feel that it was my piece.”


While there are a number of violinists who sing and play at once (Courtney Orlando of Alarm Will Sound and Monica Germino, of the Dutch group Elektra come to mind), singing violists remain something of a rarity. “I knew that there were some other string players who had done similar things but hadn’t heard much about viola/voice works aside from the Scelsi, and basically I just thought it would be a fun project for me to do.”


So at the urging of the composer Ken Ueno, Ms. Richman embarked on blazing a trail as a singing violist commissioning a number of composers to write pieces for her. The commissioning process, she says, was refreshingly informal and casual. “I talked to composer friends and told them that I don’t have any money (yet!) but that I’m fairly confident I can get a decent number of performances. Their responses varied, of course, but for the most part they were all interested and it was just a matter of time (many had paying commissions that would obviously take priority). I currently have eight finished pieces (three of which are being premiered on the 24th), and a total of about twenty composers who have committed to writing things over the next few years.”


The group of composers on the “Viola & “ program represents a highly eclectic and diverse group. This may seem unusual, but it stems from Ms. Richman’s refreshingly open and friendly approach to commissioning new works. “After hearing (a composer’s) music and liking it, the most important thing for me is that I like the composer (himself) and want to work with (him). In some ways, that’s more important to me, because they might find themselves making stylistic adjustments anyway given the relative newness of the genre to them. I needed to feel like we connected as friends so I could be really comfortable in the collaborative aspect of the project.”


Viola &
Violist/vocalist Wendy Richman and Engineer Levy Lorenzo
Part of The Forge’s Forgefestival
Monday, January 24, 2011 at 8:00 p.m.
Admission: $10
The Bushwick Starr
207 Starr Street
Brooklyn, NY 11237
Info Line: 201.875.8573
www.theforgenow.com

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