Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Performer / Composer

Today, I received another surprising and humbling news that I was awarded the Fromm Commission 2010.  I submitted the proposal specifically for composing for the Cassatt String Quartet, which I also posted about last month on their kids-friendly concert.  (I said "another" news, since in this astonishing one year, I not only received the IRCAM residency, but also the Guggenheim Fellowship)

I was revisiting my proposal to Fromm, which stated that I would compose an interactive piece for the quartet, which doesn't require a computer operator or assistant on stage or off-stage, but a stand-alone computer system that would work when they take it on tour.   I also stated that, as a violinist who has been composing for myself mainly and have been working with interactive systems, I would have intimate knowledge of the strings as well as interactive performance.

This time, I am embarking on a strictly "composer" role.  I have composed limited amount of pieces where I did not perform, but mostly, even I wrote for other instruments and orchestra, I was part of the ensemble or I was participating as a violinist.   This new work for the Cassatt, I am totally retired as a performer, letting others play my music without me participating, which makes me feel a little bit in a new territory.

I feel comforted that I have a huge advantage this time, since the first violinist of the Cassatt Quartet is Muneko Otani.  She studied with the same teacher with me, Toshiya Eto at Toho School in Japan.  (Eto was a student of Efrem Zimberlist at Curtis, and is the first Japanese violinist to give his Carnegie Hall recital.)  In terms of our violin playing, we are somehow of the "same breed" so to speak.  I know how she would change her bowing strokes, sound quality etc. because she was taught the same way I was.   I am formating my compositions this time not from motifs or materials, but from their sounds, her playing and her sound.  I guess that's a typical performer/composer's approach  :)

Mario Davidovsky, the only composition teacher I ever had, said, "You have to write for performers. If they like your piece they will kill themselves to play it, but if they don't, forget it!"

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