On Friday, May 20, the Vilcek Foundation hosted a performance of violinist and composer Mari Kimura. The program featured a variety of works stemming from Kimura’s interest in new violin techniques and technology. Kimura started the evening off with Bach’s Preludio from Partita No. 3 in E major, BWV 1006 (1720). The piece exploited Kimura’s Juilliard training in a flawless and clean performance showing her mastery of classical violin technique.
The second piece on the program was Kimura’s original composition Subharmonic Partita (2004), which introduced her discovery of subharmonics on the violin. Kimura explains subharmonics as “an extended bowing technique, for playing the violin in a very special way. By controlling the speed and pressure of the bow very, very precisely a violinist can play notes below the open G, normally the lowest note on the violin, without changing the tuning. Through the use of subharmonics, it’s possible to play cello notes on the violin!” In the composition Kimura included fast five octave arpeggios that created glasslike textures juxtaposed against low register growls of subharmonic mastery.
The piece was followed by two more original Kimura compositions, Six Caprices for Subharmonics (1997-1998) and a world premiere called Janmaricana for Subharmonics (2011). Both compositions served to illustrate Kimura’s use of subharmonics in composition extending the range of the violin. In Kimura’s compositions she used the subharmonic technique fused with pizzicatos, double stops and a wide range of technique to produce a unique language of her own on the violin.
The technology portion of the program started with a piece that incorporated animation by Ken Perlin followed by another world premiere, Duet X2 for violin, cello and augmented bows (2011). The piece featured cellist Dave Eggar in a duet with Kimura. At the start of the piece Kimura displayed her custom Max Msp patch on the projector allowing the audience to take an inside look at Kimura’s interactive dashboard in action. The piece utilized two bowing motion sensors called “min-MO” developed at IRCAM. The sensors acquired 3 dimensional acceleration and bow pressure from the performers during the composition. The relationship between the gesture and sound was second in comparison to the intense communication between both Kimura and Eggar. During the performance real-time processing created various timbres and layers using delay, a computer harmonizer and other effects.
The Old Rose Reader was commissioned by Kimura and composed by Francis White. The composition incorporated text visuals and prerecorded sound of Kimura’s husband. The visuals followed the text at times displaying what was being stated by the speech with white text over a black background. The text also used roses as a motive projecting various types of text relationships against the speech.
Conlon Nancarrow composed the final piece of the program, Toccata for Violin and Player Piano. This piece ended the night with speed and intensity as Kimura received a wonderful ovation for her versatility as a composer, performer and programmer. The hall soon emptied as the night transitioned down one floor to the reception hall where Kimura and friends made themselves available to the audience while having champagne and hors d’oeuvres.
Here’s an interview with Izzi Ramkissoon on his Asperity of Lace. Above is the electronic track, just to tease you! Sounds freaking crazy right?! That’s what we thought too…we were like, how the fuck are we gonna do this?! But Izzi helped us along, and this music transformed from an unknown abyss into a landscape of expressive freedom for the performers. Sugar Vendil will be on piano and Isabel Kim on clarinet. And Izzi will be in front of his laptop, setting off the track and a video that will respond to Isabel’s sound.
What was your source of inspiration when you wrote The Asperity of Lace?
The inspiration for The Asperity of Lace came from the news stories about the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. The motivation for the piece came from wanting to open a musical dialog about the situation and natural disasters in general.
A lot of young composers in New York (perhaps elsewhere) seem to be torn between being defined as a ‘classical composer’ and writing music that sounds sort of like pop or electronic music, genres that have master artists in their own right. Has this been a struggle for you at all? Why or why not? If so, how do you deal?
Not really. I don’t define myself as a “classical” composer. One can possibly think of what I do as “organizing sound”, “sound composition”, or producing expressive musical content with electronics and acoustic instruments. Furthermore, I have my own expectations. If I bring any type of influence into my music it is because I have respect for the craft. I try not to underestimate my audience with water down versions of music that doesn’t genuinely come from myself. I believe it is my responsibility to give audiences the kind of music that comes out of my own experiences and hopefully it has some relation within the context of their own lives.
What qualities do you seek in a performer?
I run a series of workshops with my large ensemble called the Electric Eel Multimedia Ensemble. In these workshops I discuss my approach to modern electro acoustic performance. I expect various skills from my performers ranging from classical reading to jazz improvisation, process and philosophy to performing with electronics. I tend to pull from a mixed background of skills because I studied and experienced many distinct approaches to music. I hope that one day performers can have all of these musical skills under one umbrella.
Which composers do you look to the most for inspiration, or which composers have had the most significant impact on how you think about/write music?
Karlheinz Stockhausen, John Cage, Alvin Curran, Morton Subotnick, Earl Brown, Ludwig van Beethoven, Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, Atari Teenage Riot, Squarepusher, Bjork, Kraftwerk, etc..
Massive Attack (Heligoland), DJ Udachi, Merzbow, Penderecki: String Quartet No. 1, Xenakis Concrete PH, Gil Scott-Heron (I’m new here), and Olivier Messiaen.
…And guess what? It’s us! On March 10 at Issue Project Room. If you are already excited about going, get tix here. Below is our first blog post for MATA, and we’ll have more coming up with composer interviews, insights from our designer Jonathan Cohen, y mas…but we’re not giving everything away! We do like to tease ;)
Via MATA’s Blog:
posted on February 10th, 2011
First of all, we’d really like to thank everyone at MATA. It definitely takes a group of open-minded and daring people, especially in [classical? art? concert?] music to support a project like this.
The Nouveau Classical Project is a concert series that connects fashion and music. For Amped/Electrified, designer Jonathan Cohen will style the musicians’ attire based on the music they perform. He has already started listening to the music and has a lot of great ideas brewing. Jonathan’s fashion presentation is this Friday, so stay tuned for photos of his show and an interview about Amped/Electrified on our blog!
In the spirit of MATA, we decided to program experimental and electro-acoustic works by composers who have a classical background but are breaking ground with unconventional approaches to music. So we searched and encountered a few speed bumps on the way, but it all came together. We got a hold of some great works that each have something unique to offer. Izzi Ramkissoon’s The Asperity of Lace asks musicians to improvise, compose something on their own, which is something that we think every musician should be able to do, but is instead something that most of us with a classical background find intimidating. (Maybe I’ll have a Jameson before performing that one.) Ananta (New York Premiere) by Ryan Manchester puts us in a calm, meditative yet focused state, while Jay Wadley’s textural and strangely beautiful Things My Father Never Told Me (World Premiere) expresses the anxiety and self doubt many of us experience. And then there’s Danielle Schwob’sMehr Licht, whose sound literally reveals ‘more light,’ and Trevor Gureckis’s arrangement of Aphex Twin’s Cliffs. APHEX TWIN. Enough said there.
Admittedly, we haven’t programmed but one work with tape in the past, but we knew that being part of MATA means embracing innovation and looking beyond what we had already done thus far. We hope that this comes across in both the music and our approach to the classical (for lack of a better word) concert, and we are thankful for being involved with an organization that pushes us to push boundaries and be open.
We’ve got more things to say on what we do and why we do it, plus artist interviews. Keep up with us on Twitter: @ncp to get updates on new posts and photos!