Interview with Composer Adam Borecki

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Adam Borecki is a Los Angeles-based composer of eclectic, playful music.  We’re excited to include his solo guitar piece Unfold (2014), performed by Christopher Wilke, on our Season Two opening concert on January 21st at Rohs Street Café.

CSB: To what extent do you see location affecting your work?

AB: Location plays a huge role in the development of a composition. I grew up in Medford, a medium-sized town in Oregon, but after undergrad and masters in Orange, Orange County and Los Angeles respectively, I’ve been in southern California for about 8 or 9 years now.

Living in a huge city with so much music available has absolutely shaped the way that I listen to music and how I compose music. I think that every composer has to find where they fit in. For me, I’ve become interested with how my music fits in (or stands out) from the music surrounding it in the community.

CSB: What are your impressions of the arts scene in Los Angeles?  How have the various places you have lived over the years impacted your music?

AB: The arts scene in Los Angeles is outstanding. I could spend all day talking about the different organizations and groups, large and small.

The city has a long history with contemporary classical music. Presenters like Piano Spheres, Jacaranda, Green Umbrella, and Monday Evening Concerts have pushed the boundaries of music for decades and decades (with premieres by Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Boulez, and many more).

Yet it’s also home to countless new series: Tuesdays @ Monk Space presents a variety of cutting edge new music in a small brick warehouse that used to be a speakeasy. WasteLAnd challenges its listeners with avant-garde and experimental music. The Industry presents experimental opera, from “Invisible Cities” which was experienced live on headphones through Union Station to “Hopscotch”, which was performed in cars across the entire city.

I currently work as a recording engineer, so I experience plenty of concerts every month. That includes anything from solo piano recitals (in which works were written two centuries ago) to composition recitals (in which works were written two days ago). Nowadays, when I sit down to compose, I’m very concerned with what I can bring to a concert that you can’t get anywhere else. For example, in the work you’ll hear tonight, I designed a somewhat unique tuning for the guitar. I also ask the guitar to play with extremely specific techniques (precise hand positions to create exact timbres) that go beyond standard guitar performance.

CSB: Could you tell us a little more about the piece we’ll be presenting?  What compelled you to write it?  

AB: I am fascinated by intonation, which is the primary factor behind “Unfold”.

Generally speaking, tuning for any instrument usually involves compromises: Standard guitar tuning (“equal temperament”) is not really ‘perfect’ for anything, but ‘pretty good’ for most everything. But I ask the guitarist to re-tuned microtonally (in this case, to the “harmonic series” of the note D), and I write music that exaggerates the differences between equal temperament and the microtonal tuning. Musical passages are written to juxtapose the extremes: either sounding very ‘pure’ or emphasizing the ‘crunch’ & dissonance.

Although I enjoy experimenting with timbre and intonation, I always incorporate some “traditional” elements of composition. You’ll hear motivic development as themes repeat and develop over time. The reason this piece is called “Unfold” is because I started composing it with a single theme (a phrase of harmonics) which you only hear once in its entirety, at the very end. The movement of the piece towards the final exposure of the theme is like the process of unfolding different variations to get to the finale.

CSB: What is your relationship with the guitar? Did that relationship affect the way the piece was conceived? 

AB: As a performer of classical guitar, I have a pretty intimate understanding of standard techniques and fingerings. I composed most of this piece with my guitar in hand, but several sections I specifically got away from the instrument to write the notes in my mind, not the notes in my fingers.

Nowadays, I perform primarily guitar for outreach concerts (elementary schools, hospitals, libraries, etc.) with the Kaleidoscope Trio or as solo background music for private events. That means that my technique isn’t perfect; I constantly revised this piece while writing to make it fit my fingers. I have tons of respect & gratitude for concert guitarists like Christopher Wilke to make this music like this come to life. Thank you!

CSB: What lead you to explore microtonal elements in this piece? 

AB: Quite simply, I love the way it sounds! I’ve heard microtonal music on guitars before, and I thought to myself: “I want to do that”.

CityBeat Features Soundbox in 2017 Preview

Cincinnati CityBeat included an endorsement of our second season in their most recent issue, out today.  Anne Arenstein writes,

“I haven’t made it to any of Cincinnati Soundbox’s performances, but its series starting in January gives me no excuses. Now in its second season, Soundbox is a chamber music series that presents music by living composers with no boundaries as far as style or genre. Noteworthy among Soundbox’s subsequent concerts is its New Concerto Project, which premieres four works for soloists and orchestra — all four are by women who have taken part in previous Soundbox programming. It occurs on May 2 at Covington’s Leapin’ Lizard Events Space.”


January Soundbox

Happy New Year!  We’re excited to present our first concert of the season in a few weeks, featuring the premieres four new works for guitar from composers based in Southern California (San Diego, Los Angeles) and Cincinnati.  Interviews with the composers will be posted soon!


New Concerto Project Announcement

Cincinnati Soundbox‘s big event this year is the New Concerto Project.  We’ll be presenting the premieres of new concerti by four rising composers – Stephanie Ann Boyd, Laura Harrison, Cristina Spinei, and Rachel C. Walker – who have been a part of Soundbox programs over the past two years. Grant support from ArtsWave and Women’s Philharmonic Advocacy played a major role in helping to make the concert possible.



Interview with Composer Turkar Gasimzada

Azerbaijani composer Turkar Gasimzada writes ornately detailed, intimate works that captivate the ear.  We’re delighted to feature his solo piano work vu’cumpra’ (2010), as performed by Kristofer Rucinski, on our Season One closing concert on May 5th at the Hoffner Lodge.

CSB: Could you tell us a little about your compositional process?

TG: For me there is a very tiny little room between nothing and something and the beauty is kept in there. I search for a key to that room, I go for that charming moment of magic in music. Poems also do play a role in being a source of inspiration and motivation for my compositions. I tend not to leave the room as in this poem by Joseph Brodsky (English translation is below):

Don’t leave the room, don’t make the mistake and run.
If you smoke Shipkas, why do you need Suns?
Things are silly out there, especially the happy clucks.
Just go to the john, and come right back.

Oh, don’t leave the room, don’t ring for a car.
Because space consists of a corridor
And ends with a counter. And should a floozy slip in,
Flashing her teeth, make her scram without stripping.

Don’t leave the room, feign that you’ve caught a chill.
What could be more fun than four walls and a chair?
Why leave this place only to come back late in
The evening same as you were, moreover, mutilated?

Oh, don’t leave the room. Dance the bossa nova
In shoes but no socks, a coat over your naked bod.
The hallway reeks of ski wax and cabbage.
You wrote a lot of letters: one more would be too much.

Don’t leave the room. Oh, just let the room imagine
What you look like. And generally, incognito
Ergo sum, as form was told in anger by substance.
Don’t leave the room! Methinks out there it ain’t France.

Don’t be a fool! Don’t be like the others.
Don’t leave the room! I.e., let the furniture have its druthers,
Blend in with the wallpaper. Lock up and let the armoire
Keep chronos, cosmos, eros, race, and virus from getting in the door.

CSB: How does the performer you are writing influence the music you write?

TG: I am fond of writing music for the performer I know personally. It is kind of sharing a part of your personality with someone. I do think of a specific person when I write a certain piece. I would not be true to myself if I said I thought too much of one’s performance skills or had any kind of aesthetic expectations. I write the music I need to write, however, I do think of a person, his character that I know and try to listen to the stuff I have written pretending I have their ears.
CSB: What influence does location have on you? How did your years in Cincinnati influence your composition?

TG: I did my MM degree in Manhattan School of Music in New York before I came to Cincinnati for my doctorate. In New York the tempo was very fast; I felt that I needed to be in an ascetic place where I could give myself more time to compose, and Cincinnati was just the right place for that reason. Currently, I am in Baku, Azerbaijan but I do remember my times in Cincy, when I felt I would use to come back from the library very late, let’s say at 4 am, and watch how deer wandered around me.

I met a number of great performers and composers in Cincinnati and I am very thankful for this experience.

CSB: Who are some other local composers you admire? What would go on Cincinnati new music playlist?

One of the most influential composers in University of Cincinnati was and still is Mara Helmuth, with whom I studied with during my years in Cincinnati. I would like to specifically draw attention to her pieces Butterfly mirrors and Water birds.

Here is a playlist (in a random order) of Cincinnati composers I admire :

CSB: What new projects are on your radar?

I’m currently completing a project that took me two years to complete – “19 fragile constructions” for prepared santoor, percussion and electronics. I am also working on a piece for solo flute based on Samuel Beckett’s shortest work, “Breath”.


Interview with Composer Juraj Kojs


Juraj Kojs is a Slovakian composer now based in Miami.  His work “reaches to the areas of music at the threshold of hearing, action-based acoustic and electroacoustic music, cyberinstruments created with physical modeling synthesis, tactile music, native instruments from central Europe, contemporary concert music, dance music, interactive audio-visual performance, muscle-powered multimedia, music with everyday objects and toys and graphic notation.”  Pianist Ivan Moscotta will perform his adventurous piano suite VIII on this Thursday’s concert.

CSB: Could you tell us a little more about the piece we’ll be presenting?  What compelled you to write it?  

JK: VIII is an exploration of physical performative actions that expand the vocabulary of typical piano playing. The piano is considered as a sounding object. Each of these short pieces explores a particular physical area on the instrument or a particular performance mode. All these actions and sounds are, in fact, a part of the piano’s vocabulary! Why not reveal their beauty? The collection is intended to be whimsical and fun. Hope Ivan enjoys performing it.

VIII belongs to a group of action music pieces, that were all jointly released recently on Pink Pamphlet as an audio-visual project: Action Music.

CSB: How do you want audiences to approach this work?  

In the literal sense, they are welcome to gather around the piano and experience the piece up-close (if your program and venue allow it). They will enjoy following Ivan in the performance. There are many small sounds that get through better when the listener is closer to the source. Additionally, moving in the space will enable the audience to choose (and switch) their listening locations.

In the sense of the music itself, the piece builds on the experimental investigations of J. Cage, M. Kagel and the Fluxus artists.

CSB: What is your personal connection to the Fluxus movement?  What elements of it did you seek to incorporate into this piece?

JK: Ha! VIII is indeed much connected to Fluxus. I find their work delightful. Absurdity is part of musical expression, and they just explored it quite well. Humor in music can be powerful, seriously!

CSB: What are your impressions of the arts scene in Miami?  How have the various places you have lived over the years impacted your music?

JK: The art scene is quite developed; the experimental music scene has been on a rise. Through my Foundation for Emerging Technologies and Arts, we program new acoustic and electroacoustic music as well as multimedia works, organize the Prize in Sound Art, produce concerts for little kids in Miami Children’s Museum. Check out

Also, there was a nice article about FETA and our efforts in town published recently here.

The (now-becoming) tropical climate and its exoticism (primarily in nature) fascinates and inspires me. I am not sure whether it’s audible: perhaps my music has relaxed a bit in the past couple of years? :)

CSB: Who are other artists and composers whose work inspires and interests you?  Are there specific works you could point our readers to?  

JK: My musical interests span from big virtuoso post-romantic music to experimental to electroacoustic to multimedia to dance music (yes, that’s correct! There is a dance hit in the kitchen).

The music that might relate to VIII would include M. Kagel (say Pas de Cinq and Acustica) and also Lachenmann’s string quartets (in terms of the expansion of the instrument and enabling various hidden sounds to emanate), Sciarrino’s flute music (in terms of exploration of noisy/residual sonorities on the instrument) and of course the Fluxus pieces such as those by George Brecht, Robert Bozzi and George Maciunas.  (There is a wonderful compilation of Fluxus pieces available for a free download here).

As I mentioned before, VIII comes from a collection of action music pieces. Action Music DVD can be found here.

In particular, check out this one: Adventures of an Annihilated Mirror.

And one more fun: Music for the Music Stands, a percussion quartet.

Interview with Composer Huijuan Ling

Huijuan Ling is a Cincinnati composer who writes music that radiates with frenetic energy and vibrant colors.  Soprano Jackie Stevens, flautist Kenneth Cox, and pianist Ivan Moscotta will give the world premiere of her song cycle Palindrome (2015/16) on our February 4th concert.

CSB: Could you tell us a little about the poetry you’ve chosen for this work?  What compelled you to set it?

HL: The poem I chose is Hiking [by Kendall A.]. I think my program note explained the reason why well:

I first saw Hiking on poet Kendall A.’s Facebook page in April 2015. Amazingly, I couldn’t stop thinking of it after nearly half a year and, for this reason, I knew I had to set it. This piece is written for her: my neighbor, my landlord, my friend.

Maybe this comes across as a bit gushing, but, yes, it’s the truth…!

CSB: What is the relationship between the two movements in this work?

HL: The second movement is more like an echo or reflection of the first movement. It captures only one line, which is the most important scene in the whole poem: Finally, you see the vista with all understanding laid out around you. In comparison to the first movement [a full setting of the poem], it’s more introspective. The last sonority in the first movement is also the first chord in the second movement; likewise, the second movement ends with the beginning of the first movement. For this reason, I named the piece Palindrome.

CSB: What role does narrative play in these songs and in your work in general?

HL: My motivation behind picking Hiking was largely because I felt such a strong sense of imagery when I first read the poem. As a result, the first movement [Hiking] is more narrative than the second [Gnikih]. Gnikih is based on one frozen picture and the mood in that exact period of time.

In my music in general, the way I usually work is by coming up with an idea, effect, or event that I feel is interesting, and then try to find the sound to go along with it. So sometimes my works can be fairly narrative in nature, if my inspiration for that work happens to come from an event or story.

CSB: What led you to come to Cincinnati? Could you tell us a little about your experiences here as a composer and member of the artistic community?

HL: I was planning to enter grad school in China in summer 2014, but then something unexpected happened: there was an opening for one more visiting student from Shanghai to go abroad that year. My school had no idea who was available and so I got a phone call one night asking if I would be interested. Thanks to Dr. Roig-Francoli, I ended up here.

The artistic community here is really friendly! My musical activities began with student composer concerts, with performances of works on the [College-Conservatory of Music] series A View From the Edge and other events like the annual 24-hour Composers’ Challenge. The first regional event I participated in was the 2015 Composers’ Midwest Symposium at Indiana University, where I performed in the premiere of the first movement of my work, Hiking. This encouraged me to begin seeking broader opportunities. My new erhu and marimba piece Trigger (2016) will be featured together with Rachel Walker’s new work Windows, Willows (2016) on the Wood/Silk Project: A Collaboration of Chinese and American Music and Musicians concert in Cincinnati in February at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.
CSB: Who are other Cincinnati artists and composers whose work inspires and interests you? Are there specific works you could point our readers to?

HL: The work of my peers as well as the composition faculty at CCM always interests and inspires me! You always have a lot of access to great new music. For a specific piece, I’d like to name Jennifer Jolley’s Flight 710 to Cabo San Lucas from the last Cincinnati Soundbox concert. I still have it stuck in my head sometimes!