In anticipation of our first concert, we recently spoke with composer Jennifer Jolley. Her piece Flight 710 to Cabo San Lucas will be performed by pianist Brianna Matzke, cellist Elizabeth Rice, and flautist Chia-Chen Feng.
CSB: You have long-standing ties with Cincinnati and the musical community here. To what extent has location impacted your work? What makes Cincinnati a special place for new music?
JJ: I think after living in a place for a while, characteristics about a place slowly seep into my music. So, a few years ago I wrote Double Concerto for Violin and Fiddle, probably because since I moved to Cincinnati, I’ve been exposed to more bluegrass music. I also have a string quartet I co-wrote with Tyler Niemeyer based on the Cincinnati Streetcar stops, so there is that.
Is Cincinnati a special place for new music? Yes, in that it has a rich tradition of premiering new works and at this place and time, there are a ton of great musicians in the area that are happy to perform new music.
CSB: The piece we’ll be presenting on November 13th, Flight 710 to Cabo San Lucas, was written in 2009. How do you feel your music has evolved in the years since?
JJ: I’d like to think I’m a better composer. I have the same approach with my concepts (think about what I want to say or express in my music and figure out a form to go with it), but I feel (and hope) that I execute my concepts better!
CSB: A lot of your music references pop culture – your new work for Quince on Pussy Riot, your Paula Dean opera, and your opera on the US housing bubble come to mind. Is that true of this piece as well?
JJ: Actually no. I just wanted to write a cool piece. Hopefully it doesn’t seem like I’m trying too hard.
CSB: What balance do you seek between structure and intuition?
I wouldn’t say it’s a balance: I seek structure first and always, and intuition is used to fill the gaps.
CSB: Who are some other living composers who inspire and challenge you?
JJ: As of late, the Bang on a Can collective—Julia Wolfe, Michael Gordon, and David Lang have been my go-to composers. Their music directly speaks to me and tell me it’s okay to write drone music. (Michael Gordon’s Rushes is what’s being played in my car at the moment.)
CSB: What new projects are coming up for you, this season and beyond?
JJ: I have a commission coming up for the Mason Middle School 6th grade band! It will be a fun challenge writing for them.