Mackenzie Jacob LaMont is a composer and percussionist who earned his DMA in composition from the University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music. He is an active composer, performer, music educator, and owner/operator of a small music recording company. His latest piece, Snow, not ash will be premiered by clarinetist Andrea Vos-Rochefort on our April 11 Solo Soundbox Concert in collaboration with 21c Museum Hotel.
CSB: Could you tell us a little about your work as a composer?
MJL: Since 2015, my works have mainly been divided into two categories: pieces that are essentially a fusion between minimalism and progressive rock, and pieces that are inspired by nature. The first category is great for abstract musical ideas, but can also be a vehicle for addressing various topics. There is a big difference between my twenty-minute, politically-charged wind ensemble piece, Not About Posies and my six-minute jam, Gristle, but if you take them apart they share a lot of the same musical DNA. My nature pieces are completely different, coming from a very emotional place. I did a bit of traveling around the U.S. from 2014-2017, and seeing the geographical changes from the East coast to Wyoming (sorry West-coasters, maybe soon) reawakened this deep appreciation I have for the natural world, as well as fears I have associated with climate change. Both ways of composing are very intuitive for me, and I’m starting to see it as a kind of left-brain/right-brain situation. There has been some cross-pollination in certain pieces as well.
CSB: What is the background to your piece for this concert, Snow, not ash?
MJL: Snow, not ash is a reaction to where I currently live. Our house, surrounded by steel plants and coke processing centers (coke is basically a form of coal for processing iron), is occasionally inundated with falling ash. While composing, I can sometimes see this ash floating down outside my window. In winter it is a relief to see falling snow instead of ash. Listeners can take the title as a symbol of hope, a poetic statement, or simply the situation in which the piece was composed. It definitely fits into my “nature” category.
CSB: How have you seen the environment for new music in Cincinnati change throughout your time here?
MJL: In 2012, when I first came to Cincinnati, the only new music event I was aware of outside the University of Cincinnati was the MusicNOW festival. Since then, various organizations and venues other than the symphony have stood out as centers of new music. In those six years, social media has turned into even more of a marketing tool than it was, allowing very small organizations and even individual performers and composers to reach more and more people. While it still requires hard work, well-advertised new music events in Cincinnati always seem to draw a crowd.
CSB: What are some of the upcoming projects and performances on your radar?
MJL: The week after this Cincinnati Soundbox concert, I have a trio for alto saxophone, bass trombone, and accordion being premiered at Butler University in Indianapolis. I enjoy commissions for odd instrumentations, but this one might have the trickiest yet! I’m currently working on a few recording projects, and I’m pursuing a few commissions for the summer.