Photos from Parallels (Warsaw Edition)

Warsaw composers, left to right: Julia, Aleksandra, Żaneta
Dress rehearsal of Rachel C. Walker’s My shadow forms a resonant shell
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Interview with Composer Andy Villemez

Dr. Andy Villemez is a composer, educator, and performer based in Cincinnati, OH where he teaches piano and piano pedagogy at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM). As a composer and arranger, his works have been praised for having their variety in style, affect, and level. His piece, CH, CO, US will be performed on our upcoming Solo Soundbox by pianist Kara Huber.


CSB: Could you tell us a little about your musical activities?

AV: For my day job, I serve as Assistant Professor of Piano and Piano Pedagogy at CCM where I get to coach amazing pianists on how to be effective and memorable teachers. While “CH, CO, US” is an exception, most of my other composing is primarily for educational purposes. I love being able to write pieces that have lasting value and contribute to a musician’s growth. I’m currently working on writing a keyboard musicianship textbook that has quite a lot of original pieces, arrangements, and sequenced instruction. On the concert side, I also have a commission to write a fantasy for solo piano based on themes from West Side Story set to be premiered in the Spring of 2020.

CSB: When did you first start collaborating with Kara? How have your collaborations evolved over time?

AV: I’ve known Kara for almost ten years since we started our masters program at the same time. Our first collaboration resulted in an arrangement of The Sound of Music for solo piano, as well as a few preludes from a larger collection called Book of Odes. As I look back on all the collaborations, I think both of us have gotten a lot better at showcasing the strengths of the other. Kara has a good idea of what my thought process usually is and what aspects of the music I give priority to.

CSB: Describe the work being premiered on this concert. What was the compositional process for it like?

AV: As I would describe it, “CH, CO, US” is a three-part character piece that tells a simple story about feelings of safety and home while also evoking imagery of the sharp, younger peaks of the mountains in southwest Colorado. One of the guiding points I had while writing this was that in moments where we feel lost, we realize later in life there was a purpose to the journey. In the compositional process, I had to find something that sounded “lost” without also losing the audience. I also spent quite a bit time crafting the “mountain peak” harmonies that dominate the middle section.

CSB: How do you feel your background as a pianist influences your compositional thinking for the instrument?

AV: Although it’s not always possible, I try to foster musical ideas away from the piano as much as possible. My technique usually plays a hidden but significant role in the development of a piece. Often times that can be freeing, and other times it is restricting. No composer wants to be limited by their physical capabilities on an instrument. The balance of time I spend on or off the piano is still something I’m working on. However, my background in piano helped me conceptualize a lot of the sonorities before they were on paper. I had a good idea what was possible and what was risky.

CSB: What upcoming projects are on your radar?

AV:
I’ll be spending the summer writing and composing for a textbook I’m developing, and I have one other commission set to be premiered next spring.

CSB: How has your collaboration with Kara developed over the years?

AV: I’ve known Kara for almost ten years since we started our masters program at the same time. Our first collaboration resulted in an arrangement of The Sound of Music for solo piano, as well as a few preludes from a larger collection called Book of Odes. As I look back on all the collaborations, I think both of us have gotten a lot better at showcasing the strengths of the other. Kara has a good idea of what my thought process usually is and what aspects of the music I give priority to.

CSB: Describe the work being premiered on this concert. What was the compositional process for it like?

AV: As I would describe it, “CH, CO, US” is a three-part character piece that tells a simple story about feelings of safety and home while also evoking imagery of the sharp, younger peaks of the mountains in southwest Colorado. One of the guiding points I had while writing this was that in moments where we feel lost, we realize later in life there was a purpose to the journey. In the compositional process, I had to find something that sounded “lost” without also losing the audience. I also spent quite a bit time crafting the “mountain peak” harmonies that dominate the middle section.

CSB: How do you feel your background as a pianist influences your compositional thinking for the instrument?

AV: Although it’s not always possible, I try to foster musical ideas away from the piano as much as possible. My technique usually plays a hidden but significant role in the development of a piece. Often times that can be freeing, and other times it is restricting. No composer wants to be limited by their physical capabilities on an instrument. The balance of time I spend on or off the piano is still something I’m working on. However, my background in piano helped me conceptualize a lot of the sonorities before they were on paper. I had a good idea what was possible and what was risky.

CSB: What upcoming projects are on your radar?

AV:
I’ll be spending the summer writing and composing for a textbook I’m developing, and I have one other commission set to be premiered next spring.

Interview with Phillip Golub, Composer

Composer and Jazz pianist Phillip Golub writes playful music taking into account elements of real-time decision-making, melody, and improvisation. He is based between New York City and Boston. Catch the premiere of his latest work, Twenty-Five Short Piano Pieces, Part One, on our upcoming Solo Soundbox concert featuring pianist Kara Huber.


CSB: Could you tell us a little about your musical activities?

PG: Well, they are varied! I am a pianist and improviser, and I play in a number of different kinds of groups. I do things that one might sometimes call “free improvisation” or “experimental jazz” or “avant-garde jazz”, and other things that you might just call “jazz” without qualification, but I don’t usually think of there being such a divide. I really just play with my friends and usually the contexts in which we have met go on to inform what music we make. I am writing for those contexts but also writing for contexts such as this concert, where there is more of a clear distinction between composer and performer and I am more solely responsible for the vision of the piece, which is to be realized by a performer other than myself. This, from my perspective, is what constitutes the main difference between the historically African-American and historically Euro-American modes of music making that I am a part of.

CSB: Describe the work being premiered on this concert. What was the compositional process for it like?

PG: It is a set of seven short piano pieces. Each is repetitive and much of material and ideas are shared between them. They are meant to take the listener on a surprising yet coherent journey, with each movement still being able to stand on its own as well. They are conceived in a sort of song form; there is a kind of AABABA like structure (or similar) in some of them, until that begins to break down. They began as exercises in a certain kind of harmonic thinking pioneered/theorized by jazz composer/theorist George Russell called the Lydian Chromatic Concept. I wrote the seven pieces over the course of an entire year, first three, then another, then two more, then the last one (which is a mashup of the first six). It is quite a loose application of the “concept”, but the pieces could not exist without it. The pieces also all concern themselves multiple simultaneous lines and with an extreme variety of long and short notes. They are not in the slightest easy to play and I want to thank Kara for taking on the challenge!

CSB: How do you feel your background in jazz influences your compositional thinking?

PG: It’s a question I will be answering all my life both for other people and myself, but, frankly, I don’t have the clearest answer. I know things about music, about the world, about how people can listen, and so on, from my experiences with jazz that I cannot unlearn and that are an essential part of who I am as a listener and artist. My pieces often have some kind of improvisation, or at least on the spot musical decision making built into them, but not all of them do—these seven pieces don’t really feature that sort of thing. Ultimately, I think the best answer I can give, is that I know about a range of things that are musically possible that a lack of experience in jazz would make someone unaware of. It is an awareness of those things that may influence my compositional thinking.

CSB: What upcoming projects are on your radar?

PG: I’m writing a trio for flute/alto flute, violin/viola, and bassoon. It will explore clearly differentiated kinds of music which will also be separated in space; i.e. the performers will travel around the space to different “stations” to play the varying types of music. It will be an experiment in musical simultaneity, and something quite new for me. But it is also a listening challenge to the players, because there is a complex set of rules that govern when they can go where according to what other people are playing. They have to make many, many real-time choices and they also are asked to improvise in small spurts all over the score.

Photos from Parallels

A standing-room-only concert of all new works! Thank you to everyone who came out to support new music, and to Jill Jantzen, 4-Way, and Salon 21 for collaborating with us on this event. (The program will be repeated in Warsaw on March 17!)

CSB Co-Artistic Director & composer Laura Harrison, pictured after the concert with Jill Jantzen and 4-Way Quartet

Parallels in Movers & Makers

Movers & Makers Cincinnati featured Parallels as a top event for this coming week. Read more here.

Cincinnati Soundbox and Salon 21 | 650 Walnut St., Cincinnati, OH 45202; 513-621-2787 (ARTS)

Wednesday, Feb. 6, 7 p.m.: “Parallels”

Soundbox is dedicated to new music, Salon 21 to piano performances in intimate, nontraditional settings. So how about a piano performance of new music from Poland and the U.S. in an intimate, nontraditional setting? Sounds like the cue for a collaboration, doesn’t it? The result, “Parallels,” includes works for string quintet by Żaneta Rydzewska, Aleksandra Chmielewska, Julia Seeholzer, Laura Harrison and Rachel C. Walker. Jill Jantzen, Salon 21 artistic director, joins the Cincinnati-based 4-Way Quartet (one supposes they head to the chili parlor after rehearsals) at the Aronoff Center’s Weston Art Gallery.
Pictured: Jill Jantzen and 4-Way warming up for tonight’s concert

Interview with Composer Żaneta Rydzewska (Parallels)

Żaneta Rydzewska is a Polish composer now living in Köln and Warsaw. Her ornate, dramatic works have been performed across Europe, taking into account listener perception through the melding of sound, light, and scent. We are excited to present the world premiere of her Piano Quintet as part of Parallels.

Parallels takes place tonight at 7 PM at the Aranoff Center’s Weston Art Gallery in collaboration with Salon 21, pianist Jill Jantzen, and the 4-Way String Quartet.


CSB: Could you tell us a little about your activities as a composer?

ŻR: I am interested in instrumental new music as well as electronic music; in the last two years, I have used lot of electronics in my pieces. I really love writing chamber music and orchestral music and am also working on music for theatre.

Last week, I was working with Ensemble Musikfabrik on my piece sit back and relax for piano, double bass, percussion, live electronics and light. Now, I am looking forward to this concert in Cincinnati with the amazing musicians playing my Piano Quintet.

CSB: Describe the work being premiered on this concert.

ŻR: Piano Quintet is very important for me. I wrote the piece with my mind full of memories of my composition professor, who died a few months ago. My work on the musical material during the formation of the quintet was previously determined and strictly mathematical. In the piece, I also employ a harmonic technique which I call “central tones”. For example, I often use f sharp as a central tone, and then add other pitches which are close to it: for example, f quarter tones, f natural.

CSB: What are you hoping audiences will experience during the piece?

ŻR: In Piano Quintet, I tried to present my vision of emptiness. In last part of the piece, I think it should be audible. I tried to show both a helplessness and a process of accepting reality.

CSB: You are splitting your time between Poland and Germany at the moment. How would you compare the scenes for contemporary music in those two places?

ŻR: I think that it is a hard task to compare these both scenes. It is always changing. But in Poland, I can observe a clear division between contemporary music centers: the traditional and the experimental.

CSB: What upcoming projects are on your radar?

ŻR: At the moment I am writing a piece for my graduate studies in Cologne for Ensemble Musikfabrik and a piece for large orchestra for my graduate studies in Warsaw.