Im Januar tourt Studio musikFabrik nicht nur durch Südostasien sondern steht dort auch gemeinsam mit jungen asiatischen Musikern auf der Bühne
Peter Veale spricht in diesem Interview (auf Englisch) mit Ruth Rodrigues, einer der Organisatorinnen aus Singapur, über seine Erfahrungen als Musiker, Autor und Dirigent und den Prozess, ein Asiatisches Jugendenesemble für Neue Musik zu gründen.
Ruth Rodrigues: You are dedicating this concert to several World and Asian premieres. What motifs and thoughts guided you when planning the program?
The idea is to offer the audience a broad range of style. This diversity comes naturally when, as we will hear tonight, each of the four composers have a different cultural background and come from four different countries. I also believe that it is a wonderful and rewarding experience for the young musicians to be part of a world premiere and to be actively involved in the creation of a work from their time.
This concert places a lot of emphasis on Asian performers and composers, as well as young musicians. What their importance within this project?
One of the major goals for our youth ensemble Studio musikFabrik is to inspire other countries to form similar ensembles. We have found this particular age group (16-21) to be an ideal one for exposing young musicians to contemporary music. This knowledge and inspiration will help later in their education where they may be confronted with colleagues and audiences who are less receptive to challenging music. We hope that this project will also create contact between young composers and young musicians, and hopefully to a permanent and active Asian contemporary music youth ensemble.
You are a champion of contemporary music with more than 50 works written for you to date. What are your first impressions when you receive a composer’s new piece? How do you address the question of interpretation as a conductor when you are working with a living composer?
When I receive a new piece, I first try to musically comprehend it. At this point I am usually in close contact with the composer. If I feel I have been able to grasp the music, I then work on the technical demands. When working with composers as a conductor, I find that almost without exception that they are willing to be flexible about modifications or other alterations provided they sense that the piece has been taken seriously and that their aims and feelings have been understood.
What were some of the challenges involved in preparing for this concert?
One of the main challenges was the logistics. I travelled to all three countries in Asia in October to pre-rehearse the various ensembles and to meet the players. Naturally the pieces that involve all of the ensembles could not be rehearsed in their entirety until the end of December in Singapore. It was also an interesting experience to rehearse a piece in Kuala Lumpur with the composer connected to us via Skype!
What do you think are the most important characteristics of a conductor who wants to conduct new music?
The attributes necessary for a classical conductor are almost identical to those for contemporary music: i.e. to have a good ear, to have a clear musical plan and strategy for the entire work etc. It is important of course to be rhythmically very stable, and to sometimes be creative as to how to solve certain complex passages to make them more accessible. When conducting youth ensembles, one has to be a good psychologist; It is often preferable not to let them know how difficult a piece perhaps really is, but rather to give them encouragement and motivation for the challenge.
Working with so many different kinds of ensembles, you must also have some strong opinions on how to interact with different kinds of audiences. Do you present yourself and/or the music differently for a new music audience like the one we have tonight?
In general I believe there is no such thing as a specialized audience. It is however important to have an idea of how accustomed the audience is to the modern repertoire. It is often a good idea to have a pre-concert talk or an introduction between pieces to help facilitate an understanding and positive reception to this repertoire.
It is interesting that we have three Asian world premieres at this concert. However, there is a perception that there is not a lot of international interaction between the Asian new music scenes. What is so different about these three composers’ music that allows them to cross international borders so well? Do you find there is some unique quality or characteristic about their music that makes it more “international”?
The multinational and culturally diverse program reflects the differing cultural backgrounds of the composers whose works are being performed tonight. I think the Goethe Institute’s South East Asian composers’ competition has definitely helped the contemporary music scene to connect and I also hope that tonight’s concert and the formation of the Youth ensemble from Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok may help enable more collaboration across borders or indeed within cities. I think many schools could benefit through more collaboration in the Arts rather than competition.
You have played a leading role in promoting new music via your work with Ensemble musikFabrik and the Elision Ensemble. What do you think are some of the biggest successes and failures that the new music community has had in bringing the works of living composers to audiences? What do you hope to see more or less of in the future?
The so-called ‘new music community’ in Germany has expanded significantly during recent years to embrace a broader public. The biggest mistake in the past was to be too exclusive. There are now many education projects coupled with the idea of life-long learning. Ensemble musikFabrik’s new music is now communicated to the public on a more “normal” basis and has become significantly more accessible. It is wonderful to experience composers writing pieces for younger people and even for kids. This is a wonderful opportunity, along with crossover and intercultural projects, to give them a broader consciousness about music.
Ruth Rodrigues, is teaching music at Raffles Academy.