FG: You started your research for Intermezzi by meeting directly with each member of Ensemble Musikfabrik, asking us what we would like to contribute to the creation of this piece – how did you ‘take possession’ of all this material?
GA: It was a way of getting to know you all musically, getting to know each player’s interests. That saves me from writing a purely abstract piece where I take all the decisions on my own. That can happen too, but here I had the opportunity to meet you ! (laughs) Each musician brought something different: some wanted to sing, to speak, to push the instrument in a certain direction, sometimes with ‘extensions’ like the double-bell brass instruments – in short, it was a chance to get a feeling for everyone’s curiosity, and along the way…
FG:… extend the musician?
GA: That’s it – it’s really about musicians with extensions. My job is to re-invent you. First to forget you, then to re-invent you. It’s as if I had dreamt it all – what comes to me then are imaginary portraits, in all their different colours. In fact I have the feeling that the way you behave, not just with your instruments but also over coffee or at a restaurant, plays an enormous part, since I can see how one of you is a bit mischievous, another one is shy, there’s a lot to perceive. That’s also my style in staging my pieces: I watch a lot, I’m constantly taking note of things. Now that I have developed this great musical friendship for each one of you, that pushes me to make a piece which would not be the same had it not been for this process. I’m surprised myself by Intermezzi – its process surprises me.
FG: You mentioned a while ago that this piece is a turning point for you, a change in your working method?
GA: Yes, in fact that’s the idea of Intermezzi – interludes. This means that there is an enormous amount of material that ultimately has no allegiance, no role, no function, and no succession. The material is just waiting. I decided not to ‘build’ anything, not to impose any visible construction onto these different heterogeneous materials which all head off in different directions, but, on the contrary, to try to give in to this idea of interludes : in other words, a parenthesis that opens, inside which another parenthesis opens, then closes, and so on… This means that I have no ‘idea’, except perhaps the form: ultimately I have nothing else to ‘say’ other than to let you play, let you deliver these elements according to the impression that I have of each one of you. These things reappear in different positions, like a roundabout in motion – the audience discovers them each time in a different syntax.
FG: Are you ultimately directing the musicians’ bodies on stage?
GA: Directing each musician’s music, and then of course their bodies, connected to the production of the music. As the different elements return in different directions and contexts, the listener has to put their memory to work. Finally I don’t have anything precise to say – I digress, I open parentheses, I close them again, these are only interludes. From this comes the difficulty of hanging onto an underlying construction : maintaining the authenticity and independence of each fragment, and at the same time the piece has to be organic, there has to be one single body, one big body that breathes.
FG: How, in the end, did you imagine the engagement of the performers on stage during the performance, the energy that you envisaged in the piece ?
GA: I can’t give a complete answer to that question since I haven’t seen you play it ! I imagine that it will require an enormous amount of energy on your part but that I think you have. I wouldn’t have written a piece like this for an ensemble without energy (laughs). I’m not suicidal! That energy can have certain characteristics beyond the music itself which it might be interesting to show on stage. Are there some things to push further in performing with this energy ? Can we colour, exaggerate your style of performing on stage ? Should I say : everything is in the music and there’s nothing to see, or perhaps: how can we play with scenic and corporeal elements so that the material takes on a whole new aspect ?
FG: Something that interests me very much: once you’re alone at your desk, how do you bring yourself into the energy that you’re going to feel during the performance, before you’ve even seen us play ? How do you think that this energy is going to emerge?
GA: I saw the ensemble play a few years ago, at the award ceremony for the Mauricio Kagel Prize. They played a piece by Kagel, from his Windrose cycle. At that moment I saw them in that way that happens the first time that you see a group, when it prints a photo in your mind. Afterwards we met, I heard them play other music, other sounds, I also saw Rebecca Saunders working with you during the Campus phase where you invited both of us, which for me was very important : I could see other aspects of you that she requested, different things from what I had asked. We move in completely different directions.
From there all these elements piled up in my head, and to find my energy, I take advantage of the fact that I know you will transmit it. I’m always looking for coincidences – what is most interesting to me is where my problems meet what you have offered me.