Sept 23, 2011
In addition to hearing us play cool music by young composers, we thought you might like to hear in their own words what some of these composers are thinking about these days in terms of music, composing, and life in general. In the first of a series, we sat down with Daniel Wohl, a founder of TRANSIT and a composer who has written numerous works for the group. Here’s what he had to say:
ComposerViews (CV): Daniel, thank you so much for agreeing to take part in TRANSIT’s first ever composer-view! As a founding member of TRANSIT, you know that the ensemble puts a heavy emphasis on advocating for young composers, so it’s hard to imagine a better place to start than an interview with you!
On May 28, 2011, the TRANSIT DoubleBill Series featured ‘Pixelated,’ a work you composed for piano/percussion duo and electronics. Could you share with us a little bit about where the inspiration came from for this particular work?
DANIEL WOHL (DW): This piece started as an idea for a particular sound and texture. The thought of having a very blended sound between the toy piano, the piano and the glockenspiel appealed to me a lot. Also, having a tightly choreographed piece of music in which the electronics and the acoustic instruments merge completely is often at the center of the music I make.
CV: TRANSIT has had the pleasure of working on a number of commissions with you over the last several years. Almost all of these works have involved electronics. Can you share a little bit about how important electronic elements are in your compositional process and how you go about creating the electronic sounds that you use in your work?
DW: The use of electronics implies an unlimited wealth of new timbral possibilities, and is as such a great creative starting point for me. Much of my material comes from the instruments themselves – for instance in ‘Pixelated’ – I manipulated samples of the piano pedals, the resonance of a glockenspiel note, or the key clicks from the toy piano.
CV: As a Brooklyn-based collective, TRANSIT has been inspired by both the musical history of and current developments in the new music scene in New York City. As a Paris-born composer who studied in the USA before moving to New York, can you discuss what (if any) affect New York City has had on your compositional life?
DW: New York City has been hugely influential in my life. I more or less spent all my twenties under its influence in some way or another. But this city is an incredibly diverse place where vastly different styles can coexist. Probably the most influential aspect of this city has been its “do it yourself” attitude; many of us here are working out new paradigms both musically and professionally, and that’s been very inspiring.
CV: The TRANSIT DoubleBill Series presents the work of emerging composers from around the world alongside new works from young composers in New York. From the outset, you have had a hand in curating this series. Why is it important to you as a young composer to be involved with presenting a series?
DW: I think what is most gratifying for me is the act of giving back to the community in some way. Being a composer is a solitary endeavor for much of the time, and it’s nice to be able to step out of yourself and put together an event that helps promote the music of people you admire.
CV: Do you think that the classical/new music model is shifting in a permanent fashion away from traditional venues and series and towards more home-grown events such as the DoubleBill Series?
DW: I hope not! I think traditional venues are still very interested in new music and will hopefully expand their programming in the years to come. I think the past season has shown that contemporary music events can still draw a large crowd. Home-grown events are and will continue to be an important way to get new voices out there, but I think that’s always been the case.
CV: Your most large-scale collaboration with TRANSIT to date has been Corps Exquis, the 35-minute multimedia electro-acoustic work that received its premiere at Galapagos Art Space last October. Do you have plans for further multimedia works in the future, and what lies ahead for the Corps Exquis project?
DW: Corps Exquis has a big show coming up presented by Harvestworks on July 3rd, which I’m very excited about! An album of this music is in the works and many more appearances in New York and elsewhere. I’m very excited about this multi-media project, and it’s been a lot of fun working and with thses visual artists.
CV: Finally, we know that you are in high demand aside from your work with TRANSIT. What other projects are you working on currently that you’re really excited about?
CV: Thanks so much for your cyber time, Daniel! See you in the TRANSIT-verse sometime very soon!
Dear readers– Keep checking back with transitnewmusic.com for more composer interviews in the future!
In the meantime, you can find out more about Daniel Wohl here:
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