9 February 2017

Interview - Diana Cemeryte

Another week has flown by and I find myself with another interview for the blog. I have really enjoyed this particular process as I keep finding excuses to indulge myself in the music of composers I really admire. This interview is of course no exception. For those of you who are familiar with my blog, will know I have discussed Diana Cemeryte's work before, and have had more than positive things to say about it. For those curious, you can see me discussing Still by Diana here. 

When I initially discussed this interview with Diana, I had asked which piece should would like me to present alongside the article. She recommend I discuss her work Les essais c'est tout II (2016) for string quartet, percussion, and electronics. I was fortunate enough to witness the premiere firsthand in Jauna Muzika last year. I was struck by the sheer austerity and clarity of the work, despite its darker qualities. The metronomic pulsations combined with the mutterings from the electronics and the ensemble create a curious sense of spaciousness and impending urgency. The sensation is akin to watching the jittering activities at the microscopic level of a larger lifeform. The creature itself may be standing still, but at its most minute level, it is bustling with energy and anticipation. What I also find curious about Les essais c'est tout II is it appears to be one of the most overtly dramatic works by the composer. I always find moments like this, when a composer has a momentary shift from their 'typical' creations, and build something distinctly different but also distinctly them. It is a very pleasant moment indeed, and this work is a perfect example of this. I do hope it gets multiple performances in the near future. So before I move onto the interview portion, have a listen to Les essais c'est tout II on her soundcloud.

Labas Diana, thank you for allowing me to interview you for the blog. For those who did not see me talking about your music previously, could you briefly describe your work?
Labas Ben, thank you for your interest in my music. You know, I believe in power of not overloaded music  that is expressed with minimal number of gestures. My music must breathe, must have pauses and time to listen into it. This is perhaps (why) I mostly compose chamber music. Quite often I find inspiration in early music, especially in Gregorian chant. I sang personally Gregorian chant almost 10 years. So, this intimate relationship to that kind  of music inspired and guided me every time: 2001 I wrote Ave Maris Stella, oder zehn Minuten mit Organum for string quartet, 2006 -  a piece named O clemens, o pia.. for a clarinet and percussion, 2013 I initiated a project VIDI AQUAM: A Dialogue between Postmodern and Gregorian Chant  etc.

You have been living and working in Frankfurt for a significant amount of time now, I am curious to know what first led you to move to city first? And secondly how you feel the local scene and the national scene have influenced your work to date?
I always wanted to study in Germany. It’s a magic country for  musicians, isn’t it? So, I studied three years (of) musicology at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt. But the main reason, why I  left Lithuania (in 2001) was more simple – it was love.
Music trends in Lithuania were more or less influenced by the post romantic spirit at that time, so naturally I was fascinated at so different music landscape in Germany.  You could choose between various ways of music: K. Stockhausen, H. Lachenmann, W. Rihm etc.  You could attend concerts with amarvelous musicians and the most important thing at that time for me was – the contemporary music was truly played and performed live in concerts! Next important point was attending the Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik in Darmstadt. I did it twice in 2004 and 2006 and it was intensive learning and great experience for me. In two week I could meet and research in Darmstadt all the music streams and currents. And you get  such a dose, injection of contemporary music for the  entire year or probably even for the entire life. So, I really recommend it for young composers!
Back to your question, I think, I naturally pick some music elements or effects to my music vocabulary from the music, which I listen and appreciate in Germany. I also think, that I benefit from the both music landscapes – the Baltic and the western (I don’t want to say german).

I have been drawn to your music, mostly because of its honest depiction and dedication to form. It never feels complex, but you manage to portray complex ideas in such a manner that they can draw the listener in. How do you think you manage to make this quality? And which piece do you think shows this off the most?
You can speak much better about my music than I, Ben. You know, in my music I try to construct modes. I feel myself like a painter, who lays different layers of colors: sometimes thick, sometimes transparent. For me it is not important to develop themes, to lead them to the culmination. Much more important is to play with the material, with the colours, with different modes, to move these layers from one space to the space. Sometimes this is the way, I revive the sounds from the early culture (Hildegard von Bingen), or let myself inspire from the visual arts. This is like in the piece Les essais c'est tout II (2016) for string quartet, percussion and tape. I tried to dive into the art of a Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti, his long, continuous, fragile and often walking figures. An allusion to the works of Giacometti I  used long and subtle lines of instruments, reduced musical elements and somewhat transparent patterns.

Recently you had the premiere of your children’s opera, congratulations again, how did you feel when you approached writing for children? Often composers avoid such commissions as they feel it beneath them, but I imagine you hit it with stride.
Thank you! It was an honour to compose something for children! I was very glad, I could choose among five instruments (it’s still my favorite chamber music) and children chorus. Of course I had to concentrate on the simple melodies, to much more consonant music, but I also used my favorite effects, like air noises of the wind instruments, whispers in the chorus, or complex piano and percussion rhythms. I was so happy about this project! Especially - about the book and CD of this opera!

What are you currently working on at the minute?

This half of the year will be very intensive for me:  I will have three commissions. At this moment I am working on the piece for the Thomas Mann Festival in Nida.

And as is my habit with these interviews, what five recordings would you want to have with you if you were stranded on a desert island?

It is difficult to choose only five recordings. Every phase of our life has favorite music. Therefore, I will take these compositions, which were important to me in the different times of my life: something from medieval music (Hildegard von Bingen, or gregorian chant), Gustav Mahler Adagietto from Symphony no. 5, Arvo Pärt  Sarah Was Ninety Years Old, the Salvatore Sciarrino’s opera Luci mie traditrici and Keith Jarrett The Köln Concert.

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