Thursday, March 25, 2010

Marijke van Warmerdam "Life" Interview

In e-interview Marijke van Warmerdam, visual artist, talks about "Life", the newest collaboration with Louis Andriessen for which she made four short films. "Life" had its world premiere in Milan by Bang on a Can All-Stars three days ago, and will have its Dutch premiere tonight at Muziekgebouw, Amsterdam. Marijke also sends several film stills.

Jelena Novak: "Life" just had its world premiere in Milan. Louis Andriessen mentioned that it is a kind a contemporary "Pictures at an Exibition". How would you describe the relation between the music and the film in the piece?

Marijke van Warmerdam: Louis asked me to make together a brand new 'Pictures at an Exibition' like Modest Mussorgsky who composed this suite in ten movements in remembrance of artist/architect Victor Hartmann. At once I had films in mind and suggested to him to start with some ideas which led to four loosely related short films as shown in 'Life'. For me length related to film is defined by the impact of an image and its concept, not so much by length. Opposite to a painting film is never static and tends strongly to become a story. I am on the other hand quite interested in creating a kind of stillness or even sometimes stand-stillness in film. Abstraction and lack of narration help me to obtain this. It is fascinating that the relation between the music and the films opens both abstraction and the narrative.

JN: In which way your film represents life, is it about life, which life, whose life...?

MvW: "Life" is a big word. Louis is quite right about that, but here it is about an elderly couple apparently contemplating about life. In my point of view this is what we all unavoidably strive for, namely to get old together. At least, it is something I would have liked to look forward to, but it doesn't look like it that I will accomplish this.

JN: How do your four films relate to each other?

MvW: In 'Life' there is a wind blowing through streets and around corners of buildings. For me gusts of wind are as unpredictable as life with all its ups and downs. If all goes well we reach the moment in which the couple is seen. The film with the blinds shows an abstract looking image in which light peeps into the given space. It blows any view away; here the unpredictability of life is repeated, although in the extreme. In the fourth film for me the old couple is disappearing in space and time, in which a hand can no more do than wiping away the condense on the window glass.

JN: What we hear strongly affects what we see and vice versa. How do you think that works in "Life"?

MvW: Light goes 300.000 kilometers per second and sound has a speed of no more than just 300 meters per second. Nevertheless I think that music is three times faster in reaching our emotions than a static image. A film is faster than a static image, but yet not that speedy. Music touches the sentiments deep in us, film images need to be unrolled for our slow eye. In 'Life' the music carries me away at once, while the film is taking its time to have an impact.

JN: What was your first reaction when you heard music together with the film?

MvW: It struck my eye and ear that the long lasting wind blasts in the first film were accompanied with long streaks of sounds and for instance a bit further circular camera movements could be heard in the composition. I have the feeling that sometimes structure and at other times the narrative part is emphasized.
Marijke van Warmerdam, Life, film still
Marijke van Warmerdam, Life, film still
Marijke van Warmerdam, Life, film still
Marijke van Warmerdam, Life, film still

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Carnegie Hall Residency Program

Nine Programs include the New York premiere of Andriessen’s film opera "La Commedia" performed in concert version in Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage. Featured performers include John Adams, American Composers Orchestra, Asko Schoenberg and Reinbert de Leeuw, Bang on a Can All-Stars, Iva Bittová, Greetje Bijma, Maurice Chestnut, Ensemble ACJW, Evan Parker, Ernst Reijseger, Dawn Upshaw, and Cristina Zavalloni.

Friday, April 9 at 7:30 p.m.
Zankel Hall
Jeffrey Milarsky, Conductor
William Anderson, Electric Guitar
John Korsrud, Trumpet

LOUIS ANDRIESSEN Symphony for Open Strings (NY Premiere)
MISSY MAZZOLI These Worlds in Us (World Premiere, new orchestration)
MICHAEL FIDAY Gonzo Variations - Hunter S. Thompson in memoriam (World Premiere)
JOHN KORSRUD Come to the Dark Side (World Premiere)

Wednesday, April 14 at 9:30 p.m.
Weill Recital Hall
IVA BITTOVÁ, Violin/Vocals
Three Naughty Boys and Three Crazy Girls
Programmed by Louis Andriessen this double bill offers high-voltage tapping and singing—all improvised, first by star American tap dancer Maurice Chestnut, followed by Czech singer-violinist Iva Bittová, whose unique vocal and instrumental technique have gained her international recognition.

Thursday, April 15 at 8:00 p.m.
Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage
Reinbert de Leeuw, Conductor
Claron McFadden, Voice
Jeroen Willems, Voice
Marcel Beekman, Voice
Cristina Zavalloni, Voice
Synergy Vocals
The Brooklyn Youth Chorus
Dianne Berkun, Director

LOUIS ANDRIESSEN La Commedia (concert version, NY Premiere)
Pre-concert talk starts at 7:00 p.m. in Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage with Louis Andriessen in conversation with Jeremy Geffen, Director of Artistic Planning, Carnegie Hall.

Friday, April 16 at 7:30 p.m.
Zankel Hall
Reinbert de Leeuw, Conductor
Barbara Sukowa, Voice

MARTIJN PADDING First Harmonium Concerto
REINBERT DE LEEUW Im wunderschönen Monat Mai (In the Lovely Month of May)

Friday, April 16 at 9:30 p.m.
Weill Recital Hall
EVAN PARKER, Saxophone
Three Naughty Boys and Three Crazy Girls
A feast of surprises, as Louis Andriessen continues his series of unpredictable improvisatory concerts. This double bill features two striking performers who both exploit every possibility of their instruments: British saxophonist Evan Parker and Dutch singer Greetje Bijma, who performs with Andriessen on piano.

Saturday, April 17 at 7:30 p.m.
Zankel Hall
Commentary by Louis Andriessen
Dawn Upshaw, Soprano
Heleen Hulst, Violin
Gerard Bouwhuis, Piano
Bang on a Can All-Stars
The Zankel Band
Anna Elashvili, Violin
Yonah Zur, Violin
Meena Bhasin, Viola
Claire Bryant, Cello
Kristoffer Saebo, Bass
Molly Morkoski, Piano
Bridget Kibbey, Harp
Eric Poland, Percussion
Alan Pierson, Conductor
Jeremy Geffen, Series Moderator

LOUIS ANDRIESSEN Life (with video by Marijke van Warmerdam) (US Premiere)

Saturday, April 17 at 9:30 p.m.
Weill Recital Hall
Three Naughty Boys and Three Crazy Girls
This double bill features a versatile cellist "who can play anything," according to director Werner Herzog, for whom Reijseger has composed four film scores. On the program’s second half, a wildly theatrical singer who is also featured in Louis Andriessen’s La Commedia at Carnegie Hall on April 15. It’s the last in a series of evenings of improvisation programmed by Andriessen.

Sunday, April 18 at 7:30 p.m.
(Le) Poisson Rouge
Program to include:
Facing Death
Trois Pieces

Monday, May 10 at 6:00 p.m.
Zankel Hall
Featuring musicians of The Academy—a program of Carnegie Hall, The Juilliard School, and The Weill Music Institute in partnership with the New York City Department of Education
John Adams, Conductor
Jeremy Denk, Piano

JOHN ADAMS Son of Chamber Symphony
IGOR STRAVINSKY Concerto for Piano and Winds

More details about concerts here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Whistling "La Commedia" in Florence

Just back from Florence where joined the workshop "Opera in Medial Transformation". Funny enough, the garden of the house where I stayed was the place where Dante was often coming to write and to admire the view over the city. While wondering through Florence streets, melodies from "La Commeda" were coming to me themselves!


Monday, March 8, 2010

Andriessen in Conversation about New Work “Life”

"Life" by Louis Andriessen with video by Marijke van Warmerdam is going to receive its world premiere by Bang on a Can All-Stars ensemble for which it was written on March 22 in Milan. Andriessen explained in program note “(...) We decided to make a kind of contemporary “Pictures at an Exhibition”: short pieces of music to accompany video clips. This resulted in Life -- four short compositions which combines late romantic ‘European’ music with hip ‘American’ repetitive music. This combination is stretched by the use of cross-references, parallel with what happens in the four films: every film is completely independent, but contains allusions to the others”.
In recent conversation Andriessen evokes his latest collaboration with Marijke van Warmerdam.

Marijke van Warmerdam, Lievelingsmuur (The Wall of Preferred Things, 2000, Collection Louis Andriessen)

Jelena Novak: You mentioned that “Life” is like contemporary “Pictures at an Exibition”?

Louis Andriessen: Marijke found it difficult to think in time. A lot of visual artists don’t know how to handle the fact that things have duration. I said “I can understand it very well so why don’t you forget about time and I will take care of the time”. I think that at earlier times we also talked about narrativeness in art, that is something that interests me very much in the last ten years, specifically because of the vocal music I write. That is the situation with the famous Mussorgsky piece. Of course it is about paintings but the paintings seem to make you think of a story. And that is very interesting in between time and static situation of the visual arts. Four films are quite different and there are cross references through the films. It is more or less the same which I did in the music too. There are memories from earlier pieces in later pieces, but the four pieces are quite different, like a movies.

JN: Did Marijke first made videos or you worked in parallel?

LA: We talked about it a lot and then she had a sort of synopsis of the four movies and she had even no idea which order she would like them. I think she was earlier than I was, starting to shoot things. I remember taking my car to the forest where she made the second one. She used crane because there is an old couple on the bench sitting and looking over the little lake. You see them from the back, than you go up, like an angel, and then you go down again, and the camera moves under the bench, turns around and comes out of the bench, then you see the couple in front and then the camera goes very high up like you are an angel again, turns around in the air to arrive at the opening position. It makes a large circle. For moving under the bench she needed some hi-tech computer animation, because it is totally impossible, it is quite amazing.

JN: You have wall painting done by Marijke van Warmerdam. I remember seeing it on the postcard.

LA: It was a present from my friends for my sixtieth birthday, to paint one of the walls in house in France. It is called “Wall of preferred things”. She had the list of my preferred this and that, and made a choice of four of them, which was: favorite pet – two cats, favorite vegetable was garlic, favorite transport medium was a little step bicycle that children use, and favorite animals were birds – a large parrot. Few days ago when I had dinner with her we had a discussion because I said I call the picture fresco, than we looked in Wikipedia and other places when you can call wall painting a fresco. During our absence the neighbors found out that the part of the ceiling was broken and fell on my desk and on the piano. After a while they found on the floor, in a bin, a dead rat! The rat made a sort of jump from the roof and ceiling and fell down. While repairing that, they have hurt the fresco and Marijke is coming with me in late April to the house to repaint it. Now the part is painted white and it is really like the fresco because all these beautiful Giotto’s and stuff in Italy are also partly completely white.

JN: Would you like to discover some of the musical references you use in “Life”?

They are not quotations. They are what I call allusions. I start with late French romantic melody for the soprano sax. So, Evan Ziporyn does not play on his clarinets and bas clarinets (in the last part he plays clarinet, but he changes it into soprano sax). This melody is sort of remembered during the second and third movement but most of the first and second movements are sort of American repetitive musics. In the second part it starts to become what I call more human. That means that there are harmonic changes and melodies that have to do with French late romanticism. It is basically about those two things, except for the third film in which you only see window blinds, and from time to time hand moves over them to change a little bit a position. That whole part is an imitation by the group of sort of the sound that you could imagine that would be heavy metal material. It’s kind of really live sound but it’s very evident that it’s not synchro at all. It is a kind of musical interpretation of what you see. That works very well. In that part there is no connection with the other three. Of course there is in the film. I don’t follow the cross references at all because the last film starts at the window of nineteenth century country house or so. It has been hot inside, so there is steam on the window, you can’t see through. At the certain moment when the camera zooms in, than you see a hand again to clean the window, and then you can see outside, than it takes some time to focus on what you could see in the far away, you see the same old couple sitting and watching over the lake. So there is allusion on film number two. Somewhere there I start again with the melody we have heard in the first part. Sounds all very classical, but I find it rather good I must say. The combination with the film is quite interesting.

JN: And the very title “Life”?

LA: That was the long discussion with Marijke. We have talked about Steam, because of the steam in the last film. Then she came up with Life which I didn’t like, and said that I will change one letter and make it Live – I think of it as something that you should play live with, like we did before, the first collaboration we did was on version of "Passegiata". But she didn’t like that at all, and so it became Life.

JN: Life is a kind of very important word, it’s not a kind of allegory of life?

Marijke thinks that it is the main subject of the movies. I said - my dear, than every movie should have that title. As far as I know, except for the American magazine, it is not very much used title at all. Then I said ok, let’ do it.

JN: Musically it is your further exploration of ‘lukewarm waters of romanticism’, as you once said.

LA: “Anaïs Nin” is a kind of final step. I can’t go much further from what I did in "Anaïs Nin". Probably I have to move forward now towards new directions.

Carnegie Hall Soundbytes and Insights

Andriessen in conversation with Jeremy Geffen, Carnegie Hall’s Director of Artistic Planning discusses "Three Naughty Boys and Three Crazy Girls" series of late-night improvisatory concerts, improvisation and changes in his musical language.
Sound Insights pages introduce Geffen's primer on composer Louis Andriessen, discussion on "De Staat", composer David Lang's comments on "La Commedia" and soundbytes from "La Commedia", "De Staat", "Zilver" and more.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Andriessen Introduces Carnegie Hall Events

Louis Andriessen introduces the inspiration for his 2009–2010 Richard and Barbara Debs Composer’s Chair events, which include a special Making Music concert, the New York premiere of his opera La Commedia, and a series of late-night concerts he curated—Three Naughty Boys and Three Crazy Girls.
Click here for video.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Frontiers + Festival dedicated to Andriessen

This year Frontiers+ Festival, Birmingham Conservatoire, March 15-19, is dedicated to the music of Louis Andriessen. Concerts present a range of Andriessen's works: ...miserere..., The New Math(s), Letter from Cathy, Le Voile du Bonheur, Shopping List of a Poisoner, Xenia, Hout, Bells for Haarlem, Workers Union, Woodpecker, M is for Man, Music, Mozart, La Passione.
Performances come from an array of distinguished musicians, including the Smith Quartet, Monica Germino, Michaela Riener and Decibel (who will be in residence), alongside performances by students and tutors from Birmingham Conservatoire. During the last concert, an Honorary Doctorate of the University will be conferred on Louis Andriessen.
More info here.