Interview with Nieuw Ensemble (2011) – Part 2

[repost of an old post from my former blog that no longer exists]

The following is the interview that was conducted by the Nieuw Ensemble of The Netherlands, for their publication purposes. They gave a wonderful performance (European Première) of my Départ dans… at the Gaudeamus Muziekweek in September, 2011.

Each composer had to answer ten questions asked by the Nieuw Ensemble. I answered eight of them. In this post I post the last four questions that I answered.

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7. Schönberg said: “The chief requirements for the creation of a comprehensible form are logic and coherence. The presentation, development and interconnexion of ideas must be based on relationship.” Is coherence in a work of art still a valid notion today?

I do not speak for all composers in the world, so I am not able to say whether or not “coherence” is a valid notion in a work of art today. But in my mind it is a valid notion, at least for my works, but with some reservation about the word. I think that notion of “coherence” is something that all composers (struggle to) handle in one way or another. As coherence is a subjective and personal term, what constitute as “coherent” is dependent on each person, as on an aesthetic level one person may find a work coherent while others may find it incoherent.

The problem deepens when composers decide to evaluate their works (whether they are coherent or not,) at what level of composing. Seeing the trajectory of the history of the 20th century music, composers, including myself, are given truly wide options of determining at what level the coherence ought to be formed, whether it is on an imaginative, an aural or on a visual (i.e. notational) level. But personally, I aspire for music that attains all in my personal way, even though this is very challenging.

9. Is the concept of “new” still relevant today? If so, what does it mean?

I have found the question 3 (“why this piece now, today?”) very fascinating because it appears so “personal.” There seems to be an urgent need that my piece is written in this time of my life, not 100 years ago. Also that question seemed to tie into this question about newness in music, since I found a certain unspoken emphasis that a work of music that was written recently (now, today), ought to be new.

As far as I understand, however, I strongly believe that the sole fact that the music is written in this present chronological time does not indicate anything about “newness” about music. The words “New Music” seems to be a kind of a marketing term that people put on music like a price tag. It is almost like an “empty signifier,” in which one can just posit whatever the word “new music” means to them.

For me new music implies that the kind of music whose idea is something I have not experienced before in my life. If a musical idea is something that was first used in the music of 200 years ago, and if I heard that music for the first time, I would probably find the newness in such chronologically-old music. For me the “newness” is a personal experience.

But again, once I encounter the newness, it becomes old in me. I wonder if the quest for the “new music” is ultimately destined to create more old music than the new.

10. Is there any relationship between what’s happening in the world and your work?

Since my works deal with transformations of musical ideas, I don’t think I can draw a straight line from the current events in the world to my own music. However, I believe that my music is constantly affected by the current events on a subconscious level, just as I am affected by the current events of the world as a person who live in it. Rather than pointing out specific aspects of my music to any external current events, I would prefer that I present my music as itself, so that those who listen to it can experience it on their accord, drawing from their personal experiences in this world.