Erik Friedlander Interview by Nathan Cook

 
St. Louis musician and artist, Nathan Cook, recently led an interview with cellist/composer, Erik Friedlander. Friedlander presents his new trio, Black Phebe this Thursday (March 16th, at The Stage at KDHX) – information is here.

How did your new group Black Phebe come together and what is it about Shoko Nagai and Satoshi Takeishi that compelled you to collaborate with them on this project?
I’ve been working with Satoshi Takeishi for almost 20 years. He played in my Topaz quartet which released 4 cds over a 10 year period starting in 1999. He recently was a featured performer on the soundtrack I wrote for Thoroughbred. I love working with Sato as he brings fireworks and energy to my music.  We started playing as a trio after an improv gig at The Stone where we played a whole set of completely improvised music.  I was struck by the chemistry we had as a group and I made a promise to myself to find more opportunities for us the work.  In 2012, we got together when I decided to record and expand the music I had just completed for the soundtrack of Nothing On Earth, a documentary about Murray Fredericks and his dangerous attempts to visit and photograph the stark beauty of the melting ice cap of Greenland. For months we worked closely together working on the the score…
Black Phebe (Satoshi Takeishi, Erik Friedlander, Shoko Nagai).
…later on the director and I collaborated intensely to get the score just right – as we had a stunning solo cello score at hand. As the director went on to complete the process of getting the film to the theaters, I felt a nagging sense that my job was still somehow unfinished….after a few sleepless nights I realized I needed to get into the studio and do more recording; “there are more possibilities to explore!”.  I brought Sato and Shoko into the studio and set about reinterpreting the soundtrack as well as recording new pieces I had written.
With Rings I dug deeper into what the group’s possibilities were. I discovered that Shoko’s charismatic performance on accordion or piano changed the feel of the group depending upon which instrument she played.

As a musician and composer from NYC, what is special to you about the much discussed Downtown New York music scene? What led you to work so closely with John Zorn throughout the years?
When I stop to think about it I am always amazed by the number of great musicians there are on what people call the “downtown scene”. It’s a truly inspiring thing to behold and a joy to be a part of the community of musicians here in NYC.
John approached me over 20 years ago to play some games pieces (Hockey, Archery) on his 40th Birthday month at the old Knitting Factory. We hit it off pretty much right away and I’ve been lucky enough to continue to work with John since then performing on numerous soundtracks, a handful of Masada cds, some of his classical music, and now the Bagatelles. It’s always inspiring to be around John.

In recent years you have composed several soundtracks for films such as Thoroughbred, which recently screened at The Sundance Film Festival. How does your compositional approach change for a score versus a regular studio album?
My father is a photographer and so I’ve been around images my whole life.  The relationship between music and picture has always been interesting to me.  The process of working with a director to create a score is a collaboration; but a collaboration in which the director has the final say and so it’s much different from creating music with my colleagues in New York. When I’m in the studio with my bands, I have the final word.  It was difficult at first to reconcile myself to having a piece of mine rejected when I just knew it was perfect for the scene.  It’s very tricky. You have to establish a relationship with the director, to gain their trust but also be able to move on when a favorite piece of music gets nixed.

 
Can you name a visual artist, a writer, or a musician/composer whose work has especially resonated with you throughout your life? 
Kiki Smith, Joseph Cornel, Schile, Balthus, Jerry Goldsmith, Mancini, Ennio Morricone,
Artist, Kiki Smith

 


 

I’ve encountered classically trained musicians who found it very difficult to improvise. What is your perspective on performing composed music versus free improvisation?
 
I don’t really believe in the idea of “free” improvisation. I mean I’ve used the term but I don’t think it’s free. I think of it as very fast composition..composition in the moment with all the tools available to any composer: dynamics, melody, accompaniment, harmony, rhythm, structure, pulse, meter, etc…it’s all in play

Do you have any exercises or techniques for sharpening your listening skills?
Not really, curiosity is really the spark for everything. I try and stay curious. That usually leads to something.
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New Music Circle Pop-Up Event at Barnes and Noble (Ladue) on Saturday 12/17. Your Support Is Needed!

You can help continue NMC concerts and workshops by shopping at Barnes and Noble (Ladue) on Saturday, *Dec 17th!  A percent of any in-store purchases on this date will help support New Music Circle presentations. Books, magazines, coffee and food all apply!

Your support helps us present concerts like these!

 

* If you cannot attend please note that you can still support us by shopping Barnes & Noble online! Applicable from 12/17 – 12/22. See below for details. 
 
– please see below for information
– see here for voucher code
 
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Where:
Barnes & Noble
8871 Ladue Rd
St. Louis, MO 63124
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When:
Instore Event + Pop-Up
December 17
9:00am – 9:00pm
RSVP on FB: here
 
Special pop-up performance by Kevin Harris & Alex Cunningham at 4:00pm in the Art section. Chairs will be provided.
Please note: In-store purchases apply only on December 17th. All other purchases can be done online until Dec 22nd (see below). 
 
New Music Circle will host a display table with experimental-music related books and merchandise!
Come say hi and pick up info about upcoming NMC events and support vouchers.
Important Note: Please ask for the book fair voucher with our ID# on it at the check out, 
NMC will not receive credit if the ID# is not entered/scanned. The flyer attached in this email can also be printed and brought to the store.
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How you support New Music Circle:
10% of purchases entered with our book fair ID, in store (one day) and online (five days).
Food (sandwiches, quiche, baked goods, etc) and drink purchases also apply to the cause! Whole cheesecakes, Godiva chocolate, and bags of coffee are just a few options.
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Online:
Can’t attend our event at Barnes & Noble?
Visit bn.com/bookfair to shop and support online
from 12/17 – 12/22.
Just enter book fair ID #: 12034286
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This Week: Jen Shyu at The Kranzberg & Special Workshop Event….

Jen Shyu represents a new kind of improviser-composer-ethnomusicologist hybrid; this is the result of her own fieldwork (in East Timor, Indonesia, Taiwan and South Korea), pushed through an extraordinary voice and a circle of high-level improvisers.” – Ben Ratliff, NY Times
 
Solo Concert:
Friday, November 11. 2016
The Kranzberg Arts Center
501 N Grand Blvd. 63103
+ Just Announced: Special Artist Talk /Workshop with Jen Shyu
Thursday, November 10th
Lewis Center (721 Kingsland Ave. 63130.
Talk will take place in the conference room on 1st floor) 
6pm – 7pm. Free and open to the public. 
Please join NMC and WUSTL/Sam Fox School as Jen Shyu leads a special artist talk and performance. This event will last roughly one hour, and begins at 6pm. This event is open to the public, no rsvp is needed. 
This event is presented by New Music Circle and The Sam Fox School at WUSTL
please reach #314-477-3146 for questions
 
Solo Rites: Seven Breaths, performed by Jen Shyu, is a musical drama and portrait of a woman living simultaneously in multiple cultures and “projecting her ancestry” through contemporary monologue — revealing a personal journey of loss and redemption made universal through the exploration of losses and complications of the modern world: loss of tradition, habitat, and public spaces. Sonic, visual, and visceral rites and reflections are discovered by pilgrimage through Taiwan, East Timor, Indonesia, Vietnam, and South Korea.

About Jen Shyu: Born in Illinois from immigrant parents of Taiwan and East Timor, 2014 Doris Duke Impact Award recipient Jen Shyu is an experimental jazz vocalist, composer, multi-instrumentalist, dancer, and educator, having performed internationally as a solo artist, bandleader, and collaborator. Shyu recently spent nearly two years on a Fulbright scholarship in Indonesia studying Sindhenan (traditional Javanese improvisational singing) as well as the simultaneous song and dance form, Ledhekan. She is also a former Asian Cultural Council and Jerome Foundation grantee.

 

jenshyu

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Spring Roll Quartet – October 22nd at KDHX

Thank you to everyone who came out and supported our season opening concert! We appreciate the support and enthusiasm and we will keep the shows rolling until the end of the year. Please check out our second show of the season, featuring an up-and-coming quartet from France that combines elements of modern composition, experimental rock, and instrumental music. Once again, we will be working with KDHX to bring you new sounds. Additional information is below and in the Upcoming Events page.

Sylvaine Hélary (France) is a composer, and flutist, active in a multitude of endeavors, from performance art, composing for large ensembles, to improvised engagements with Chicago figures such as cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and percussionist Mike Reed. Her most recent ensemble, working under the title Spring Roll, covers a span of styles, warranting comparisons to  Ornette Coleman and Harry Partch, as well as underground-rock greats Henry Cow and Captain Beefheart.

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