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Volume 9 Issue 10 - July/August 2004

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futerview with Howard

futerview with Howard Bashaw continued from page 25 STEENHUISEN: Can you pro- vide another e.Xllmple of how you connect your ideal perjorrmtive en- ergy with the geometric? ways of rmclifying expression to re- · direct the energy of a piece. This happened in the early 1990s, when I was getting out of the raw energy · phase. I'd brought myself to a point and asked "What can be ... no ... what must be, the next step?" And I wasn't exactly looking for it there, but by going back five centuries and studying Leonardo, the extraordinary lesson was offered to me. 'Interestingly enough, I feel it was my training in musical analysis that allowed me to understand that fresco. But in the end it was the fresco that subsequently ffispired, if not guided, my new compositional perspective. spaced rmments, which can be extremely difficult to play with exact precision. STEENHUISEN: So you mean virtuosic energies, rather than simply playing fast, or a plethora of notes. BASHAW: Both virtuosic energies and technical facilities. The lightest pianissirm touch, with exactly the rigl}t depth of key, and sound, thaC:s ... (trailing oft) STEENHUISEN: Your music is BASHAW: Let's take the recent tighter, both technically and expres- piano piece, Fonn Archirmge, that I sively. wrote especially for Marc Couroux. The rmvements in that particular BASHAW: I try to increase the work represent excellent responses to effectiveness of the musical voice your earlier questions. Here, the that energy can take at various times. .middle rmvement is all about pulse This raw energy is not just a bub- streams and coordinations of layered bling cauldron that has to burst. It tempi. Sure, that's not new in muhas to find the right way out. sic, but a lot of them combined iri a STEENHUISEN: In some pieces, work for solo piano, requiring a reyou take what is very much a mnxi- fined, controlled touch with quiet dyrmlist approach. Maxirml expres- namics, is an extremely virtuosic sion, mnxirml physicality, mnxirml thing to pull. off. The last rmve- . " virtuosity. And yet, your most rf!cent ment, ~ roan:ig, powerful statement, piece is called Minimalisms. · has a direct link to the raw energy of my earlier compositions. Fonn BASHAW: If you were to ask me Archirmge combines this energy, but to compare Tsunami, my rmst ag- unlike my earlier works, with undergressive piece from the early days, to lying structural processes or strate- Minirmlisms, occurring close to 20 gies. years later, I would say the minimalisms here have only to do with sty­ STEENHUISEN: lMult types of processes are you taUdng about? listic derivation of pattern, process, and repetition. There's still a maximal degree of virtuosity involved for the two soloists. It's taking the kind of energy we have been talking about and pushing the envelope, as it were. STEENHUISEN: Is this piece an e.Xllmple of you applying the types of geometries you mentioned, those that were inspired by Leonardo? BASHAW: No, not geometries as such in this work. That's an interesting question however. Now that we're talking about this, I can see · that I've never lost, and probably never will, the desire to push those envelopes, to drive things further. I don't always deliberately set that as . the agenda, but when I'm ih a piece, if I don't feel I'm pushing towards something - usually taking some form of virtuosity - I feel I'm missing something. It's important to mention that virtuosity can take different forms in my music. As ·you know, it can also be intensely quiet, BASHAW: Fonn Archirmge contains expanding, pattern-based processes that I would never, could never, have written in earlier years. The second rmvement unfolds a strategy of macro-level acceleration. The collective texture accelerates in carefully managed phases throughout the rmvement. The metronome-like pulse streams we referred to earlier, those simultaneous different speeds, collectively create a region which rmdulates to a faster tempo-region. This happens several times, with the whole rmvement ending up being twice as fast as it started. The third rmvement is completely different. It's a pattern-based process using continuously ascending and descend-, ing lines in alternation, traversing the entire piano register with an unrelenting drive. However, extremely brash, dynamic chord passages intermpt these linear continuities with e.ver-increasing intensity, intermptions that gradually take over the ·rmvement.. It's a large-scale process that 26 WWW.THEWHOLENOTE.COM not only expresses virtuosic energy in two different forms, but rmre importantly, also creates tension and conflict at the level of structure itself. Here's the directing of energies we discussed earlier. STEENHUISEN: lMult other compositional strategies do you employ? BASHAW: Here is where. the lesson from Leonardo really shows up. What I did not clarify earlier was my specific interest in using structure itself as an important, or the important, aspect of a musical statement. Structure not just as a static background container for foreground activity, but rather as the element of primary interest. And I have some works that are all about architecture, and nothing else. When listening to these rmvements, the foregroupd material becomes subordinate to an emerging structural design. Consider my Seven Spheres. Here, there are several rmvements where relatively · simple, surface, collage-like activity is used to reveal structure. One of my favourite examples is the rmvement Double Convergence, where eight voices, each playing a higher and lower part, combine for a total of sixteen voices. All sixteen voices st,art out playing one rmtive at different speeds. In the opening field or region of this short rmvement, you have both the fastest and slowest statements (with a range in between), which are a long way apart in terms of tempi. In their reiterations, the faster voices get slower, and the slower .voices get faster. Every voice does so independently, until they all arrive and converge at the rhythmic unison. As the voices become close in relative speeds, they collectively create an area or region of structural tension. They're not quite lined-up enough to be heard as being rhythmically coordinated, and they 're not quite far enough apart to be heard as being comfortably independent. Direction and· expectation is created, and the resulting tension is released with arrival of the unison. The main point is not recognizing the underlying process as a pleasing formal abstraction, it's the perceived effect of this process. · STEENHUISEN: So how much pre-planning, or pre-composition do you do, before you start writing pitches? Do you plan all of the tempi in advance? BASHAW: If I'm working on a short,.structuralistpiece, it's all about planning. In a case like that, I don't know where the line between composition and pre-composition would actually be. This is music of measurements. I make calculations and designs, but not at the piano. STEENHUISEN: lMult do you calculnJe? BASHAW: Rates of speeds,-placements for entries of voices, overall form, or, if it's a process of convergence, where and how voices align, things like that. Finding the rmtive, finding a musical idea, one that will work in collaboration with the structure, might be as much a pre-compositional element as all the calculating. Then, it's a question of designing the piece. Ifl'm looking to create a rmtivic or harrmnic symmetry, I'll find, at the piano, the right tools to demonstrate it, but then the rest of it, the composition, will be away from the piano. Often I'll design things using graph paper. And as you know, I use my grid-score notation to write these rmvements. STEENHUISEN: The point rermins the transference of the structural ideas into sound. BASHAW: Yes, that is the compositional objective. And I think I first realized the need for the appropriate notation when working with multiple tempi. For example, having three, four, or five simultaneous tempi in canon. Conventional notation was holding me back, so I had to evolve a new system for myself. I say new, but proportional notation is hardly . new of course. My particular version facilitates my particular needs. STEENHUISEN: So it opened up different avenues for you as a composer? BASHAW: For sure. STEENHUISEN: Given these interests, why didn't you become involved in electronic music, where all of these things can be measured and performed with complete precision? BASHAW: Because, at the end of the day, it's not just about finding ways to realize, in sound, exact measurements. For me, it's also about generating a special kind of 'live' performance energy - that which the musicians convey when they are engaged in this music. The sense of precise coordination, the sense of ensemble, the playing into the complex textures. Live performance is not about detached, statistical realizations. There's a particular type of association between score, performer and ensemble that arises. This association generates an unusual interpretation space that is revealed to the listener. • ]ULY 1 - SEPT 7 2004

WORLD VIEW by Karen Ages write this , June is com- va' fuses Indian classical/folk muing to a close, and what sic with influences from China, the a month it's been! The Middle-East and Africa at 2pm, action-musical Terracotta Warri- and the 10-memberRizwan-Muazors was a sight to behold, Per- zam Qawwali presents Sufi music sian percussion ensemble 'Zarbang at 9:30. July 16-18, Harbourfront's thrilled me with its virtuosity and Ritmo y Color festival explores sonic variety, Maza Meze's CD re- Latin arts and culture, with bands lease concert had the audience at- from Cuba, Puerto Rico, Venezuela tempting Inuit throat singing and and North America. Other festiwas graced by belly-

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