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Volume 9 Issue 8 - May 2004

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-;.iMJ.MJ;&i.t;.iiiilJ.MJ;- PART TWO OF AN INTERVIEW WITH Gary Kulesha May 2004 by Paul Steenhuisen Fresh off his contributing role in the Gryphon Trio's Juno awardwinning CD Canadian Premieres, composer Gary Kulesha is presently completing this year's teaching at the University of Toronto, primed for a summer more fully devoted to creative work. Having addressed his approach to composition, in this, the second part of our interview, we approach a cross-section of his extmcompositional work, including his long and sometimes controversial appointment with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. As well, we discuss his views on the junction and responsibilities of orchestras in the 21st Century, musical aspirations, and career as a Canadian composer. STEENHUISEN: I'd like to talk about your other activities. One of the things_you do, besides composing, teaching, and conducting, is work as composer in residence. \Wuzt are your responsibilities? KULESHA: At the moment, I'm the composer advisor of the Toronto Symphony, where I've been for many years, and I have renewed my contract for one more year. The role there is not really composer in residence. The fact that. I write a piece for them every several years is a perk of the job. But it's not part of the job. I will produce a piece for them next year, but it's my first one for them since the year 2000, and it's probably my last until the year 2010. At the TSO, my role is to advise on new music in general, and Ca- . nadian music in particular. Since we have a new Music Director, Peter Oundjian, it's my job to make him aw&re of what is going ' on in this country. He has some roots here, but he 's not aware of the whole new music scene, so what I've been doing is bringing to his attention things that I feel he should be aware of. He's a very interested guy. Little by little, you learn people's tastes. It took me a while to learn Jukka-Pekka's tastes, and now I'm learning Peter's. You don 't want to inundate him with things you know he'll hate. My job is to be a conduit, through which the orchestra becomes aware of important things that are going on that will fit in with the progrannning needs of the conductor who is there at the time. I'm also with the NACO (National Arts Centre Orchestra). I don 't have a title - basically we're called Awards Composers. The job there is much simpler. It's not administrative in any sense. It's composing three pieces across four years, including a chamber piece, a large chamber piece, and an orchestra piece, as well as one summer of working with young composers as part of their summer training program. There's no input on progrannning, or anything like that. I'm really not there very much. It's not really a hands-on, day-to-

the conductor is just a figurehead, and the actual work is being done in other ways. 'In those circumstances, it depends on the will of the orchestra as an organization, how they would perceive success or failure . As we get driven back further and further on the money issue, the question of ticket sales becomes extremely important. Is success ticket sales? To some people it is. STEENHUISEN: Success could be having a good development person in the organization, getting suitable sponsorship for the orchestra. _,,--- KULESHA: Absolutely. Success could also be premiering an extremely fine new piece. The orchestra players know when a piece is good, for the most part. Making the players happy that they've done something of substance and that they've premiered a new work that is good,_ even if the response isn't so good, or if the ticket sales aren't good, or the critical writing about it isn't so good - that the performers like it is also success, and in some orchestral cultures that would be perceived as being.suecess. STEENHUISEN: Here, we 're talking around the balance of the ·artistic and the economic. KULESHA: Well, that's the problem. As I said, there's a nee, essary tension, which also fits in with the concept of new music · versus old music. The old music, although it is artistically necessary to serve it as well, is, let's face it, where the tickets are sold. There's a constant series of tensions that au orchestraS, and all performing organizations live between. There's economic necessi- . ty, and artistic necessity. A good balance is difficult to achieve. I think we have it at the TSO. STEENHUISEN: How does that search jor balance apply to being · a composer in · Canadn? KULESHA: It's worqi noting the difficulty of having a career in this country. When Murray Schafer says that he's not as. famous as he should be, he's totally · right. It's very frustrating to be a Canadian composer, and to feel like we're completely isolated, even from what's going on in the United States. I remember when MAY l - jUNE 7 2004 Glenn BUhr was at the peak of his success with the Winnipeg Symphony. He was running the festival, he was -helping program the orchestra, he was writing a lot of big orchestral pieces, he had a recommendation from John Corigliano to publisher G. Schirmer. He sent the music , and they said they weren't interested. I remember talking to him shortly after ·that, and him saying, so plaintively, "J.Wzat do they want?" I feel the same frustration as him. It's not a question of how great we are. It's the kind of dou- · ble standard by which people who are as good as we are, or not as good as we are, somehow get that kind of representation (through publishing), and that kind of international success.' You understand whai I'm saying? It's not that I'm so great, it's that I'm at least as good or better ihan a lot of people who have the things that I do not have. That's a source of great frustration, not just for me, but for all Canadian composers. I don't know if there's a solution, it's just a kind of comment, that it's an irritating thing to live with, especially when you're hitting the age of fifty in a few months. · STEENHUISEN: There's no . Canadian composer that's published internationally, correct? KULESHA: Well, Claude Vivier has SOJile of his catalogue with Schott. STEENHUISEN: But he's not living anymore. KULESHA: True, and his exposure has cooled off a little t6o. A number of Glenn Gould's pieces have bee~ placed with Schott also. Again, at first it's a little bit of a buzz, and then it eools off. Don't forget that Murray Schafer, when he was young, had a contract with Schott and Universal Edition. Several of his pieces were placed with that catalogue, and he eventually had to buy them back. The fact that you get placed in their catalogue of works doesn't mean that you're going to be wildly successful. What needs to happen is that the machinery behind it, the financial and promotional machinery, .has to go to work for you. Frankly, it's not happening for Vivier, although ·it would certainly be easier if he were alive. If you take a look at Schott's newsletters, they nev(!r mention him. It's a little ... almost cynical. The truth of the matter is that to become a better artist, you have to work with better and better people. You really need to expand your horizons. It's great that I can work with the Toronto Symphony, but I also would like to work with Krystian Zimmennan. In order to get to that point, you really need the kind of publicity ana visibility that the professional connections make for ·· H>J5¢8vei

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