So excited for this fantastic article on our Composer in Residence in today’s Daily Texan by Kritika Pramod Kulshrestha!
Check it out here.
Tickets for the concert are online here - or call us at 512-300-2247
For the article, the Texan asked me some questions, and I thought I’d share my answers that didn’t make the article here:
When did you first become acquainted with Joseph’s work?
Joe came to Austin to start a doctoral degree about five years ago at the Butler School of Music. I actually did my masters and doctoral work there as well, finishing up in 2003, so I’m very closely connected with the music program. Shortly after he arrived, we met and I was quickly impressed with both his playing and his unique and exciting compositional voice. He played a series of ten outreach concerts for us in schools and included some of his own compositions, which was the first time I heard his music.
Which collaborative work brought you two together? And one of the most memorable pieces that you two have worked on together?
Our first major collaboration was October 2011. Joe wrote a piece called “Austin Pictures” for a larger concept event of the same name inspired by Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. For the evening, which played to close to 2,000 at ACL Live at the Moody Theater, Joe wrote us a piece for 115 students guitarists from Austin, Brownsville, Oklahoma City and Albuquerque to perform with UT’s Miró Quartet which was conducted by the Austin Symphony’s Maestro Peter Bay. Also for that night we commissioned 11 visual art students to each paint their own versions of the eleven musical themes described by Mussorgsky’s original work, and had an amazing Peruvian guitarist perform Pictures at an Exhibition on solo guitar. It was an a amazing night, and KLRU even turned it into a TV special so it lives on!
How did you incorporate art, music and film into Austin Pictures? What was Austin Pictures about?
Mussorgsky’s work was the key. His music is a main “Promenade” theme, followed by ten musical descriptions of real or imagined drawings. We asked eleven award-winning high school artists to each paint one of the eleven total concepts. Then, to make the artworks come to life on the big ACL stage, we made a 12-minute documentary in which the artists could talk about their process and their works with the music playing in the background.
I suppose you could say the my main hope for the project was to engage our community in what I like to call “living arts.” We also, for example, had months of community members submitting their own pictures of Austin via facebook. Those images became part of video montages that played during the two intermissions we had that evening. Joe’s piece was a musical homage to Austin with five movements and titles like “Floating on Lady Bird Lake” and “Dance of the Grackles.” And it was an amazing opportunity to place world class pros like Peter Bay and the Miró Quartet on the same big stage as 115 kids, and let everyone in the room experience what can happen when a community comes together to make a contemporary fresh work of art together.
What is the process & rationale behind choosing a composer-in-residence? How did Joe come to be the Composer-in-Residence at ACGS?
As our organization has grown, we’ve had more and more opportunities to do things of significance. For example, the largest single part of our organization is our education program which has now built over 40 school programs in Austin and through which we see over 2,000 diverse students in daily, for-credit guitar classes. But the key to growth and sustainability is quality in everything we do. The education has to be superb, the artists have to be fantastic, our concepts have to be fresh, exciting, and pertinent. And when you’re talking about something as mercurial and deeply personal as art and music – that can be a tall order!
So it all comes down to the quality of the individuals involved. I have a stellar education team, for example. They are amazing at what they do, they’re passionate, dedicated, experienced, high successful and, most importantly, their hearts are in the right place.
When I had the opportunity to add a Composer In Residence to our programming this year, Joe was simply the first person I thought of. I know him well, we had worked on a huge concept project together where he was required to come up with something not only large scale, but also that fit the unusual requirements of student-level guitar orchestra with professional string quartet. I asked him if he would do this with us, and I was overjoyed when he said yes.
At the helm of the ACG, you have conceptualized and developed a range of programs, one of them being the International Concert Series. Why Les Frères Méduses and why the collaboration between Joseph & Les Frères Méduses?
LFM are some of my favorite people. Randy Avers and Benoit Albert bring a level of out-of –the-box creativity to their music making that you don’t often find in top flight classical musicians. Two years ago, for example, Tim League (co-founder and CEO of the Alamo Drafthouse) asked me if we would create an original film score for one of his favorite silent films: a 1927 Lon Chaney Sr. thriller with Joan Crawford called “The Unknown.” That’s a wild thing to do, and the first people I thought of were Randy and Benoit. I sent them clips of the movie and asked if they would write and subsequently perform the piece for us and they jumped at the chance. I believe upon seeing the amazing film and thinking about what it would take to do it, Benoit’s exact words were: “My brain is bubbling and smoke is coming out of my ears!” We did the premiere with the Alamo’s Rolling Road Show for 550 people outside in the lower grounds of Austin Museum of Art’s Laguna Gloria with full dinner and wine pairings for all guests, live knife throwing and hula-hooping, and a whole lot more.
So when Joe and I first sat down to talk about his residency, I layed out all of our guest for this year and asked him who he wanted to write for and collaborate with. He pointed straight at Randy and Benoit’s picture and said: “those guys.” I have found over the years that’s often best to get out of the way and let artists make their decisions.
If you had to define what Joe brings to the table in terms of music intellect, genius and creativity in one sentence, how would you define his contribution?
Oh goodness. The word that comes to mind is authenticity. Authenticity is irreplaceable. His work is now, it’s us, it’s him, it’s experience, it’s projection. What he does is hard – it would be hard for anyone, and he’s told me it’s hard for him. Nothing he does is canned, and when a project that is totally creative and never-before accomplished has to be created on a timeline there is not even a guarantee it will happen. In that way, the work is fragile and precious, and so incredibly important. With Joe, I feel we get a glimpse into an unfiltered reality in music, even if that reality is, as is the case with the work he’s written for us for next Saturday, a mental projection of a relationship with a culture and people that he’s never actually known.
Tickets for the concert are online here - or call us at 512-300-2247