Alejandro Rutty Interview
Posted on 28 February 2008. © Copyright 2004-2014David Bruce
C:T talks to composer Alejandro Rutty whose new work The Conscious Sleepwalker Loops, is MATA’s first orchestral commission. It will be premiered by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP) in Boston at Jordan Hall March 29th, and will receive its NY premiere at the 10th Annual MATA Festival in Brooklyn, April 1st, performed by BMOP.|
Tell us something about your background.
I was born in Argentina and I moved to the US in the 1990's. During my musical life I had many roles, which made me fall in love with different repertoires and ways of thinking music: I was an electric bassist playing original rock in cafes or lounge music at hotels, a conductor of chamber choirs, music director of string, wind ensembles, conducted opera and symphonic repertoire, composed and played piano for theatre, played and arranged Argentine tango music, and much more. I feel that my head has become a big bucket where some strange musical cocktail has been stirring for almost twenty years.
How did you start composing?
I was composing -or trying to compose- even before I started playing an instrument. It was very clear to me that what I wanted to do with music was to make up stuff. Playing instruments was secondary. Things somewhat changed later on, once I started conducting as a means of making a living. Lately, though, I have focused on composing as the defining aspect of my relationship with music.
What drives your work, what are you passions?
As a child, I remember clearly that my top priority was to hang out with my friends and play, or bike. As a teenager, music became 'play' so I decided that composing should become my profession. Today, composing feels like playing to me. When I write, I get the same excitement I had while playing as an 8-year old, and I find that to be quite addictive.
Tell us something about your working method as a composer. Give us something that might be or might have been a starting point for a piece.
It normally starts with trying to imagine an unlikely micro-universe, where things function in a particularly unusual way. I try then to translate that universe into sound, creating a sound world that incorporates disparate materials in a seemingly coherent system. (In literature, think of Borges' story where he describes a world where reality matches the philosophy of George Berkeley).
Later, music reigns in and I have to make sure that it all becomes playable, but also that this creature allows some of the natural channels of expression to take place. In other words, I love imitating a flanger effect with clarinets and oboes, but in the end music has to occur too.
Which non-musical influences have affected your music most?
While I was in Buffalo, I had an ensemble called Lake Affect dedicated to interactive work with poets and visual artists. We created music based on the readings of the poems by the poets themselves, often incorporating their actual voices into the music. In the process I got to learn about the experimental poetry scene, which opened my eyes to other ways of thinking about sound, text and image.
What is your musical philosophy?
In essence, music is some psychological phenomenon that we, fortunately, fail to understand. We are a bit like cooks; we imagine a dish, we create it, perfect it and get it to the table with the hope of bringing new sensations, often pleasant.
Who has been the greatest influence on your musical style to date and why?
David Felder, at Buffalo, helped me find my adult language and truly refine and enrich my music. Susan Fancher, Steve Stusek and the Red Clay Sax Quartet at UNCG showed me that when performers are devilishly accomplished and also love playing the music of living composers "new music with heart" magically materializes. Working with them has also influenced my writing a good deal.
What's the strangest idea for a piece you've ever had?
Long ago I wrote a series of short pieces where each piece reflected a particular psycho-pathology of clocks, as if clocks were some sort of biomechanical entities. Obviously, I loaded the piece with all kinds of strangely mischievous alterations of pseudo-mechanical rhythmic patterns.
Which work are you most proud of and why?
The Conscious Sleepwalker Loops, no doubt. Probably because it is my latest composition so it is still fresh in my mind, but also because with this piece I enjoyed the ride all along. There was something very playful about the way I wrote it, going through many layers of actually amusing inter-media transformations of the source materials. Translated into visual arts, it would be something like the piece being a photograph of the drawing of a sculpture that is a representation of a mosaic of a live person mimicking a painting. And yet, it is all emotionally direct, perhaps it is even moving.
What does the future hold for you?
I will keep composing, hopefully, better music. I usually compose three or four piece which relate to one another and then write something small where I challenge all my previous practice by forcing myself to think music in a different way. The real future, however, is totally unknown to me, as it is to us all.
How can people find out more about you?
They can visit my website at http://www.alejandrorutty.com
Interview by David Bruce © Copyright 2004-2014
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