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Chris Cerrone Interview

Posted on 06 April 2010. © Copyright 2004-2023 Composition:Today

C:T talks to composer Christopher Cerrone, one of a group of Yale graduates who have joined forces to put on concerts of their music.

Chris Cerrone
Tell us about the upcoming concert.

Sleeping Giant is the premiere concert presented by a group of emerging composers that have come out of the Yale School of Music over the last few years. We'll be presenting new works by Timo Andres, Ted Hearne, Jacob Cooper, Robert Honstein and myself. I cooked up the idea for the concert when the five of us spent a weekend up in Westport, NY at the Honstein family summer cabin. There was so much joy in the group of us spending time together that for me it made sense for us to put on a concert. We're all close friends with a shared history and a strong desire to make music. As for the name, we wanted to name the concert after something New Haven-y, so we finally settled on Sleeping Giant, a park in Hamden, CT, an homage to our professor Ingram Marshall, who is famous (at least around Yale) for taking hikes and collecting mushrooms in that park.

Tell us something about the music being performed.

Timo's piece, Fast Flows the River is a textless setting of the anonymous folk song “Call John the Boatman” for cello and Hammond organ. The text of the original song describes a sailor who “sleeps” more deeply the worse a storm buffets his boat.

My piece, Reading a Wave, was originally written for the Red Light Ensemble (of which I am one of the directors). It is inspired by Italo Calvino’s novel Mr Palomar. In the piece, nine players surround the audience, enveloping the hall in waves of sound.

Ted Hearne has a formed a new group around these new songs he composed for this concert. The songs merge his wide range of influences into a fusion of the avant-garde and indie rock, much in the vein of his Katrina Ballads, which recently won the Gaudeamus Prize.

Jacob Cooper’s For Time to Pour is a lyrical exploration of a text by the up-and-coming poet Yuka Igarashi, with whom he also collaborated on his recent opera, Timberbrit.

Robert Honstein’s new trio Patter is a work of gentle timbres and subtle rhythmic variety. The pairing of pizzicato strings with marimba creates a uniform but unique texture.

Sleeping Giant is named for the state park in Hamden, CT.

Tell us something about life as a composer at Yale. The upsides and the downsides.

Like anywhere else, life at Yale has upsides and downsides. We were originally going to call the concert "Mixed Messages" because of the diversity of the work being presented. Eventually we decided that sounded too negative, but "Mixed Messages" is a great way to describe the scene at Yale; diverse, but almost too diverse. It can be confusing. There have been times where there have been as many aesthetic viewpoints as there have been composers, which can make the possibility of dialogue difficult. At the same time, I've visited and lectured at other schools (which will remain nameless) where there is a definitive viewpoint and aesthetic; it strikes me as a frightening and difficult place to find one's own unique voice. And isn't that ultimately the point of education?

You say the group has a diverse collection of styles, do you sense any common compositional viewpoints though?

I think of the group as a network of interrelated and interconnected styles more than one united by a single aesthetic. Jacob Cooper and I both write music highly influenced by the translation of electronic music into acoustic music, Jacob Cooper and Ted Hearne both write music connected by a strong interest in rock instrumentation. Ted Hearne and Timo Andres both have a strong interest in pulsed and rhythmic music; Timo Andres and Robert Honstein both write music of extreme gentleness.

So while there's not one interconnecting thread, each of us have common interests that draw us together.

What are your plans for the future?

As a group, we're already planning our next concert together. This one will be collaboration with the Yale in New York concert series and will be presented this October. It will feature several scenes from my opera, Invisible Cities; a new cello octet by Jacob Cooper, written for the Yale Cellos; and new works for chamber orchestra by Robert, Ted, and Timo.

All five of us are NYC-bound. Ted and Timo recently relocated to New York; Robert, Jacob, and I will be joining them this coming summer

Where can we hear any of the composers' work? More info on the concert?

And the LPR website:

Interview by Composition:Today © Copyright 2004-2023

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