Site Search

Other Resources
News Archive

Lisa Bielawa Interview

Posted on 12 June 2007. © Copyright 2004-2023 Composition:Today

C:T talks to composer Lisa Bielawa

Tell us something about your background.

I grew up in a musical family. My father is a composer and my mother is a keyboardist and an early-music performance practice scholar, so I had very early exposure to the two kinds of music I ended up participating in as an adult. When I was nine, I sang a piece by Viadana in my mother's doctoral recital. By then I was also already singing and playing the violin with my parents and brother, in pieces that my father had composed for the family. I sang in the San Francisco Girls Chorus through my adolescence, and they gave me some of my first major performances as a composer. When I got to college it was clear that I would probably continue to do music into adulthood, so somehow or other I ended up majoring in Literature, not Music.

How did you start composing?

I always composed music, from the time I was very small, so there was never actually a decision to start. I still have all of my earliest pieces - big round notes! For a while I patterned my pieces on the beginner piano literature I was playing, but eventually I began writing musicals and theatre songs that my friends at school could perform, and choral music that I could put together with my Girls Chorus friends. Because I was so focused on vocal music and theatre music, I didn't really take myself seriously as a composer - and in fact, others didn't really take me seriously either - until my mid-twenties, when it became clear to me that I had written a lot of music already, and that I was starting to get interested in larger-scale instrumental works too.

Which composers have influenced you the most?

Stravinsky was a big influence in our household, and of course J.S. Bach. Other favorites from my childhood included Berio, Bartok, Ligeti, Poulenc, and some of the early violin repertoire I played with my brother, like Vivaldi and Corelli. In college I discovered Gubaidulina, Maxwell Davies, Lutoslawski, Weill and, at an embarrassingly late age (my early 30's!) I finally discovered the Classical and Romantic composers, who turned my world upside-down. In the last few years I've been making new discoveries, stumbling upon the Canon: Mahler, Brahms, Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, Prokofiev, Janacek.

Which non-musical influences have affected your music most?

Literature - reading - is absolutely the main source of inspiration for my work, surpassing even other music in its influential power over me, emotionally and conceptually. I read voraciously, and even if I am writing music that doesn't use text or voices, I still usually find the spark, the vividness of an emotional landscape for the piece, in the course of reading. The inexhaustible wonder of human beings and their inner lives is also an influence. Sometimes just getting to know someone can influence the direction of my work, change the filter through which I see the world.

Tell us about Chance Encounter and what you are hoping to achieve with the piece.

Chance Encounter is the brainchild of soprano Susan Narucki and myself. She remembered how she stumbled upon classical music 'by chance,' as a child (she got to know Debussy's "La Mer" because she liked the picture on the cover of the LP and bought it). The words of the songs, or aria-ettes, she will be singing in the piece are actually little curated compilations of overheard conversation fragments. I've been writing things down for a year now - things I (and others too, friends and visitors to my blog) overhear in transient public spaces. When we premiere the piece on September 28 in Seward Park in lower Manhattan, Susan will sing these overheard things back into public space. I am hoping to animate and articulate many distinct private experiences of public space, thereby creating a chain of chance encounters between listeners. By listening to the piece, we are all listening to each other.

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.

Chance Encounter started in a collaborative conceptual frenzy, between Susan and myself. I often get ideas for pieces that way, as the result of a "we." Violinist Colin Jacobsen and I discovered a common passion for Rilke, and so my next major piece ended up being a Rilke setting with a special solo part for him. The double violin concerto that I am working on now took as its starting point the sheer exuberance of the musical spirits for whom it is written: Colin, violinist Carla Kihlstedt and the conductor of the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Gil Rose. These musical relationships create specific energies, which gives rise to specific sound worlds. The method, I suppose, is openness, or a concentration on being aware of what in my thinking life is creating that kind of energy.

Do you have a routine? A place that's special

As a touring vocalist and active new music advocate, I find that my schedule doesn't often allow for an actual routine. I've learned to work in any circumstances, including in hotel rooms and on planes if necessary. But when I do manage to secure a nice long chunk of time to go into 'lock-down' and organize my days around composing, I find that I work best first thing in the morning. I naturally wake up at 5:30 or 6 am, if I am working on a piece. I work at my piano (a beautiful 1927 Steinway), taking breaks for coffee, breakfast, second breakfast, a run, lunch, and so on until I emerge from this state of concentration, usually sometime in the early afternoon. When I am getting close to finishing a piece, I find that this zone can last all day, into the evening.

What's the craziest idea for a piece you've ever had?

Chance Encounter is probably it! One of the most challenging (and most fun!) aspects of this piece is that the 12 instrumentalists are in two different groups, at a considerable remove from one another. The composition of these groups keeps changing, and there is no conductor. And, of course, they are outside in public space. I've wrangled aleatoric and spatial elements before, most notably in The Right Weather, in which the players of the American Composers Orchestra were all over Zankel Hall, including in the lobby. But this is certainly stretching me! Happily, I know I have players who can handle anything. I've seen Susan sing face-down on a raked stage with water cascading down on her head. And many of the young players of The Knights also tour with Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Project, so they have made music with people in many countries, learning the complex methods and techniques of traditional musicians by rote.

What inspires you to write?

Reading, and people.

What are your plans for the future?

I have a bunch of wonderful projects ahead, including the double violin concerto and a large-scale symphonic piece for BMOP, plus some other collaborations with wonderful chamber musicians, visual artists, soloists. I suppose my plans for the future are to continue to court serendipity so that wonderful collaborators keep coming my way. I'm happiest in big projects, so I hope to stay healthy and strong so I can continue to summon the energy for ambitious things.

How can people find out more about you?

My website,, is probably a good place to start. There's a blog specifically about the evolution of Chance Encounter there:, plus information on upcoming performances and projects. I also have a blog about my activities as Composer-in-Residence with BMOP: I know that the websites for radio stations WNYC and WITF have archived interviews as well, and there are various articles and interviews scattered about on webmags, including and the new york foundation for the arts's webmag:

Best of all, come to Seward Park at 1:30 or 5 pm on Friday September 28 and hear Chance Encounter! And come find me - I'll be there, somewhere in the crowd.

Interview by Composition:Today © Copyright 2004-2023

Comments by other Members

Posted by :  KonnorRhett at 16:00 on 17 June 2020
Lisa Bielawa seems like a wonderful lady! The interview shared here has shown a new side of here that my rushmyessay reviews friends will love. I will share this interview with them soon, and hope they like it.
Posted by :  Barric at 15:58 on 27 June 2020 is the premier seller of Social Media Marketing services on the web. Whether it is something you need for your social media accounts or you are a SMM services reseller, you will find it all here. [url=]smm reseller panel[/url]
Posted by :  Elizabeth03 at 09:56 on 20 July 2020
There are many a href="">reasons to buy an essay</a>! Know about the most popular ones. Maximize your time and cope with a pile of papers with ease. Hiring professionals has a lot of benefits.
Posted by :  Elizabeth03 at 10:30 on 20 July 2020
There are many <a href="">reasons to buy an essay</a>! Know about the most popular ones. Maximize your time and cope with a pile of papers with ease. Hiring professionals has a lot of benefits.
Posted by :  jamseales0 at 11:40 on 07 March 2021
Nice to be visiting your blog again, it has been months for me. Well this article that iíve been waited for so long. I need this article to complete my assignment in the college, and it has same topic with your article. Thanks, great share. 먹튀
Posted by :  jamseales0 at 12:20 on 11 March 2021
This blog was extremely helpful. I really appreciate your kindness in sharing this with me and everyone else! 먹튀
Posted by :  jamseales0 at 13:29 on 15 March 2021
We are really grateful for your blog post. You will find a lot of approaches after visiting your post. I was exactly searching for. Thanks for such post and please keep it up. Great work. 먹튀검증업체
Posted by :  jamseales0 at 08:20 on 20 March 2021
Great Information sharing .. I am very happy to read this article .. thanks for giving us go through info.Fantastic nice. I appreciate this post. 꽁머니 1만
Posted by :  jamseales0 at 11:52 on 28 March 2021
I found so many interesting stuff in your blog especially its discussion. Really its great article. Keep it up. The Float Life
Posted by :  jamseales0 at 12:27 on 01 April 2021
If someone week i really ashen-haired not actually pretty, whether you will lite grope a present, thought to follow us to displays bursting with ends of the earth considerably? Inside the impeccant previous, sea ever have dried-up, my hubby and i only may very well be with all of you connected thousands of samsara. Onewheel Accessory
Posted by :  jamseales0 at 07:28 on 05 April 2021
I was surfing net and fortunately came across this site and found very interesting stuff here. Its really fun to read. I enjoyed a lot. Thanks for sharing this wonderful information. Computer Support and Services companies near me Cheviot Hills Los Angeles
Posted by :  jamseales0 at 11:06 on 05 April 2021
What a fantabulous post this has been. Never seen this kind of useful post. I am grateful to you and expect more number of posts like these. Thank you very much. 健身教練
Posted by :  jamseales0 at 13:26 on 05 April 2021
Great post, you have pointed out some fantastic points , I likewise think this s a very wonderful website. 메이저놀이터
Posted by :  jamseales0 at 11:47 on 06 April 2021
The article looks magnificent, but it would be beneficial if you can share more about the suchlike subjects in the future. Keep posting. Baby Yoda Plush Toys
Posted by :  jamseales0 at 07:10 on 02 May 2021
If you are looking for more information about flat rate locksmith Las Vegas check that right away. Toronto Iron Railings
Posted by :  jamseales0 at 10:30 on 03 May 2021
I know your aptitude on this. I should say we ought to have an online discourse on this. Composing just remarks will close the talk straight away! What's more, will confine the advantages from this data. โจ๊กเกอร์123
Posted by :  jamseales0 at 08:58 on 12 May 2021
Extraordinary things you've generally imparted to us. Simply continue written work this sort of posts.The time which was squandered in going for educational cost now it can be utilized for studies.Thanks eye doctor Collinsville
Posted by :  jamsebond0 at 11:16 on 21 June 2021
Do you live in Oakville or the Halton region including Burlington in Halton Hills and Milton and are you looking for scrap car removal in Oakville Milton and Burlington areas scrap cars Oakville offers Top Cash on the spot for all old and unwanted Vehicles we pay cash for cars and we throw away all the scrap and junk cars from Oakville Burlington and Milton areas oakville tow truck
Posted by :  jamseales0 at 18:04 on 23 July 2021
Best Casino Sites Real Money are the most popular search online all the time, If you want to find a more trusted casino site with great offer easily, please donít miss out on our list of best online casino sites 2062 Best Casino Sites Real Money
Posted by :  jamsebond0 at 06:49 on 31 July 2021
Ertisun is a handmade jewellery ireland brand inspired by Irish Nature with a passion for unique and delicate jewellery designs. Each piece is uniquely handcrafted with love. Handmade designer jewellery online in Ireland. Please visit our website for more details and get to know about the designer Edyta Rosinska, Thank You. website
To post comments you need to become a member. If you are already a member, please log in .