‘You Can Free Yourself’
I wanted to write these two large-scale, deeply virtuosic pieces for these two muses, but I hadn’t had a chance to create a large-scale work like that yet.
That comment may surprise regular #MusicForWriters readers who rememberour December article on the composer Paola Prestini and her Oceanic Verses. A complex work of music theater with chorus, soloists, movement, and digital production elements, Oceanic Verses has helped to define Prestini as the auteurshe is, and yet her presence as such seems recent to us. While many in the contemporary classical music scene have understood her as a seriously gifted composer, suddenly, it seems, Prestini walks into every room glowing with multimedia grace and collaborative resources.
Neither view is wrong. In our interview for her new album Labyrinth, she tells me that its two half-hour works were created in 2013 and 2014. This is all so recent: we’re watching one of the most determined and patient artists in the field today gather the culminations of projects that have been many years in the making. VisionIntoArt, the company behind VIA Records (which has produced two other #MusicForWriters artists, Anna Clyne and Prestini’s husband,the cellist Jeffrey Zeigler), was co-founded by Prestini in 1999.
This week, thanks to New York Public Radio’s free 24-hour stream Q2 Music and its Album of the Week series, Prestini’s new Labyrinth is getting a lot of well-deserved attention this month. There are many more Prestini projects in the works, including:
- Her Gilgamesh, part of The Ouroboros Trilogy, with Beth Morrison Projects;
- A treatment of The Old Man And The Sea with a truly iconic co-auteur,Robert Wilson, in Sydney at the time of the Commonwealth Games; and
- A mesmerizing tale, The Aging Magician, which was workshopped in New York this winter in association with Morrison, and will to go to Mass Mocain February, then will open at Minneapolis’ Walker Art Center and the University of Illinois’ Krannert Center, before having a New York City premiere at a venue still being chosen.
Part of what makes Prestini’s work so compelling is that, as large as it might be in its use of digital stage interpretation or its amplification by acoustic musical forces, it always starts in a small, intensely personal spot. The listener is embraced, even hugged, by a sound that’s richly crafted to remain resolutely personal.
To hear Prestini’s music is to feel as if you’ve shared a secret, just the two of you. And, of course, this is very close to the peculiar, bracing intimacy shared by a writer and his or her reader. Immersing yourself in fiction is, after all, a matter of spending time in another person’s head…or allowing that other person, the author, to live in your own consciousness. For a time, you relate to each other skin to skin, breathing in sync.
‘The Music Always Comes First’
Before we turn to our conversation, I’ll just tell you that you need not feel required to “view” these pieces. Each is made as an “installation concerto,” a work for performance in a visually arresting black-box stage format shimmering with projection, maybe fabric, perhaps a moving framework. Prestini offers her collaborative visual artists a chance to interpret her work this way, and you can get a sense for how the two pieces look “installed” on stage in the video trailer I’m including above.
- House Of Solitude, written for violinist Cornelius Dufallo, features not only massive projections by filmmaker Carmen Kordas but also the K-Bow, described as “a hand-crafted composite sensor bow” created by Keith McMillan to cue and control various sonic effects — live electronic performance based on acoustics — through the musician’s movements.
- Room No. 35, written for the acclaimed cellist Maya Beiser, is performed amid highly sensual visual imagery from filmmaker Erika Harrsch and video designer Brad Peterson. This one has a literary basis, in fact, in Anaïs Nin’sThe House Of Incest, and is played using an LED cello with what at times appears to be a life of its own.
Both works leverage such dramatic force and visual range in their staged evocations that as remarkable as these productions are to see, writers may feel more comfortable with the ruminations of their own responses to Prestini’s languid, lovely, melancholy musical lines and her use at times of soul-shaking bass effects. These “installation concertos” (the soloists perform with themselves through live electronic playback) are two voices of one woman: Prestini loves the interpretation of other artists onstage but needs no such panoply of effect to stop you in your tracks with her compositional genius. Dufallo and Beiser respond, as those “muses” of hers, with intensely giving, moody performances.
There’s more: Read the full story at Thought Catalog
By Porter Anderson
Writing on the Ether: Music For Writers: Paola Prestini’s Songs From Another ‘Labyrinth’
Originally published by Thought Catalog at www.ThoughtCatalog.com