MicroTextual Musings: Cat Lamb Interview

4 Apr

Cat Lamb is a composer, violist, and teacher living in Los Angeles. Her music pays delicate attention to layers of sound, and their shadows.  Catalysis Projects interviews her about her music, lingering tones, and the dhrupad.

Cat’s piece, The Field (for Agnes), will be given its world premiere at Catalysis Projects’ Microfest event on April 16.  Here are the particulars:

MicroTextual:  music with words | words without music
Saturday April 16 | 8:00pm
5772 W. Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90019
Enter though Paper or Plastik Cafe
$15/10 online or at the door

CP-Many of civilization’s oldest languages remain unwritten and
undocumented yet maintain an oral history. Our oldest music also
transmits itself this way. How do you feel your work is changed by
the process of formally writing or scoring it?

CL-The musical score is a struggle to the ever-changing being of the musician. I
am a being, in a state, when I place something on paper. What is placed on
the paper is no longer my pure state of being. Later, when I give it to a
musician to “read” (logic interfering), no matter how precise/imprecise my
demands are, ideally, their being will eventually infuse with that something
on the score, and we will experience present being(s) making sound in a

CP-Just as there are an infinite number of pitches between any two
keys on the piano, there are an infinite number of ways to compose
microtonally. Do you adhere to a particular flavor of microtonality,
and, if so, why?

CL-My work has sometimes been described as “droning music,” and although I
relate and have been a student to such described work from the older living
generations, I believe the word “droning” describes something that is static
and unchanging, never fading, but a bold presence for other sounds to sit

Diversely, I am interested in a tone lingering long enough for its colors, in
relationship and alone, to be clear and present and changing in a room,
existing within the quiet shades of clear resonance, and allowing for the mere
fluctuating combinations to ever-alter their presence and fade.

CP-How does your work on the April 16 concert find the small
spaces between the keys or between the words.

CL-I don’t think about being between the keys. I think rather that the keys,
which don’t usually appear in my work, form together an interesting skeleton
of relationships that have accomplished some really wonderful music over the
years in Western Music History.

As far as The Field (for Agnes), the tonal relationships are all derived from a
15 Hz fundamental, or 2 octaves below the ever-present 60Hz, American
electric cycle. I mostly work from a limited and narrow range, this one
simply being the 12th partial to the 36th partial.

I have recently become interested in the clarity of movement within one
tonal spectrum rather than a web of ever branching ratios.

CP-Here at Catalysis Projects, we believe that the collaborative
process can lead us in new, exciting, and sometimes unexpected
directions. Have you ever had a collaborative experience that led
you to results you didn’t expect?

CL-I believe it is safe to say I have learned a great deal from every musician I
have worked with. I continue to be interested to write for winds, for
instance, but feel that I am rather ignorant to the technicalities and that I
definitely go into unknown territory (for myself) when writing specific pitches
on these instruments.

For instance, when I give a set of pitches in a certain range to Christine
Tavolacci, my flute player for The Field (for Agnes), she has the impetus to
try every combination she can until the tone will sound clearly and with a
certain timbre. And of course at times it won’t, so that’s all part of the
process, and partly why I find this kind of working “experimental.”  I simply
don’t know every time whether something is going to work or not, and the
result may happen upon a timbre I hadn’t been aware of before.

CP-Is there anything else you’d like to say about the concert,
microtonality, world affairs, etc…

CL-While writing these answers I am thinking of Zia Mohiuddin Dagar. His recordings have taught me a great deal about a
being, ever-present in their sound creation. He was a dhrupad
composer/musician who could explore shades of color for hours at a time.

I mention Dagar and dhrupad because dhrupad was (from what I
understand) derived from a language initially, and in general dhrupad
musicians are vocalists. The various timbres are described as syllables, and
there are many, possibly infinite, distinctions. I have a difficult time with
language but this has fascinated me for some time now.

One Response to “MicroTextual Musings: Cat Lamb Interview”


  1. cat lamb interview // the experimental music yearbook -

    […] Here is a great interview with Cat Lamb, one of our featured artists from Issue 2010, regarding an upcoming premiere. categories news […]

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