Tag Archives: veronika krausas

Misfits and Hooligans Interview: Veronika Krausas

26 Apr

The third in our series of interviews with artists leading up to the Misfits and Hooligans concert at Beyond Baroque on April 28, we talk to composer, producer, and Catalysis Projects Core Artist Veronika Krausas.

Can you tell us a bit about your work that’s being presented on the concert?

I’ve got two pieces on the program – one a little older and one a little newer.  Let’s say the older one is the hooligan work.  It’s my double bass trio called Gardens of Stone.    This piece was inspired by a poem by the Canadian writer André Alexis:

 out of silence, to another silence

 from sun and water, dry white salt.

time moves like that, crest to crest,

and our selves, yours and mine,

are what is left from sea …

 I had a series of works that used texts around stones by Alexis.  Some of them had the text read, some sung, and in this piece it’s simply the inspiration seed.  I wrote it after hearing the marvelous bassist Stefano Scodanibbio perform at Darmstadt.  I was enthralled with the range of sounds that he was able to achieve.   My work can be amplified but for Saturday’s concert it’ll be acoustic since it’s such a small space, the real estate is at a premium!

The second work – my misfit piece – is Jonas for solo harmonica.   The supreme master of the harmonica, Bill Barrett, asked me to write a solo work for him a few years ago.  It’s finally getting its première this weekend.  The structure of the piece is 8 phrases, each ending in exactly the same, definitive way.  Along with the piece is a great text and film by Quintan Ana Wikswo called The Anguillidae Eater.

The text is about the migration of eels to the Coronian Spit in Lithuania (which is one of my favorite places in the world) with a surreal twist.

Curonian spit - Lithuania

Here’s what Quintan says of the work:

The Anguilladae Eaters inhabits an obscure spot upon the earth – a tiny spit of land in the Baltic Sea where ancient and ferocious female deities are still known to roam. Over the centuries, their alchemical, cryptic seaside has been invaded by Vikings, Russians, Catholics, Nazis – each wanting to plunder, subdue and control this disconcertingly female ensorcelled slice of earth. Yet there are pilgrims, too – the Anguilladae eels journey ten long years from the Sargasso Sea in the Caribbean, just to mate in these icy, enchanted waters. And they’re not alone. All manner of travelers are drawn here, even today, where these deities remain with powers far stronger and more fierce with age. Travelers today find themselves unsettled: are the local women truly women? Or are they themselves the cryptic eel goddesses – immortals in mundane disguise? Were the eggs at breakfast enchanted? Taken not from chickens, but from the plundered nest of an eel queen, stalking high along the dunes?

The images in her film are of eggs and the sea and the sand and an eel rake!

eel rake

It goes perfectly with the harmonica music.  The piece is named after my grandfather Jonas, who loved harmonica and smoked eel and was Lithuanian.  He was probably more of a friendly hooligan that a misfit.  I still have his harmonica in my studio.

Do you consider yourself a hooligan or a misfit? Or both? Or neither?

 

I’m a misfit but really my goal is to be a hooligan … it’s one of those things that I’m working on.  The definition of hooligan really depends on which country you hail from because in the lands that enjoy soccer (aka as non-American football), a hooligan might have a slightly less savory connotation than a hooligan in my less aggressive-less violent-more mischievous-Edward Gorey-esque usage of the term.

 

Edward Gorey

Tell us about the most memorable oddball instrument you’ve ever encountered.

 

I’ve always been perplexed with the ondes martenot.  The effects of the instrument are fantastic in Messiaen’s music and in the hands of a great performer, like Cynthnia Millar, it’s exquisite, but the method of performing on it has always messed with my brain.

I remember once hearing a bagpipe in a closed room – that was memorable.

I remember once seeing and hearing someone play on an amplified toothbrush – that was oddball.

And of course, there are those moments where all of a sudden you forget how to spell was or for a split second something that is habitual becomes an unknown action.  Sometimes, very rarely actually, I’ll be sitting at the piano and I’ll see myself from the outside, as if an alien watching who has no idea what a piano is, and think, this is strange – sitting at a table and hitting it with my fingers!  I guess that’s more just oddball rather than an instrument really.

 

FREE REED CONSPIRACY: accordions, zippers and a ZOTE

14 Dec

A REVIEW by CP member Veronika Krausas

This evening I attended the concert of the Free Reed Conspiracy, an accordion quartet with Catalysis Projects Resident Artist and composer extraordinaire, Isaac Schankler, along with mastermind of music boxes and music Daniel Corral, with James Barry and Jimi Cabeza De Vaca. It was at the Pasadena Library and part of their Creative Music Concert Series.

For most people accordions bring to mind om-pah-pah music, polkas, beer steins, burly smelly men and lederhosen.  There was not a one of any of these in sight.  The four musicians sat as still and erect as a string quartet.  The music was mostly minimal-process oriented- slowly unfolding music.  It was really a treat.  The first piece was by Dr. Schankler’s charming Chocolate Phase that’s his minimalist take on YouTube senations Tay Zonday’s Chocolate Rain.  The other 3 works were by Daniel Corral:  I-V-I, Neotrope, and Mandala Fanfare.  This last one had guest percussionist Andrew Lessman who performed on a snare (with a lovely dirty blue t-shirt thrown on the skin to dampen the sound) with a pair of sticks/brushes that looked like they had been gnawed on but they made the best sound!

It was a lovely hour and a half of hypnotic accordion sounds which ended miraculously at the exact same time as the library’s announcement of “The library will be closing in 15 minutes ….”  came on.  The performers and the audience were absolutely stunned at the timing!

The accordion is just a rockin’ instrument.  At the concert I ran into a fellow composer who leaned over after the first piece and said “you realize we first met at an accordion concert, does that mean we both have accordion fetishes?”  My answer “Yep … but don’t tell anyone!”  I frequently run into this same composer at other concerts including the ‘respectable’ ones at the LA Philharmonic.  At one particular concert, probably one of the Green Umbrella variety, this same composer was wearing a really cool pair of pants and I commented “hey, great pants.”  To which he replied “they’re women’s pants” (by the way he’s a he) and I said “How can you tell they’re women’s?” and he enlightened me that the zipper on men’s pants is done up with the right hand and women’s ‘traditionally’ with the left. Fascinating!   I reminded him of this encounter this evening and we proceeded to discuss this and the side buttons are buttoned up on on men’s vs. women’s shirts – but that’s for another blog.

When I got home I decided to do a little scientific research.  I went into my closet and counted zippers on pants.  The first thing that was utterly shocking – Good Lord! I own 24 pairs of pants!    Thirteen zip on the right, nine zip on the left and 2 pairs zip on the side.  The left ones include most of my dress pants and suits (including those made in Thailand).  The majority of the others are jeans, cords and an old pair of orange suede jeans.  The right is winning!  Maybe women’s left-sided zippers are slowly being converted to right-sided ones.

Since zipper begins with a Z (I still pronounce this ‘zed’ being from Canada and all) …  I must quote one of my favorite writers from a book that is always on my desk:  Edward Gorey’s The Utter Zoo Alphabet.

(About the Zote what can be said? There was just one, and now it’s dead.)

Scelsi, an 87-year-old singer, and aural purging

4 Apr

MUSIC: Veronika Krausas

On Friday, April 2, 2010 I went to a fabulous concert featuring an 87-year-old singer MICHIKO HIRAYAMA who sang CANTI DEL CAPRICORNO, a 20-song cycle written expressly for her between 1962 and 1972, by the eccentric Italian composer Giacinto Scelsi (1905-88).

The concert started with this tiny Japanese woman slowly ambling onto the stage in a bright red print gown, high gold heels, and a gong hanging around her neck.

She had thick glasses on and sometimes, when she was reading the top line of the score, and because of the light and the glasses, it looked like her eyes were 5 times their normal size and were staring right at me.

These amazing vocal pieces use no text, but phonemes to color the pitches.

They’re chant-like songs that are mostly a capella except for a few:  one is with saxophone, two are with percussion, and one is with double bass.  And of course, the first one is with Michiko Hirayama accompanying herself with the gong, hanging like a large bauble on her chest.

The zodiac “capricorn’ relates to an area extending from India to Central America, which Scelsi mentions as the last refuges of a prehistoric human culture.

When the concert was over there were two things going through my mind:  one, what an amazing singer AND she’s 87, and second, I felt as if Hirayama was a witch doctor or shaman who, with her singing,  had completely purged me of all evil spirits!

There’s a CD (I think it’s out of print?) that has 19 songs on it.  I picked a copy up in the mid-90’s and every time I hear it, it still sounds like an ancient ritual that is sometimes shaking a finger at me, sometimes ignoring me, and at other times slightly smirking.

There are some excerpts on youtube:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=rxOJh3aXhRg

www.youtube.com/watch?v=9IUvp3Q6E10&feature=related

Here’s her link:

www.myspace.com/michikohirayama

COMING UP:

There are two events that are NOT to be missed at Disney Hall in the next week or so.  The British composer Thomas Adès is conducting a concert of his works including his spectacular Violin Concerto with the violin virtuoso Anthony Marwood.  Concerts are April 8-10th.   The second concert is LA COMMEDIA by the Dutch minimalist Louis Andriessen on April 13th.  It’s based on Dante’s Divine Comedy.  Check out the LA Phil’s website for more info.

www.laphil.com