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EXCLUSIVE: 2015 MATA Festival Interview Spotlight - Wang Lu on 'Urban Inventory', Curious Chamber Players of Sweden and China's 'Little Trumpet Broadcast' Theme

By Maria Jean Sullivan m.sullivan@classicalite.com on Apr 16, 2015 10:20 PM EDT
Wang Lu "I always think composers should do what we feel like doing when writing and not feel obliged to explain personal or private contexts." -- Wang Lu (Photo : 3DotPress )

Founded by Philip Glass, Lisa Bielawa and Eleonor Sandresky in 1996, the MATA Young Composers Now! Festival strives to present emerging compositional talent sourced from across the globe. The 2015 edition at The Kitchen continues in that very tradition, featuring quite the varied array of exemplary young voices. So, with a nod to the spirit of MATA, itself, Classicalite has chosen three composers to speak with about that career-defining opportunity: a MATA commission.

First, we chat with Chinese composer Wang Lu, a 2014 Guggenheim composer and pianist whose work Urban Inventory opened on Tuesday--as part of the "Curiouser and Curiouser" program, featuring performances of Lu's work by Sweden's Curious Chamber Players.

No stranger to the festival circuit, Lu's work has been heard at the New York Philharmonic Biennale, the Frankfurt's Cresc Biennale, Gaudeamus, Tanglewood and Cabrillo, to name but a few. Below, we gain insight on Urban Inventory, working with such a "curious" ensemble and where her traditional Chinese upbringing merges with her doctoral thesis at Columbia.

Classicalite: How did the creation of your 2015 MATA Festival commissioned piece, Urban Inventory, come about? In short, what's the premise?

Wang Lu: Rather than focusing solely on a piece that works within itself in terms of form, harmony and drama, this piece is a way for me to try to redefine and expand a specific period in recent history, as well as convey popular public spaces bustling with activity--which are both dear to my heart. The piece includes samples of audio recordings I took at the park I visited every day while growing up, a unique sonic environment I had ignored until I experienced living overseas. Other sound samples that weave in and out of the piece include popular music from my high school years, propaganda ballet excerpts that were a fixture of family tapes and a peasant rapper whose recordings went unexpectedly viral last year.

Clite: When did you first get involved with MATA and the opportunity to have your work become the festival commission?

WL: Living in in New York for more than seven years, since 2005, MATA always struck me with its ultimate embracement of all sorts of styles and aesthetics. You can hear some very exciting new voices of composers you have never heard of before at the festival. So, after a few years of submitting my music, the opportunity has finally arrived!

Clite: How soon did you know who would be playing your piece? And did that news shape your process?

WL: There was some discussion of which ensembles would be performing at the festival, but it didn’t take too long to know that I would be working with the Curious Chamber Players, whom I haven’t yet met but have admired through their recordings and performances I’ve seen online.

Clite: Finally, take me through one of your favorite moments in creating your piece for MATA.

WL: One day, I received an email from artistic sirector Du Yun, after I sent in my music through the call for scores. She wrote enthusiastically about hearing my quotation and expansion of the so-called “Little Trumpet Broadcast” theme--well-known by anyone who grew up in China in the 1980s and '90s--featured on my ensemble work, An Atlas of Time. This warmed my heart greatly, as she is the first person to hear the work who understands the very nostalgic moment in the piece. I always think composers should do what we feel like doing when writing and not feel obliged to explain personal or private contexts. When a moment like this happens, I’m extremely touched.

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TagsEXCLUSIVE, MATA Festival, Wang Lu, Urban Inventory, Du Yun, Curious Chamber Players, Little Trumpet Broadcast, The Kitchen, Lisa Bielawa, Philip Glass