EXCLUSIVE: 2015 MATA Festival Interview Spotlight - Adam de la Cour on 'Corporate Talent Factors Next Top Idol!', Bearthoven, One Percenters and Squib-box

By Maria Jean Sullivan on Apr 17, 2015 10:15 PM EDT

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.

Our second entry comes care of U.K. composer Adam de la Cour, whose MATA-commissioned piece Corporate Talent Factors Next Top Idol! will premiere tonight as part of the "Bearthoven Buckshot" program performed by, well, Bearthoven. True, Cour's bio reads "active as a vocalist, electric guitarist and clown" but it's that satire-littered style of writing that often results in staggering works of heartbreaking genius. In addition to putting in time with Michael Finnissy, he's learned the ways of the comic book artist,too. Below, we gain insight on how Cour's talents intertwine with the harsh realities of 2015's economic landscape.

Classicalite: Your piece Corporate Talent Factors Next Top Idol! has quite an interesting conceit. What's the inspiration? Even better, how will the work play out on the MATA stage?

Adam de la Cour: Well, from the audience's perspective, the performance scenario emulates the 'live event' cinema screenings that seem to be gaining popularity. There will be a large projection of a talent contest (think America's Got Talent) accompanied by an in-house band performing live in the theater. The video projection is both a feature in its own right--as well as the score, on a variety of levels, for the performers. The talent show itself is unique in that the contestants are all high-powered CEOs: a banker, a media mogul and an oil tycoon. They proceed to duke it out in a bluntly absurd and satirical manner.

A couple of things inspired the work, the first was a performance experience I had at a European new music festival a year or so ago. I won't mention any names, but a few performers were asked to perform in what I can only describe as an X-Factor-style graphic score performance competition--complete with public vote. Quite a few performers refused to take part and even some of the audience made it known that they weren't too keen on the idea. I personally felt I couldn't let an experience like this slip me by and bathed like a pig in the ridiculousness of the situation (then again, is it really any different from classical piano contests and composition prizes?). The experience stuck with me, and I wanted to explore the idea of 'music-as-contest' a little further.

My second form of inspiration (if you can call it that), comes from the fact that we're living in a time of massive economic inequality. As an artist, I battle with how to engage with these types of issues, how to stay somehow relevant on broader issues within the confines of something as hermetically sealed as new music. This is a toughie, but personally, I'm drawn to satire as a means of political commentary. So, I thought why not set up a scenario where these corrupt 'elite' caricatures have to use their underhanded skill sets within the setting of a popular Saturday night talent show? The tagline is "Where the 1% give 100%".

Clite: How did you get involved with MATA and the opportunity to have your piece become a festival commission?

AdlC: I answered the ad! I don't usually apply for many commission opportunities, but I somehow became aware of MATA's 2015 call out, probably via Sound and Music, a U.K. charity for new music. I thought it looked like a great opportunity to get involved with an exciting festival. Then, I guess, I got lucky.

Clite: How soon did you know Bearthoven would be performing your piece? Did that effect the composition process?

AdlC: I was teamed up with Bearthoven a good six months ahead of the festival. They're a great young trio consisting of Matt Evans (percussion), Karl Larson (piano) and Pat Swoboda (bass). They were 100% on board with the concept from the get-go.

The line-up certainly influenced the trajectory of the piece. Their skill set covers a healthy range of musical languages, so I knew I could utilize a variety of references, including classical, jazz, metal and improv. I particularly liked the fact that they could be perceived as a band. This was important for the 'in-house band' role the piece requires; they're like a very messed up version of 'The World's Most Dangerous Band' from Late Show with David Letterman.

Clite: OK, so after MATA, what else is on the horizon?

AdlC: I'd like to give a shout out about Squib-box, which is an artist collective I co-founded with Neil Luck and Federico Reuben. We have an impressive roster of fantastic artists and a large collection of unique albums for download..

Last but not least, any advice on good gin joints to inhabit post-show is greatly appreciated.

[Editor's note: Definitely checkout out the Chelsea speakeasy Bathtub Gin on 9th Ave.]

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TagsEXCLUSIVE, MATA Festival, Adam de la Cour, Corporate Talent Factors Next Top Idol, Bearthoven, Squib-Box, The Kitchen, Lisa Bielawa, Philip Glass

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