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15 Questions to Dave Maric

img  Tobias

Hi! How are you? Where are you?
Great thank you! I’m feeling quite highly charged right now as I’m in the middle of an exciting and huge composition. At the moment I’m spending some time in Bern, Switzerland with my partner, which is actually a great place for focussing on what I’m currently doing.

What’s on your schedule right now?
The project I’m involved with right now is  a 90+ minute orchestral score for a ballet adaptation of Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities” for Northern Ballet Theatre in Leeds which will premiere August 30th 2008 at the West Yorkshire Playhouse.

Would you say the music scene is in a state of crisis? How hard (or easy) has it been for you finding performance opportunities and audiences for your music?
Well, I hope the commercial pop music scene is in a state of crisis with its plummeting sales, maybe this will pave the way for more interesting artists to gain some more exposure – however the internet is already allowing for this and I think there is a flourishing music scene across many genres consequently right now. But we need more (smaller) live performance venues for interesting music/events – I find it hard to believe that they would be anything less than a roaring success in the right locations and with the right management.
I only started professionally composing about 7 years ago but during that time I’ve been lucky in having a handful of high profile artists interested in performing my work on many occasions. Of course, I can’t always rely on that and there are periods where it feels like no one cares but then, if you don’t promote yourself then no one will – but having said that I am rubbish at self-promotion and am petrified at the thought that a wilderness period might be lying just around the corner…

What do you usually start with when composing?
Most commonly the keyboard and improvisation, which is totally natural for me since my roots as a musician predominantly lie in instinctive and improvisatory music making. My classical training was always secondary to this but it allowed me to be exposed to and remain in contact with the incredibly rich and incredibly important history of western classical music.
My initial aim when writing a piece of music is to “discover” its structure and then chip away at it like a sculpture.

How do you see the relationship between sound and composition?

That depends on the type of piece. Occasionally I create electronic works that can almost totally rely on purely sonic qualities. With acoustic works however I would say that I take a more traditional approach through focussing primarily on the old school building blocks of rhythm, harmony and melody, but timbre and register are equally important of course – it’s just that I’m not one of those composers who are primarily interested in “sonic effects” generated by instruments.

How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?
For me they are almost one and the same, or perhaps they feed off each other. Usually improvisation comes first and “composing” second i.e. lots of material can be generated through improvisation which can then be later “refined”.

Harmony? Dissonance? The freedom to choose both, none or just one?
I don’t believe in harmonic manifestos! I enjoy and have created both tonal and atonal music. It all depends on the nature of the piece I’m writing. But ultimately I have a personal preference for tonal music.

Russian composer Alexander Danilevski said: “The musical innovations of the 21st century will not be intonational ones; they will be based on developing a new musical form and dramaturgy.” What are your thoughts on this?
Never heard of him! But for me that’s an interesting statement especially as in the last few years I’ve been involved in a substantial amount of contemporary/classical dance scores that have often employed narrative structures, which I think has had an impact on my compositional persona. But this statement is also possibly applicable to other art forms, in music, dance and the visual arts there have been so many “abstract” and free works since the early post-WW2 years (understandably so, of course) that maybe it’s just all got a bit too aimless and over-ambiguous and as clichéd as anything else, hence a possible need for change.

How would you define the term “interpretation”? How important is it for you to work closely together with the artists performing your work?
In my experience so far I have come across two types of “interpreters”. 1) Those that try to fully convey what they think is the emotional/poetic/political aim of the composer and 2) Those that simply want to stamp their own personality on whatever it is they are performing.
Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages – and like most things, it really depends on the context of the piece.
I prefer to just go away and write the music I want to write and then go through it with the artist I’m writing it for – which might possibly lead to some tweaks and changes that could better suit their style/abilities.

Do you feel an artist has a certain duty towards anyone but himself? Or to put it differently: Should art have a political/social or any other aspect apart from a personal sensation?
I think that if you’re part of a political movement that uses art to express certain fundamental principles then it is normal that a set of restrictions or some type of formula is employed to help convey that. If, like me, you are not, then I guess you’re freer to do whatever you feel inspired to do at the time. I’m interested quite often in art that deals with the human condition – so if I’m to tackle anything like that in a work that I’m creating then it is my duty to be as honest and clear as is humanly possible in the way that I express myself. The only really bad art in this world is dishonest art, and it is every artist’s duty to avoid that.  

Would you say that a lack of education is standing in the way of audiences in their appreciation of contemporary composition?
Well, depends perhaps on the type of composition. Some works of art are more “accessible” than others. And some of the more impenetrable works of art out there sometimes need either an explanation, or repeated exposure to it in order for it to be fully appreciated by the audience – or perhaps an awareness of its relevance and position relative to the history of all music/art.

How, do you feel, could contemporary compositions reach the attention of a wider audience without sacrificing their soul?
Possibly through a cross-disciplinary project. If, for example, a visual artist or choreographer is fully in touch with the music on a deep level (and vice-versa) it is possible that the presentation of the music will have a far more powerful impact on the audience. It’s just a shame that this doesn’t happen very often – so much multi-media stuff out there is just incredibly shallow and inconsequential.

True or false: The cultural subsidies doled out by governments are being sent to the wrong kind of people and institutions.
True and false. It’s common knowledge that skilful form-filling can stand a better chance of triggering funding, but sometimes this skill is applied to an artist or institution that is worthy of support.

You are given the position of artistic director of a festival. What would be on your program?
Dance and film are great passions of mine so I would certainly include premieres of substantial new works in both these fields that would of course involve predominantly live new music.
Then in addition to this I would seek out interesting and highly original poet/musicians for intimate performances of original new songs in various styles.
Definitely an evening or two of the craziest and most interesting folk/world music.
Then an entire week dedicated to Igor Stravinsky. Actually make that a month.

Many artists dream of a “magnum opus”. Do you have a vision of what yours would sound like?
Blimey – I feel like I’m in the middle of that at the moment…

Discography (Dave Maric both as a composer and pianist):
Steve Martland: Crossing The Border (Factory 1992)
Steve Martland: Patrol (BMG 1994)
Bassistry: Bassistry (Okapi 1995)
Steve Martland: The Factory Masters (BMG 1996)
Marc Ribot: Shoe String Symphonettes (Tzadik 1997)
Mike Westbrook: The Orchestra of Smith's Academy (Enja 1998)
John Adams: Gnarly Buttons/John's Book of Alleged Dances (Nonesuch 1998)
The Katia Labèque Band: Unspoken (Unspeakable 2003)
Colin Currie: Borrowed Time (Onyx Classics 2007)

Dave Maric

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