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15 Questions to Thurman Barker

img  Tobias

Hi! How are you? Where are you?
I feel good on reflecting on my activity this year, busy introducing my new working group" Trinity ", an Organ Trio, I introduce a quintet in the 2008 Chicago Jazz Festival featuring AACM members, and an opportunity to present Strike Force on December 11th.  I am reflecting and preparing for the December 11th program in Jeffersonville, Ny. where I live.

What's on your schedule right now?

Finishing up the production on my new release featuring my Organ Trio, and booking some gigs.

The "Interpretations" series is celebrating its 20th season this year. In which way does this bring back personal memories for you?
Wonderful memories. From my own projects, performing with other composers, or just attending concerts, I have always left an Interpretations concert feeling good about the music I heard, stimulated to write more music and talking to other people atteding.

What, to you, makes "Interpretations" stand out from the cornucopia of contemporary music series?
The diversity of the music and artistic freedom.

In which way, would you say, has "Interpretations" been marked by its location – is there something typically New Yorkian about it?
What location are you talking about? I thought Merkin Hall was great for it's location and the acoustics of the hall.

How would you describe and rate the music scene of the country you are currently living in?
It's terrible. There is no opportunity for an artist like myself because you need a manager to get any attention. Most managers only sign clients that are easy to sell. Plus, the scene has created an atmosphere, where musicians are competing for the few gigs that are availible. This is the reason why I created my own record label " Uptee Productions ". This new release will be number five.

Speaking about your own music: How do you see the relationship between sound and composition?

They go hand and hand. Strike Force gives me a wide range of sound to choose from. Metal, Wood, Skin, pitch and non-pitched to choose from. In addition, Strike Force include some experts, who are familiar playing percussion  Each one of us specialize on certain instruments, but can move around playing other percussion instruments.

In which way, would you say, is your cultural background reflected in your work?
I look at myself carrying on the tradition of the late great Drummer Baby Dodds, Who I never met but know about his work and the late great Max Roach who I have met and know. When the jazz combo was form, the drum set was formed around the same time. As an African American who has traveled to west Africa, I received a first hand experience on how the drum is at the core of the music there and in the west.

How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?
My music involves both. Some of my compositions follow a set harmonic progression and improvise on a certain groove. So I'm strict if the composition calls for it. Compositions that I've written that do not have a set chord progression and a particular rhythm, I allow more freedom for the player to develop the music naturally.

What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion? What's your approach to performing on stage?
A good live performance is when the room acustics are good. A full house, and the band is in sync. My approach is to create a set that offers variety, balance among instruments and different moods.

How would you define the term "interpretation"? How important is it for you to work closely together with the artists performing your work?
I define the term "interpretation" as how one perceives. I think the music being presented in your series lives up to the name. I love the ceative process of working with musicians. Getting to know their music and getting them to know mine. We all have our own approach in reaching the same goal. The process in getting there is the learning process.

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?
There is a lot of truth in that quote. I am exploring composing for non-pitched instruments, Wood blocks, Tambourine, Snare Drum. Texture is also becoming an important role in composition, blending non-pitched instruments with pitched instruments together.

Would you say that a lack of education is standing in the way of audiences in their appreciation of contemporary composition?
No. I think this generation today is more open to contemporary music than my generation. The audience today is more educated than they get credit for.


How, do you feel, could contemporary compositions reach the attention of a wider audience without sacrificing their soul?
Only if the composer puts their soul first can reach a wider audience. It starts with the soul.

You are given the position of artistic director of a festival. What would be on your program?
Acapella vocal group singing early and contemporary music.
a Three jazz acts, Early jazz, Bebop, and Free jazz.
b Chamber group and String Quartet.
c Big band plays the music of Jimmie Lunceford.
d Electronic music ensemble.
e World music ensemble.
f Solos and Duos.

Strike Force (Uptee Productions) 2004
Time Factor (Uptee Productions) 2001
The Way I Hear It (Uptee Productions) 1999
Voyage (Uptee Productions) 1999 & 1987

Thurman Barker / Uptee Productions

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