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15 Questions to Dobrinka Tabakova

img  Tobias

Hi! How are you? Where are you?
Good morning! I’m feeling well and am at home in South London.

What’s on your schedule right now?
I am currently completing a PhD at King’s College London, and most of my efforts are focused on the portfolio for that. I have recently completed a cycle of Shakespearean sonnets for soprano and orchestra which was premiered last month by the Orchestra of the Swan and Claire Booth, and am currently working on a ‘Suite in Old Style’ for string quintet and solo viola to be performed by Maxim Rysanov in Moscow in January.

What’s your view on the music scene at present? Is there a crisis?
In many ways it depends where you are. The music scene in London could hardly be more varied and is mostly extremely well attended. I am an optimist, and as far as the future of ‘concert hall’ music is concerned, I think it will survive the ups and downs of ‘trends’- culture will never be out of fashion.

What does the term „new“ mean to you in connection with music?
Well, ‘new music’ in terms of classical music has tended to mean the avant-garde, but in my opinion any music creator can make something new by simply approaching something familiar from another angle

How do you see the relationship between sound and composition?
Composition can be seen as a way of ordering sound/ sonorities, so the two will always be linked.

How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?
Improvisation can be a useful compositional tool- it can break down some of the strict barriers and aid the creation of something more intuitive and spontaneous. But the best combination, in my view is to use improvisation as a catalyst for formal composition.

How would you define the term “interpretation”?
Interpretation is the performer’s contribution to a composition.

Harmony? Dissonance? The freedom to choose both, none or just one?
A healthy and honest combination of both is the best solution in my view, and then they simply become a way of expression and merge into one- better not to segregate.

A lot of people feel that some of the radical experiments of modern compositions can no longer be qualified as “music”. Would you draw a border – and if so, where?
I am not against experimentation, I think it is healthy for the development of music and broadens our aural horizons. However, I am against music which simply exists to shock, it is like a teenager who wants to be different, and doesn’t realise that in fact there are so many similar rebels, so in fact it is not such an original idea after all.

Are “serious” and “popular” really two different types of music or just empty words without a meaning?
In today’s music climate, although there is much cross-over which tries to bridge the gap between the two, they still remain apart. I feel that if a person wishes to create music and has a fair knowledge of as many styles as possible and then makes a conscious decision where they feel they fit in, whether they go into serious or popular music, they create, and that’s all that matters.

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 feel strongly that a composer has a responsibility to communicate - whether that be on aesthetical or cultural issues. Communicating a personal sensation is all well if it means something to others, otherwise it can become self indulgent and irrelevant.

True or false: People need to be educated about music, before they can really appreciate it.
It certainly helps to have some knowledge, many composers make references to other pieces, ironic or genuine, and it helps the full enjoyment of a composition if an audience can pick up these nuances. However, a truly good piece of music has to speak to as wide an audience as possible- without dumbing down… it’s a challenge!

True or false: The cultural subsidies doled out by governments are being sent to the wrong kind of people and institutions.

Some areas of culture have not been supported for a very long time, and some sectors of our society have very little contact with classical music, so I can understand the huge subsidies that go in those areas. Relating back to your previous question - Western governments are trying to educate a young audience about the benefits of classical music through education work. I feel this is important, but it requires constant updating, and monitoring, to make sure that the standard of education is high and challenging.

You are given the position of artistic director of a festival. What would be on your program?
I would probably have a theme of time travel and have two time zones - Baroque and 20/21st Century and composers will include Messiaen, Rameau, Nancarrow, Gubaidulina, Lully, Lachenmann, Desyatnikov and a Couperin and Ligeti harpsichord bonanza too.

Many artists dream of a “magnum opus”. Do you have a vision of what yours would sound like?
Maybe a solo flute suite… or a hurdy-gurdy fantasia… Only joking! I have ideas for grand pieces, yes, but I prefer to work on an achievable scale, so it won’t be a 7 hour opera… Perhaps only a 6 hour one… Who knows…

Dobrinka Tabakova

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