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30 Questions to Margaret Lancaster

img  Tobias

Hi! How are you? Where are you?
I am okay - thanks.  In nyc.

What’s on your schedule right now? 
Preparing music for my upcoming cd with New World Records, developing interdisciplinary projects with bushels of amazing people including blue gene tyranny, kenji bunch, carolyn yarnell, and corey dargel, acting in Mabou Mines DOLLHOUSE (we just returned from Madrid and are headed to LA soon), playing lots of concerts --- the usual mixed bag.

If you hadn’t chosen for music, what do you think you would do right now?
If I didn’t play, act or dance, I might be a furniture designer (my amateur hobby – I have designed 4 major pieces of furniture thus far!), or a mathematician...

What or who was your biggest influence as an artist? 
I had a couple of great undergrad professors who propelled my interests outside of the box --- I am inspired by beautiful independent spirits on a daily basis.

What’s the hardest part about being a musician and what’s the best?
Hardest – getting the work
Best – doing the work
I tend to be a dreamer --- No one ever told me that every profession entails business and politics ---- I just had no idea --- it was a very rude awakening.

What’s your view on the classical music scene at present? Is there a crisis?

Crisis? The “war on terror” is a crisis; however, I can kvetch a little if you’d like ---This may be a gross exaggeration, but it seems like the exponential growth of mass media has produced a sound byte society whose majority no longer engages in intellectual stimulation but rather panders to familiar and accessible tastes which all too often translates to mediocrity. Great provocative art is still being made but it does not usually get the mainstream attention it deserves.

Some feel there is no need to record classical music any more, that it’s all been done before. What do you tell them?   
Yes, all 9 Beethoven symphonies have been recorded – many times --- however there is an immense amount of music that needs to be professionally documented -- I think the more pressing concern is how to market classical music --- as the major retail institutions continue to go out of business, record companies need to transform into ‘media’ companies and market their wares in new ways.

What constitutes a good live performance in your opinion?
Awareness, truth, commitment, skill, purposeful intention.

What’s your approach to performing on stage? 
Most important is integrity to the material and myself and being aware of what is going on inside and out – next, I try to engage the audience. There is no one full-proof strategy – every performance (and every audience!) is different – I am constantly experimenting with presentation style and continue to learn, grow and make new mistakes with each performance.

True or false: It is the duty of an artist to put his personal emotions into the music he plays…… 
It is one’s prerogative, not one’s duty.  Whether an artist’s work is informed by his emotional life is completely subjective --- Cage believed in an anarchic freedom loosening the control of the performer and therefore empowering the listener --- this is a valid dogma; however, personally it IS important to me to be emotionally honest to myself and the character of the work (see the performance approach question).

True or false: People need to be educated about classical music, before they
can really appreciate it.

--- Absolutely false --- remember the opera scene in “Pretty Woman” when Julia Roberts is moved to tears??? hahahah  ………sure, an education helps – but more important is focused attention and an open honest mind to evoke a genuine raw visceral response.  

You are given the position of artistic director of a concert hall. What would be on your program for this season? 
I don’t want the Carnegie Hall job!!!

What’s your favourite classical CD at the moment?

Since his passing I’ve been listening to a great disc of Ligeti works including his double concerto for flute and oboe and Musica Ricercata ----I’ve also been listening to Meredith Monk’s Facing North and Robert Ashley’s Atalanta  this week.

Have you ever tried playing a different instrument? If yes, how good were you at  it?
I started out playing piano ---  I won several local talent competitions in junior high school with my spectacular rendition of bumble boogie. 

What does the term „new“ mean to you in connection with music?  
I have witnessed this term batted around for years, and it remains as vague and obtuse as ever!!! If new simply means music written by living composers then the latest Jessica Simpson CD should be categorized as ‘new music’ ---- either we need a term with more clarity or we need to refrain from compartmentalizing ---- rarely do innovative artists fit neatly into a category.
How do you see the relationship between sound and composition?  
Composition is comprised of sounds.
How strictly do you separate improvising and composing? 
I don’t - .improvising IS composing
 How would you define the term “interpretation”?
The realization of the creator’s intention filtered through the performer’s voice.
Harmony? Dissonance? The freedom to choose both, none or just one?
There are so many more options. I vote for the freedom to create your own distinct ever-evolving voice.
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 believe music is defined as “sound” (or lack thereof) --- if a piece is constructed around the premise of making ‘sound’ then it is music.
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?

For most people, art is a forum for expression --- political, social, emotional, etc. -- Whether an artist’s work is intentionally political or not, it is a creative documentation of his personal convictions for which he must be held responsible when presenting it publicly. – If one sends a message to his constituency through his art, that is his prerogative; however, when the sole purpose is to make a political statement at the expense of the art’s quality, I think a different and more effective forum should be used. As artists, we must be aware that our work has the potential to communicate very powerfully. It is our job to be as clear as possible and responsible for the messages we convey.

True or false: The cultural subsidies doled out by governments are being sent to the wrong kind of people and institutions.
---- what???? government subsidies for the arts??????
Many artists dream of a “magnum opus”. Do you have a vision of what yours would sound like?   
My current dream project would be a 20-30 minute interdisciplinary collaborative work with puppet genius basil twist (composer and director tba) that will combine my penchant for acting, dancing, and music.

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