Name: Aperture Duo
Members: Linnea Powell, Adrianne Pope
Occupations: Violist (Linnea Powell). Violinist (Adrianne Pope)
Current Release: Aperture Duo's eponymous debut album is out via Populist.
Recommendations: Maggie Nelson’s Bluets is a collection of 240 poetry and prose entries on the color blue. Bluets is the inspiration for Derek Tywoniuk’s piece of the same title on our album.
Ashon Crawley’s The Lonely Letters is an epistolary blackqueer critique of the normative world and a meditation on the interrelation of blackqueer life, sounds of the Black church, theology, mysticism, and love. Ashon’s liner notes for our album can be found here.
If you enjoyed this interview with Aperture Duo and would like to know more about them, visit their official website. Stay connected with them on Instagram, Facebook, and Soundcloud.
To read our interview with one of the duo's composer collaborators, read our Pauline Kim Harris interview.
When did you start playing music and what or who were your early passions and influences? What was it about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
We started playing together in 2015 after meeting on stage performing with Wild Up. We had both recently relocated to Los Angeles and were hungry for chamber music opportunities as we navigated the freelance scene in LA. We got our hands on the Mozart violin and viola duos and they were so satisfying to play.
We quickly realized that with only two players in an ensemble, there was so much for each of us to do and everything we played felt like a real conversation. We programmed one of the Mozart duos at our first concert along with some newly composed pieces that we had found for violin and viola duo. The concert was a success, and we had so much fun on stage together that night that we decided to officially form Aperture Duo.
We started asking our friends and colleagues from our vibrant new music community in Los Angeles to write us new works to expand the existing but limited violin and viola duo repertoire. It was off to the races from there!
Some people experience intense emotion when listening to music, others see colors or shapes. What is your own listening experience like and how does it influence your approach to music?
Adrianne: I have synesthesia with numbers and colors. When reading or playing music I’m familiar with, I often find numbers and patterns in the music. Since these numbers have a color for me, it helps me see an image and make sense of it. When listening to music that is new to me, I like to just let it hit me and try not to analyze it too much.
Linnea: I don’t have synthesia, but listening to music often has moments that make the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I love that feeling, and I search for it and try to create that response as much as possible.
How would you describe your development as an artist in terms of interests and challenges, searching for a personal voice, as well as breakthroughs?
An early mission of Aperture Duo was to program varied and contrasting works at every concert – to show the audience the wide array of sounds and colors the violin and viola can produce.
We like to think of our programming concerts as curating an entire museum, instead of curating one exhibit. This mission has shaped the way we have commissioned and performed, as we have sought to work with composers and generate pieces of diverse stylistic sound worlds. And this can also make performances quite challenging! Quick switches between vastly different styles and techniques on one program can be fatiguing mentally and physically but it’s always worth it.
Tell me a bit about your sense of identity and how it influences both your preferences as a listener and your creativity as an artist, please.
We have sought out works that require us to speak, sing, and perform choreography while playing. Figuring out how to approach and solve these challenges really scratches an itch for both of us.
We’ve also performed works that do not require instruments at all, instead featuring gestures, speaking, and body percussion. We’ve increasingly come to think of ourselves not just as a violin and viola duo, but as a duo.
Interestingly, performing off-instrument (where there’s nothing to hide behind!) has strengthened our chamber music skills, general musicianship, creativity, and freedom on our instruments. It’s made us better at playing together in every sense.
What, would you say, are the key ideas behind your approach to music and art?
Openness, curiosity, collaboration, diversity, conversations. Getting out of our comfort zone.
How would you describe your views on topics like originality and innovation versus perfection and timelessness in music? Are you interested in a “music of the future” or “continuing a tradition”?
We play instruments that were invented hundreds of years ago, so in that sense we’re always steeped in tradition. But for us, innovation and originality aren’t “either/or” concepts with this tradition. We feel strongly that performing old music influences our interpretation and approach to new music, and performing new music influences our concept of sound and communication of old music.
Perfection, in any style – is never our goal. The stage is a place to take risks and catch each other when we fall. We’re human, and the fact that you can never repeat an exact performance twice is what keeps audiences coming back to live music everywhere and it’s what keeps us performing.
Over the course of your development, what have been your most important instruments and tools - and what are the most promising strategies for working with them?
We both perform on iPads and use page turning foot pedals.
Aside from this technology, we’re a very analog group! We embrace archaic tools: rosin, that thing that tightens a chin rest, mutes, rags, and screw drivers to tighten sinking music stands. And now, masks are a crucial tool so that we can continue to safely rehearse and perform regardless of the ebb and flow of this pandemic.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please.
As freelancers, every day is so different! Here’s an example of any given
A: Wake up early, go for a swim in the ocean, afternoon rehearsal or recording session, work on some drawing/animation projects, watch Korean zombie shows with my husband.
L: As a mom of a one year old, mornings are all about oatmeal (in hair, on the table, on the floor). That’s usually followed by a dog walk, some administrative phone meetings, perhaps a gig or rehearsal, followed by an evening performance.
Could you describe your creative process on the basis of a piece, live performance or album that's particularly dear to you, please?
We started dreaming about our debut album around 5 years ago.
At the time, we had a few commissions that we had workshopped and performed a lot, and these pieces had started to feel like a part of us and our identity as an ensemble. We planned the album as we would program a live concert: pieces that we love, contrasting styles and techniques, and many different sound worlds juxtaposed together. It took us about 4 years to record the album, and we finished the album during the pandemic.
The process of recording was quite easy for us – it wasn’t so different from a live performance. But everything that came after the recording was totally new to us and pushed us creatively to work both together and with our incredible team to find the exact final sound that represented Aperture Duo’s live aesthetic. We’re thrilled with the final product, and can’t wait to share it with the world.
Listening can be both a solitary and a communal activity. Likewise, creating music can be private or collaborative. Can you talk about your preferences in this regard and how these constellations influence creative results?
L: Truthfully, I only make music to make music with other people. I only enjoy practicing when I know that I’m working on a piece that I will play with others soon.
A: I also prefer to make music with other people. But I also like playing music and improvising alone. It’s like meditation.
How do your work and your creativity relate to the world and what is the role of music in society?
L: I like to think of concerts as providing a space for reflection, community, connections, comfort, discomfort, nostalgia, new ideas, and new experiences, among many others. I believe our job as musicians and performers is to use our creativity and communication to create the space for the possibility of these experiences.
Art can be a way of dealing with the big topics in life: Life, loss, death, love, pain, and many more. In which way and on which occasions has music – both your own or that of others - contributed to your understanding of these questions?
A: One of the big topics in my life is my experience with epilepsy and memory loss due to seizures and treatment.
While memory loss has been an obstacle in the past, music has played a huge role in understanding and learning techniques to overcome it. Music is processed all across the brain … it’s comforting to know that even if parts of the brain are having a hard time, music will be able to find its way in there one way or another!
There seems to be increasing interest in a functional, “rational” and scientific approach to music. How do you see the connection between music and science and what can these two fields reveal about each other?
There are so many different methods that composers can use to generate sounds and ideas.
For us, how someone writes music isn’t as important as how it’s perceived in the ears of the listener. Wherever inspiration strikes, intentionality is always central to pieces that we love performing.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you feel as though writing or performing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
Sometimes, music is making coffee!
Music is vibration in the air, captured by our ear drums. From your perspective as a creator and listener, do you have an explanation how it able to transmit such diverse and potentially deep messages?
The connection between music and meaning is one of the cosmic mysteries of the universe and we wouldn’t have it any other way!