How would you define the term “interpretation”? How important is it for you to closely work together with the artists performing your work?
In an ideal world there would be no need for my music to be interpreted. If I succeed as a composer, everything will be "on the page" and all the performer has to do is to play the music. The word "play" is important here. There is an element of personality and character in a performer if he/she really plays.
Using my above analogy of musical piece/person: Interpretation is not letting the person speak, but trying to translate something into your own world, and this translation is obviously coloured by all that the interpreter is. Having said that, I am fine with people interpreting music, but I'd like to hear a plain version, too, so that I can make up my own mind.
Since there usually is the tendency to interpret, I do like to work with performers, just to demonstrate what I originally had in mind. When Thomas Blomster and I worked on the orchestration for Todmorden 513 (TM513), for example, we were looking for a word to summarise the way each part should be played by each instrumentalist. Eventually we came up with the word "normal", which surprised us, but that's really how musical pieces should be performed. At the very least when in the process of getting to know the music.
The effect of a piece doesn't merely depend on the performance of the musicians, but also on the place it is performed at. How do you see the relationship between location and sound? In how far do you feel the current system of concert halls is still the right one for your music – or for contemporary music in general?
I think that the idea to have a dedicated space for music performances is still a great and valid one. Some music, some instrumentation, some players, will work better in particular settings, but that's not how I usually think about the music in the first place.
When the composition is there it usually is obvious which context it will work best in. It was very interesting to hear the response of the sound engineer who recorded the first rehearsal of TM513. After the rehearsal he told me that we should get an "as-dry-as-possible" recording at the actual recording session in April, ideally in the open air. This exactly mirrored my thoughts.
The role of the composer has always been subject to change. What's your view on the (e.g. political/social/creative) tasks of composers today and how do you try to meet these goals in your work?
I don't know much about the history of the role of the composer, nor do I know about the political tasks/importance of my work. There is no goal, nor an end in itself to my work in the mundane sense. Everyone and everything contributes to the (re-)creation of our world at all times. That's what I'm doing. No more and no less.
How, do you feel, could contemporary compositions reach the attention of a wider audience?
Not sure if that's a valid or a necessary aim. We've been lead astray thinking in terms of quantities. Quantities are as irrelevant now as they've always been. Quality is all that matters. Of course we're embedded into a world of commerce and quantity, and so it's important to interface the world of qualities with the world of quantities. However, the world of qualities exists on its own.
I don't believe I can influence what people will like about my work, or how many people will take notice. I can only do what I do to my own standards. The rest is not in my control.
Music-sharing sites and -blogs as well as a flood of releases in general are presenting both listeners and artists with challenging questions. What's your view on the value of music today? In what way does the abundance of music change our perception of it?
It's a question relevant in a world of quantities. Music remains magical, despite the developments you mention. The value of music is unchanged.
Composers have traditionally found it hard to secure a living with their art. What are the financial realities you're living with and in which way, do you feel, could they be improved?
My financial reality is fine. I learned to live a life that I consider luxurious with relatively little income. That's possible. As an artist I create my world, and entertainment myself. I don't need to spend money on ways to spend my time on this planet. I invest into my creativity instead. I also work very hard, and have several different fields of business in order to have enough turnover to keep going.
Usually, it is considered that it is the job of the composer to win over an audience. But listening is also an active, rather than just a passive process. How do you see the role of the listener in the musical communication process?
The listener gives birth to the music. How can it be the job of the composer to win over an audience? It's not a fight, it's not a contest. If one thinks that way, it will surely be much harder for music to happen.
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To read and hear more Markus Reuter, visit www.markusreuter.com
To support Markus' work, and donate to the Colorado Chamber Orchestra's recording of Todmorden 513 visit www.pledgemusic.com