interview: spotlight on nathan james dearden with Paulina Nalivaikaitė / by Nathan James Dearden

this is a transcription of an interview given on 17 march 2016 with paulina nalivaikaitė. This was published prior to a trip to Lithuania for a premiere of o Crux ave, spes unica. To see the original publication (in Lithuanian; trans. Matas Geležauskas) please CLICK HERE.

How did you get interest in the project? In your opinion, what makes (or does not make) it attractive and valuable?

"There is such a strong choral tradition within Lithuania, one that I can relate to in my home country of Wales (UK). I feel the pure music making that is bred in Lithuania is incomparable and to work with such musicians is a dream for a composer. Another reason also being Juta Pranulyte. At our fist meeting in York (England, UK) I was totally taken by her music. There is such honesty that radiates from her music. Allowing the listener to seek all realms of peace and harmony that you often miss in new music. This is why this my work is dedicated to her. Without her, this opportunity would not have been presented to me."

You compose music for different groups of instruments, however it seems that music for choir is not accidental in your portfolio - it is rather one of your directions in composition. What is so appealing in writing the choral music?

"A very practical reason for writing so much repertoire for voice is down to the fact that I am a singer myself. Choral singing has been a significant part of my life since the age of 10, and over the years I have built very strong personal and professional relationships with singers of all sorts. My experiences singing in choral ensembles also proved a useful tool for me as a composer in discovering the nuances and basic nature of writing for voice from within the ranks. There is such a joy writing for the human voice - particularly when in a collective. There is such a sincerity and immediacy with vocal music. If you have message for the world, what better way than to communicate it directly through the voice?"

Could you, please, tell us about situation of choral music in the UK? What tendencies do dominate in this kind of contemporary music there? May you tell who are the most distinctive composers in this field?

"This is such a HUGE question - I would (quite gladly) be here for days talking about this. Ever since the early twentieth century when music began to splinter into all directions and avenues of exploration, the UK particularly jumped into overdrive after its (unwelcome) reputation as a land without music - Das Land ohne Musik. The 'hangover' from this intense period of music making has naturally brought a familiar canon of choral music to the forefront, a canon that singers enjoy performing and audiences enjoy listening to. From the popularist works of Paul Mealor or John Rutter, to the works of Giles Swayne or Judith Weir bred from close professional ties with ensembles such as the BBC singers in the 1980s, the often deeply spiritual pieces of John Tavener, Jonathan Dove or James Macmillan, or even the often potentially experimental and conceptual works of Anna Meredith, Julian Anderson or Janice Kerbel. All this music (and much more) is continuously being explored, pushed, developed and most importantly, performed in the UK as choral music is built into the very fabric of music making in the country."

Please tell us about your composition for the concert o crux Ave, spes unica. What are artistic, philosophical and technical ideas of the work?

"This is work that uses three very distinct colours and textural cells that work with, but often, against one another. There is such remorse and penitence in the text I have selected - You who have suffered for us, have mercy upon us [...] Our only hope. - so this text needed to be conveyed as if a collective cried this from the rooftop, or as if individuals yell in a protest or silently mutter a communal prayer; as individuals or as a unit. This relationship between freedom (often through aleatoricism) and collective exclamations (strict rhythmic cells) is something I am increasingly interested in."

In your opinion, what factor is the key to gaining sympathy of the audience? Or maybe you do not seek to please the audience, maybe the self-expression is uncompromising to you?

"Music would not be music without human interaction or engagement on some level. We need to communicate to our audiences, otherwise who are we writing for? We need to communicate to our performers also, otherwise WHO are we writing for?"

What is your aesthetic attitude towards composing? (Maybe you do have some extra-musical inspirations like other kinds of art, social environment, philosophy etc.?)

"I continuously strive for honesty. I still do not know what that even means as a composer, but I always look for music that has no mask. This is probably why much of music begins with a cell - a 'motif' perhaps - and then this is displayed for all to see. Bare. Legs akimbo. In every position. Before it being exploited and transformed (or sometimes left alone completely). If we leave something alone for long enough, the image that we thought we would begin to get bored of develops. Time changes our perception of one fixed object and I find that fascinating. I constantly strive for that in my music. I am far from the complete but I have learnt to live with the journey that has be taken to achieve 'Eureka' moment. Perhaps we will never reach this moment of assuredness. I suspect we never will."

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