Interviews

Chaya Czernowin | An unbreakable and unshakable need to be composing


22/07/2012
Ruth Prieto, para El Compositor Habla, entrevista a la compositora Chaya Czernowin
Newton, Julio del 2012



An unbreakable and unshakable need to be composing

1. Ruth Prieto: To start with, what do composers speak about?

Chaya Czernowin:
We speak about music, approaches, other composers, (composers love talking badly about other composers whenever possible, It strengthens the bond between two people in conversation and clarifies their aesthetic position without them having to deal directly with each other. A big topic of conversation is survival (of each of us and of the field in general).

2. Ruth Prieto: Being a composer, what do you think about quotas? Is parity possible in an artistic discipline without imposition of quotas?

Chaya Czernowin: If I understand the question right: As a composer I do NOT think of it AT ALL. As a member of a jury for a course, then yes.

3. Ruth Prieto: Which characteristic defines you best?

Chaya Czernowin: There are a few characteristics which define me best and they are contrasting.

4. Ruth Prieto: To what extent is composing a trade?

Chaya Czernowin: It´s an art. Is ART a trade? The arts are not allowed usually to be made a trade in a straight forward way. Only privileged areas and privileged individuals can claim art as a trade. Right now the visual arts can be seen as a respectable trade. But poets and composers are on the very fringe of any commercial enterprise unless they deal with the most commercial facets of their arts, like writing music for movies, which is more of a trade. There is a huge privilege in the fact that art is not always allowed to be a trade. It´s called Artistic Freedom. But we are all people and we do need some means to live on. So the short answer would be that between the idea of art and the idea of trade there is a field of tension which is meaningful in a myriad of ways.

5. Ruth Prieto: What virtues does a composer have to have? And defects?

Chaya Czernowin: Innovation, a need to have an existence focused on one´s ears, ears which can feel, speak and think and articulate, and an unbreakable and unshakable need to be composing.

6. Ruth Prieto: What was most recent moment of pleasure that you got from music?

Chaya Czernowin: Last week: the conductor stopped the orchestra: I loved how people dropped each on his/her own within 4 seconds and how natural this drop was as an overall chaotic structure what a graceful unpredictable overall line it had. The sound of a huge fast train moving against me as I walk fast in the train station in Karlsruhe. Many more such moments.

7. Ruth Prieto: And the most recent unpleasant surprise?

Chaya Czernowin: The cough of the smoking taxi driver who picked me up in the morning.

8. Ruth Prieto: What is composition for you in this day and age?

Chaya Czernowin: One of the foundations and a wall of my mental home.

9. Ruth Prieto: If you had not been a composer, what would you like to have been?

Chaya Czernowin: Probably a psychologist.

10. Ruth Prieto: What has your greatest extravagance been?

Chaya Czernowin: This question will be resolved in the future when I will be on a most beautiful exotic island with very few other people around for a month.
My close family can join as well.

11. Ruth Prieto: What does music contribute to education?

Chaya Czernowin: Development of all the desired qualities in a person (and all the facets of thinking and communication) via the sense of listening.

12. Ruth Prieto: What are you afraid of?

Chaya Czernowin: I am lucky to have so much to lose...

13. Ruth Prieto: Anything you´ve lost along the way?

Chaya Czernowin: Unfiltered invention. Working on getting back to it.

14. Ruth Prieto: What is silence?

Chaya Czernowin: Music too soft to hear

15. Ruth Prieto: Liberté, egalité, fraternité ... Anything to add?

Chaya Czernowin: While this one was good enough I would add, hmmmm,
Individuality? hm...I can´t see the crowds screaming for this one. ?

16. Ruth Prieto: Do you have a definition for musical happiness?

Chaya Czernowin: Hearing something I have never heard before which then changes me/ my life.

17. Ruth Prieto: Who would you rescue from the past?

Chaya Czernowin: Why? What for? Their essence is still with us, and they talk clearly and loudly. At the same time we do not have to deal with their hang-ups as people or wih them being people of a certain period... I mean, Beethoven would have laughed all day if I had asked him for a composition lesson, no?

18. Ruth Prieto: What´s interesting about the present?

Chaya Czernowin: The fast tempo, varied texture and processes (also chaotic) with an extremely high rate of change.

19. Ruth Prieto: What do you expect from the future?

Chaya Czernowin: It will get faster

20 Ruth Prieto: Can you define «contemporary»?

Chaya Czernowin: Particular to this time.

21. Ruth Prieto: What is your main obsession when working?

Chaya Czernowin: Every piece or every few pieces with their own obsession. Right now I am obsessed with making music where, even if what happens is kind of strange or unfamiliar its presence will simply be there TO HEAR not only to imagine or infer from or to figure out or to think.

22. Ruth Prieto: What are you working on now?

Chaya Czernowin: A double octet . 2 octets which can be played independently or simultaneously.

23. Ruth Prieto: What would be your advice to a young composer?

Chaya Czernowin: I need to meet this young composer in order to advise them. The only general advice: if you do not really and basically need to compose, then do not do that as your main thing.

24. Ruth Prieto: What makes you laugh?

Chaya Czernowin: Gilligan´s island

25. Ruth Prieto: What makes you cry?

Chaya Czernowin: "The hills are alive" from the sound of music.

26. Ruth Prieto: Which musician(s) or work(s) have made an impression on you as a composer?

Chaya Czernowin:
A VERY PARTIAL LIST FOR TODAY´s Afternoon. These are the first jumping into my mind. The art of fugue, Beethoven Op.101 especially with Emil Gilels, and the late quartets Kreuzberger quartet played them so well in Berlin in mid eighties. Bach Cello suite n° 5 sarabande with Fournier, Schumann, Brahms String Sextet and Second Piano Concerto, Schoenberg gurrelieder, Debussy “Pelleas et Melisande”, Robert Wyatt, Charlie Parker, Thelonious monk, Webern, Ligeti Requiem Scelsi, Helmut Lachenmann´s String Quartet No. 1, Gran Torso, Contra Kadenz, Schwankungen am rand, Anthony Braxton, Steve Reich “It´s gonna rain”, Late Feldman but also ´the viola in my life´ Cage lectures, Ferneyhough “Carceri” and “trio”, Takasugi, Richard Barrett´s "Negatives" for nine performers, Adriana Hoelszky "Haenge Brueken", Klaus K. Huebler and endlessly more.

27. Ruth Prieto: Have you got a composer of reference?

Chaya Czernowin: Partial list for today Gesualdo, Monteverdi, late Beethoven, Schumann, Schubert, the strange part of Liszt. All composers who were rebels, so not masters of Mastery but rather revolutionaries. So Debussy rather then Ravel and Gesualdo and Monteverdi rather then Palestrina, Late Beethoven rather than middle or first periods Beethoven and so on.

28. Ruth Prieto: Have you got any eccentricities when composing?

Chaya Czernowin: I am attached to certain pencils I have to have silence, I need a window to look at and no computer in the room. Closed door!. But in fact I compose everywhere, even in planes.

29. Ruth Prieto: A "must" film

Chaya Czernowin: For today: The sacrifice Tarkovsky

30. Ruth Prieto: Recommend us a book

Chaya Czernowin: Any book of Poems by Nathan Zach or Zohar Eitan.

31. Ruth Prieto: A song that puts right an off day

Chaya Czernowin: No radio please!

32. Ruth Prieto: What do you think of politics?

Chaya Czernowin: Painful point. I wish I could do more/ I wish I could disconnect.

33. Ruth Prieto: Have you got a recurring dream?

Chaya Czernowin: No

34. Ruth Prieto: What inspires you as a composer and why?

Chaya Czernowin: Nature. Once I was sitting near a huge lake when the ice was breaking. Unrepeatable music.

35. Ruth Prieto: What are your musical roots (real or imaginary)?

Chaya Czernowin: 
The sea /emotions
Russian songs / Japanese Noh theatre
expressionism / impressionism
progressive rock/ musicals, 
the visceral presence of sound everywhere in Israel, because it´s so hot and because everyone lives in apartments you can hear your neighbour´s phone ringing, the fight of the children in the floor above, and the ambulance siren really cuts into your room. Sound is simply there unpredictable loud and unhinged.

36. Ruth Prieto: What have you not yet been asked to do in music?

Chaya Czernowin: Have never been asked to divide it equally.

37. Ruth Prieto: Which is your favourite hobby?

Chaya Czernowin: Walking in green.

38. Ruth Prieto: How is your morale these days?

Chaya Czernowin: Good. Summer is beautiful here and I am home!

39. Ruth Prieto: Have you got a motto?

Chaya Czernowin: As I said no motto but I do try to make decisions in a way which will ensure that I will not regret them in the future.

40. Ruth Prieto: What would Chaya Czernowin say about Chaya Czernowin?

Chaya Czernowin: "She has various faults but she is certainly not lazy". 

                                                                 Chaya Czernowin, Newton, July 2012
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