Entrevistas

Liza Lim | Open to Synchronicity


20/09/2012

Liza Lim is very excited about the new Akademie der Künst der Welt in Cologne with which she is involved. She told us that “it is an incredibly inspiring project”. As a composer Liza never stops. She supports the idea of “quotas to ensure representative access to structures of power and opportunity, rather than thinking about this in terms of ‘gender versus quality’”. She is ‘open to synchronicity’. Lim told us: “I’ve sometimes felt envious of church composers like Bach, Gabrieli, etc who had to produce work ‘on tap’ week after week for their employers”. She loves “working with the same musicians again and again, in the process finding out new things about their musicianship and developing into a more intimate knowledge of their performance practice”. So it would suit her if a composer had “Infinite patience; infinite stubbornness”.
She likes opera and mentions that “the last piece of music that really got obsessively ‘under my skin’ was Tristan und Isolde which had me in its thrall from 2004-8. I got over it by writing an opera called The Navigator.”
For Lim composition in this day and age is: “a way of articulating the sensual, the intellectual, the spiritual”. If she had not been a composer she would probably have liked to be an archaeologist –“ I’ve always been fascinated by the way the past radiates ‘lines of force’ into the present and future. I’m also interested in things like how memory is laid down, the psychological ‘pattern languages’ that inform who we are, the decisions that we make, our reactions, our gestures – many of these things completely unavailable to our waking or ordinary consciousness.”
She likes travelling, silence, authenticity; early influences include Yoko Ono, John Cage, Berio, Reich, Ferneyhough, Nono, Penderecki, Globokar, Webern, Bartok but she relishes the present because “it’s so diverse – many different worlds colliding and interacting in unpredictable ways.”
She is collaborating with Ensemble MusikFabrik, and with director Massimo Furlan and his theatre company Prod. 23 and ZKM for an opera based on Jonathan Safran Foer’s book Tree of Codes (for 2014). Her advice to young composers would be “Be yourself – that’s a big challenge, a life-long one! Try not to worry about what anyone else thinks about your work. Live your passion.” And her motto is “Say ‘yes’ more than ‘no’”.

Ruth Prieto, for ComposerSpeaks, interviews composer Liza Lim  

Australia, August 2012



Open to Synchronicity

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

Liza Lim: I wouldn´t generalise about that. One of the things I´m talking about a lot is the new Akademie der Künst der Welt in Cologne that I´m involved in. It´s an organization of artists/thinkers focusing on intercultural ideas in the arts that curates public events with an associated fellowship-residency and youth academy programme. It´s an incredibly inspiring project to be involved in and the official launch takes place in October this year. http://www.kuenstederwelt.de/IndexEN.html

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

Liza Lim: To ensure representative access to structures of power and opportunity? yes, I support the idea of quotas. Rather than thinking about this in terms of a ´gender versus quality´ debate which this question often leads to, it might be more constructive to ask what richness is lost when an artistic pursuit is so dominated by just one sector of society.

3. Ruth Prieto: Which characteristic defines you best?

Liza Lim: Open to synchronicity.

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

Liza Lim: I´ve sometimes felt envious of church composers like Bach, Gabrieli etc who had to produce work ´on tap´ week after week for their employers – on the one hand there was a lack of choice as to musical form and yet within the restrictions, enormous freedom to deploy their craft in really innovative ways. I love working with the same musicians again and again, in the process finding out new things about their musicianship and deepening into a more intimate knowledge of a performance practice, so it would suit me to ply my trade writing for the same band all the time.

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

Liza Lim: Infinite patience; infinite stubbornness.

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

Liza Lim: Yesterday (24/7), I was at the Arena di Verona for a performance of Verdi´s Aida. Sitting in an ancient Roman gladiator´s arena open to the night sky and surrounded by enthusiastic Italians, it was a very primal kind of theatre experience. It´s a very politically incorrect dodgy opera but Act 3 was so deliciously beautiful with Verdi´s translucent orchestration it was impossible to resist. But the last piece of music that really got obsessively ´under my skin´ was Tristan und Isolde which had me in its thrall from 2004-8. I got over it by writing an opera called The Navigator.

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

Liza Lim:

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

Liza Lim: A way of articulating the sensual, the intellectual, the spiritual.

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

Liza Lim: An archaeologist – I´ve always been fascinated by the way the past radiates ´lines of force´ into the present and future. I´m also interested in things like how memory is laid down, the psychological ´pattern languages´ that inform who we are, the decisions we make, our reactions, our gestures – many of these things completely unavailable to our waking or ordinary consciousness.

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

Liza Lim: I have travelled in many parts of the world and there are many other places I would like to visit - places of antiquity where one feels a deep link to generations of humanity such as Matera in Italy which has been inhabited since stone-age times. I´d like to do a very long road trip through the Australian desert and through the Kimberley in the northern part of the country. Etc.

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

Liza Lim: It connects us to parts of ourselves that we don´t know about and helps to keep those channels open.

12. Ruth Prieto: What are you afraid of?

Liza Lim: That people will take these answers very seriously and quote them in some essay.

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

Liza Lim: I think I´ve found many more things than I´ve lost.

14. Ruth Prieto: What is silence?

Liza Lim: a special kind of vibration or potential state in which anything might arise.

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

Liza Lim: Authenticity.

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

Liza Lim: Compositional happiness comes from feeling ´in the flow´, feeling that the music writes me as much as, perhaps more than, I write it. That is a form of pure ecstasy – things rise up off the page to meet me – beauty, serenity, violence, scary things, erotic power and other uncategorisable emotional states.
I´ve always loved this aphorism of Kafka (from the Blue Octavo Notebooks):

There is no need for you to leave the house. Stay at your table and listen. Don´t even listen, just wait. Don´t even wait, be completely quiet and alone. The world will offer itself to you to be unmasked; it can´t do otherwise; in raptures it will writhe before you. [106]

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

Liza Lim: I think the past is still with us – perhaps too much so – if only we could learn more from it, we´d stop recycling the same catastrophes in the world.

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

Liza Lim: it´s so diverse – many different worlds colliding and interacting in unpredictable ways.

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

Liza Lim: meltdown and at the very last moment, a major paradigm shift in consciousness (that´s being hopeful!).

20. Ruth Prieto: Can you define «contemporary»?

Liza Lim: of the present (see Q.19).

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

Liza Lim: Depends; could be some very small detail.

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

Liza Lim: A collaboration with Ensemble musikFabrik, the director Massimo Furlan with his theatre company Prod. 23 and ZKM for an opera based on Jonathan Safran Foer´s book Tree of Codes (for 2014).

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

Liza Lim: Be yourself – that´s a big challenge, a life-long one! Try not to worry about what anyone else thinks about your work. Live your passion.

24. Ruth Prieto: What makes you laugh?

Liza Lim: The unbearable lightness of being.

25. Ruth Prieto: What makes you cry?

Liza Lim: I think tears can be a sacrament – a flow that connects one to spirit by opening one up to a radical helplessness.
Here´s a sliver of a poem from Rumi´s Mathnawi –
Give your weakness
to one who helps.
Crying out loud and weeping are great resources.
A nursing mother, all she does
is wait to hear her child.
Just a little beginning-whimper,
and she´s there.
God created the child, that is, your wanting,
so that it might cry out, so that milk might come.
Cry out! Don´t be stolid and silent
with your pain. Lament! And let the milk
of loving flow into you.
-Rumi, trans. Coleman Barks trans., The Essential Rumi, excerpt from Cry Out in your Weakness.

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

Liza Lim: In my early teens when I was just beginning to write music, my heroes were Yoko Ono & John Cage. Also Berio (Visage, Sinfonia), Reich (It´s Gonna Rain, Music for 18 Musicians), Ferneyhough (Transit, Sonatas for String Quartet), Penderecki, Globokar, Webern, Bartok – it was whatever I could get my hands on in the late 70s/early 80s in Melbourne, Australia. Perhaps a little unusually, I was passionately into twentieth century & postwar music before connecting to earlier repertoires.
More recently, the great Azeri mugham singer Alim Qasimov – I love the ecstatic dimension of the sufi ghazal traditions and he is so inside the experience when he performs. His daughter Ferghana Qasimova is also a wonderful singer – there´s such a sense of searing honesty in their music.

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

Liza Lim: Works by Brian Ferneyhough and Luigi Nono have been very important for me. Nowadays, I don´t know…literature and art are probably more important.

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

Liza Lim: I like to work with the simplest materials – pencil, paper, eraser. I keep all my pencils.

29. Ruth Prieto: A "must" film...

Liza Lim: Kurosawa´s Kagemusha – a really moving epic film about paradoxical relations between identity, deception, shadows and substance.

30. Ruth Prieto: Recommend us a book...

Liza Lim: Lewis Hyde´s Trickster Makes this World (also The Gift by the same author).

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

Liza Lim: The fantastic warbling songs of the Australian magpie - like electronic music, theirs is a song of a glorious freedom that makes one forget human cares.

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

Liza Lim: It sucks.

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

Liza Lim: I have very vivid dreams.

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

Liza Lim: love, sex, death - don´t these subjects drive 99.9% of human creative imagination?

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

Liza Lim: Korean shamanic music.

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

Liza Lim: I usually get to choose my projects. I´m open to suggestions…;-)

37. Ruth Prieto: Which is your favourite hobby?

Liza Lim: Exploring (market shopping, eating, cooking) Asian street food – fresh, simple, complex, a sensorium of experience.

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

Liza Lim: Improving.

39. Ruth Prieto: Have you got a motto?

Liza Lim: Say ´yes´ more than ´no´.

40. Ruth Prieto: What would Liza Lim say about Liza Lim?

Liza Lim: yes. 

                                                                           Liza Lim Australia August 2012

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