Entrevista con Annelies Van Parys/ Interview with Annelies Van Parys
Entrevista. Es una de las voces más interesantes y originales del panorama compositivo belga y sin duda una compositora que merece la pena seguir. Hemos hablado con ella y esto es lo que nos ha contado. Interview. It is one of the most interesting and original voices of the Belgian composer scene and undoubtedly a composer worth following. I have talked to her and this is what she told us.
"My roots are the bells of the church nearby which I heard on Sunday mornings"
1. Ruth Prieto: Who is Annelies Van Parys?
Annelies Van Parys: Annelies Van Parys is a professional composer. And an amateur of visual arts, literature, theatre, dance.
2. R.P.: What’s left of the child who began his musical studies in Belgium?
Annelies Van Parys: Quite a lot actually. As a child, I started playing recorder on the elementary school and from the moment I could play a few notes, I started to improvise and search for my own, for new melodies. So the urge to create something was always there.
That's where my grandfather realized I maybe had some talent and my parents should send me to a regular music school. I was very happy because I loved music and because I hoped real music studies would help me to write down what was in my head.
I still remember that they found me a place in the piano class when I was 11 and the first thing I thought was: well, excellent, for composing this is probably the best instrument because it serves as a solid base.
3. R.P.: Which characteristic defines you best?
Annelies Van Parys: Very stubborn. I always think that if something is not going, it is not going because I have not tried hard enough.
4. R.P.: What inspires you as a composer and why?
Annelies Van Parys: Arts in general. Everything that makes me wonder. Because it kind of opens up your mind. Silence, for the same reason. Other compositions sometime. Mostly it is some detail that strikes me and makes me want to experiment and try out something.
5. R.P.: What are your musical roots (real or imaginary)?
Annelies Van Parys: My roots are the bells of the church nearby which I heard on Sunday mornings. They are also the piano repertoire, especially that of the 20th century. And later the Spectralists who seduced me with their sense of colour.
6. R.P.: In this personal "inventory" that we all have of noises, sounds, music and songs, what can you tell us about your soundscape?
Annelies Van Parys: My soundscape consists mostly of bells. I could already as a child listen to bells very intensively. I followed the pattern of the rhythm (phase shifts!) as well as the magical play of overtones and hums. Everything without having a clue what they were. Apart from that I'm fascinated by all sorts of sounds that surround us, from the barking of a dog, to the speeding-up noise of a train, from a bird singing its song to a door making a particular sound when opening. And also more classical things like special chords, interesting instrumental combinations or thrilling rhythms.
7. R.P.: ¿What does silence sound like?
Annelies Van Parys: It sounds like your own calm breath.
8. R.P.: ¿Have you got a composer of reference or someone who made a special impression on you as a pianist, as an artist?
Annelies Van Parys: My dear professor and friend Luc Brewaeys was very important for my evolution as composer, also the music of composers like Ligeti, Boulez and Jonathan Harvey was at different stages in my career very important.
9. R.P.: Can you define contemporary? And, in which way Annelies Van Parys is contemporary?
Annelies Van Parys: Any music that is written today is contemporary of course. But it can also mean a style. Not sure if Van Parys is contemporary. Sometimes I hear music of my colleagues and feel no connection whatever. Then I doubt if I'm still contemporary. For me, craftsmanship still is important. But in another way, I feel becoming more and more contemporary as I'm shifting gradually towards music that tries to "matter". That takes a position in these polemical times. The older I grow, the more I realize that artists not only should make art for the sake of art at the sidelines of society, but -if they feel involved- try to do something for the world.
"Arts can maybe not change the world, but it can help changing people’s minds, tell them about the real complexity of life"
Annelies Van Parys: My DNA can be written in overtones.
11. R.P.: What is your main obsession as a composer when working?
Annelies Van Parys: Performability / Craftsmanship. I do care a lot for the performer as he / she is the person who has to do the job on stage. It should be a challenge but not a mission impossible. I don't write "Augenmusik". Maybe because at the beginning of my career, I performed myself. And so I know, nothing is more frustrating than pieces which are poorly written. They take a lot of study time (often more than the well written difficult pieces) and the result is never sufficient.
If I don't know the instrument I'm writing for, I check with the performer if possible and work afterwards with my notes and schemes and schedules to "try" all fingerings or positions myself and see if they all are possible and if one can be followed by the other etc.….
12. R.P.: How do you go about putting together a new work, could you describe your creative process?
Annelies Van Parys: First I need a general idea which is sort of atmosphere and sound-mass. Then I start working on architecture and filling it in with more detailed musical descriptions (still sound-atmosphere). Then I start working out the material for the entire piece. My principle is that of developing variation (cfr. Schoenberg). All material has to be derived from a very small amount of basic material. Of course when working for with texts or for music theatre my creative process is less abstract and more related to the texts.
13. R.P.: What does music contribute to education?
Annelies Van Parys: It helps I think in a more abstract way, it appeals directly to emotions without needing language. And you augment your "frustration tolerance" capacity. As we all know that learning an instrument asks lots of lots of lots of time and discipline and never giving up.
"And like any art, it learns that there are no easy ways or easy answers"
14. R.P.: In your opinion who are the key composers in contemporary music scene? Any advice?
Annelies Van Parys: Key composers, that depends a bit on the kind of music you prefer. I'm always a bit reluctant to give names because you always forget someone. But here we go: I love the music by Kaaija Saariaho, Beat Furrer but also Judith Weir, Toshio Hosokawa, and Helmut Lachenman and many many more.
15. R.P.: ¿What has your greatest extravagance been?
Annelies Van Parys: Hiring a 5-person apartment in Berlin to work there a few weeks all on my own in perfect peace.
16. R.P.: ¿What would you like to do as a composer that you have not been asked to do yet?
Annelies Van Parys: As soon as I start thinking about such a questions, I'm asked to do it. I wanted to write for orchestra, I could, an opera, I could, a Requiem, I will soon, another opera, I can… So for the moment, I'm perfectly happy!
17. R.P.: Is it difficult to perform avant-garde projects in these time of crisis?
Annelies Van Parys: It has become more difficult for arts in general. Personally I cannot complain as I can still do the things I really like and have the luxury to even refuse lots of commissions. But I can feel that for lots of colleagues, especially in countries with no real arts funding, it is hard nowadays.
18. R.P.: ¿How do you see the contemporary music scene today?
Annelies Van Parys: Very diverse. Unfortunately, sometimes contemporary music tends to enclosure itself a bit too much. It happens I hear concerts where contemporary music ensembles are playing their music only for their inner crowds. And everyone pretending it was great because actually often no-one understood what it was about. Of course, this is still necessary. I see this as a kind of fundamental research in arts.
"Unfortunately, sometimes contemporary music tends to enclosure itself a bit too much"
Personally, I'm more in favour of joint-ventures with theatre or dance to enlarge the audience and the public awareness of the existence of contemporary music. Because it isn't that "elitist" or complex as people sometimes want you to believe it is. One of the greatest experiences ever in that sense was Ictus Ensemble performing Grisey Vortex Temporum together with Anna-Teresa De Keersmaecker. The Concertgebouw Brugge was packed! Lots of youngsters you would never see in concerts were there and they loved the music. If you would play the same music in a concert, you would have only 50 people sitting there, mostly older. Now you had 2000, half of them not even 30, who were fascinated by this music that is indeed wonderful but also far from evident.
19. R.P.: ¿What are your next projects??
Annelies Van Parys: A small music theatre project: Het Kanaal/Crossing Borders will have a few try-outs soon. On the 18nd and 19nd of February at Rataplan, Antwerp. Afterwards there is a try-out in Antwerp (Opera 21 festival) and the première is at Operadagen Rotterdam. It is a marvellous text of Belgian writer Gaea Schoeters about a transsexual woman and a refugee. The musical interventions I wrote are on Shakespeare texts, it is the very poignant speech in the play Thomas More, where the sheriff speaks in defense of the refugees to the people of London. This text is horrifying actual. We produce this for Queer Arts Festival together with Transparant and Het Geluid Maastricht.
Another music theatre project with Ivo Van Hove is planned with De Munt / Klara Festival in March. Next to Janacek's Tagebuch, I do write musical interventions that give the woman (who in the song cycle only sings in 2 songs) a more important role.
And the compulsory work for the semi-finals of the Queen Elisabeth Competition (first time violoncello!) will be my Chacun (e) sa Chaconne for violoncello and piano.
Más información en la web de la compositora Annelies Van Parys
Photo © Trui Hanoulle & Anneleen De Causmaecker