Entrevista con Sarah Nemtsov / Interview with Sarah Nemtsov
Entrevista. Sarah Nemtsov es una de las voces más fascinantes y originales del panorama compositivo actual y sin duda una compositora que merece la pena seguir. Hemos hablado con ella y esto es lo que nos ha contado. Interview. Sarah Nemtsov is one of the most fascinating and original voices of the current compositional scene and undoubtedly a composer worth following. We talked to her and this is what she told us.
"...everything makes an impact. Some are bigger, some are smaller. Character is also about the choices you do..."
1. Ruth Prieto: Which characteristic defines you best?
Sarah Nemtsov: I am not patient (really not, impatience is a great weakness I have), but perseverant. I can be very disciplined and I like to work hard. Also I am not easy content with myself, my work. Now I am probably defined also by being a composer. And, by being a mother... (Being a mother also changed my being as a composer, of course!).
Besides I am defined by many different aspects in my life - grown up by a single mom, a freelancer artist, a wonderful painter. In a house with a lot of music and my recorder teacher introducing me to Baroque music and teaching me most important secrets about music (every note should be alive!). I have been in hospital a lot as a child and teenager, I think this left deep traces as well. I am influenced by many wonderful people I met in my life and extremely grateful for. Of course aspects such as the country and surrounding where you have born also add to a personality. At least a starting point. What does it all say? I mean, everything makes an impact. Some are bigger, some are smaller. Character is also about the choices you do.
2. R.P.: What is composition for you in this day and age?
Sarah Nemtsov: It's the way I communicate. Communication about how I see and feel about the world. I think I want open windows, I want to somehow change perspectives - it might sound presumptuous, it might be an utopia, but I hope to just touch people and maybe change something inside them - let them experience something - whatever it is - get them confused or excited or silent or outraged. I reach out my hand. With music.
3. R.P.: What inspires you as a composer and why?
Sarah Nemtsov: First of all: MUSIC. This sentence is so simple, but: I simply love music and cannot imagine being without it. I am already inspired by the idea of music. Rhythm, Pitches, Harmony, Disharmony, Sounds, Noises. What does it stand for in the end? Life. Death. Music can create something very existential, like a deeper imprint of a phenomenon. We cannot name the "real thing", but we can approach it with music, and this approach is probably much deeper and closer to the true nature of it.
4. R.P.: What is your main obsession when working?
Sarah Nemtsov: To somehow create a polydimensional THING. A piece of music that is a complex answer (or question) to a complex and difficult question.
5. R.P.: Could you describe your creative process?
Sarah Nemtsov: A blink of a vision - and I hold onto. But what is it? What does it want? Where will it bring me? How will it look / sound like? It's adventurous and unpredictable.
I need to feel the necessity inside otherwise I cannot write (or it would be technique only).
The feeling of necessity can be triggered by anything. It can be pure musical but also political or inspired by other arts and works or moments, objects, memories, stares or sounds or things. Fugitive or concrete.
"I want to grow and find new places where I haven't been before."
6. R.P.: What are you working on now?
Sarah Nemtsov: I just finished my second big opera: "Sacrifice" - opera in 4 acts for five singers, three actors, orchestra, instrumental soloists, live electronics, video and a silent choir.
It has been a difficult work, difficult on many levels. It's a difficult topic: radicalization. And also under extreme time pressure. I basically wrote the score in less than 6 months!
Première will be in March, Opera Halle.
7. R.P.: Can you define «contemporary»? And in which way Sarah Nemtsov is “contemporary”?
Sarah Nemtsov: I think as I do live in this world and try to be open for new developments (and also since I am constantly trying to find my own voice in music) this kind of justifies calling myself contemporary. Besides I sometimes refer to the "contemporary world" in my works or use contemporary devices (like in electronic music) next to 19th century's instruments. But also art (if it has a certain substance) should be timeless in some aspects as well.
8. R.P.: Being a woman, a composer, what do you think about quotas? Is parity possible in an artistic discipline without imposition of quotas?
Sarah Nemtsov: Quotas for women might be important, but I am not sure if it's the best answer to the injustice and imbalance. Sometimes as a woman you can feel quite awkward invited as the only woman.. Like: oh it's me for the women quota. And not for the human and artist I am. Or to be part of a women's project that is presented as such can be annoying sometimes. Still it creates awareness which is needed. Last week I have been at ECLAT Festival Stuttgart. The first day of the festival it was only works by female composers! But nowhere it was mentioned!! (no: women's concert or whatever..) I thought this was really great, finally we could feel a bit of normality we are aiming for.
9. R.P.: If you had not been a composer, what would you like to have been?
Sarah Nemtsov: I have no idea. It's the only thing I can. Maybe a nurse? Or I would do something with books. Or having a gallery, what I actually do: I run a gallery (Raum für Kunst und Diskurs - with paintings of my mother).
10. R.P.: What are your musical roots (real or imaginary)?
Sarah Nemtsov: I love listening to polyphone baroque music or renaissance counterpoint, it clarifies my mind and rises my spirit. Studying old music has influenced me a lot. If I listen to a Bach Chorale my heart opens in a way I can't describe. But also I have been fascinated by Jazz music since being a teenager and also by Rock music. Of course the whole tradition is there: Beethoven's late piano sonatas always leave me in awe and I am so happy to have experienced Mahler Symphonies from inside the orchestra (playing the oboe - I stopped playing ten years ago!). Schoenberg, Nono, Cage, Feldman, Xenakis.
Roots are not only the thing in the ground stabilizing the plant. Also the roots are growing!! So also my roots are constantly growing. During the past years I have listened to a lot of different music! (Just thinking about all the contemporary music concerts, but not only!) My husband introduced me to a lot of (mostly unknown or forgotten) music of the first half of the 20th century. Really fascinating. Ten years ago I studied intensively Jewish liturgical music, but recently I also studied about certain Arabic musical traditions. I have begun to listen to different electronic music. Who knows what is coming next...
11. R.P.: In this personal "inventory" that we all have of noises, sounds, music and songs, what can you tell us about your soundscape?
Sarah Nemtsov: One might think my noises are mirroring the outside world in some moments, but it's not about the actual noise, not (or only sometimes) about the sound of noise of our surrounding world but it's rather abstract: the noise of violating each other, of talking and not listening, our complex reality, the polymedia and mixture of real, virtual and dreamt or expected identities - but it's not only negative: it's also the noise of a whispered secret, a breath, a flicker of the eye following a vague and hidden light, it can be a sound of trust and friendship.
12. R.P.: What is silence?
Sarah Nemtsov: Always different. Silence can be the breathing of the music, but it can be a shock, too.
"For silence in music you need to trust."
13. R.P.: Have you got a composer of reference or someone who made a special impression on you as a composer?
Sarah Nemtsov: It would be a very long list to start naming composers of the 20th and 21st century who are important for me. My teachers were and are important for me: Johannes Schöllhorn and Walter Zimmermann. I admire Chaya Czernowin. And look at the roots-question.
14. R.P.: Have you got any eccentricities when composing?
Sarah Nemtsov: Isn't composing an eccentricity itself? ... However, I really need my desk when writing, and I need paper and pencil. And a lot of coffee. I usually shut off my phone, what makes people getting annoyed from time to time, or even angry at me. But I need to get to this inner focus and deep concentration, so that I really listen INSIDE. Actually - to get there - I really like to walk, or go for a run. It frees the mind and often then I know better what I want, or what I don't want. Questioning myself and scrap ideas is very important.
15. R.P: What do you expect from the future?
Sarah Nemtsov: The future looks grim, but I still feel there is hope. Speaking of the state of the world. The big circle. Well, I cannot say what I expect, I prefer to speak of what I hope for: that people don't give up hope. And that people don't stop talking to each other, and listening. That we don't stop to care. Humanism, freedom. As for myself I don't know.
At the moment I just hope my mother will win the battle against the illness she is fighting with. I wish my children happiness and health and that they find their path in this world - hopefully towards a better future. I wish happiness for my friends. I hope to compose some more pieces and hope (for all of us) that there will remain space and freedom for the arts.
16. R.P.: What have you not yet been asked to do in music?
Sarah Nemtsov: Innumerable! So far I have never composed film music. For the first time I will write for a short film next year, but it will be only a few minutes. Would be interesting to work on music for a longer experimental film!
17. R.P.: What could you tell me about Sarah Nemtsov?
Sarah Nemtsov: ...oh what didn't I tell you...I don't know what to write now, but you can ask me something else, if you want...?
More information in te web of Sarah Nemtsov
Photos by © Rut Sigurdardóttir