Tuesday 17 November 2015

Jocelyn Morlock: VSO composer-in-residence

(photo: musicaltoronto.org)

What is the sound of the postmodern orchestra?

Given the huge amount of diversity in 21st century orchestral music, 
I am finding this question very difficult to answer!
 Maybe I can offer a few general comments. 
There’s been a huge increase in role of percussion in the orchestra,
and I find this the most noticeable difference between music of,
say, 100 years ago, and now. Other than that,
I think things I am more likely to hear would include the following:
grooves, competing ostinati, overwhelming sound objects,
masses of writhing sounds sliding viscously between pitches,
as opposed to contrapuntal writing...

What are you happiest about having presented through Music on Main?

The Orpheus Project
The project as a whole was a wonderful experience!
(I’m pleased with the music I wrote for it, too
–first time I’ve written for Speaker, or for Wind Machine...)
It was great fun to be part of the production, as well as writing music for it
I was an Oracle in the show,
as were composer Cassandra Miller and writer Colin Browne.

What composers are you proud to be able to bring exposure to from Canada?
Around the world?

From Canada: particularly Gabriel Dharmoo,
whose music isn’t well known to the VSO audiences.
Melissa Hui and John Rea, both of whom are better known
but not often performed here in Vancouver.
Christopher Mayo.
And Katia Makdissi-Warren,
whose music is new to me as of this year.

From around the world: John Orfe, a composer and performer
whose music I found via “Alarm Will Sound”
(New York based ensemble that does fascinating stuff.)
It’ll also be fun to present music by Rzewski, Ad├Ęs, and Birtwistle,
all of whose names are very well-known
but not performed frequently enough here.

What forms of non-classical music other than jazz are of significance to your own work?

Balinese gamelan is by far the most noticeable influence.
Other than I’m interested in a lot of other non-classical music
(Gagaku, Laurie Anderson, Tom Waits, plus a million other things),
but I don’t know if there’s an audible influence.

What forms of songwriting or literature inspire your vocal pieces?

Inevitably what is most inspiring for me, as far as vocal music,
is whatever text I am currently setting
I have been fortunate to work with several great writers:
Bill Richardson, Alan Ashton, and the late Tom Cone.
Sometimes I’ve found that literature has been an inspiration or starting-off point
while writing non-vocal music. Theft (Waterclocks and Insomnia)
was inspired by the writing of Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

What non orchestral sounds stimulate your compositional imagination?

Birds, machinery, alarm clocks, wind, rain,
people making weird noises, and possibly goats.

You've said "..now and then I will write a piece
where my insomniac tendencies towards short fast thoughts
are a significant structural component"

Do you perceive mania and/or anxiety as states of mind
particular to the (post)modern urban artist?

I hope not, although I suspect that the constant,
high level of fast-changing bits of information being thrown at us
(via internet and other media, traffic, billboards, background music, etc.)
might encourage those states of mind in everyone living in an urban environment.

(photo: the Vancouver Sun)

You've been described online as
" perhaps the brightest shining star to come out of the west "
How does such praise affect you?

Ugh. It gives me the “I am not worthy”feeling.
Best not to dwell on what people write about you,
whether good or bad.

Do you feel connected to a community of Canadian composers?

Yes, in that I know many composers
and I’m interested in what they’re writing
and listening to and thinking about.

Do you feel connected to the international scene of classical players?

Not really, no. There are Canadian performers with whom
I have very strong professional associations
(Mark Takeshi McGregor, Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa, Ariel Barnes, Heidi Krutzen,
Joseph Elworthy, Corey Hamm, Robyn Driedger-Klassen)
… but internationally not so much.

When did you first desire to be a composer?

Hard to say. I liked making up music (improvising at the piano)
as soon as we got a piano, when I was eight,
but it didn’t dawn on me to start writing music down until I was in my early 20s.
I hadn’t thought about composers as living people before I started music school (as a pianist.)

Have you had other jobs over the years?

Yes. Touring orchestral librarian, page-turner, copyist, library assistant,
collaborative pianist, sessional lecturer, etc. etc.
(That doesn’t count the non-musical ones)

(photo: barzacblog.ca)

What non musical forms of culture do you enjoy in Vancouver?

Visual art, dance, theatre. I wish I had more time!

What is your relationship to nature?

Living in Vancouver means I can easily spend time outside near the ocean,
which looks lovely and sounds beautiful. I’m fond of birds.
I spend a reasonable amount of time outdoors on non-busy streets,
so I hear a decent amount of natural sound.

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