Interstitial Dialogue | National Conservatory of Music and Dance in Paris

For several years, the Conservatory has offered students in composition classes the opportunity to do in-depth work with the soloists of the Ensemble interontemporain: a way to nurture young talent while highlighting it.
This is the case again this season: under the direction of Oskar Joeckl – who this season has been appointed co-conductor assistant – the ensemble presents in particular a work by young Tobias Feyerabend, composition student of Frédéric Durieux. We discussed with them the dangers of this real introductory passage.

Tobias, what do these workshops represent with the in-between band of time for a young composer?

TOBIAS FEIERABEND
First, from a learning-to-trade standpoint, it is an opportunity to work with high-level performers. As young composers and composers, the musicians we work with are most often our classmates at the conservatory – and this is indeed a real opportunity: some have already created excellent chamber music line-ups, showing beautiful aesthetic openness and a very good technical level. But they are sometimes less used to creative music, and when certain sounds or techniques are discussed with them, they may need some time before a satisfactory result is obtained. EIC soloists do not have these limitations: their experience and expertise speed up the process, and their technical feedback is almost foolproof. So the idea is to exchange with them, to try things, or even to fail in order to recover better. It’s also a unique opportunity to rub shoulders with the sound reality of what we imagined, the techniques we considered, and the textures we wanted to weave. It is a reality check: sometimes, what one has written is not feasible, impractical, or does not look as one would like. Conversely, there can be pleasant surprises, and “mistakes” (meaning poorly written passages, or passages that lead to misunderstandings) can help enrich the score. Finally, it’s a chance to be played by a famous band – which we can take advantage of in the future. The performance of one of his plays, a fortiori, by the EIC gives legitimacy as well as vision, which cannot be neglected.

Have you participated in other workshops of the same kind with other teams?

TOBIAS FEIERABEND
Yes, but in other circumstances. In general, there were only a limited number of frequent services, which limited exchanges. Even if the musicians are excellent, and they manage to translate the tracks very quickly.

And you, Oscar, have you had experience working with aspiring composers?

Oscar Jokel
During my studies in conducting and composing, I was already able to ensure that my colleagues’ pieces were created, and thus gained valuable experience. One of the most important elements in the formation of a composer is the presence and accompaniment of the performance of his works. In fact, there is usually a strict division of labor in the world of classical music (you can agree with it or regret it). First, you sit alone at your desk and imagine something, and then comes the practice of what you imagined. In the process of creating a score, there can always be times when one is not entirely sure that it actually looks as one imagined it to be in the general context. It is only the real experience, and the reflection of your own thought sent in by other musicians, that allows you to realize what you might still like to improve.

Tobias, so you will be composing or have already composed a piece specifically for this workshop: Does the prospect of working with soloists change your way of approaching writing?

TOBIAS FEIERABEND
It certainly has an effect. Writing for EIC means having great useful resources, with a great workforce (my article titled Night light, intended for 14 musicians), and instrumentalists who have mastered several instruments of the same family (for example, the one who will keep the clarinet part will be perfectly capable of playing the bass or the elastic clarinet as well). For example, I’ve allowed myself to put together very complex rhythmic passages, and I have complete confidence in the EIC to make it happen. It’s also a band with a heritage, history, and sound, and I don’t think I would have written the same piece for another group, even on a similar level.

What are the preparations for these business sessions?

TOBIAS FEIERABEND
Before formation, we met to explain our project and decide on the naming. Each of us is assigned a reference soloist whose role is to mediate between the student and the musicians in the band. Between now and the first rehearsals, I plan to send out parts of the pieces to specific instrumentalists to make sure certain passages are playable well, or to see if there are any fingerings, techniques, or tricks that will allow you to progress more quickly in rehearsal. These trips back and forth with the musicians to check and revise some technical points is very usual for us students, before finalizing a score. And musicians are generally very attentive.

Oscar Jokel
The first thing composition students must do is meet the deadline by which they must turn in the entire piece. Just being ready at a certain time for the soloists to prepare is a valuable learning experience. In this context, as a composer, you have to think of everything so that the performers can work on the piece alone, in the silence of their rooms.

How will these workshops be held?

Oscar Jokel
We scheduled seven three-hour rehearsals before the concert, when the composers would have enough time to get feedback from the band and possibly make changes to their score.
My teacher, Frédéric Durieux, is in the habit of attending rehearsals, to assist in the process, to take part in dialogues and discussions with musicians, and to bring an outside perspective.

Oscar, what is your role more specifically?

Oscar Jokel
I consider myself first and foremost a moderator. At first I try, from the score, to reproduce the composer’s thoughts as faithfully as possible. After that, there may be some difficulties in the notation translation work and I try to find with the composer the optimal solutions to better represent the vision or idea of ​​the work. In doing so, my pedagogical role is not limited to that of a professor who teaches, but that of a person who tries to make the written work resonate and perhaps offers solutions based on his experience in directing an orchestra of the most diverse music.

To what extent can this workshop be, as Tobias mentioned at the beginning of the interview, a laboratory for experiments?

Oscar Jokel
In any case, it is above all a protected space that allows new experiences to be formed and thus grow. I try to give composers enough space to develop their vision. At the same time, this excellent ensemble, with its incomparable history and vast experience, offers the invaluable possibility of doing real-world work with a professional band at the cutting edge of contemporary music, with the necessary competence given the limited iteration time. It is therefore of the utmost importance that composers learn how to communicate their ideas (preferably on a score) and, if necessary, to communicate as accurately as possible their desires for revision during the rehearsal process.

Tobias, are there any areas you would like to work in that you think the soloists at EIC could particularly help you with?

TOBIAS FEIERABEND
In my case, the result was finished, but it is not impossible for me to revise it – moreover, I could also have done it under the usual service. Night light It is a piece of approximately 14 minutes in length, in five linked movements. As its title (“vigileuse” in English) indicates, the general atmosphere of the work is “nocturnal”, with the idea of ​​a common thread linked to the world of childhood (and in particular the lullabies parts) and autism. So the fields I would like to work on are more of a synthetic ‘kitchen’. Looking for very accurate writing, I know what I want to hear. And I want to make sure, for example, that it is possible, on a given instrument, to maintain a certain pitch, even at a certain speed or at a certain tempo. Conversely, when I want to cultivate some form of “fragility” in the timbre (which I do a lot because I love the poetry it emits), I want to make sure that that crispness is really what I imagined it to be, and that it stays within a certain window of acceptance. Otherwise, we modify and modify. The same applies to textures: the second movement, for example, is harmonious and energetic, but it should sound like light lace. will you work Not sure. It may be necessary to revise the balance of nuances between instrumental groups, reset the rhythmic energy, etc. This second movement is one of the passages for which the EIC seems to me the perfect combination, and this workshop will be an opportunity to verify that this type of tapestry can be executed…

Oscar Jokel
The idea is to offer composers a fulfilling and enriching experience and the courage to define and follow their own path.

Interviewed by Jeremy Sperglass

It’s an opportunity to rub shoulders with the sound reality of what we imagined, the techniques we considered, and the textures we wanted to weave. It’s a reality test.

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