Nadia Sirota On Making Music Accessible (Even When It's Weird) : Deceptive Cadence : NPR
Violist Nadia Sirota has an advantage because she spends a lot of time with composers. She hosts a podcast called "Meet The Composer," and. When many of us think of classical music, names like Beethoven and Mozart spring to mind; legendary composers who died and years. Hear violist Nadia Sirota give the premiere of Donnacha Dennehy's Violist Nadia Sirota is the host of Q2 Music's Meet the Composer podcast.
I feel like the viola lives in that world, in that location in your body as apposed to in your head — which is where I feel like the violin lives. As a result, you have to work a little harder to pull the sound out more and get the string to vibrate. That idea of scooping the sound out of the instrument also offers a soulful quality.
PRX » Series » Meet the Composer with Nadia Sirota - Season 2
Yes, not only are they not dead, but I feel like this is a special moment for classical music. Why do you think the younger generation struggles with classical music at first? There was a time after WWII where classical music was being written in a modernist language which was primarily atonal, and I think that turned a lot of people off.
I love that music, but it appeals to fewer people. So whenever the actual modern manifestation of some type of art is losing audience and not being programmed a lot, the perception is that the art is dying. Only the music by dead people is the stuff that is getting a lot of play. For me, the key to resurrecting this problem is that you just need a doorway to get into that music. For example, there are composers who have done arrangements for [well known bands of today] Sigur Ros and The National.
What pieces of music would you suggest for those interested in jumping into the world of classical? We did a podcast episode on Caroline Shawshe was the youngest ever winner of the Pulitzer Prize for music, and she wrote a piece called Partita for 8 Voices, which is for an ensemble called Roomful of Teeth. They are classically trained singers, but they spent time working with singers who are trained in a bunch of other areas, so for instance they worked with a yodeler and a Tuvan throat singer.
Caroline is a member of that group; she took all of those styles together and out came Partita for 8 Voices. The cool thing about that piece is it has this incredible visceral momentum; the sounds that come out of those six instruments are new and unique sounds.
It feels really familiar, and yet unfamiliar, at the same time. Who or what are your creative or personal influences in life? Musically, someone I respect so much is the singer Anohni. On that level, Anohni is a huge influence.
A couple of weeks ago there was an article in The Guardian about Nicholas Serota who is the director of the Tate Modern, and what I loved about that is he had this vision about how the public would interact to contemporary art in a way that was more welcoming and visceral and exciting.
Are there particular interviews on the podcast that you recommend we listen to? And haunting, and I think I can hear you breathing. Yeah laughter that's kind of a thing.Viola Concerto, Pt. 3
Like, you know, when you're in school, you're trying to learn performance practice, which is this thing that's been passed down hundreds of years. And when I was in school, I got a lot of flack for my breathing for that being something that you could hear. However, the sort of further away I've gotten from that the more that I've realized the reason I like to work with certain musicians or I like to listen to certain musicians is because of the stuff that they do that's different from other people.
You know, like when you think about a singer like Bjork, I'm not obsessed with her voice because it sounds like a perfect female voice.
I'm obsessed with it because it sounds really weird and specific, and she does cool things with it. So one of the cooler things about kind of becoming a grown-up and being farther away from school is you have the ability or the opportunity to kind of get into some of the stuff that you do that's a little different.
And also that that sort of speaks to the way things are recorded now, which is a little bit different than the way things were recorded, you know, even 15 years ago, especially in a classical music world because there used to be this idea that a classical record is meant to sound like you're sitting in a chair in Carnegie Hall.
Meet the Composer with Nadia Sirota - Season 2
And so there's this sort of distance between you and the performer or the orchestra. And none of pop music is recorded in that way. And a lot of what we're used to hearing these days in the non-classical realm is so dynamic and so present and so great. So I think a cool trend in recording, or at least one that I'm trying to pursue, is getting more of that sort of immediacy and presence and having a recording being something that's different from a performance, a totally different object.
Well, and that's why I pointed it out, not to make you feel self-conscious but because it draws you in as the listener. And all of a sudden, I'm not just listening to a beautiful piece of music, but I'm in a moment with you. There's an intimacy and an authenticity to that experience that feels exciting.
It's kind of like the radio.
Meet the Composer: the podcast that's demystifying classical music
Let's talk about your podcast. It's called "Meet The Composer," and you get to have a lot of these kinds of conversations.
You interview a composer and then you pretty much score the whole interview with their work, which introduces audiences to their story of course but then also to their music simultaneously. How do you do that? How do you marry those two things, the biography of this person and the interview with their sounds?
Basically, we're looking for certain things.
We're looking for kind of universal ideas about the creative process and how people get past obstacles, and then we're sort of looking for composers to be human beings. I think classical music can seem unapproachable because everyone's dead or everyone's supposed to be dead. But there are so many wonderful living, breathing, exciting artist people.
So I want people to understand that these are human people who are alive and fallible and occasionally brilliant, and they're - have moments of genius and moments of total dorkdom ph and all of that stuff.
And then I'm trying to just literally share the stuff that I totally love and why I love it like a little bit of an insight into what I'm thinking about as a performer playing the piece or a listener who has a little bit more information than somebody coming completely naked to the score.
You grew up in this world.