For several years, the Conservatory has offered students in its composition classes the opportunity to work in depth with the soloists of the intercontemporain ensemble: a way to discover young talents as well as nurture them.
And so it is this season: under the direction of Oskar Jokel, who has been appointed assistant conductor of the ensemble intercontemporain this season, the Ensemble premieres a work by the young Tobias Feierabend, a compositional student of Frédéric Durion in particular. We discussed with them the stakes of this true initiation passage.
Tobias, what do these workshops with the intercontemporain ensemble mean for a young composer?
First, in terms of learning the art, it is an opportunity to work with very high-level performers. The musicians we work with as young composers and composers are mostly our classmates at the conservatory – and this is already a real chance: some of them have already created excellent chamber music compositions and show great aesthetic openness and very good technical skills. level. But they are sometimes less used to creative music and when certain sounds or techniques are discussed with them, it may take them a while to get a satisfactory result. EIC soloists do not have these limitations: their expertise and experience speed up the process and their technical feedback is almost flawless. So the idea is to exchange with them, try something or fail to heal better. It’s also a unique opportunity to rub shoulders with the sonic reality of what we imagine, the techniques we consider, the textures we want to touch. It’s a reality check: sometimes what one writes isn’t possible, isn’t practical, or doesn’t sound the way one wants it to. On the contrary, there can be pleasant surprises, and “mistakes” (meaning poorly written parts or parts that create misunderstandings) can help to enrich the account. Finally, it’s an opportunity to be performed by a well-known ensemble – something we can take advantage of in the future. Having one of his plays performed and a fortiori created by the EIC gives legitimacy as well as visibility, which is not insignificant.
Have you participated in other workshops of the same type with other ensembles?
Yes, but in other cases. In general, there was a limited number of repeat services that limited exchanges. Even if the musicians were excellent, they were able to interpret the pieces very quickly.
And you, Oscar, have you ever had experience working with aspiring composers?
During my studies in conducting and composition, I was already able to provide the creation of works of my colleagues and thereby gained valuable experience. Participating in the performance of one’s own works, accompanying them, is one of the most important elements in the formation of a composer. Indeed, in the world of classical music there is normally a strict division of labor (you may approve or regret). First you sit alone at your desk and imagine something, then comes the practice of the imagined. In the process of creating an account, there may always be times when one is not entirely sure that it actually sounds like what one imagines in the general context. It is only real experience and reflections of your own ideas sent by other musicians that allow you to realize what you still want to improve.
Tobias, so you will or have already composed a piece specifically for this workshop: does working with soloists change the way you approach writing?
It definitely has an effect. Writing for EIC means having a large workforce and large instrumental resources (my piece, titled night light, designed for 14 musicians) and instrumentalists who perfectly master several instruments of the same family (for example, the person who will hold the clarinet part can perfectly play the bass or contrabass clarinets at the same time). For example, I allowed myself to impose very complex rhythmic transitions, fully relying on EIK to achieve this. It’s also an ensemble with a heritage, a history and a voice, and I don’t think I’d write the same piece for another ensemble, even at the same level.
What are the preparations for these work sessions?
Before composition, we met to explain our project and define nomenclature. Each of us is assigned a referent soloist who mediates between the students and the musicians of the ensemble. Between now and the first rehearsals, I plan to send fragments of the score to some instrumentalists to make sure that certain pieces can be played well, or to see if there are any fingers, techniques, or tricks that will allow me to progress faster. in training. These trips with the musicians to check and revise certain technical points are common for us students before the score is finished. Musicians are generally very careful.
The first thing students need to do is meet the deadline by which they have to turn in the entire piece. It is a valuable learning experience to be available at a specific time just to train soloists. In this context, as a composer, you have to think about everything so that the performers can work on the piece alone in the silence of their room.
How will these seminars take place?
We have scheduled seven three-hour rehearsals before the concert, during which the composers will have plenty of time to get feedback from the ensemble and possibly make changes to their scores.
My teacher, Frédéric Durieux, is used to attending rehearsals, helping the process, engaging in dialogues and debates with the musicians, and bringing an outside perspective.
Oscar, what will your role be more specific?
I consider myself primarily a mediator. First, I try to recreate the composer’s ideas from the score as faithfully as possible. Then there may be some difficulties in translating the notation, and I try to find optimal solutions with the composer to best represent the vision or idea of the piece. In doing this, my pedagogical role is not so much that of a professor who teaches, but as someone who tries to make the written work resonate and perhaps offers solutions based on his own directing experience.
To what extent can this workshop be a laboratory of experiments, as Tobias mentioned at the beginning of this interview?
In any case, it is above all a protected space that allows you to create new experiences and thereby grow. I try to give composers enough space to develop their vision. At the same time, this outstanding ensemble, with its unparalleled history and extensive experience, offers invaluable opportunities to work with a professional ensemble at the absolute cutting edge of contemporary music, given its limited rehearsal time. Therefore, it is even more important for composers to learn how to convey their ideas (preferably in the score) and, if necessary, to make changes in the rehearsal process as accurately as possible. .
Tobias, are there any areas you would like to work on that you think the EIC soloists could particularly help you with?
In my case, the account was completed, but it is impossible for me to revise it – and I could do it as part of a regular service. night light is a roughly 14-minute piece in five connected movements. As the title (vigileuse in English) suggests, the general atmosphere of the work is “night”, with a common theme idea associated with the world of childhood (and especially lullabies) and the world of oneirism. Therefore, the areas I want to work on are more compositional “kitchen”. I’m looking for a very precise post, I know what I want to hear. And I want to make sure that it is possible to maintain a certain pitch even on a certain instrument, at a certain speed or at a certain rhythm. Conversely, when I want to cultivate a form of “fragility” in a timbre (which I do a lot, because I like the poetry it leaves), I want to make sure that that fragility is really what I envision, and that it stays in the timbre. a certain acceptable window. Otherwise, we make corrections and adjustments. The same applies to textures: the second movement, for example, is rhythmic and lively, but should sound like a light lace. Will this work? I’m not sure. Reviewing the balance of nuances between instrumental groups, readjusting rhythmic energy, etc. This second movement is one of the transitions where the EIC seems to me to be an ideal set, and this workshop will be an opportunity to verify that such weaving is possible to implement…
The idea is to offer composers a fulfilling and enriching experience and the courage to define and pursue their own path.
Interview by Jérémie Szpirglas
It’s an opportunity to rub shoulders with the sonic reality of things we imagine, techniques we consider, textures we want to touch. This is a reality check.