On Friday, September 27, 2019, violinist Maya Bennardo and violist Hannah Levinson, collectively known as the duo andPlay, release their debut CD playlist, on New Focus Recordings. The album features music by Ashkan Behzadi, Clara Iannotta, and David Bird. In this extended interview with The Violin Channel, David Bird discusses his piece “Apocrypha”, collaborating closely with andPlay, and more.
What was your idea or inspiration behind the work?
"Apocrypha" is loosely inspired by Stanislaw Lem's 1961 novel "Solaris". Lem's book follows a team of scientists stationed on a distant planet covered by a vast and gelatinous ocean. In the novel, the ocean demonstrates a bizarre ability to manipulate the emotions and memories of the scientists. "Apocrypha", exploits a similar process, where the enveloping presence of the electronic sounds prompt different emotional states in the duo's performance. “Apocrypha” was written for andPlay (Hannah Levinson and Maya Bennardo), and was developed in the summer of 2016 at the Avaloch Farm Music Institute. It’s also featured on the ensemble’s upcoming album ‘playlist' available on New Focus Recordings, September 27th.
How did this opportunity come to you?
I had worked with andPlay prior on a piece entitled "Bezier", it was a remarkable experience, as the ensemble was really willing to sit down and try things out as I was sketching the piece. I quickly appreciated how flexible and poignant they were in engaging with musical structures that were 'a bit weird' or uncommon, and doing so with a lot of poise and professionalism. So it was easy to hope for and anticipate a subsequent collaboration. Additionally the ensemble had been playing “Bezier” often, and being a composer with a background in electronic and electroacoustic music, I was eager to follow that with something that integrated my electronic music skill set with their unique sound world and performance capabilities.
What was your personal process for taking it from your head to the concert stage?
I think this was one of my longer composing periods, with this piece taking over a year to write. Because of this I was able to take a wider perspective on the piece and cut out extraneous sections where necessary. Even though it took a while to compose, the sound world of the piece always felt very alive and vibrant to me, I think this was in part because we had developed a lot of the sounds and sections together in residence at the Avaloch Farm Music Institute. And so in addition to being inspired by these sessions, I knew what would and wouldn’t work, and was able to work with a lot of high quality recordings made with the ensemble in these sessions.
What do you hope listeners will take away with them?
The novel "Solaris" depicts the way in which a planet is able to manipulate the emotions and memories of space travelers as they approach it, and I was interested in depicting the violin and viola as characters that slowly, and almost unknowingly, enter some kind of turbulent emotional orbit and then depart from it. And so in a broad sense, the piece charts a transformation of tone and perspective, with each section of the work descending into new layers and emotional depths, each with their own sound worlds and musical relationships. Ultimately I’d invite any perspective or listening of the piece, but would be glad if an audience experienced some kind of transformation for (or in) themselves.