Friday, October 3, 2014

2014 NMTA Conference: Kurt Knecht's colorful composition

Kurt Knecht has featured in interviews and reviews here quite often from his performances to premieres of his compositions. This year, he is the commissioned composer for the NMTA Conference. Last year, Libby Larsen’s Ghosts of Old Pianos, a solo piano piece, was the commissioned piece for the conference.
Kurt Knecht - 2014 NMTA Commissioned Composer
photo courtesy of Kurt Knecht

This year, NMTA members will be treated to a cello sonata with piano accompaniment. The title of the piece is “El cafĂ© iridescente.”

“…each movement is named after a color, so:  1. Rojo 2. Azul 3. Perla 4. Morado”

As you might guess from the language of the title and movements, “the whole work is based around Latin rhythms.” Knecht chose to focus on Latin rhythms for a number of reasons:
“I think part of it might come from growing up in Tampa where I was constantly exposed to Cuban culture, so I kind of heard those rhythms growing up. Also, as an undergrad, I was enthralled with any sort of Latin rhythms. I loved Jobim and the whole bossa nova thing. I loved Ginastera. I loved those Saudades do Brasil by Milhaud, and I played in jazz bands where we would do Latin charts. So, it seemed time to concentrate all of that in one piece.”

Hopefully the audience will enjoy this “super fun music.” Knecht says, “most of it is not too heavy or serious. I think there is a problem amongst composers now with this issue. Beethoven wrote a lot of light music, but we never think of that because his ‘light’ works haven’t survived history as well.” Perhaps the music won’t “survive history” as well, but right now, it can be enjoyed and inspire musicians and students to enjoy music right now.

Knecht also described a little bit of the process that went into the creation of this piece:

“As far as the process, it’s not really standardized. When I was in school, one of my composition teachers used to say, ‘You throw more music away than any of my other students.’ He said that because I would be working on a string quartet or something and one week I would have 100 measures of a movement written, and the next week it was replaced. He would say, ‘What happened to the other movement?’ I would say, ‘I’m not using it.'

The truth is, I save all of that stuff. When I get a commission, I will often look back through those old ideas and rework them. In this case, I had sketches for these movements written from 10 years ago. I completely reworked them. Tried the re-worked version with Justin Lepard who is playing them with me. I listened to the reworked versions and decided that the first three movements needed a complete overhaul again. 

So, to answer how long it takes…Every piece takes my whole life long to write, but checks and deadlines are an incredible tool for focusing years into minutes.”

Hopefully you’ll get the chance to hear this fun music, this culmination of Knecht’s whole life, from Tampa to undergrad to today, but meanwhile, enjoy some of his other works over at his youtube channel.

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