Tag Archives: Chris McGovern

Composers: Thomas Deneuville


Photo courtesy of Alex Dupeux

By Chris McGovern courtesy of The Glass

Having been both a fan of compositional music and a longtime member of the Twitter and online community in general, I came to know a gentleman by the name of Thomas Deneuville. He goes by the name “tonalfreak” on Twitter, possibly to inform us of the fact that he is a strong practitioner of keeping the melodic element in the world of contemporary music, and this he does very well. Having been invited to come see one of his premieres in NY (This one being of his cantata titled Waiting For Thoreau, programmed in a recital along with some of his other works), I was very humbled to see a quite laid-back presentation of compositions arranged for both classical instruments and those that are more typical of rock like electric guitar and a drum kit. At the end of his Summer Miniatures suite he even has a transcription of Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android”.

CM: Thomas, you taught yourself guitar as a rock musician, and you went from that to studying classical violin a few years later. Was that an easy transition?

TD: It was actually a relief. I remember struggling with theory for a couple of years on my own while I was teaching myself guitar. Going to a music school brought me to another level. I immediately fell in love with solfege and literally ate the violin methods that were put in front of me, tackling second and third positions after a year. On the other hand it was also my first contact with the French music education system that still owed a lot (in spirit) to the 19th century. The same system pushed me to leave France years later.
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Musicians: Jennifer Choi

By Chris McGovern courtesy of The Glass

Violinist Jennifer Choi, player of an extensive repertoire for the instrument, and interpreter of composers as diverse as Mozart, John Zorn, and Rogers/Hammerstein (I neglected to ask her about her stint as concertmaster for the touring company of South Pacific; next time!) was recently given a boost of profile in the online classical media when she joined the esteemed quartet ETHEL, with whom she plans on giving her strongest efforts as a musician. On a beautiful late summer afternoon in NY, we hung out on an outdoor restaurant patio and had this wonderful interview.

CM: How is your take on your classical and your new music repertoires?

JC: I was trained classically and it was pretty rigorous–hardcore teachers who wanted a certain standard repertoire to be in your fingers and in a certain way, and I was always listening to the great violinists and to great musicians…Nathan Milstein, Henryk Szeryng, that old school…Michael Rabin, Perlman, I listened to Perlman when I was growing up ’cause my mom had these records in the house, and she had symphonies playing all the time. But then, when I started playing new music, I guess I was using the same approach that I had learned with classical music, and you’re using your technique–it is music after all, and there’s a thing called execution, you have to execute it well…It still has to be clean and has to be fiery. the approach is similar, although the music can be so completely different.
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Composers: Keeril Makan

By Chris McGovern courtesy of The Glass

“…Time is your canvas and sound is your paint…”

Though these words were spoken by just one of many teachers composer Keeril Makan had in his musical upbringing, their continuing effect is obvious. His distinct brand of controlled cacophonous music is receiving wonderful press (The New Yorker, Newsday, Sequenza21, and even yours truly ;) ); His works have been performed by great ensembles such as the Kronos Quartet, Bang On a Can All-Stars and Either/Or; His music has been featured in numerous festivals throughout the world (MATA Festival, Other Minds Festival, Gaudeamus Festival, Voix Nouvelles), and he is the recipient of several awards including the 2008 Rome Prize (American Academy in Rome), as well as awards from Meet The Composer and ASCAP. Even with such massive buzz as a composer, Keeril is also handling the position of Assistant Professor of Music at MIT. He managed to take some time and talk to us about his composer beginnings as well as his current CD Target, and a little about his life as well

CM: When you studied violin, were you thinking of a career as a violinist with any kind of soloist aspirations?

KM: I enjoyed playing violin, but I realized at a certain point that I wasn’t really a performer. I have tremendous respect for musicians who can both master their instrument and connect with an audience. I actually stopped playing violin for a number of years during college. When I came back to it in graduate school, it changed my composing. I suddenly reawakened my physical connection to sound. Ever since then, I try to play the instruments that I’m writing for if I have the opportunity. This is how I wrote both Zones d’accord and Resonance Alloy. My physical exploration of the instruments connects the music with the idiosyncrasies of my body. It makes the music more personal, and I think more unique.
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