11 AprETHEL: Heavy Composer Conversations
ETHEL is gearing up for its upcoming album release of “Heavy” (April 24th) – a power-packed, sonic snapshot of the group’s life in New York City. Recorded over an 18-month period by Cornelius Dufallo (violin), Dorothy Lawson (cello), Mary Rowell (violin), and Ralph Farris (viola), Heavy features works by eight celebrated contemporary composers: Don Byron, John Halle, Julia Wolfe, John King, Raz Mesinai, David Lang, Kenji Bunch, and Marcelo Zarvos.
As we count down the days till April 24th, ETHEL presents a series of composer conversations. ETHEL recently got cozy with composer/theorist John Halle.
Heavy Composer Conversation w/ JOHN HALLE
ETHEL: How and when did you first encounter ETHEL?
JH: I think we all played in the Bang on a Can Spit Orchestra together-didn’t we? (At least, Ethel 1.0.) I remember hearing the strings and thinking THAT is how strings should sound but almost never do. Then when I heard Ethel I though, THAT is how a string quartet should sound.
ETHEL: ETHEL’s new album is an homage to New York City and its music. How has NYC influenced your work, and in particular, your piece on this album?
JH: My memories of New York go back to the edgy days of the late seventies when I was in high school and used to take the train down from Boston to hang out at jazz clubs and downtown lofts (before Soho was gentrified and jazz became respectable). I’ve spent a lot of my musical life trying to figure out how to communicate the essence of what that experience was about.
ETHEL: The album is entitled “Heavy.” How does this title resonate with your piece?
JH: It’s pretty dense some of the time-actually a lot of the time. Not exactly the same thing as heavy, but definitely related.
ETHEL: Finish this sentence in one word: “ETHEL is …”
JH: …refined musical awesomeness personified.
ETHEL: Finish this sentence in one word: “New York City is…”
JH: …poised on the precipice between wonder and despair, reality and hallucination, heaven and hell.