OOO is thrilled to share this interview between singer Angela Irving and composer David C. Adams, whose chamber song cycle “Five Mystic Songs” will premiere on Fri, Nov. 18th at the Inaugural Fresh Squeezed Ounce of Opera.
Angela: Tell us about Olivia Pepper, the author of the text. And how did you all meet?
David: Olivia is unique. I’ve never met another human like her. I think we met at a funky, artsy, hippie-ish party, around a giant campfire, though I’d already heard about her. Sometime later she painted my face for a body-paint photoshoot in South Austin. What does it mean that she’s a culture creator? Let’s take the snapshot approach. In recent months she’s lectured on Tarot in Chouzhou, hugged a camel in Mongolia, snapped a quick self-portrait in Bulgakov’s mirror, gone nocturnal in Berlin, choreographed a dance in Paris, and finished two books: one, a novel; the other, accompanying a Tarot deck she created with local Renaissance woman, Katie Rose Pipkin. And this is only a glance at the surface. I’m fortunate to be working with her words!
A: Are there specific composers and/or performers that have helped inspire some of the different stylings you write for voice and strings in this cycle?
D: My first instrument was viola, I play violin now, and I studied singing and writing for voice with David Small while I was getting my composition degree at UT, so these forces are all pretty comfy for me. As for the stylings here, I can’t point to any particular influence. All the extended techniques arise naturally out of the text, which points to a recognition of beautiful simplicity. For example, tuning, really listening while playing open strings, is not unlike focusing on the breath during meditation.
A: There’s an element of performance art in this cycle. How did you go about deciding to add that as a part of this piece? And has performance art played a role in other pieces you written?
D: This text is about waking up to the mystical reality that surrounds, permeates, pervades, and is us. The first song paints the relentless anxiety we feel in our hyper-stimulated lives, and the rest are about waking up from that. It seems only natural to make use of extramusical means – a waking up to possibilities to inspire waking up to possibilities. I have incorporated performance art elements into works in the past as well: my Suite of Dances for string quartet features some performance art elements, including a throat-clearing by the first violinist to prompt a few obligingly dulcet notes from the rest of the quartet.
A: I heard that your next project is an opera! Tell us about that!
D: Well, right now I’m working hard on a concerto for french horn and chamber orchestra to be premiered next year by Louisville’s Orchestra Enigmatic, but once I finish that up, I’ll be setting to work on a chamber opera.
I heard a story this summer when I was on my way to the mountains. The woman sitting next to me on the plane was en route to visit her mother in law, who we’ll call Elizabeth. Elizabeth was recently widowed. Her husband had been young, in his sixties, and their grandchildren had just started rolling in. Her husband’s passing aroused the pain of empathy in me, but took on new depths and layers when the woman told me more.
Elizabeth had been a nun, living in a convent, when she met her husband. He had been visiting his sister, also a nun there, when Elizabeth and he first crossed paths. Something changed for them when they met, and he started visiting more often – or course, purportedly to see his sister. They invited Elizabeth to join them for Christmas with their whole family, and when she did, all her plans fell away before her eyes… and I thought, This is an opera! A couple weeks later, I shared this vision with Julie Fiore (director of One Ounce Opera). She agreed, and here we are.
Opera is expensive though. At the Met, the composer’s fee alone can approach half a million dollars. We’re doing it much less extravagantly, but it will still take an unbelievable amount of time, energy, and money – and we’re still not sure how we’re gonna pay for it all! We’ve started a crowd funding campaign though. (click here for more!)
(And stay tuned for more information about this exciting co-production between Mr. Adams and OOO!)
Always drawn to sound and music, David C. Adams‘ ears have led him on a lifelong adventure through all things auditory. He picked up a little bit of trumpet, recorder, and piano before diving into the viola section of his 5th grade orchestra, where he continued to develop through high school, leading the section his senior year. By then, he had found the guitar, which came easily to him.
David’s musical exploration has included performing and recording as a lead guitarist, bassist, pianist/keys player, violinist, violist, cellist, and singer, both as a sideman and as a frontman. Turning down a generous offer from the New England Conservatory, he elected to work with the wonderful composition and vocal faculties at UT’s Butler School of Music, where he recently graduated with a degree in composition.
Now, having jammed original funk-rock onstage at Antone’s, premiered works written by himself and others in halls from Austin to Chicago, performed the symphonic music of Mozart in Vienna, and sung Fauré’s Requiem in Carnegie Hall, and while maintaining an active performing and recording career, David spends his days writing newly commissioned works, jamming with his band, and teaching music to a new generation.
Find out more about David: http://davidcarltonadams.com