Anna Clyne

Composer Anna Clyne, who has a huge repertoire specializing in both orchestral and electro-acoustic music, is somebody whose name comes up quite frequently these days. Her music is commissioned/performed by artists such as Kathleen Supové, ETHEL, Esa-Pekka Salonen, and Jennifer Koh, for whom Anna has composed a Double Violin Concerto to be presented as part of a program titled “Two x Four” along with several other dual violin concerti in Chicago this fall. She also has a recently-released CD titled Blue Moth on the Tzadik label that you can purchase here.

CM: Can you talk about the Double Violin Concerto you wrote for Jennifer Koh and Jamie Laredo? Koh is a wonderful violinist!

AC: She is! She’s also a wonderful friend, and it is a great honour to be writing a new work for her and her mentor, Jamie Laredo. There’s something incredibly beautiful and enriching in a creative relationship when a mentor really nurtures the creativity of another. This is something that I have also been blessed with in my mentors–especially Marina Adamia, Julia Wolfe and Nils Vigeland. This relationship has special poignancy in that it unravels through time, forming a lineage, a family tree of kinds. So this thread inspires this piece and, of course, the great musicality and virtuosity of Jenny and Jamie. Awareness of a dialogue between the soloists, and between the soloists and the ensemble is central to my compositional process for this piece.

CM: You specialize in acoustic orchestral and chamber as well as electro-acoustic music, something that is very remarkable and not easy for people to accept (especially when those two, at times, can have such diversive audiences). Is this something that is difficult to deal with, or do you expect it?

AC: I really do see electronics as an extension of the instrumental family. It can contribute strong percussive gestures, spatial movement, a harmonic underbelly and so forth. I think that, more and more, there is a blurring between my electro-acoustic music and my acoustic music. In recent acoustic orchestral pieces, “Night Ferry” and “See(k)” for example, I have incorporated digital editing techniques/effects, such as delay, verb, etc. in the orchestration of the work. A blank orchestral score is not so different from a blank ProTools session–lots of tracks into which one can layer sounds through time.

A snippet of the CSO World Premiere of “Night Ferry”, set to images of Anna Clyne creating the work in her studio.

CM: For the record, I enjoy your experimental stuff, especially pieces like “Choke” and “Fits Starts”
I asked Lesley Flanigan this question as well–Do you regard the experimental music as that, or do you regard it as status quo in terms of your whole output?

AC: Thanks! I’m a big fan of Lesley’s music–I love the performance aspect of her work in particular–it’s so mesmerizing and can really transform a space. I remember seeing/hearing a piece of hers recently at MonkeyTown (I think it’s called something different now? I forget the name) whereby she performed with her voice, speaker feedback and video. I think as an artist it’s really quite important to push a little (I hate this phrase, but) ‘out of the box’. It doesn’t mean that it all has to be this way. But from writing more “experimental stuff”, one can harness some of the resultant sounds/textures etc. into more traditional contexts. It would be really interesting to hear Lesley’s music translated into an orchestral score–it would be completely new and fresh. Maybe she’s already done that? I don’t know!

As Zappa said “Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible”.
[EDITOR’S NOTE: I ❤ Frank!]

Roulette for string quartet and electronics (Mivos Quartet; The Tank, NYC; 2/18/10)

CM: It was very interesting to see this article about projection screens and how the way music is experienced, and especially where you came in. I often have talks with people about music videos and whether the music on the clips are ruined by images rather than enhanced by them. Do you think that there is a major difference between that and concert music with video/projection?

AC: I’m not sure which article you’re referring to, but I’m really interested in exploring the integration of sonic and visual art. It does need to be carefully crafted and balanced so that one doesn’t overpower or distract from the other (unless of course this in the intention). As with electronics and experimental music, I don’t think that there’s a right or wrong context for visual art. It’s all about how it’s integrated.

CM: Interesting to see that “Fits + Starts” is being used for Kitty McNamee’s colony. Was this always going to be used for her work, or did it just work out that way?

AC: I wrote “Fits + Starts” in 2002, for choreographer Kitty McNamee and her Los Angeles based dance troupe, Hysterica Dance Company. It’s really interesting to see her response to the music, now 10 years later, with the Los Angeles Ballet. Kitty and I have such an intuitive creative connection and I am always excited, and often moved, by the dance she creates with my music.

CM: Are there any specific people you’d like to compose for that you haven’t yet?

AC: Oh gosh–so many! Collaboration really drives my imagination. So, I would love to write a film score for Michel Gondry. I’d also love to write a piece for a baroque ensemble and baroque voices. Perhaps, one day, I could combine the two!

Anna Clyne (


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