Violinist Miranda Cuckson had a few minutes to talk about her latest CD: a new recording of Luigi Nono’s la lontananza nostalgica utopica futura which is going to be dropping this weekend. Miranda has not one but 2 events launching the CD–Friday, January 4th and Saturday, January 5th, 7 PM at Spectrum in New York.
CM: Can you talk about your latest CD of the Luigi Nono piece?
Miranda: This is basically a very late work of Nono’s. It’s for violin and 8-track tape, and much like Nono’s work as a whole, it involves a lot of elements of theatre and a lot of political themes and undercurrents to it. Basically, in the piece, the violinist moves from various stations within the performing space for each of the sections, and there are also 8 speakers, and it involves a live performance by the sound engineer, who controls the material on the tapes to decide which of the tracks are going to be heard at whatever time and from which locations in the hall.
The violinist is basically supposed to embody this figure of a wanderer, so, the character is kind of a symbol of both any human being wandering through life, but he was also at the time very concerned about fascism in Europe and refugees from wartime and all those kinds of things. There’s a lot of strange sounds on the tape like thumping and crashing–a sense of the real world around this person. A very eerie, not really comfortable environment.
Obviously, that’s a very hard thing to record on a CD, but it has been recorded in stereo a few times, including by Gidon Kremer, who premiered the piece, and whose playing is on the tapes. But this recording is going to come out not only in stereo but also in surround sound–It’s the first surround sound recording!
It’s an amazing experience! I heard it a few months ago, and to hear these sounds emerging around you in different locations, you really feel like these things are like–You really feel like a glass shattered over your shoulder! It’s an amazing experience! The other thing that’s intriguing and new about this recording is that I discovered in Nono’s score that he had indicated for some vocalizing from the violinist, and I was really puzzled by it because it’s in Italian, and I was making sure that I translated it right and everything, but he’s very clear that he wants the violinist singing in certain parts, either in pitches, or to sing at the unison or the octave or the 5th from these notes. I was kind of puzzling over it, and I haven’t contacted Gidon Kremer or anything, so, I’m not really sure why HE opted not to do it, but, I have a feeling it’s really hard for a male voice to sing that range, but he definitely didn’t do it, and nobody as far as I know has done the vocalizing, but it’s still there in the score, Nono left it there, so I tried it, and I think it’s really beautiful. You get this sense of, basically, this human person there. It just really emphasizes the vulnerability and the warmth of this person in this rather frightening but also kind of eerily beautiful environment that’s changing constantly around them, and yeah, I think it was really much part of his vision, so I was really delighted to discover that.
Ralph Shapey: Etchings mvt. 1 Moderato (video directed by J. Henry Fair)
CM: You recently played at the great Bargemusic–Having been there a few times now myself, it is quite an intriguing place to see a concert, and you feel like something bad can happen during an otherwise beautiful moment. Do you feel like there’s potential for disaster during performances in places like this?
Miranda: Well, I’m not really anticipating any disasters, but yeah, I think it’s part of the whole experience there–the bobbing of the barge, and depending on the weather and the time of day or the ferries going by. The last time I played there is maybe the most choppy experience I had. There was quite a lot of movement going on. It’s not the most comfortable thing [laughs], but I feel like the trade-off is that it’s a very special location, and the room itself has a lovely, warm kind of embracing quality and charm, the history of the place and how much has gone on there, and how much care and love they have maintaining it over decades now. That I appreciate very much, and Mark [Peskanov] is putting on so many things and such a nice variety of presentations now, which I think is great. The actual standing there and having to play while it’s moving under your feet is not so comfortable–I tend to want to perform in heels [laughs], but I love being by the water.
JS Bach: Sarabande from Partita #2; BWV 1004 (Miranda Cuckson, violin)
CD release events for la lontananza nostalgica utopica futura
Friday, January 4th and Saturday, January 5th, 7 PM
Spectrum 121 Ludlow, Second Floor, New York, New York 10002
Call the venue: (650) 400-5100