"Any composer who is dead deserves to be revered beyond the point where you know you are nothing compared to them. I grew up a little bit in that culture at Juilliard and at Curtis. I've since realized that it's much more fun to not think that way." - violinist Tim Fain.
Helena Symphony director Allan R. Scott talks music, collaboration, and virtual reality with Tim Fain, prior to the latter's recital with pianist Simone Dinnerstein, "Fresh Ink And First Loves," on Friday, Nov. 4 at 8:00 p.m. at Hamilton High School in Hamilton, MT, part of the Bitterroot Performing Arts Series.
Fain, who lives in Hamilton, has built an international career as a concert violinist, composer and arranger. He has performed and collaborated frequently with legendary composer, Philip Glass. Fain was heard (and seen) in the films "Black Swan" and "Twelve Years a Slave," and performed as the "voice" of Richard Gere's violin in the film, "Bee Season." Recently, he composed the music for a VR film made by Google. Fain's multi-media Portals performances feature one of Glass's works composed for him, as well as work by choreographer Benjamin Millepied, songwriter Leonard Cohen, filmmaker Kate Hackett, and "Performance Today" host, Fred Child.
Allan R. Scott directs the Helena Symphony, and has an extensive background in conducting for opera and dance.
On the collaboration between conductor and soloist:
Allan R. Scott: Some conductors may choose to bring different ideas to the piece. As the conductor, I believe it's our job to make the soloist comfortable and do well, first and foremost.
Tim Fain: For me, it comes down to this relationship you have in that moment, out on stage, when people are watching and listening. You've cultivated a dynamic of listening, curiosity, and flexibililty. Nobody's going to have to get taken to the hospital if you play a couple of wrong notes or if you aren't in synch with the orchestra. But it almost feels that way. When you're out in front of people, something is so heightened, it almost does feel like life and death at times ... So you cultivate a relationship of flexibility and musical camaraderie that allows you to at once be free, but at the same time embrace this musical collaboration.
On painting with a diverse palette of tone color and sounds:
ARS: To perform with a great soloist, it's so rewarding when you feel you have something to offer together ... I think that's why one of the biggest-selling types of concerts is when you have a soloist with an orchestra, because there's some unspoken, unexplainable magic that happens when you have a soloist and an orchestra knowing how to give and take and follow, with a person on a box who doesn't make a single sound, and yet somehow helps in some way.
TF: Well, it's an almost exponential increase in diversity of texture and sound. Even thinking beyond an orchestra: a collaboration that involves electronics or electronic music that combines acoustic and electronic instruments just expands the possibility of musical textures to the nth degree. I think people now expect a wide template of musical colors. Many people expect that well beyond what a symphony orchestra can deliver, certainly beyond violin and piano. So I think the real challenge, as a musician living in the digital age, is to perform as colorfully as possible - to evoke moods and vibes and emotions that can be done so successfully with string instruments, but to do that within the context of music as a whole, where it is right now, the almost unthinkably large diversity of musical sounds that's possible now, through technology.
On collaborating with Philip Glass, who recently turned 80:
TF: (Philip) looks great. I just saw him a little over a week ago, in Amsterdam. We actually played "Pendulum" together, and he nailed it to the ground - he sounds so good ... It's a really uplifting piece, very different than a lot of his earlier pieces. You can hear little bits and pieces, if you're familiar at all with Philip's style - a lot of repetition, a lot of undulating chords or arpeggios, almost like waves. You hear a little of that in "Pendulum." But really, it's more like he's using these building blocks - by the way, I mean, which he spent the first forty years of his life building, and figuring out, like, how he was going to write music while he was driving a cab, or moving art for any number of artists in New York City - so these undulating arpeggios, these figures you hear at the end of "Einstein on the Beach:" he's using those, but really to tell much more of a linear story. You get a sense of a beginning, a middle and an end in a different way than you would in some of his earlier pieces ... It's almost like, back then, it was like spinning a prayer wheel. You watch it spin for one hour, two hours, four hours. Now, it's like he's hinting at those riffs, and putting them together in a way that - honestly, to me, some of his newer compositions have more in common with Brahms than they do with some of his earlier compositions. It's been a real evolution.
ARS: And with Philip Glass, he's in many ways one of the few who is still embracing the minimalist style that even John Adams has abandoned. The peak of minimalism was in the late seventies or early eighties ... there is such an obsessive following of Philip Glass's works - you hear it in films, accompanying art openings ... I sometimes think he's bigger than many living composers today.
Musical selections heard during this interview, in order of appearance:
1. Fritz Kreisler: "Liebesleid" (1910) - From Tim Fain's recording, "First Loves" (2015 VisionIntoArt)
2. Samuel Barber: Violin Concerto. Op.14 (1939) - Tim Fain, violin soloist.
3. Philip Glass: Pendulum for Violin and Piano (2010) - live performance. Written for Tim Fain.
4. Tim Fain: "Resonance" for violin and orchestra. Composed for Google's recent Jump virtual reality video.
5. Kevin Puts: Arches for Solo Violin (2000) - excerpt recorded by Tim Fain at KUFM.
6. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Tim Fain: "Swan Remix" - Fain's arrangement is based on themes from "Swan Lake." It followed his work on the film, "Black Swan." From the recording, "First Loves" (2015 VisionIntoArt)