Proms 2017: pre-première questions with Laurent Durupt

by 5:4

This afternoon, at the second Proms Chamber Music concert at Cadogan Hall, French composer Laurent Durupt‘s first string quartet, Grids for Greed, will receive its world première by the Van Kuijk Quartet. Durupt is a composer new to me, so his answers to my pre-première questions are a useful starting point for becoming acquainted with him and his work. Many thanks to Laurent for his responses.

1. For anyone not yet familiar with it, could you give a brief summary of your music, i.e. characteristics, outlook, aesthetic, etc.?

I would generally define my art as a global work that includes music and sounds on the same level as scenography, video or lights, depending on the projects. If I had to focus more specifically on the sound aspect, I would say that I love very long temporality with very rare silences, and that I think music more as a trance rather than any type of discourse or drama and narrative. I would say it’s often contemplative, but can include violence or tensions. My projects are often thought of as being in resonance with social questions…

2. What led to you becoming a composer? Did/does it feel like a choice?

When I was 14, I heard that my Amiga 500 that I was playing games with could also be used to create music. But I misunderstood the information: I thought I could program music whereas my friend was talking more about arranging MIDI scores… Anyways, I think it was my first emotion and desire to create something with the infinite algorithmic possibilities made possible by computers.

3. Where did you study? Who/what have been the most important influences on your work?

I studied piano in the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Paris, along with many other disciplines before starting the composition class with Frédéric Durieux. I would say that the most influential musicians for me were Steve Reich, Gérard Grisey and Karlheinz Stockhausen, whom I would consider as the most prominent significant composers of the past century. But younger composers have influenced me in a way, for instance George Aperghis, Wolfgang Mitterer, Ryoji Ikeda…

4. How do you go about writing a new piece? To what extent do you start with a ‘blank slate’ and/or use existing methods/materials?

A new piece means for me a new system of writing. Therefore it is very rare I use previously-created material. I take a long time thinking on my project and the meaning of it, trying to match the general concept with a musical technique. I really wait until the last moment to write on paper, because I want to be sure of a coherence between the general structure and my material. Then I start to write and it can be swift, or not, depending on the composition process.

5. How does the piece sit in relation to your previous work? Why did you particularly compose this piece at this time?

When I was resident at Villa Medici in Rome, I created many transdisciplinary projects, progressively larger and more complex. Now I feel a need to come back to more abstract kind of musical projects such as this string quartet, a piano study I finished right before and a concerto that I will compose for Olivier Stankiewicz (oboist with the London Symphonic Orchestra).

6. If people really like your piece, what other music of yours would you recommend they check out?

That’s a difficult question because the content of my projects are really different from one another. My string octet Super8 may seem interesting because of the suspension of time but it includes light installation on the bows with circular motions. Someone that appreciates the nervous activity in the quartet may like P-server, Studi Sulla Notte or Turbine, but these pieces come also with scenography and/or electronics… I would maybe recommend two pieces that have the benefit to show multiple aspects of my work: my trio for percussion and electronics called Sonate en triΩhm and my radio piece Audioportraits. Both pieces include contrasting movements that show different approaches to composing music material.

7. What’s next?

I’m finishing next year a trilogy of theater / performance / music pieces. One is called AnthopoSCENE, it’s an experimental music theatre piece in collaboration with Jan Rohwedder (choreography) and Fabian Offert (scenography); and another piece Dronocracy with Ferdinand Barbet, Aurélien Lafargue and musicians of the Ensemble Intercontemporain. Along with my project PrivEspace, they are based on several issues of our time: environment, surveillance, political issues, social networks.

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