Mike Nock took time out from his 81st, possibly 82nd, revision to share a few insights about his new work 'Vicissitudes', which was premiered in the Christchurch Arts Festival on 20 September 2013 by two of New Zealand's best loved trios - the Mike Nock Trio and NZTrio.
Tell us a bit about the piece overall
During the entire process of writing Vicissitudes, at the back of my mind has been the wish to contribute something positive to the people of Christchurch who have been dealing with such extreme difficulties over the past couple of years. I wanted this piece to convey a sense of resilience and positiveness.
Photo by Karen Steains
How did this composition and combination of ensembles come about?Philip Tremewan from the Christchurch Arts Festival suggested I write a piece for the NZTrio plus my jazz trio, using a set of variations to show the different approaches each group might bring to the same piece of music. I found this an interesting and challenging starting point.
How did you approach the composition process?
Perhaps because the project presented me with so many options the actual compositional process took shape very slowly, ending up with more than eighty revisions!
Did you approach writing for the classical players (NZTrio) differently from the jazz players?
Through many years of playing together my trio has developed a largely intuitive approach to making music but performing this piece with the NZTrio we have quite a different situation. A large part of the fun and interest for all six players will be exploring the discoveries we encounter while rehearsing and performing this music.
Have you scored it differently for each group?
The work is fully scored for the NZTrio and sketchily scored for my trio.
Are there elements of improvisation in the work for all players?
I emphasise the improvisational elements in my trio's role as I feel this is where we do our best work, but the NZTrio will be playing pretty much what's written.
Are there any new techniques you have tried or musical discoveries you made in this process?
As an improviser I work with many different variation forms but this project presented me with an unusual set of challenges, in particular how best to utilise the rare opportunity of working with two disparate piano trios.
Is this work a development of any previous work/s of yours?
I considered several approaches and at one point was even considering Pokarekare Ana as a basic theme, but eventually settled on a piece of mine built on a descending then ascending minor scale. A very simple idea that lends itself to endless variation.
What do you want listeners to take away with them after hearing the piece?
My main wish is for listeners to share an uplifting musical experience.
Are there any more performances of this piece planned?
There are none currently planned but after our Sept 20th Christchurch premiere I would expect many future performances.
What exciting musical things are on the horizon for you?
As I get older I'm becoming increasingly aware of the limitless possibilities that surround us every day, particularly those that can be realised through creating music. I feel extremely fortunate to be living in a time and culture where so much wonderful music is widely available.
On a more personal level I have some interesting recording projects planned and am working on a new collection of solo piano music.
Is there anything else you'd like to share about the piece?
I'll definitely think twice about what I name my next piece as Vicissitudes has unfortunately already lived up to its title, with the music imps having much fun at my expense throughout the whole creative process.
See event and booking details here.
Read Mike Nock's biography here.
Browse recordings of Mike Nock's music available through SOUNZ here .