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Reuben Jelleyman
SOUNZ Contemporary Award Finalist 2021

Reuben Jelleyman is a finalist for the 2021 SOUNZ Contemporary Award | Te Tohu Auaha for his piece 'Klein Fountain'. Reuben tells us about his piece, and his plans for the future.

Tell us about your work ‘Klein Fountain’.

'Klein Fountain' is a piece I wrote for one of the projects we have at the Conservatoire which is a collaborative project with Ensemble Intercontemporain. I chose a small formation of flute, percussion, cello and piano, drawing on some of the instrumental research I had been developing previously, but also drawing on new musical solutions drawing from contemporary electronic music.

What ideas and materials have you been exploring during your time at the Paris Conservatoire? How does ‘Klein Fountain’ fit in with these ideas?

The ideas behind this work actually stem from some of the work I was doing before my time in Paris, starting from a work written in 2018 for Stroma called 'Designs', which presents reverse fragments of Ravel's Introduction et Allegro on a "Möbius strip" time matrix: that is to say, the tempo is always decelerating to the point where it halves and the subdivision re-enters to replace the original time feeling. It is the same principle of the famous rhythmic illusion demonstrated by Jean-Claude Risset. Klein Fountain deals with this effect in a way that is more abstracted, but also more concentrated, and was research directed to my final project at CNSMDP for large ensemble, a piece called 'Catalogue', which was premiered just a couple of weeks ago.

How was the experience of working on this piece with the legendary Ensemble Intercontemporain?

Amazing. I met players individually before we had a workshop together at the end of 2020. The workshop completely changed my mind about what I was writing, and I spent the next weeks rewriting the piece before the recording session in January 2021, and the competence and flexibility of the players allowed me to really work on-the-fly with the piece. We were also working with a fantastic young conductor Léo Margue to put the piece together due to the relentless tempo changes. I’ve since worked on a version with the Graz-based ensemble Schallfeld where we used a click-track and some light amplification, and the results there provided an interesting comparison.

Living in France for the past two years and attending workshops in Europe, how has your experience of the pandemic been? How did you navigate this challenging situation?

It’s certainly been character building. I have had a very difficult time in some personal ways, in particular around the time of finishing Klein Fountain actually. Also, at the outbreak of the pandemic very important potential funding for my studies got cancelled, and took a year to come back on the table – I was really scrambling at that moment to keep myself afloat, but I have my parents and emergency funding from the Conservatoire to thank for getting me through, and well back on-track. However nothing completely stopped, and I found myself able to simplify life and to focus on the musical research I had at hand. Now that international travel has been possible I was able to attend masterclasses over the European summer in Italy and Austria, where I was able to meet and take lessons with many of my favourite composers.

Now that you have finished your Master’s degree at the Paris Conservatoire, what are your plans for the future? Will you be coming back to New Zealand?

In normal times I would have been on a plane about now, heading back, however I haven’t been lucky at all with the MIQ system despite the changes. I’ll be trying my luck in the lottery system once again tonight in fact! This situation of "exile", unable to get myself home, is something no one here seems to comprehend when I tell them.

Apart from this situation, I’m working on a new solo piece for the recorder virtuoso Tosiya Suzuki, thanks to Dylan Lardelli who has created a number of new projects within the new circumstances. I have some other potential projects in the pipelines, so I’m recommencing my freelance lifestyle for the moment.

Any plans for further study?

Not at this stage! I think it’s time for a new kind of adventure for the time being.

Jelleyman 'Klein Fountain', bars 148-150