Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Q&A with Composer Jason Freeman

1) Name five influences.

Charles Ives, Steve Reich, Max Neuhaus (with whom I was lucky enough to get a chance to work), Sol Lewitt (a visual artist who nonetheless thinks much like a composer), and Beethoven.

2) What are you currently working on? What can we expect to hear from you?

I'm working on a few projects in various stages of development right now. I continue to work on UrbanRemix, where participants record sounds with their mobile phones and explore and remix them online, and then watch live performances by electronic musicians that use the same recorded sounds. We presented this project in Atlanta, San Francisco, and New York over the last year, and we're currently planning for some additional presentations in New York that expand the educational components of the project.

I'm also extending my work for laptop orchestra: last year, I developed a software environment for laptop orchestra called LOLC in collaboration with my students; it was performed here in Atlanta by Sonic Generator and my students just traveled to Oslo to perform it at the New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME) conference. This coming year, we're focusing on extended that system to enable the laptop players to generate music notation, in real time, for instrumental musicians to sight-read in performance. Performances with that system are slated for the coming year with Sonic Generator and in Istanbul. Finally, I'm just beginning work on a new piece for solo saxophone with audience participation via smartphones.

3) What's good about the Atlanta music scene? Or, why do you live and/or work here?

I moved down to Atlanta from New York because of my faculty position at Georgia Tech. The transition was jarring at first (I often note that more contemporary music happens in New York each week than in Atlanta through the whole year), but I've come to enjoy being here. In New York, I settled into a micro-niche of new music and would only attend concerts within a narrow aesthetic scope. Here, I see a much greater variety of work. It's also a small scene here where all of the composers and musicians know each other, and everyone is friendly. And of course, the program in music technology at Georgia Tech is a great place for me to be, with amazing faculty colleagues and students.

4) What is the biggest challenge you face as an Atlanta composer and how do you address it?

I agree with what Nick wrote on the blog recently: it's rare for anything happening in Atlanta to be noticed by those who live outside of the city. I choose to do most of my work outside of the city in order to gain wider recognition for it. I also think that, although the scene here is small, it is nonetheless sometimes remarkably hard to figure out what's going on. There's no single, central source of information on events (though this blog does a good job moving towards that) and I often don't find out about things until the very last minute.

5) Who in the local scene would you like to collaborate with and why?

I have tremendous admiration for Jan Berry Baker's playing (at GSU) -- she's helped me out with some things before but I've never written a piece for her. I'd love to do that.

6) What instrument(s) haven't you written for that you would like to write for?

I'd love to write for concert band or wind ensemble, which I haven't done since I was an undergraduate, and there are some great groups in town (including at Georgia Tech).

7) How does technology play a role in your work?

Technology is a major part of my work, but to me it is never the point, it is always a means to an end. I tend to use technology to help me rethink the relationships among performers, composers, and listeners, using novel interfaces and algorithms to redistribute creativity among these constituencies so that everyone can play a role in shaping each musical performance of the work.

8) When and where is your next performance?

Come to the Woodruff Arts Center on Saturday, June 25, 2011 to see SONICpalooza, a 10-hour long marathon concert (2 pm till midnight) by Sonic Generator and friends. We'll be doing music by Steve Reich, David Lang, John Luther Adams, Tristan Perich, and a number of local composers, including Mark Gresham, Alvin Singleton, and me. Jessica Peek Sherwood will be playing a solo flute piece of mine, Sonorescence, sometime between 3 and 4 pm. It's a free show, you can come and go as you please, you can walk outside for a minute to grab some food from Atlanta's finest street vendors, and it's generally a great way for us to wrap up our fifth anniversary season and celebrate with you. Hope to see you there! Full info, as always, at

9) Where can we find you online?

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