Thursday, June 02, 2011

Q&A with Composer Nickitas Demos

1) Name five influences.

First, in terms of composers who have had an important influence on me, I must begin with my mentor and teacher Donald Erb (1927-2008). Another important composer who taught me a lot is Roger Hannay (1930-2006), with whom I studied for several years at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Second, and outside of these direct influences, I am a great admirer of the work of Gyorgy Ligeti (having admired him so much that his work, "Melodien" was the subject of my doctoral dissertation and set me upon a lifelong interest and investigation of sonority in music - particularly acoustic music).

My third big influence is Greek music - both Greek folk music and Byzantine Chant.

A fourth important influence is jazz and rounding out my list of five would be rock/pop music.

All of these elements can be found in my compositions.

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

I've got a full plate this summer. I just completed a five movement work for narrator, clarinet and piano based upon several selected stories from "Aesop's Fables." This work was commissioned by former Atlanta performer, pianist Cary Lewis and will be premiered next month out in Portland, OR. For the remainder of the year, I will work on a duo for a trumpet and trombone (commissioned by Kevin Lyons and Tom Gibson), a solo work for euphonium ("Tonoi VIII") for Adam Frey, a chamber piece commissioned by the chamber ensemble "IdeƩ Fixe" based in Thessaloniki, Greece, a trumpet choir fanfare (commissioned by the GSU Brass Dept.), and a double concerto for clarinet, saxophone and wind ensemble commissioned by Jan Berry Baker and Ken Long. All of these works are scheduled for premieres in the Fall. I'm also working with a local film director on a score for an independent comedy. It's my first film score! Finally, another project that I hope will come together is a commission by the Atlanta Young Singers of Callonwolde for a new choral work. I've been approached by their director, Paige Mathis, about writing the work and hope to have all the details ironed out soon!

I've also been busy recording as well. There are three forthcoming discs that will feature my music. The first is an album entitled, "Odysseia" featuring music by George Tsontakis, Theodore Antoniou, Chrsitos Samaras and myself. A second disc, entitled "Rites of Passage" will feature clarinetist Ken Long and works by Donald Erb, Paul Osterfield and myself. Finally, saxophonist Jan Berry Baker will be recording a disc entitled "Citizens of Nowhere" featuring a work of mine by the same name for clarinet and sax duo. I'm also in the early stages of working on two additional recordings: a disc featuring the premiere recording of my Concerto for Violin, Piano and Orchestra as well as a recording of my wind music featuring my double concerto for clarinet, sax and winds as well as my double concerto for euphonium, trombone and winds entitled "Air, Metal & Roll."

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

I live and work in Atlanta because of my position as Professor of Music Composition at the Georgia State University School of Music. In this capacity as well as my position as Coordinator of the Composition Program at the School, I formed the neoPhonia New Music Ensemble which regularly gives four performances a year and will be celebrating its 17th Season in the fall of 2011. All of my family lives in Atlanta and most of my wife's family lives in nearby Charleston, SC so working here is a great situation for me personally as well. I'm fortunate that Atlanta has blossomed into a fairly vibrant music center for contemporary music. In addition to my group, neoPhonia, there is, of course, Bent Frequency (a group I co-founded and served as composer-in-residence from 2003-2008) and Sonic Generator. I'm also very happy to note the greater attention contemporary music is receiving by more traditional ensembles such as the Atlanta Chamber Players as well as the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Because of the ASO, as well as many other fine groups, there are many outstanding performers working in the city. It's a great mix for a composer!

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

As vibrant as the city is - by comparison to the other bigger markets, we are still a relatively small place. It's much harder for a composer living and working here to be noticed on a national stage. I think the only real way to address this is for composers living in Atlanta to continue to do great work. More than that, however, we must all do an even better job of promoting ourselves and our colleagues to a wider audience. Social media and a strong web presence are good places to start.

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

I would be honored to work with the ASO. I know many of the players personally and have watched the quality and reputation of the group steadily grow over the years. How could a composer not want to work with them? I'd also love to work with the Georgia Symphony Orchestra (formally the Cobb Symphony), the Atlanta Ballet and the Atlanta Opera. In terms of chamber music, I've been fortunate and honored to have worked with many of the top groups in the city. One group who I have not worked with yet is Fringe. I'd love to collaborate with them sometime. I love their performing concept!

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

I would love to write an opera! This is one of the few genres I have not had the opportunity to take on.

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

I tend to work exclusively with acoustic instruments. I do have a few pieces, however, that employ some use of electronics: a work for electric cello (that makes heavy use of effects processing), a piece for clarinet violin and live DJ that was commissioned by Sonic Generator and a work using electric guitar, electric bass and synthesizer commissioned by Bent Frequency.

8) When and where is your next performance?

June 18 - Portland, Oregon - my work "Mythoi" for narrator, clarinet and piano will be premiered as part of the Astoria Music Festival.

9) Where can we find you online? (Please list your websites and social media channels.)

My website: http://nickitasdemos.com

My blog, "Greek & Composing": http://greekandcomposing.blogspot.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/nickitasdemos

Twitter: http://twitter.com/nickitasdemos

LinkedIn: http://linkedin.com/in/nickitasdemos

My Greek Band: http://www.greekislanders.com

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