‘Embracing unclear connections with the past’; an interview with guest artist Tristram Williams

Our upcoming concert ‘Absent, almost absent‘ at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts on Friday November 28th features guest artist Tristram Williams (trumpet – ELISION Ensemble). Kupka pianist Alex Raineri catches up with Tristram amidst rehearsals to chat about Liza Lim, ELISION Ensemble and the Australian music scene.

ABQ Tris

This performance is almost sold out so be sure to book tickets now to avoid being absent!!

ALEX RAINERI: We're really excited to be welcoming you as guest artist in our upcoming concert where the centrepiece is Veil by Liza Lim. You've had the opportunity to work with Liza personally before, I wonder whether you could tell us a bit about her character and her manner of composer/performer interaction?

TRISTRAM WILLIAMS: I've been friends and colleagues with Liza for about 15 years now and worked with her on around 6 new pieces, including the solo wild winged-one and the tpt-perc duo, Ehwaz.

She is a fun composer to work with, she is always intensely interested in new things one is figuring out on the instrument then she uses them in ways you never imagined possible! I can honestly say I have learnt a lot about the trumpet from her. In so much of her work I've encountered things I thought were not possible, then in finding a solution extended my own playing.

She is also an intently spiritual person. I think this is what I most enjoy about her music, the sense of striving for some kind of spiritual transcendence or transformation. It's powerful stuff.

AR: Having had experience performing contemporary music all over the world, I'm interested to hear your thoughts on the new music culture in Australia. There's certainly a very vibrant scene in this country for exploring challenging and rarely performed works but this music is largely absent within tertiary music institutions and the programming of major concert series (eg. orchestras and established ensembles). In your opinion, how do Australian audiences react comparatively to European or American audiences who might feel more of an association or stronger affinity with the history of contemporary repertoire? 

TW: I think Australian audiences are different from the Europeans in positive and negative ways. We don't have the same connection to the culture as Europe in the sense we can't say Brahms lived in our city, or Stravinsky wrote Sacre where we take holidays. (We could have said Ravel taught at Sydney Con, but for the incredible prejudice and stupidity of the administration there in the 1920's. My how universities have changed...).

In my experience many Euro composers relate themselves directly to Brahms, Wagner et al. And the audiences see it that way too. New music as merely an extension of the existing tradition.

The negative side of this (and the positive for Aussies) is a conservativism and reluctance to embrace something whose connection to the past is not clear. I think Aussie audiences are open minded and don't mind hearing something whose provenance is unclear!

AR: Also in this concert we're featuring a new work by Benjamin Marks whom you've worked with on numerous occasions, both being members of the ELISION Ensemble. Kupka's Piano has a really nice link to Elision through the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts who are currently hosting us as ensemble in residence and for a number of years was home of the Elision ensemble. Having been an active member of Elision (among other groups) for a number of years, in your opinion, what kind of role do arts organisations like the Judy play in supporting ambitions young ensembles? How did the residency at the Judy affect and influence the development of the Elision ensemble?

TW: It's fantastic that KP is at the Judy now. Elision certainly had many important years there and it's great that such important music making is still going on there. The Judy will make the history books!

AR: Lastly, what are your top 5 favourite pieces? 

TW: Very difficult! At the moment, I'd say;

1 - Schubert die Winterreise

2 - Richard Barret World-line (premiered by Elision in Oct, for tpt, perc lap, steel guitar and electronics)

3 - Enno Poppe Speicher

4 - Messiaen Visions de l'amen

5 - Tippett 4th Piano Sonata 

Find out more about Tristram on his website and book tickets to 'Absent, almost absent' before time runs out and we're sold out!