Barbaric ideas and ridiculous music: An interview with flautist Tamara Kohler

Photo by Alan Weedon Melbourne based flautist Tamara Kohler joins Kupka's Piano for Outer Sounds this Friday (19th June), 7:30pm at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts. Tickets are selling fast so be sure to book your tickets now! Kupka pianist Alex chats with Tamara over coffee in between rehearsals to discuss .... 

Alex Raineri: What excites you about playing contemporary music? Were there specific pieces that inspired a love of new music?

Tamara Kohler: I feel a sense of freedom when playing contemporary music that I can’t channel as strongly in other genres. I've been told countless times that this type of music reflects my personality really well- whether that’s a compliment or not, I'm yet to decide! I guess it all goes back to the first time I heard Rite of Spring. It was a score reading exercise in school, when I was about 14 and I remember thinking, "I don’t quite understand how this works but I want to do that."

AR: We're really excited to have you on board for 'Outer Sounds' while our flautists Jodie and Hannah are off on overseas adventures! Could you tell us a bit about what you've been up to lately?  

TK: After finishing up some study at ANAM last year, I went away on an adventure to India, and then followed this with an artist residency at the Banff Centre, Canada. This trip has really shaped a lot of what I've been doing for the start of this year. On top of gigs and teaching around Melbourne, I've continued work on a project that I started at the Banff Centre with some fabulous visual artists, exploring how to present a functional score as a sculptural piece. I've also been performing and planning some exciting projects my group Rubiks Collective in Melbourne.

AR: You mentioned some exciting upcoming projects, what does the rest of 2015 have in store for you? 

TK: Well, I'm off to America next week actually to play in the Bang on a Can Summer Festival! This trip will also involve some professional development sessions and a chance to reconnect with a bunch of my overseas colleagues. As for later in the year, I have some really exciting projects ahead that I can’t go into too much detail about yet, but it should be an exciting (..and busy, yikes!) time.

AR: A hot topic particularly within our generation of colleagues is the general state of opportunity and possibilities within the Australian music scene. Without wanting to offer any of my own opinions on the subject, i'm really keen to hear your thoughts about what you love about being a freelance musician based in this country? Is overseas study something that is firmly on the horizon for you?  

TK: I've been lucky enough to have a series of great study bursts overseas, through which I most-definitely developed as a musician and a thinker. I think this is important for the development of any classical musician. Even if you aren't going to study music, go to Europe to touch the walls and breathe the air of where our whole legacy began. Though certainly in terms of flute education, we have world class teachers all over this country. There is no doubt about it.

Australia has so many fantastic musicians and yes, there possibly isn’t enough work to go around for all of them, in terms of earning a stable income. However, as a freelance musician, I think if you are passionate about a certain type of music or project, then it is your job to search for those like-minded colleagues, get out there with them and present what you love. I'm so lucky that I've found a special group of colleagues and close friends who will sit with me, explore the most barbaric ideas and play the most ridiculous music. This is what inspires me currently as a freelance artist in Australia. There will always be a way to find money, I know, a funny thing to say in the wake of Brandis’s horrific arts cuts, but I always try to remain optimistic in the end.

AR: If you had the chance to work with three of your musical idols, who would you choose and why? 

TK: Jonathan Harvey: Easily my favourite composer, Harvey has such a diverse output of work, and an incredibly unique musical language. His exploration of spirituality and early pioneering in the IRCAM scene for me perfectly represents an artist who was always willing to challenge himself, never becoming complacent with what he was creating.

FKA Twigs: because she is a complete babe and I'm totally in love with her!!! Hahah, but seriously, it’s her artistry that attracts me. She consistently challenges herself to perfect every aspect of her work and further her skills in dance, music and live performance and video production. I'm not a massive fan of the pop-music scene in general, but you can feel how she has combined pop, early soul, RnB and electronic influences to create something really unique.

Pina Bausch: Sorry I've branched away from the musical scene with this last one to name Pina Bausch, the stunning German dancer and choreographer. Pina’s work has a depth of honestly to it, something that I am always really attracted to in any artistic work. But what really inspires me about her work, was her ability and generosity towards other dancers, in helping them to find their individual expression, unique to each of their personalities. What a beautiful gift!

Read more about Tamara at www.tamarakohler.com and come along to Outer Sounds to hear her in action!