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Barely Dry Ink: 3 composers write for Kamerkoor JIP

In collaboration with Gaudeamus, not only during the festival but throughout the year, a lot of works are performed of which the ink is only barely dry. For the celebration of the 10th anniversary of Kamerkoor JIP, Gaudeamus commissioned Setareh Nafisi, Maripepa Contreras and Antonio Moreno Glazkov to each create a piece specifically for the occasion. We talked with the three young composers about their new works and the creative process behind them, just a few days before their premiere during the Dag van de Componist this Saturday 17 June at TivoliVredenburg.

by Sofia Chionidou

This June, Kamerkoor JIP celebrates its 10th anniversary by presenting the program Maar de zon is nog op (But the sun is still up) which they are also bringing to Utrecht, as part of Dag van de Componist (Day of the Composer). Maar de zon is nog op is a new program, bringing together five new pieces composed specifically for the choir, by composers Gerard Beljon, Oene van Geel and our own commissioned composers Maripepa Contreras, Antonio Moreno Glazkov and Setareh Nafisi. When these young, breaking-the-mold composers were asked to create new works tailored to the fresh, multicultural and socially engaged character of the JIP choir, a beautiful creative journey began.

Beyond boundaries

When talking about their background, Nafisi, Contreras and Glazkov all share a similar pattern; they started in classical music, building strong foundations there, but something led them to look further beyond its boundaries. For Contreras and Glazkov, improvisation and jazz led the way. “Improvisation”, Contreras says, “is also a kind of composition in the moment.” From there on, her love for composition only grew. For Glazkov, too, improvisation came hand in hand with composition, exploring at first classical music, then jazz and then being influenced by music from different cultures. “I never liked to close myself in one box”, he says. For Nafisi, the break from classical music comes with an interdisciplinary approach. Film, animation, dance, opera, theatre experiences all play a role in the way she structures her work’s connection with the audience, which, according to her, is her main concern.

Close connection with the audience is yet another characteristic that these three composers share. Nafisi, Contreras and Glazkov are all active performers too. Nafisi is a pianist, Glazkov is a trumpetist and Contreras is an oboist. Their identities as performers initially brought them together, also with one of the other composers, Oene van Geel. “I know mostly the performer side of all the composers,”, Contreras says jokingly during our talk. Except for her, the other two young composers will also be performing in Maar de zon is nog op.

Darkness and weaving

And so, several months ago, Nafisi, Contreras and Glazkov were invited to compose for the JIP jubilee project. “It was a very free and open commission”, Nafisi mentions positively in our talk, adding later that the social dimension that the choir leans towards made the project even more appealing. And, given the time that the composers started working on their concepts and tying them all together (winter – spring 2022), it is no wonder that all three projects are somehow connected to the uprisings in Iran.

Nafisi’s composition, Weaving Light (Into Darkness), is a personal contribution to the political cause in Iran, paying tribute to the political prisoners and their fights. During our conversation, she shares her practice of social artistic research. She narrates how after a few months of research, collecting material, reading, talking with different artists, she found the perspective that she was seeking for her piece in an exhibition of objects knitted by women political prisoners in Iran. “Weaving, as a repetitive action that you keep doing, a sort of fighting and trying in the midst of despair.” This was one of the two main ideas that shaped Nafisi’s piece. The second was darkness, inspired by the short movie The House is Black by Iranian film director Forugh Farrokhzad. Nafisi insisted on staying with this darkness as a perspective, to not shy away from the direness of the situation in Iran. Building on these ideas, she gradually composed the music and wrote the poem which made up her piece, and finally added some elements of choreography to complement them, staying true to her meticulous, interdisciplinary approach.

Interconnectedness

Contreras’ approach seems rather different. When talking to her about her composition, it is evident that this is a composer who is eager to shape music, to find and play out the harmonies residing in her head. For her work for Kamerkoor JIP, she was also inspired by the Iranian revolution. Wanting to compose around the concept of exile, Contreras searched for the poem which would satisfy her theme, but which would also inspire her musically. She found it in the Persian poem Barane Sobh (‘Morning rain’). Working together with the poet, the choir directors and the choristers themselves, she wrote her first choir piece to be sung a capella, and also in the poem’s original language, Farsi. In our talk, she mentions she wrote the piece quite intuitively. “When I had the idea of writing for a choir, some music started to ring in my head”, she says, as a genuine improvisor.

Glaskov’s journey from his original idea of the piece to what Islands came to be was more complex. Initially starting from the idea of writing a piece dedicated to the parents whose children suffered during the uprisings in Iran, he slowly shifted towards a more universal approach to parent-children relationships, and finally landed on composing around the theme of human relations and interconnectedness. “Are we really islands? And can we really get to know each other truly?” Glaskov wonders and raises these questions in his piece, without trying to claim he possesses some sort of answer. He merely expresses them, through the music and the lyrics he wrote for Kamerkoor JIP, creating this way his first piece for choir. Despite his experience in composition, he mentions how this project “took a lot of learning”, while describing what a meaningful and fortunate experience his collaboration with the choir has been.

Eye to the future

For all three composers, the creative experience with Kamerkoor JIP seems to have made a very positive impression. With plans and hopes for future projects, they seek to continue on this journey, with Nafisi in the process of composing another piece for choir, Glaskov collaborating with JIP and hoping to write more pieces for choir in the future, and Contreras hoping to keep on composing, especially for her own quintet. As for us, we look forward to seeing them and their works in the Hertz room of Tivoli Vredenburg, this Saturday evening!