In the many concerts during the Gaudeamus Muziekweek, a lot of works are performed of which the ink is only barely dry. We talked with several composers about the composition that we commissioned them to write.
Karmit Fadael, born in Treuchtlingen (DE) and raised in a small town in the north of the Netherlands, even has two pieces during Gaudeamus festival. A piece commissioned by Gaudeamus for the duo Merel Vercammen & Femke IJlstra in Theater Kikker and a piece for Michela Amici and Elisa de Toffol that will sound as part of Gaudeamus New Traditions at the Podium Hoge Woerd.
I met her in a cafe at Utrecht Central Station. Luckily she had the time to squeeze me in her busy schedule, because she had to go straight to a rehearsal with the brass quintet of Residence Orchestra The Hague. A piece that she is not allowed to talk about yet, but I could tell from her face that she really likes it. After she successfully graduated from The Hague Conservatory in 2019, she thought that her life as a composer would probably be difficult. “I thought that I would hopefully be able to write a chamber music piece now and then, and that will probably be it.” As life goes, things don’t go as planned. In 2020 she had the opportunity to do an assignment for the Residence Orchestra The Hague. This couldn’t take place, because of corona. But they asked her to write a string quintet piece, which was released with a video on facebook. “Everyone was suddenly super online. So that was good.” Then suddenly Music for Empty Spaces came, and at the beginning of 2021 the Radio Philharmonic Orchestra came up with a scholarship. One of her many dreams came true: writing for orchestra.
She started composing at an early age. When I asked her how it all started, she answered; ‘We were ‘forced’ to compose music at my secondary school. My music teacher was just really fanatical.’ She attended a regular school in the countryside, where music was a big part of the curriculum. With violin as her first instrument, she participated in the composition competition of the Dutch wind ensemble in her final year of VWO. She came quite far with it and with it she kicked off her career.
Today she writes her music in different ways. It no longer necessarily starts with the violin. It can also be with a piano, if the piece calls for it. It can also happen that she thinks about a concept for a long time, writes it into a text form and then improvises and records it. From there she will write it out in notes as precisely as possible. I had to laugh about this pretty handy way. Her answer was, “I don’t want to erase all the time. So I won’t write it down until I have the final version.” If it is a piece that does not require a written notation at all, she works with improvisation in various ways, from graphic notation to a text explanation. Ultimately, the most important thing for her is the intensive collaboration with the performer(s). So she did with the piece she wrote for Merel Vercammen and Femke IJlstra. It is a piece that mainly consists of improvisation. Femke (saxophone) and Merel (violin) commissioned Karmit to write a piece based on Bruno Latour’s philosophy. The idea behind is that everything, not just humans, gets a political voice. She translated these voices in this piece, which resulted in a lot of nature sounds. This, of course, calls for a sound investigation. ‘I had a very clear idea of everything the violin can do and I also know something about the saxophone, but I don’t know as much as Femke does. At the first rehearsal we then looked together how Femke could play the same sounds on the saxophone like Merel on the violin. That’s how we shaped the atmosphere.’
I poeti is the second piece that will sound during the Gaudeamus festival 2021. A piece for Michela Amici (harp) and Elisa de Toffol (vocals). She didn’t come up with the title herself, as the text comes from the Italian singer Elisa. “The moment you work with vocals, you work with lyrics. I asked Elisa what she would like to have for the lyrics. She then wrote a text herself. It is about everything that goes on in the life of a poet and how she finds inspiration. I have put this idea into a melody.” It was first a piece with the use of maqam (an Arabic scale with the use of micro tones) for the vocals. A style that Karmit finds very beautiful and inspiring. They had to specially tune the harp for this, which was fine with Michela. But because they play several pieces in one night that are not in the same tuning, they ultimately chose not to do so. Nevertheless, Arabic scales remain a part of Karmits compositions. She laughs and says: “I think it’s very nice to work with. I now also notice that it is getting into my ear. Tasty and lower scales.’
While listening to her music, I noticed that she uses long tones a lot, among other things. I was curious if this has a specific reason for Karmit and she explains that it has a lot to do with sound research for her. “I think it started in my studies. For example, there was an etudes assignment, to use very few notes. Only 5 or 7, and then get the most out of it. I don’t always stick to rules, but such assignments do resonate with me. I think that’s how I got into this style.”
Last but not least I asked her if there is a dream she still wants to achieve in her life. “Hmm. No, not necessarily. I want to keep doing and researching as much as possible and not repeat myself. I don’t feel like I’m doing that” she says with a laugh. Proud and very grateful, she adds: ‘I now really have a dream life where I can do everything I always wanted to do. I’m very happy with it’.
Photo by Marco Borggreve
Written by Rebecca Kreyenberg