The first question is always the classic one: how does it start your love and interest for guitar and what instruments do you play or have you played?
My interest for the guitar began when I was a child because I wanted to play songs, and I used the guitar as an accompaniment instrument. It quickly evolved into playing classical music. I loved the sound of the guitar and I was thrilled with the ability to play multiple voices at once. Before I played guitar I studied violin and played in my school orchestra. I decided as a teenager that the instrument that I was truly dedicated to was the classical guitar.
What was your musical training, with which teachers have you studied and what impression they left in your music?
I studied with Jerry Willard and Pasquale Bianculli as I was growing up in New York, and then I continued studying with both of them at Stony Brook University. Both of these teachers instilled a love of music in me, and taught me how to hear the music inside the notes. I also studied with Oscar Ghiglia in summer programs. Oscar taught me how to pay attention to every nuance and dynamic, so that the music tells a story. In Seattle, Washington, I studied with Kevin Callahan, who inspired and motivated me to perform to the absolute best of my ability. He encouraged me to be creative and to improvise and compose, and offered me a great deal of guidance and support. He produced and engineered my debut CD, "Music of Spain and Latin America."
Premieres is not your first record, you are not new about recording music, but this is your first attempt with contemporary music, how was born the idea about this record and how do you choose the composers and their scores?
My husband, Andrew Ratshin, had the initial idea for my album "Premieres." The classical guitar repertoire is somewhat limited compared to literature for other instruments, such as the guitar and violin. He thought that I should do a recording of works that have never been recorded before, to add to the guitar literature, and to showcase new music that people have not heard. I thought it was a great idea, and I set out to find new music. Some of the composers on the CD (Jorge Morel, Alberto Cumplido, and Douglas Lora) are friends of mine, and when I mentioned the project to them, they wrote new music for me or shared music that has not been recorded. I contacted the other composers because I loved their music, and they very generously and graciously offered me new music for my CD project. I did personally work with all of the composers, either in person or through email, and sent them recordings throughout the process.
What does improvisation mean for your music research? Do you think it’s possible to talk about improvisation for classical music or we have to turn to other repertories like jazz, contemporary music, etc.?
I have always been very intrigued with improvisation, in any genre at all. What we consider classical music was, at one time, contemporary music, and the composer went through a creative process before the final product was notated and published. Many classical composers, such as Bach, are well known for also being improvisers. Improvising is part of the creation of music. It is also a way to work through many paths, just the way a writer may use their stream of consciousness to put ideas on paper, and create multiple drafts before finalizing the product. When we talk to each other we improvise with words, and when we write down our thoughts we compose. I believe that on some level, all composed music originated with improvisation. With that in mind, I don't find a huge disparity between contemporary improvised music and composed classical music. I believe that improvisation is at the heart of all music. In my opinion, interpreters of composed music still need to feel the creative process of the composer, and tell the story of the music, as though they are improvising on the spot.
What’s the role of the “Error” in your musical vision? For “error” I mean an incorrect procedure, an irregularity in the normal operation of a mechanism, a discontinuity on an otherwise uniform surface that can lead to new developments and unexpected surprises...
In your definition of error, I think about the word risk. Musical risks are necessary for growth, and they help the musician discover new possibilities. I often tell my students to try out all sorts of sounds on their instruments, even sounds that they don't like, so that they learn about all their choices. Sometimes when students add dimension to the music, such as dynamic changes, they will make errors in the notes that they previously played flawlessly. That is a good development, because it means that they are moving away from playing automatically and revealing their interpretation of the music beyond their fingers. The flawless notes will come back again later, but with more depth and feeling.
I have, sometimes, the feeling that in our times music’s history flows without a particular interest in its chronological course, in our discotheque before and after, past and future become interchangeable elements, shall this be a risk of a uniform vision for an interpreter and a composer? The risk of a musical "globalization"?
I personally don't think that there is a risk of a homogenous musical monoculture for interpreters and composers. I think that diverse musical influences add rich and valuable elements to the repertoire. Music all throughout history has been influenced by the past, by cultural integration, and by artistic and natural surroundings. From Johann Jakob Froberger's influence on the baroque keyboard suite, which was brought to a high art by J. S. Bach and future European composers, to Scott Joplin’s addition of syncopation in early 20th century classical music, to Heitor Villa Lobos’ integration of classical compositions with Choro music from the streets of Brazil, great music has always been fluid and flexible. I believe that these melting pots of ideas serve to enrich music throughout the globe. Musical influences and ideas move much faster in the twenty first century, and I look forward to hearing further developments on future musical compositions and interpretations.
Let’s talk about marketing. How much do you think it’s important for a modern musician? I mean: how much is crucial to be good promoters of themselves and their works in music today?
Marketing and promotion is very important in order for the public to be aware of the music. Word of mouth, reviews in publications, radio airplay, and streaming services all help to reach more people who might be interested in listening to the music on disc or in live performances. There are also so many ways for people to sample music if it is available on social media sites and online distribution outlets.
Please tell us five essential records, to have always with you… the classic five discs for the desert island ...
Berta Rojas: Terruño
Yo Yo Ma: The 6 Unaccompanied Cello Suites
Mitsuko Uchida: Mozart Piano Sonatas
Trio Brasileiro: Simples Assim
Jorge Morel: Suite Del Sur
What are your five favorite scores?
Ludwig Van Beethoven: Symphony No. 7
Leos Janácek: Idyll for String Orchestra
Felix Mendelssohn: String Octet Op. 20
Claude Debussy: Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune
J.S. Bach: Four Lute Suites
With whom would you like to play? What kind of music do you listen to usually?
I actually love to play music with people who specialize in genres other than classical. I have had an opportunity to study Brazilian Choro music with Douglas Lora, who is a master in both classical and Brazilian music. When I play along with Douglas and his colleagues, I am able to feel the true rhythm and colors of the music, and it brings me closer to the culture and spirit of the music.
I listen to a variety of music, including all styles of classical music, world music, musical theater, and contemporary singer-songwriters.
Your next projects? When we will see you playing in Italy?
My plans for future projects include more world premieres, original compositions, and music by women composers. I do not have any concerts set in Italy in the near future, but I would happily accept an invitation to play in this beautiful country!