The virtuosic Aperture Duo (Adrianne Pope and Linnea Powell) will be performing at Tuesdays at Monk Space this coming Tuesday, February 27. I had the opportunity to ask Adrianne Pope (violin) and Linnea Powell (viola) about the upcoming show, working with composers, and more. Here’s what they had to say:
Our Monk Space program has been incredibly fun to put together, as it features some of our favorite composers and people whose works center around memories, reunions, and reflections. Sciarrino’s short and fleeting “La Malinconia” and Georges Aperghis’ enthusiastic “Retrouvailles” are pieces that we’ve wanted to perform for years. The program also features two Aperture Duo commissions: a world premiere by Sarah Gibson and a commission by Nicholas Deyoe from 2015. These two commissions give a window into our wide ranging interests as a duo, as they are very contrasting in sound and style.
From whistles to claps, beautiful lyricism to deafening scratches, we aim to create programs that challenge the assumptions of what a violin and viola duo can sound like. This will show be no exception!
You’ll be premiering Sarah Gibson’s piece, tiny, tangled world at the concert. What has your experience been like with this new work?
Whether it’s performing, teaching, or composing, working with Sarah is always a joy for us. As a composer, Sarah has a perfect balance of clear ideas and flexibility. We got to workshop new sounds, different notation options and extended techniques from the very beginning stages. We have loved seeing it evolve each step of the way!
When Sarah gave us the final draft, we were thrilled to see how virtuosic and unique it is from our other rep. She even included a specific extended technique that was new to us! Her title, tiny, tangled world, has been in place from the beginning sketches, and it has been intriguing to see the work really come to fit the title perfectly.
How often have you worked with LA composers Sarah Gibson and Nicholas Deyoe in the past? Can you tell us a little about these experiences?
With Sarah, we have performed as colleagues, performed her works in other ensembles, and worked with and performed her composition students’ works. Tiny, tangled world is the first piece Aperture has worked on solely with Sarah.
With Nick, we have performed a little bit together, and we’ve played many of his works with different groups in LA. We recently got to work with his students at CalArts on new works, and we recorded 1560 for his most recent album, for Duane. 1560 was one of our first commissions and we can’t wait to play it again at the end of this month.
Besides being colleagues, both Sarah and Nick are good friends of ours and we jump on any opportunity to collaborate with them.
Any upcoming performances or projects you’d like to talk about?
In April, Aperture Duo is ensemble in residence with the Black House SoCal New Music Workshop at UC Irvine. We’re very excited to work with the selected composers and musicians there, it’s going to be a wonderfully creative workshop! In May we’ll be in residence in Northern California at Las Positas College and in June we’ll be performing at Bread and Salt in San Diego, where we’ll be premiering a new work by Courtney Bryan. It’s going to be a great spring! More information can be found on our website.
This Friday night, June 3, Aperture Duo, the violin/viola duo project of Adrianne Pope and Linnea Powell takes the stage at Boston Court for the next installment of wild Up!’s WORK series. Thankfully, Linnea and Adrianne found time between rehearsals to answer a few questions about the show and the duo. Enjoy, and see you Friday!
So, tell me a bit about Friday.
Adrianne: Po Pow!!
Linnea: On Friday night Adrianne and I are featured on a double bill for wild Up’s WORK series. WORK concerts highlight the influences and passions of members of the band and we’re excited to bring our chamber music project Aperture Duo to the series. This concert is a huge honor for both of us and we took the opportunity to bring some friends along and play some larger ensemble pieces.
A: It’s going to be a raucous show: we’re playing duos by George Aperghis, W.A. Mozart, Nicholas Deyoe, and a world premiere by Chris Rountree with our good friend and collaborator, Jodie Landau. We’re finishing the concert with a Julia Wolfe piece for 5 singing, stomping violins. Prepping for this concert with Maiani da Silva, Mona Tian, and Nicole Sauder has been a total blast.
What inspired you to start this duo? Were you friends before and wanted to do something together, or was it a specific body of work you wanted to explore and develop?
L: I moved to LA in 2013 and was pretty hungry for chamber music opportunities in town. A year later Adrianne showed up at a wild Up planning meeting and I basically accosted her to read through some duos.
A: I had no idea what I was getting into, but once we started reading Mozart, I was amazed at how well we clicked musically. Then we discovered a ton of similarities….both native surf-town-hippie-ville Californians, University of Michigan alums, amino acid fans, etc. We decided to set a goal for our reading rehearsals by preparing a full concert. We found a recently written duo by Clara Ianotta that we both loved and added it to the Mozart and Martinu.
L: I think we were both surprised at how well that first concert went. It’s a goal of every chamber musician to to be spontaneous and completely present on stage, and it definitely was the case for this show. We had so much fun performing and our audience loved it. After that we were hooked. Knowing that there was limited existing rep for violin and viola duo made it all the more enticing since we were both excited to commission new works.
We know each other through the new music scene, and I’ve of course seen you play with wild Up! and program works by local composers. So, imagine my surprise when a friend’s first comment after seeing Aperture Duo was about the Mozart – he said “that was the best Mozart K. 423 I’ve ever heard.” Is your interest in “the rep” similar to your interest in new music?
A: Absolutely. I love looking at a piece written today, then looking back at Mozart and realizing that badassery is timeless. Composers have always been and will always be breaking, rewriting, then breaking rules over and over again. Our focus is definitely on new music, but by performing music from multiple genres we become better interpreters and musicians. The styles inform each other.
L: It’s all there, no matter when a piece was written: form, contrast, phrasing, communication, sound-world, intent. Working with a composer on these concepts can make it easier because they can give us specific ideas, but we still do a lot of our own interpretation on every piece. And sometimes it’s really fun to say “they’re dead! let’s do what we want.”
Have you found any sticking points on the sort of genre-mixing you program? Or are you finding audiences to be as open minded as you are?
L: In general, the response to our programming has been super positive. With such closely related instruments, the common misconception is that all pieces programmed on a violin and viola duo concert will sound the same. We see this as a fun challenge, and we strive to program contrasting works.
A: We also put a lot of thought into the audience experience. We want our programs to hold the audience’s attention and we want them to actually feel things during our concerts…whether it’s bliss, curiosity, or total discomfort to the point of wanting to pull their hair out. We also like to ask the question of “what is beautiful?” This allows us to be creative with pushing the limits of our instruments’ sounds.
Who do you like to go hear in town?
L: There’s so much happening all the time! It’s super inspiring to see our friends in the new music scene putting themselves out there and programing shows with so much intent. We both try to see as many concerts as we can to support the thriving scene.
A: Besides local groups, I love to go to all kinds of different concerts…from Lila Downs to Andrew Bird to Patti Smith.
L: When my ears need a break I love seeing independent theater and dance.
What’s next for Aperture Duo?
A: This summer, we are excited to be in residence at Avaloch Farm, where we will work on rep for next season and workshop a commission with Noah Meites. In August, we’ll be performing at the Carlsbad Music Festival. We have lots of shows in the works for next season including an Aperture Duo and Friends concert with Richard Valitutto and some exciting commissions.
Anything else you’d like to add?