Composer Annea Lockwood at Chicago Festival
Chicago’s Frequency Festival has become a crucial showcase for the movement of “new music”, according to Aaron Cohen reporting for Chicago Tribune. New Zealand-born and New York-based composer Annea Lockwood exemplifies the festival’s idiomatic diversity.
The term “new music” connotes many things: Some of its works are improvised, other pieces are elaborately composed. Performers can create meaningful sounds through minimal gestures on familiar instruments or invent new kinds of voluminous electronics. Many, but not all of its creators made conscious departures from classical conservatory traditions, Cohen writes for the newspaper.
Now in its fifth year, the festival grew out of an ongoing concert series of the same name at Constellation, which Peter Margasak launched in 2013 when he was a Chicago Reader staff writer. He hoped to establish a fixed venue for musicians who had largely relied on themselves to seek performance rooms.
“Musicians often had to rent their equipment,” Margasak said from his home in Berlin. “Some spaces wouldn’t have a piano or a sound system. The idea was to provide a regular space for the new music community, because I felt it didn’t have one.”
While Lockwood was growing up, she and her brother paid close attention to the river flowing through New Zealand’s Southern Alps. That memory of tracking its current informs her installation, “A Sound Map Of The Danube”. Lockwood uses her own field recordings and topography (rather than conventional notation) to immerse listeners in that world.
“If we can listen closely to natural sounds, that process is a process of bonding with those phenomena through the way sound is pulsating through our bodies,” Lockwood said. “From that connection comes concern with environmental issues around rivers — water, pollution — and that can arise a certain activism around that issue. Sound, and our bodies’ response to it, is an amazing conduit of connection.”
Lockwood has been connecting with an array of sound sources for her compositions for more than five decades. These include investigating how specially shaped glass resonates, to instructing musicians on using small wooden balls to detune a piano (for “Ear-Walking Woman”).
Her other recent work is a collaboration with trumpeter Nate Wooley, who is known as a solo improviser. While writing a commission for him is a singular undertaking, Lockwood prioritises their similar outlook.
“We both love it when a sound you’re generating takes timbral aspects that you wouldn’t have expected, and it feels as if the sound is playing you,” Lockwood said. “So it opens the piece up, opens the performance up a lot, when you can do that with an open mind.”
Lockwood was born in Christchurch in 1939.
Original article by Aaron Cohen, Chicago Tribune, February 21, 2020.
Photo by Nicole Tavenner.