Archive for the ‘musician’ Category

Paul Davies

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

Composer, music educator, and concert pianist Paul Davies recently completed his first full length opera based on the life of Charlotte of Belgium who was Empress Carlota of Mexico during the period in Mexican history known as the French Intervention.

Davies received a Ph.D in music from the University of California at San Diego. He currently teaches composition, music appreciation, music theory, and a course on the Beatles at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, California. Davies has also appeared as soloist with the Foothill Wind Ensemble, the Winchester Orchestra, and the South Valley Symphony.

Paul Davies at the piano

Whirligig: You recently completed the writing of an opera, Carlota. What inspired you to write an opera?

Paul: I had been invited to give a talk about my music and present a new composition, an instrumental ensemble piece, at the Ernest Bloch New Music Festival in Newport, Oregon, in July of 1999. I was at one of the festival concerts where another composer premiered a new chamber opera of his when the idea of doing an opera myself flew into my head. I had been thinking of the tragedy of Empress Carlota for quite a few years before this, but never with the idea of doing an opera on the subject.

I suppose another impetus was that I’ve always been fascinated by history and of the possibility of traveling back in time. So doing an opera on Carlota is the closest I’ll ever get to time-travel, so to speak. I realized that my research would involve reading every major book on the subject I could get my hands on and also traveling to Mexico City to visit Chapultepec Castle, where Carlota and the Emperor Maximilian lived during their short reign. I very much looked forward to this.

Whirligig: What path did your research for this project take you on?

Paul: Since I was intent on doing the text myself, I spent a lot of time researching how to do a good libretto, and I also consulted with two dramaturges who gave me much invaluable advice. I analyzed quite a few librettos to gain further insight. Also, I came across very interesting photographs of the time period. I remember being at the library of San Diego State University and finding a photograph of the moment Maximilian and Carlota enter Mexico City in June of 1864.

Every time I read about an historical event, there’s always at the back of my mind this very small sense of myth, a sense of maybe what I’m reading about didn’t happen since I wasn’t there to actually see it. It’s not that I don’t believe the event happened, or that the historical figure in question never existed, It’s just that tiny feeling of “unreality” since I didn’t experience it myself. But when I saw this photograph I almost jumped and said to myself, “Wow, this really did happen.” I get the same kind of feeling when I look at a life mask of Beethoven, or some other figure for whom the only visual representations are idealized paintings. If I hadn’t been a composer, I probably would have been an historian.

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Steven Andrew Kacsmar

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

Steven Andrew Kacsmar is a San Francisco based singer songwriter. His band Phantom City has just released its second CD Off the Map.

Whirligig: Off the Map is Phantom City’s second CD and your third. What goes into making an album and how do you determine the arc of the music?

Steven: My songs come from my experiences and sometimes from my idealism. Sometimes I write tunes to try and help people think about how things could be better. Sometimes I just have a story to tell. But even the songs that are about a real event often undergo a transformation from the literal to the allegorical.

In terms of making a CD, there is a lot of work that goes into producing a CD that goes unnoticed unless you don’t do it. For example, on Off the Map we recorded many takes of each part then picked the best sections and then blended them into a single track. We also ironed out any wrinkles so that we put out a polished product, hopefully without losing the fresh feel of the song. In the process of creating a CD, you spend a lot of time listening, and honing, taking out as much as you put in.

Whirligig: How did you come to be a musician and songwriter?

Steven: I’ve always been musically inclined; I sang on my mom’s lap in the car when I was a child. I was in band in high school and have been playing guitar since I was about 8. There’s always a soundtrack going on in my head. I was curious so I asked some of my friends if this was true for them and was surprised to learn that not everybody has a soundtrack to their life going on in their head. So I guess it’s safe to say that music is an integral part of who I am as a human being. I have worked at many things in my life, but the day gig I had longest was with Bank of America, for 21 years. When I left the corporate world behind, it was with a very clear intent to focus on my music while I still had some fire in my belly. (more…)

Alice Templeton

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

Alice Templeton is winner of the New Women’s Voices Prize in Poetry (2008), which she received for Archaeology: Twenty-one Poems. Alice is a poet, musician, songwriter, educator, and scholar. In 2007 she received the distinction of honorable mention from the Robinson Jeffers Tor House Foundation for her poem Homing. Journals which have published her work include: Poetry, 88, Puerto del Sol, and Many Mountains Moving. She currently teaches creative writing and literature at the Art Institute of California in San Francisco.

alicetempleton_smWhirligig: When we first met you told me your poetry was about nature, but it actually encompasses so much more than what might typically be called nature poetry. I see yours as more like landscapes with an aftermath of human residue. What inspires you to write?

Alice: That’s a wonderful description of it. I think I am very place oriented, and that place is the way I measure what I feel and think. In the poetry I try to define, through concrete imagery and language, where I am so that I can know how far I’ve come — what my thoughts are now, what my feelings are now

I often write about the places that have been meaningful to me, like my parents’ farm where I lived during high school and have continued to go back to throughout my adulthood. I think those images, those cycles of labor that we went through on the farm, were formative in my sense of who I am and what language is. I hear my parents’ voices and phrases a lot. I hear that connection between the language and the tools and the landscape. So landscape does shape my poetry, but I’m also interested in and driven by philosophical and cultural questions like: What is justice? and What is history?  Hopefully those human things inform my poetry as well.

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