Miller Theatre commissioned writer Lara Pellegrinelli to create the Composer Portraits program notes for the 2018-19 season, as well as a series of Q&As with Executive Director Melissa Smey. Here is the third installment, centering around our upcoming evening of music from composer Du Yun.
Q. Du Yun, the second of this season’s Composer Portraits, is also a vocalist/composer, but someone who couldn't be more different than Kate Soper.
A. Her music is so surprising and intense, it’s like seeing a high wire act. We're doing her Composer Portrait with the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) because she’s worked with them since the beginning of her career and there’s an affinity in that relationship. Their performances of her music are incredible because the pieces weren’t just written to have something to premiere—they were written for them, for people she knows personally, intimately. They’ve lived with these pieces.
Q. Who chose what would be on the program?
A. When we put together a portrait, it should feel like its own universe. In essence, it’s representing the composer in a period of time. And it's also about honoring the way in which they wish to be represented.
I started those conversations with Josh Rubin from ICE, asking him, “If we could do a Du Yun Composer Portrait, what would that look like?” Because her music is so expansive, it was about finding a set of pieces that would work together, and for ICE, and for Du Yun.
Often I’d have some input and suggest something I’m especially interested in hearing. But I stayed out of it for this one in a way that is unusual for me because they had such a long-standing rapport and knew each other so well. I wanted ICE to do what they think works best. Because the performers have a week to rehearse in the space, one of the things that we can do is a bigger piece. Her concert will have solos and duos, but also work for a larger chamber ensemble.
Q. Her portrait looks more like a career overview than some of the other ones. And she’s only 40.
A. Yes. It balances the fact that she's done big work in the last two years – operas like Angel’s Bone, which won the Pulitzer, and orchestral pieces – by revisiting some core works and bringing our listeners back almost to where she started. There will be a subset of people coming to this portrait who are well-acquainted with Du Yun. And people who’ll have heard about her – perhaps because of the Pulitzer – but they won’t have heard a note.