John Pickford Richards speaks with Tim Munro about composer Amy Williams
The Composer Portrait of Amy Williams on February 22 features the JACK Quartet. When writing the program notes for the Portrait, the acclaimed writer (and musician) Tim Munro spoke with John Pickford Richards, violist of JACK Quartet, about the ensemble's connection and bond with the composer.
Tim: The JACK Quartet and Amy have such a close musical relationship and friendship. What is special about the bond you all share?
John: JACK's closeness with Amy has been growing exponentially since we first met in 2011. She had received a commission to write a piece for a string quartet that promptly disbanded, so she contacted JACK asking if we'd like the piece to be written for us instead, to which we answered 'YES'! Since then we have recorded an album of Amy's chamber music, we've toured her piano quintet with Amy playing piano, we've performed Morton Feldman's "Piano and String Quartet" many times, and we teach together each June at a festival in Vermont called New Music On The Point, where Amy is the Artistic Director, which leads us into ultra-creative spaces with experimental artists from around the world. Our closeness is constant!
Tim: If you had to describe Amy’s music to a newbie, what would you say?
John: American Modernism with a curiosity about the past. It has groove, yet is unpredictable. It’s sonorous without being obvious. It’s fun to play. It’s fun to hear!
“American Modernism with a curiosity about the past. It has groove, yet is unpredictable. It’s sonorous without being obvious. It’s fun to play. It’s fun to hear!”
Tim:Amy’s new work responds to the quartet’s fascination with early music. Can you talk a bit about how that project started? Why Olde and Nieuw together?
John: Ye Olde Nieuw Musick Troupe! We’ve always been fascinated by how wildly experimental composers were before music became increasingly standardized and stylized. Composers from the 15th and 16th centuries seem to have more in common with composers today than they do with those in between, and we like to draw connections between the old and new, often featuring the older music as the stranger example.
Tim: Can you talk a bit about Amy as a chamber musician?
John: Amy’s vibe is chill and exact, which makes playing together fun and rewarding.
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