Ahead of Tre Voci's performance of Orbits at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, we interviewed Colin Alexander to find out a bit more about the group, why they've chosen to collaborate with a drummer, a singer and a visual artist and what we can expect on the night.
How did Tre Voci first come about?
Gregor and I have been friends since getting into trouble together on music courses aged about 12 or 13. We've shared our music with each other regularly and so when I came to hear Gregor's new piece for three cellos in 2012, it struck me that this was a great combination. Gregor's girlfriend at the time was Torun (they're now married!) who is a wonderful cellist and so we tried playing a few things together and it was both incredibly fun and actually quite good!
What is the background behind Orbits?
Orbits is a series of collaborations that we have been hoping to realise for some time. As a group we've always looked to work with a variety of diverse artists to develop our repertoire and musical agility in new and exciting ways. Orbits will be presented in such a way that our audience will have the opportunity to enjoy the output of each of the artists involved in isolated, juxtaposed and homogenised ways.
Where did the idea of collaborating with drummer, Mohammed Reza Mortazavi first come from?
Well really just from listening to him! I saw a small video of an improvisation of his and was totally blown away and so listened to everything I could. There are three very different albums on Spotify and a live video of him in the Berlin Philharmonie on Youtube. I absolutely love what Mohammed creates and knew he would be an incredible musician to work with and learn from.
What are you most looking forward to about collaborating with drummer Mohammed Reza Mortazavi, soprano Silje Johnson and visual artist Henrik Koppen?
With Mohammed the most exciting aspect will be how we can combine our soundworlds and create music together that truly melds our timbres. I hope we can keep up with him! We have performed with Silje a number of times and can't wait to hear her mesmerising voice again. She has such a committed approach to performing and vocally can do so much. As a cellist it is ideal to emulate the tone of a singer such as Silje. Henrik will be a first for us as we haven't worked with live visuals before. It's going to be a fantastic adventure to respond to what he creates in real time - again I hope we can keep up! His work will appear in our forthcoming promotion videos for the event.
Why do you think the collaboration between cello trio and drums works?
As Tre Voci, we've created a variety of pieces using rhythmic bowing techniques that can be elaborated and improvised upon. A programme of music for cello trio can become a little too slow and soporific and so we have always worked to create pieces that balance out the medieval vocal and meditative contemporary works that we have in our repertoire. Mohammed's approach to rhythm is particularly fascinating as he can employ small rhythmic cells in quite a free fashion or use a regular rhythmic framework within which he finds freedom or indeed he can create a feeling of expanse which he exploits to weave very melodically expressive lines - on just one drum! We are looking to mirror this diversity and intrigue whilst of course asking him to respond to our more harmonically varied music.
How do you go about improvising as a group?
Well this has been one of the most consistently appealing and enjoyable aspects of playing together so I'm glad you asked! Our approach can often be based on a particular technique that one of us has 'found' or worked on and then we see where we can take it as a group. We've also individually written pieces which are more or less guided improvs with clear instructions yet space to allow the material to breathe and develop intuitively. Another project gave us the opportunity to react to Kit Downes' ideas. Here again we had a mixture of notated stretches of music alongside freer and more spontaneous interactions - as well as just sitting back and listening to a Hammond organ played more beautifully than I ever expected!
What do you think we can expect from the new work by composer David Stephen Grant?
David writes rich, warm and engulfing electro-acoustic music that will fill the space at ICA with shifting harmonies and blurred timbres. My first experience of his writing was through a duo for violin and cello with electronics that I performed with Mira Benjamin in Oslo and London. Although simple and relatively short it was incredibly effective through it's nuanced beauty and delicately judged movement. David's piece will be performed in the second half of event at ICA and will cover the listeners in thick, interwoven layers of sound before Mohammed's explosive finale.