An interview with Michael Oliva

In the run-up to its concert at The Forge on 27th May 2014, rarescale’s Artistic Director Carla Rees talks to some of the composers who have recently written new works for the ensemble.
What is it that appeals to you about writing for the alto/ bass flute?
It’s an amazing sound. The highly expressive, sensuous quality of these instruments (and of course Carla’s playing!) makes writing for them a real pleasure, and the fact that Carla plays Kingma system quartertone flutes allows me to explore a whole world of new microtonal music. They have a particularly lyrical character that suits my music perfectly.

What attracts you to rarescale as an ensemble?
The commitment to new music in such a broad range of styles and sheer quality of the players. It’s also a really fun group of people to work with.

Tell us a little about your experience of working with rarescale
As composer in residence and performer with them for over 10 years now it’s been great. It’s really inspiring to work with such talented people and to explore such a broad range of new music by composers from all over the world.

What is your musical aesthetic?
No matter how it’s put together, music is an emotional language – if it doesn’t move you it’s no good.

Who are your main influences?
Such a massive list - but key composers are Bach, Debussy, Scriabin, Miles Davis, Stockhausen and Brian Eno.

Tell us about the background of your piece – how did it come to be written and what’s it all about?
Dungeness is a chamber concerto for alto flute commissioned to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the ensemble. It’s directly inspired by the landscape of Dungeness, the sea, and the extraordinary, haunting garden that Derek Jarman created when he moved there to die. It’s a celebration of life, and a love song of sorts.

How does this work relate to your other compositional output?
Like most of my recent work Dungeness is a “satellite piece” to a big opera I’ve been working on for some time now, and which will be performed in 2015 – developing ideas and techniques that surround the opera and feed into it.

What made you become a composer?
Realising that making beautiful music is the most satisfying thing I could think of.

Is classical music dead?

rarescale will perform Michael Oliva's Dungeness for alto flute and chamber ensemble on 27th May 2014.