This week Gothamist is particularly excited about a performance a bit different from what's normally on our concert schedule. Ensemble Pamplemousse, a 10 person musical troupe, has been described as 'extremely forward looking' and 'breathtakingly virtuosic', however we're pretty certain that words can't describe what will take place during their three performances later this week, nor would a word do it justice. Some of New York City's finest composers will collaborate with Swedish artist Peter Köhler to bring you an aurally and visually stimulating experience; a unification of the senses. Each person and action triggering another, coming full circle in a performance quite unlike any you have seen.
Ensemble Pamplemousse is: Natacha Diels (flutes, piccolo and electronics), Julie Ferrara (oboe), Argeo Ascani (saxaphones), Eddie Burns (bassoon), Ari Korn (horn), Kiku Enomoto and Monica Davis (violins), Korrina Lynch (viola), Laura Usiskin (cello) and Andrew Greenwald (drumset etc.).
Composer and Artistic Director, Rama Gottfried, took some time out to answer our questions this week...
Let's get this out of the way, where did your band name originate?
Ensemble Pamplemousse was Natachas concoction. The grapefruit: acidic on the outside, succulent and refreshing on the inside. (She speaks french).
Your great-granduncle, Earl Moss, was the head arranger for Radio City Music Hall, your great-grandmother Alberta Boutyette gave Andy Warhol his first gallery show...it seems as though NYC, as well as a creative passion, must run through your bloodline. Do you ever search your family genealogy for inspiration?
All the time. It can be a little intimidating to live up to at times, but I love to think back imagining my circus family. My other great-grandmother was an aerialist who spun through the air hanging by her teeth, meanwhile my great-grandfather was balancing on his fathers head and doing countless flips on the trampoline. The whole scene is just so colorful and wild. All my life Ive had this odd fascination with fantastic theater. Its endlessly inspiring.
While living in Vermont you studied with Ernie Stires, also Trey Anastasio's mentor, what did you learn from your time with him?
Studying with Ernie is not like studying with your average music teacher. He teaches from the bottom up, starting with world history and literature. We would drink about 30 cups of instant coffee, and get excited about weird chords and then play some jazz together, always stopping to look up words like solipsism when they came up, and then have a scotch and soda. I think the greatest thing Ernie taught me was to value myself as a composer and to not try to be avant-guarde just because its in style, but to focus on what the piece wants to do. He has this amazing ability to see into the minds of his students, and to understand what they are interested in and to help them teach themselves.
Once, when I brought a melody I was working on for my band at the time, he turned to me and exclaimed this is orchestral music! And all of a sudden I could hear the orchestra playing it. After that, I realized that this was what I wanted to do. The process of composition is so exhilarating, so free!
I would say Ernie showed me how to find the dangerous edges in music and how to cross them.
What do you hope to accomplish with Ensemble Pamplemousse? What can the audience expect in your upcoming performance?
I would like Ensemble Pamplemousse to be one of those groups that you go see and you come out just completely mind blown. The concert experience should be more than the record execs tell you it should be. I want the audience to be completely engaged and entranced and travel with the group to new and unexpected places. And this next show is going to be amazing! Peter Köhler is an artist that we were put in contact with through a mutual friend, and he has created a series of shapes that were then given to a group of composers (Yoav Gal, Craig Woodward, Felix Pastor, Sebastian Armoza and Tristian Perich) who then wrote music to go with each shape. Peter is actually flying all the way from Stockholm for the gig! His work is perfect for our aesthetic: archetypal, and low-tech. This is our biggest concert yet, we have a group of 10 musicians: flute, oboe, sax, bassoon, horn, string quartet and Andrew Greenwald on drums. And the new pieces that have been written for this concert are amazing as well. Lots of new sounds coming out of familiar instruments!
What is your first conscious memory of living in New York?
Standing on the Brooklyn shore of the East river looking at the skyline at night.
What is your favorite/least favorite memory involving New York?
The blackout was pretty memorable, but Id like to forget ever hearing an ice-cream truck. Not that it isnt a quintessentially NYC thing, and therefore lovable on some level.
What is your favorite place to drink in NYC? Whats the best night of the week to go out in the city?
Depends on what kind of mood youre in. I like Motor City, but it gets a little crowded on the weekends. I hear Tuesday is the best night for sushi.
What is your favorite/least favorite thing about playing shows in New York? Is there a difference between shows in Manhattan and Brooklyn?
I think the main difference between Manhattan and Brooklyn is hair styles.
Do you think your New York connection shows in your music? If so, how?
Definitely I love that New York sound. Gears quietly grinding. I also think one of the things that has really stuck with me is my early years as a DJ. Dealing with records, scratching and electronic sounds, I grew up hearing music in terms of textures and layers playing off of each other. Big chunks of sound. I think you can really hear this in my music. My string quartet plus drumset which is going to be performed at this upcoming show I think is very New York. Strung tight as a spring. And our ensemble is such a diverse group! I dont think we have two people from the same state. And we have something like 5 different countries represented. Not to mention all of the music we play is completely New York, grimy and nasty. and sometimes nice, but always gorgeous!
Now it's time for some fill-in-the-blank action:
You know youve made it when...
You can think of the most outlandish concepts and actually make it happen.
It'll be time to pack up the gear for good when...
When the electricity runs out.
I'll never forget the first time I...
Sliced my finger open with a knife.
I'll never forget the first time [insert another band members name here]...
Natacha suddenly played her new piece for piccolo and laptop without mentioning anything to me about it at the Dubuque series last week. It just completely knocked me out. My jaw was the floor and all my teeth fell out! I immediately convinced her to play it at the next gig...just wait till you hear this.
And finally, let's have some fun with word association. Give me your immediate feelings on the following (if youve got no discernable feelings, make something up that wont embarrass you in the morning):
Bridge & Tunnel
Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses
Bloomberg/Smoking Ban/Noise Laws
Have you seen the Bloomberg building? I like the way it blends in with the sky.
Questions inspired by movies...
If you will, a brief justification of the ontological necessity of modern man's existential dilemma (in less than 10 words). ( Reality Bites )
I Heart Huckabees
What came first, the music or the misery? ( High Fidelity )
The Adventures of Baron von Munchausen
A few quickies on the music tip:
Who would be in your ultimate music supergroup, your all-star Olympic team of rock?
Donald Fagen solo with synth-axe.
If you released a 7" what would you put on the cover?
The Gothamist logo might be nice.
What was the first/last album you bought on the day it was released?
Not really, I'm usually just lucky if the stuff I'm looking for has been recorded at all. I am really excited about the new Friendly Bears album. They are one of my favorite bands around right now. I'll probably wait in line at the Downtown Music Gallery for that one.
Ensemble Pamplemousse play December 2, 3 & 4th at The Next Stage Theater (312 W 11th st., between Hudson and Greenwich St.) $12, 8pm.
Visit www.undisciplinedarts.com for more information.
or call 917-913-3190