A few months back I was given the pleasure of working on CNN's short form documentary, and Vimeo Staff pick 'Hard Ship'. It tells the story of three paralyzed men taking up one of sailing’s most grueling challenges—a 750 mile race to Alaska through some of the most treacherous and remote waters on the planet. With no motors allowed and many miles from any help, the competition can be too dangerous for the world’s most fearless sailors.
How does the genre of Classical composition stay fresh and relevant in a time where what we as listeners consider to be music is constantly changing shape and sound? John Hennecken, a Georgia-based composer might just have the answer. In this Q&A, Hennecken talks about his approach, style and what keeps him going.
AMK: How did you get into composing?
JH: I was inspired by the music of the composers I studied on piano, especially Beethoven, Mozart, and Chopin. My first compositions were short pieces for piano. I would often start out practicing my assigned lesson music, but before long I would find myself improvising my own work.
Why do you compose? What drives you?
To ask someone the meaning of life is not often considered a reasonable question, however––I think most people could make a better effort of telling you what it sounds like. I know what it sounds like for me, and I search for that sound in my composing.
How do you know when a piece is finished?
I keep writing and rewriting sections of the piece until I believe it is as great as possible. My standard for a work, in a given medium, is that there is no work I would prefer to my own.
What is the hardest/most challenging aspect of composing and what is the most enjoyable aspect?
Composition is enjoyable because it is challenging. In order to keep getting better, composing needs to always get harder––if it gets easier, then one has stopped thinking, and has fallen into using the same formula. Every new piece must be my best piece yet.
Your voices are very intricate. What's your process for putting them all together?
Counterpoint is integral to my compositional thought process, especially when I am writing for multiple instrumentalists. I want each player to have an important part––I don’t like the idea of accompaniment. My compositional strategy usually involves balancing a conscious intellectual process against my musical intuition. The intellectual process is driven by a set of generative limitations, like specific intervals, harmonies, or timbres. By writing within these limits, I maintain continuity in the work despite the fact that many decisions are based on feel. The goal is that the music is organically generated by consistent principles both as a whole, and in each individual voice.
What do you hope listeners take away from hearing your music?
I hope that the listener can identify with the music in his or her own way, and find personal meaning in it. I hope they feel the sense of drama, beauty, and intensity that is not a reflection of what is, but a striving for what could be.
For more information on Hennecken's work and to listen to his compositions, visit http://johnhennecken.com
Jen Silverman is a playwright whose work has been produced Off-Broadway by the Playwrights Realm (“Crane Story”), Off-Off Broadway by Clubbed Thumb (“Phoebe in Winter”), regionally at Actor’s Theatre of Louisville (“The Roommate,” Humana 2016) and InterAct Theatre (“The Dangerous House of Pretty Mbane”). She is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, and attended Brown, Iowa Playwrights Workshop and Juilliard. Her play “The Roomate” has been added to the 2015 Kilroy List. She graciously took the time out of her busy schedule at the Just Add Water Festival in Portland, OR to talk about the work that she will be showcasing there, and what she hopes to accomplish moving forward.
AMK: Your play "Wink" is about "the thin line between savagery and civilization." What inspired this exploration and what have you learned or discovered in the process?
JS: Our post-9/11 world is saturated in paranoia. The media sells us fear and distrust. Fear is in some ways eroticized - nobody wants to read a story about a nice person who did something great, but we'll put the 19-year old Boston Marathon bomber on the cover of Rolling Stone. Some people have told me that they see “Wink” as an "absurdist" play - I think we live in an absurd culture and an absurd moment. I become more and more intrigued by the experiment of treating strange, tilted, askew stories like pieces of absolute naturalism.
AMK: What do you hope to achieve with this work? What do you want audiences to take away from it?
JS: I want to put under a lens the ideas our culture has of civilization and savagery, and explore how the first contains so much of the second. I want to interrogate the relationship American culture has to violence, sexuality, and repression.
AMK: What is your favorite part of the playwriting process?
JS: I love sitting down to write the first draft of a play, in that space of being completely thrillingly alone in a new world. I also love being in a room with directors, actors, designers. I live for the moment when our various passions and aesthetic convictions combine in a way that's combustible and dynamic.
AMK: What is the most difficult/challenging part of the process?
JS: The business side, actually. Navigating what it is to be a working artist. Nobody ever really tells you how to do that, maybe because there are so many different ways. Eventually you just end up having to figure it out by trial and error.
AMK: What's next for your career?
JS: My play “The Moors” is being produced at Yale Repertory Theatre in the winter (director Jackson Gay) and my play “Still” is being produced in rep at Juilliard around the same time (director Oliver Butler.) I'm currently working on commissions for South Coast Rep, Ars Nova, and Partial Comfort.
New York Times Magazine's David Edelstein described Inside Out as a "teeming, tear-duct-draining, exhaustingly inventive, surreal animated comedy [that] is going to be a new pop-culture touchstone. In all kinds of ways it’s a mind-opener." Disney Pixar's June release has been called psychological and beyond creative. Reviewers praise the originality of the film and I agree!
While sitting in the theater, I had never heard more children and families buzzing with excitement than during this film. Watching Inside Out was like being on a train of emotions, an analogy, that literally occurs in the film. It is a unique movie with a plot line that strays from the typical Pixar releases, following a somewhat sporadic journey that parallels the clutter and disorganization of human emotions.
The film demonstrates how our outside experiences effect us emotionally and explores how the journey of growing up will develop us as people. I don’t think anyone is too old to see this movie, it will lift your spirits and challenge your thought processes. Not only did I walk away from this film feeling entertained, but despite sounding trite, I felt like a learned something, like I can look at the human experience in a new and more creative light.
View the trailer below!
I recently took a trip to New York City to see a musical called "Hamilton," an ambitious and original performance written, produced, and starring Lin-Manuel Miranda. With a brilliant array of diverse cast members, Miranda ingeniously re-enacts the events, the people, and the life of founding father Alexander Hamilton. The musical tells a fascinating tale through rapping and rhyming with an addition of well timed humor and and raw emotion.
The performance I had the pleasure to see was the last show held at The Public Theater and will soon be going to Broadway in mid July. I also must add my excitement of my multiple celebrity sitings at the performance including Meg Ryan, Judy Collins, and Paul Rudd who I silently walked next to for an amazing 2 minutes as we exited the theater side by side.
The video below goes into further detail about the thought process and making of such an interesting and historical musical.
What is this website?
The Arts & Culture Cult is an online platform for young art and culture enthusiasts to express their thoughts and ideas as well as inform our readers about current events relating to the arts! Our core topics cover film, the latest and greatest plays, musicals, and killer photos from the hottest music festivals.
Our home page displays our highlights!
We are an assembled team of writers, reviewers, idea makers and media producers from around the United States who have joined together to discuss our art and culture interests.