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Le portail créatif du violoncelle contemporain en France

Access to contemporary classical music is dishearteningly limited for musicians and audiences alike. Due to the multitude of diverging paths that contemporary classical music has taken in the 20th and 21st centuries, composers have developed vastly different aesthetic sensibilities. However, they are forced to either use conventional and traditional notation to communicate their wishes or create their own notation for which there is no easily defined translation. Performers, in turn, often to not know how to accurately perform the music because they do not know exactly what the composer is trying to communicate unless they have direct access to the composer themselves. They either have to make educated guesses and risk performing the music incorrectly, or not perform it at all. This latter option is unfortunately one that many classical musicians choose to take. Audiences often hear contemporary classical music, whether performed correctly or not, and do not know how to listen to it and engage with it because it feels unapproachable and foreign. They therefore often revert to listening to more familiar genres like older classical music (i.e. Beethoven or Mozart) or popular music. Because of these various barriers that exist to accessing contemporary classical music, there exists a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, where the music is created for and consumed by the same small group of people. The problem with this music existing in bubble, however, is that there is a singularly human element to its creation and consumption that can be appreciated by everyone. Composers often collaborate directly with performers when writing new pieces. This gives them the opportunity to explain their style and language directly to the performer, who in turn is able to gain vital knowledge and ask the necessary questions in order to elucidate the score and perform it as accurately as possible. Without this human element, the creation of new works would not be possible. Due to the political and social structures surrounding contemporary classical music, its human element is currently hidden from the wider musical community and audiences. In order to break down these barriers and make contemporary classical music more accessible, it is vital to create platforms where composers and performers can share the circumstances surrounding their creations so that musicians and audiences alike can observe and engage with this material in diverse and meaningful ways.


As a cellist who is passionate about the creation and performance of contemporary music, I appreciate the vital importance of documenting and disseminating the oral tradition surrounding this repertoire. Due to this passion and my close ties to the French contemporary music scene, I have been awarded a residency at Cité internationale des arts de Paris from October 2021-September 2022 to complete a project titled Le portail créatif du violoncelle contemporain en France, in which I will create a comprehensive digital archive cataloging the performance practice of contemporary French cello repertoire. Through this year-long residency, I will not only be capturing the culture and traditions of the French contemporary music scene through performance and video, but also providing an accessible gateway into this world for musicians and audiences alike.


My creative process for this project will begin with learning a number of contemporary French solo cello pieces that were written for some of the most prominent cellists of the French contemporary music scene today. As part of the learning process for each piece, I will meet with the cellist for whom the piece was written, and in some cases, the composers themselves. I have already spoken with these cellists and they have enthusiastically agreed to be a part of the project. The meetings will consist of a combination of video-recorded interviews, conversations, and coachings on the pieces. The goal of these meetings is to not only clarify information about the pieces in order to more accurately perform them myself throughout the year in the form of recitals and lectures, but to elucidate the social ties and interactions that emerged between the composer and performer in the creation of these new works. I will then edit and upload the video-taped meetings, with English subtitles, for public viewing on the website dedicated to the project. The result will be a digital repository of detailed material about this repertoire and the background surrounding its creation and performance that will be available, for free, for public viewing to anyone with access to internet.


Living and studying in France for the past 18 months has instilled within me a deep love for contemporary French cello repertoire. This project will enhance my personal understanding of the canon, and I will be eager to use this newfound understanding to perform with even greater integrity and sincerity. I also want this music to be accessible and approachable by the international musical community and audiences for generations to come. The result of my project will be simultaneously a form of cultural documentation and a pedagogical tool. It will be used by performers, teachers, composers, scholars, and audiences worldwide to elucidate their understanding of contemporary French cello repertoire. They will be able to engage with the material in diverse and meaningful ways, to their own ends and purposes. I believe this project will prove that contemporary classical music does not need to exist in a bubble, if only its humanity is made accessible to more people. I will gain a deep satisfaction from knowing that I am contributing, in my own way, to the vitally important task of documenting contemporary cultural practices while the artists involved in those practices are still alive. In my view, this platform is an archive that I will continue to develop and expand for many years to come, as I interact with and meet more composers and performers. I also hope that other performers of contemporary classical music will be inspired by this archive and will create similar platforms to preserve and make accessible other repertoire. Le portail créatif will be the beginning of this journey.

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