Colin Holter interviews Brett Wartchow.
On the New Music Scrapbook:
When I was a kid growing up in the resort, we went through some really tough economic times. My dad’s an economist, and probably one of the most creative-minded people I know. I can imagine him having the weight of the world on his shoulders and trying to raise a family with limited means, and he says, “Brett, if a job is not available for you, make one.” If you’re willing to work, there’s always going to be work available for you. I’ve thought about that, and it still befuddles me—is that even possible?—but from a very early age he’s always taught me to be proactive about whatever I’m doing. If things aren’t going the way you like, you do something different to change it so that it goes in the direction that you like. There’s so much back-room water-cooler talk about how things are going here—let’s just shut up and make music. Let’s create something we can all rally around and feel confident instead of victimized.
On studying composition:
When I went to Oregon, my classical compositional technique, the stock things that a composer of conventional Western classical music is trained to do, I had no skill with. The first couple years there were excruciating for me. Only in my third year, as I was beginning my thesis, that’s when I first started to realize that’s how you compose. It’s taken me a long time to get there.
On the Eugene Composers’ Collective:
The Eugene Composers’ Collective was an effort by Eugene-based composers, almost all of which were involved with the graduate school—both composers of electroacoustic music and acoustic contemporary music—to move music out of the concert hall into venues that people frequent not as a specialized event, bringing music to people where they’re at. A lot of the music we were writing at the time didn’t lend itself to the concert hall anyway. It was also sort of a campfire—something for a lot of the performers who wanted to get out of the concert hall and start jamming, being a little bit free, liberating themselves from the structure of the music school. So we did a number of concerts and they were extremely successful. My role in that was to come in a few days before the gig, get a feel for the program, get to know the artists, and emcee the show.
On tape music:
I don’t write a lot of fixed-media pieces. I’m far more into the interactive stuff. Having said that, I love listening to electroacoustic music on my headphones. Just like I love listening to old rock and roll vinyls, I love listening to the classics, Subotnick and these cats. Curtis Roads stuff. Something that really attracts me to the medium of tape music is that wherever you are, that’s where the concert is. It makes me feel like concerts are happening all over the place, all the time.
On Germination Variations:
I had this audio material left over from a piece I did earlier called Placeless Garden, which is a structured improvisation for video and eight channels of audio. It’s a fully immersive thing that I navigate with a game controller and a mixer. I had these audio materials left over from it that I thought were really beautiful, and I thought, “at some point I’m going make a stereo fixed media piece with this; I just want to see what they can do. So I went into the woodshop; I studied under Alex Lubet during this time, and to be honest Alex has been an amazing teacher for me during this period because he’s asking me all the right questions. He hasn’t touched digital synthesis much, so I’m getting aesthetic feedback from someone who’s really an outsider. I remember him saying, Brett, you’ve gotta roll over. You’ve gotta wail, man, you’ve gotta let it out, blare it, now. And I thought, I don’t really know how to do that—I’ve gotta learn to do that with my craft, to just let ‘er rip!