In conversation with Frank J. Oteri
West New York, New Jersey
November 30, 2007—11:00 a.m.
Transcribed by Julia Lu
Edited by Frank J. Oteri, Molly Sheridan, and S.C. Birmaher
Video presentation by Randy Nordschow
Anyone curious about the melodic and harmonic possibilities that exist beyond the twelve equal-tempered tones of a standard piano keyboard will find a completely individual and startling approach in the music of Lois V Vierk. Ironically, Lois began her musical explorations at a piano that her family aquired when she was a child. But eventually exposure to the American maverick tradition of John Cage and an immersion into the centuries-old gagaku music of Japan led Lois down a decidedly non-pianistic path.
While John Cage and traditional world music were formative influences on her, the outcome of her music is completely pre-conceived and is precisely notated. Lois, however, doesn’t perceive of her music microtonally. Her extensive use of slides is the byproduct of something far more intuitive than systemic. It is a personal musical response to a reality of nature: everything around us is continuously changing. Hearing Lois explain the natural glissandos perceptible when listening to the motion of wind or water offers insights into her music that a hardcore integer analysis probably never would. In fact, the disparity between the derivations of processes and how those processes are perceived has informed how she constructs larger musical forms, a technique she describes as “exponential structure.”
Yet, all of this is a means to an end, which is ultimately the music, which is a visceral experience. Her Go Guitars for an ensemble of five detuned electric guitars packs an amazing sonic wallop. Cirrus, for six trumpets, should be played in elementary school science classes in lieu of an overly technical explanation of the Doppler Effect—it would make much more sense and would have a more lasting impact.
Ten years ago, Lois V Vierk was at the cusp of being recognized as one of the most unique musical voices of our time. She was even one of only a handful of composers featured in an exciting film about the downtown New York scene at the time—New York Composers: Searching for a New Music, directed by Michael Blackwood. But since then, the sudden onset of a debilitating physical illness has kept Lois from composing and largely out of the public eye. Now based in West New York, New Jersey, Lois concentrates most of her energy on her husband and their daughter. And she maintains a regular regimen of physical therapy. Slowly, she has been recovering. By the end of our talk she was hopeful that one day she could begin composing actively again. I for one can’t wait.