Interview Excerpt #5
FRANK J. OTERI: In talking about both the flute/piano piece and about the cello/piano piece The Seasons you said that you wanted to convey something, some sort of a message. So is it program music? Do the notes mean something besides just the notes?
NATASHA SINHA: Well the notes for me mean what I feel about the music. Like in the cello piece The Four Seasons I tried to convey how the Summer went or how the Summer is for me. How it goes by so quickly. Many fun things happen. And the Fall, how all the leaves are falling. How it’s beautiful and how there’s some touch of magic in it. And then in the Winter, how it’s like sometimes really bad and good. And then in the Spring, how everything starts blooming and everything like life comes back again.
FRANK J. OTERI: I definitely got the sense of winter in the Winter movement. It was actually my favorite movement. It really felt cold. So, you definitely got that across! But, the strangest thing on your CD I thought was the violin suite. There’s one movement that I thought was very, very weird. There are cat calls and there’s banging on the piano lid, pitch bends on the violin… It’s out there!
NATASHA SINHA: Yeah. It was supposed to be like that.
FRANK J. OTERI: It was great. I loved it. What made you write something like that?
NATASHA SINHA: Well, I decided to write something about a person who wasn’t in the best position at his time. It was about a fiddler in the attic of this huge apartment. In the first scene, or the first song, he was happy; everything was going nicely. And then the second scene, the landlady comes to collect the money. So that’s when you hear the banging and asking for the money… And that’s when all the cats are around. And the third scene, she goes away and then the fourth song, he starts becoming forgetful. And then he actually starts playing wrong notes and I thought it was pretty interesting. I wanted to write something where there wasn’t only just one subject in it. There was more than one subject. It was like the violin was actually part of the story. Then the cats were in it. The landlady was in it. And so was the man…
FRANK J. OTERI: Now, in terms of story, is this your own story that you made up?
NATASHA SINHA: Yeah.
FRANK J. OTERI: Do you write stories also?
NATASHA SINHA: Yeah, I do. At school sometimes we get to improvise our own things.
FRANK J. OTERI: Do you think an audience can hear the story you are trying to tell through this music? I heard it and I had a different interpretation entirely. Music, of course, is abstract. I heard the catcalls. And it sounded to me like a cat was playing the piano. That’s what I thought you were trying to convey. All of a sudden cluster, cluster, cluster, cluster and then rrriaow, rrriaow… My cat has tried to play the piano a few times and that’s kind of what it sounds like.
NATASHA SINHA: Yeah, that’s what I tried to convey. Obviously, you know, a cat’s foot is about this big. And obviously you can press like two or three notes and then sometimes you don’t press just the white notes or just the black notes so they might go on the sharp or the flat. So I tried to do that.
FRANK J. OTERI: Have you heard the music of Henry Cowell at all?
NATASHA SINHA: I haven’t.
FRANK J. OTERI: He was a composer who starting writing music around the turn of the twentieth century. And about 1911, when he was still very young, he invented this thing called a tone cluster. You take your arm and play the keys of the piano all at once. You can do it all on the white keys and that’s one sound and you can do it all on the black keys that’s another sound. You can do it on all of them and that’s yet another sound. And Bartók, whom you mentioned was one composer you like, learned about Henry Cowell’s tone clusters and wrote a letter to Cowell asking his permission to use them!
NATASHA SINHA: That’s so silly.
FRANK J. OTERI: Well Cowell’s response was that Charles Ives also did this in his music independently, before Ives had ever heard Cowell’s music… We’ve gotta get you to hear some of this stuff! Have you heard John Cage‘s music at all?
NATASHA SINHA: No.
FRANK J. OTERI: There has been a lot of music in the last 100 years that’s taken this sort of notion of experimenting with scales, doing other things, and going into a whole other universe with it. Are you interested in exploring that sort of thing more? Or was this sort of an unusual thing for you?
NATASHA SINHA: Well, I wanted to write something sort of funny, a little bit different. And I decided to write a piece that was not just a regular piece like some of my other pieces are. I wanted to make it a little bit different. I wasn’t just writing the same thing. It would be a little bit more of an “up” thing to most of the other things.
FRANK J. OTERI: What did the audience think of this piece?
NATASHA SINHA: Oh, they thought it was funny and they liked it a lot.
FRANK J. OTERI: And the players?
NATASHA SINHA: Oh, the players. They thought it was good too because they thought it was funny, but it also wasn’t terribly hard for them to play. So, they thought it was good.