While the music of Mary Ellen Childs has a distinctive and recognizable sound, she has long been interested in engaging the other senses as well–whether it’s presenting live music for string quartet along with an immersive video projection, creating extremely tactile percussion works that are as much about choreography as they are about rhythm, or finding ways to merge listening and olfactory perception.
I get a rush when I perform, especially premiering a new piece in front of an audience, or when the musicians that I’m playing with sound exceptionally good—when we are all gelling, the stars align and we’re breathing together, and that exact moment is the only moment and it is perfect. It’s a different feeling than when I’m in the audience, listening to others play the music I write down on paper. My heart races. Time slows down and I hold my breath. I am merely a witness to the music.
I met Ursula Mamlok when she was in her early 70s, and initially I didn’t know how to define her. Who was she? Coming from Colombia, where I had only heard about one other woman composer of classical music before me, I didn’t realize—in all its dimensions—what it would mean for me to study with her. It took me a long time to realize the levels of her strength.
Creation is messy. Artistic inspiration without the mess (and an incredible amount of work and planning) will never see the light of day. Our finished work is only as good as it is because of the untidy part. Art needs us to bravely embrace our inner slob, even though most of us prefer a little primping before going outside.
In my opinion, the most exciting new music being composed and performed in East Asia is for traditional Asian instruments. I’m particularly intrigued by the new music people are writing for Chinese instruments. The best works engage with these instruments’ cultural associations as well as contemporary thinking.