For Good Measure, by Ensemble for These Times (E4TT)
Episode 53: Monica Chew (part 2)
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In this week’s episode, we talk to Monica Chew about her experience with the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music along with advice for young women composers and thoughts on balancing being a composer and musician. If you enjoyed today’s conversation and want to know more about Monica Chew, check her out here: www.monicachew.com. Parts of this episode originally premiered on June 2022, found on Youtube, click here.
This podcast is made possible in part by a grant from the California Arts Council and generous donors, like you. Want to support For Good Measure and E4TT? Make a tax-deductible donation or sign up for our newsletter, and subscribe to the podcast!
Intro music: “Trifolium” by Gabriela Ortiz, performed by E4TT (Ilana Blumberg, violin; Abigail Monroe, cello; Margaret Halbig, piano), as part of “Below the Surface: Music by Women Composers,” January 29, 2022
Outro music: “Lake Turkana” by Marcus Norris, performed by E4TT (Margaret Halbig, piano), as part of “Alchemy,” October 15, 2021
Transcription courtesy of Otter.ai.
Producer, Host, and E4TT co-founder: Nanette McGuinness
Audio Engineer: Stephanie M. Neumann
Podcast Cover Art: Brennan Stokes
Interns: Roziht Edwards and Merve Tokar
[INTRO MUSIC] Welcome to For Good Measure, an interview series celebrating diverse composers and other creative artists sponsored by grant from the California Arts Council. I'm Nanette McGuinness, artistic executive director of Ensemble For These Times. In this week's episode, we continue with our conversation with Monica Chew, who join us in June 2022 [INTRO MUSIC ENDS]. You attended the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music as an auditor. What was that experience like?Monica Chew:
As an auditor, I was that was great. I went to, I think three or four different cycles, and got to meet lots of composers and be a fly on the wall and sort of watch everybody else go through this process without having any pressure to produce music of my own. Which was really great, actually, because it was already very intense just being there and just absorbing everything. So that was wonderful. And a really important part of my, a really important part of my musical development.Nanette McGuinness:
Do you have any advice for young women composers? What do you see as the future for classical and new music.Monica Chew:
So my advice for composers not being an experienced composer myself, is that you should just try it if you're interested. And the worst thing that will happen is that you'll write something that you don't like, which is just part of learning. So I hope that anybody who's listening is interested in composing, won't have any fear about doing that, and will feel like they have the right to create their own music and perform it. And if it's bad, then it'll join a long legacy of dad pieces, that is an important part of our tradition. So you know, it's so interesting to me as a, as a classical musician thinking about, especially this past year, when we had this big Beethoven centennial, about how much of our concept of what makes it good Beethoven performance is based on many, many decades and generations of brilliant performers doing their best to play Beethoven over and over and over and over again. And we don't dedicate the same time and energy to new music. And because of that, sometimes when a new piece gets played for the first time, and it doesn't go, well, it may, the composer may not be lucky enough to have the piece performed a second time, or, you know, enough times. for someone to really understand that piece to for the piece to find the right performer and the right audience. So I would say even if you write a bad piece, just keep going, eventually, you'll you'll have the right combination of the score and the performer, that somebody will feel something from something that you wrote, eventually, I think.Nanette McGuinness:
How do you balance being a pianist and a composer? Are they more or less integrated for you, or does one pull more at you?Monica Chew:
Well, I'm 44. And I am starting to feel lots of aches and pains. And, you know, playing piano doesn't really help with that using a computer a lot. Definitely doesn't help with that. And all I know is that I love music. And I would love to continue doing music in some form of for as long as I can. And composing to me is like a natural extension of trying to lengthen that runway. It's also kind of ridiculous, because when I when I first started composing, I sort of had this idea that you it would it wouldn't be too hard. Because I do a lot of music. And I had played a lot of music and I listened to music all the time. And I just thought, Okay, I have good ears. I can I can figure out what doesn't work, which is actually i I know when I write something that I don't like, I don't always know how to fix it. But then I didn't realize like how painful this would be. I'm trying to find, trying to find the things that I wanted to say sometimes. And then the other thing that's happened recently is, well, you mentioned, well, of course, we'll edit this out. But I recently, you mentioned the call for scores for DL. So I recently had a piece that was premiered by a really fantastic clarinetist, Tom Piercey. And I wrote this 62nd piece in response to a call for scores. And I did that on a whim, I had no, it wasn't part of my medium term planning or anything like that. I just happened to see the call. I was busy procrastinating finishing a different score. So I decided to spend a couple hours on a 62nd clarinet piece, which got premiered. And it was wonderful, because he was fantastic. All of the work that I did, musically, was upfront. I didn't have to worry about it. I didn't even know it was going to happen until, you know, the week before. And to me, that was like a perfect musical experience.Nanette McGuinness:
It sounds like you're still finding your compositional voice, or do you have a strong sense of it now and are primarily refining it?Monica Chew:
Oh, I wouldn't say that I had found my compositional voice at all. Really. I mean, I'm not even sure what that means. I'm purely in chaos mode right now since I started late in life. So I'm just trying to learn music and figure out how to be efficient, and all those things. So yeah.Nanette McGuinness:
[OUTRO MUSIC] Thank you for listening to For Good Measure, and a special thank you to our guest, Manica Chew for joining us today. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe to our podcast by clicking on the subscribe button and support us by sharing it with your friends, posting about it on social media and leaving us a rating and a review. To learn more about E4TT Our concert season online and in the Bay Area where to make a tax deductible donation, please visit us at www.E4TT.org. This podcast is made possible in part by a grant from the California Arts Council and generous donors like you. "For Good Measure" is produced by Nanette McGuinness and Ensemble for These Times, and designed by Brennan Stokes. With special thanks to audio engineer extraordinaire Stephanie Neumann. Remember to keep supporting equity in the arts and tune in next week "for good measure." [OUTRO MUSIC ENDS]