For Good Measure, by Ensemble for These Times (E4TT)
Episode 65: Da Capo Conversations with Nicolás Lell Benavides and Marcus Norris
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Today we revisit Nicolás Lell Benavides’ and Marcus Norris’ perspectives on performing and composing in different genres, and whether the genres feel separate or fluid. If you enjoyed today’s conversation and want to know more about Nicolás Lell Benavides and Marcus Norris, check them out here and here. Parts of this episode originally premiered on October 18, 2021, on Youtube, click here and on August 16, 2021, 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.
Co-Producer, Host, and E4TT co-founder: Nanette McGuinness
Co-Producer and Audio Engineer: Stephanie M. Neumann
Podcast Cover Art: Brennan Stokes
Interns: Sam Mason and Renata Volchinskaya
Nanette McGuinness 00:00
[INTRO MUSIC] Welcome to For Good Measure, an interview series celebrating diverse composers and other creative artists, sponsored by a 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 our Da Capo Conversations, a mini series where we'll be giving familiar segments a topical twist [INTRO MUSIC ENDS]. Today, we revisit Nicolás Lell Benavides' and Marcus Norris' perspectives on performing and composing in different genres. Here's what Nicolás Lell Benavides had to say.
Nicolás Lell Benavides 00:43
I think there is an artistic answer, and there's probably a realistic answer. The artistic answer would probably be something along the lines of, I just feel so creative, and I want to do so much. And that's true, I guess. But realistically, like most composers, I generally do things when people ask me to do them. So I think a lot of that branching out, which is, which is half a joke, but actually, half seriously, has to do a lot with the collaborative process between composers and performers. You know, I think when I'm asked to do something, like an opera, which is actually something that I've always wanted to do anyway, I've always been trying to build towards it. I write for those performers and what they want. When I'm asked to write or play jazz with X jazz performers, I kind of bring the previous knowledge that I had for money in opera, back to jazz. And then when I'm inadvertently asked to write electronic music, as any modern artist is generally asked to write at some point or another, I'm kind of bringing all the baggage of writing acoustic music. I think this comes from I didn't study classical music growing up, I studied rancheros and folk music. And I studied jazz in high school jazz bands. And I never really played in orchestras. I could read music, and I could solo but, for me, it just happened to be what I was doing at the time. When I got to school, I realized, like, Oh, I could just as easily practice funk music as I can practice opera, you know. And so for me, it's just, I feel like I'm the same person. It's just different tools that I'm reaching for, when I go for different mediums. Vocal music, you naturally get the story, you get the message. And then I think at the at the peak of that I enjoy writing music for the stage, because then you get everything, you get costumes, you get symbols, you get acting. So I think my favorite thing to write is opera. And if I could choose one genre to write in for the rest of my life, I think it would be probably opera, because I could do anything. I'm writing an opera that has mambo music in it. And you know, I could pack that all in because the theatrical elements of opera, buffer it and they and they present it really nicely to the audience member.
Nanette McGuinness 02:48
Here's what Marcus Norris had to say.
Marcus Norris 02:51
I like all of these genres, in different ways, they do different things for me, like with concert music, I just, there's like a craft to it. And it can be so complex and so nuanced, and so many layers, and it does something different for me, I love it for these, like, allow me to work through like really complex things. You can go on longer, or further journeys, while writing concert music. But at the same time, it's like I don't know of any music that can like, hit on more profound things and like, straight to the core the way like gospel or soul music does. And, and if there's a genre that speaks more directly to just exactly how you feel than rap music, then I don't know, if you know what I mean. So it's like I love all these things differently for different reasons. I wouldn't say like one more or the other. I have more nostalgia associated with like rap and r&b, just because that's what I grew up on, and that might always be like my first loves, but, but yeah, I just love them all differently.
Nanette McGuinness 04:03
[OUTRO MUSIC] Thank you for listening to For Good Measure's Da Capo Conversations, and a special thank you to our guests 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, or 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 co-producer and audio engineer Stephanie M. Neumann. Remember to keep supporting equity in the arts and tune in next week "for good measure" [OUTRO MUSIC ENDS].