Veronika Krausas is an Associate Professor in the Composition Department at USC’s Thornton School of Music and has previously collaborated with San Francisco Choral Artists. They join forces again, for a new work titled Defenestration. The piece will be premiered by the San Francisco Choral Artists in their June 2016 concert series, 21st-Century Baroque.
Composer Jason Carl Rosenberg talks with Krausas about the inspiration behind Defenestration and Krausas’s compositional writing.
Jason Carl Rosenberg: The piece you wrote for SFCA, Defenestration, is inspired by Brian Goggin’s installation that – for almost 17 years! – had distorted furniture hanging out of windows and the rooftop of a SOMA building. Yet you’ve also been inspired by Goggin’s artwork in the past as well, correct?
Veronika Krausas: The city of San Francisco and the artists there have always inspired me. This is the third work of Goggin’s that I’ve composed a work about. The first was Language of the Birds, for the SFCA and the Alexander String Quartet in 2010, that was based on an installation he did with Dorka Keehn outside City Lights Bookstore. The second was in 2014, Caruso’s Dream, an installation of 13 suspended plexiglass pianos. The work was unveiled to a huge street concert including a work I wrote and conducted for 13 pianos. This is the third. There is a magical quality to San Francisco and everything is full of wonder and inspiration. I’m so thrilled to be working again with the SFCA and Magen Solomon.
JCR: I personally find Goggin’s Defenestration installation to be wonderfully whimsical, wild, and writhen. I’m curious though if this is what attracted you, and why you keep finding yourself drawn so strongly to the work of Brian Goggin.
VA: It’s just his whimsical nature and sense of awe and fascination with the world around him that draws me to his art. He lets us experience child-like wonder that I find very freeing and inspiring.
JCR: One thing that interests me about your piece is that each of the three movements are quite contrasting, yet there are also characteristics that seem to unify the movements. Can you talk about how you connect these disparate movements through your compositional writing in Defenestration?
VA: In this work, each movement has its own musical character that is inspired by the text. The connection between the three is actually a pitch connection. In order to facilitate between the movements of the larger scheme (the macro level), the tonal areas that anchor the piece have a through-line to help with pitch relativity.
JCR: Lastly, throughout the second movement of your piece there are numerous speech elements. Perhaps you can describe why you chose to use a mixture of speaking and singing in that movement, and how you treated the speaking parts in this context?
VA: My idea for this second movement was to give the impression of the pedestrians, walking by and around the building. Sometimes text is audible and other times it is in the background. Just as the furniture is thrown out the windows, people speaking is heard by the building.
Also, I added a bell (4 iterations to represent the 4 sides of the building) and a harmonica. The harmonica hovers above the voices much like a street musician would play a harmonica, and the sound would waft above the din of traffic and the city.