|Composer Lisa Renée Coons|
Composer Lisa Renée Coons’ composition Vera’s Ghosts will have its world premiere at American Composers Orchestra’s Orchestra Underground: Lines On A Point concert on February 20 at Zankel Hall, Carnegie Hall. Lisa has kindly shared with us the personal story that has inspired her work and how she hopes the audience will respond to Vera’s Ghosts.
American Composers Orchestra: What inspired your composition Vera’s Ghosts?
Lisa Renée Coons: My once vibrant and passionate grandmother, Vera, has slowly been losing the battle with dementia—there is now almost nothing of her previous ‘self’ left. This piece tries to capture the pain and fear of that trajectory, both hers and my mother’s as she cared for her. Or perhaps, more honestly, it is even more inspired by my own fear of that disease. The conductor acts as protagonist, surrounded by the musicians who are placed around him in a sparse U-formation. He often loses control of the gestures and becomes submerged in noise as ideas are passed quickly around the space between individual players, like an infection spreading. Moments of beauty deteriorate into angry episodes of confusion and frustration, but the end is a sort of ‘hymn’ – it is a quiet acceptance of someone who no longer communicates, but rather lives alone with her ghosts.
ACO: How would you describe your composition process for Vera’s Ghosts? Did you face any challenges that you had to resolve during the composition?
LRC: Notation for the spatialized gestures – especially those based on the reactions of the musicians rather than the motion of the conductor – represented a new challenge for me. I have never written anything so physical for a large ensemble like string orchestra and I am excited to hear it realized.
ACO: What are you most looking forward to in having your work performed by American Composers Orchestra in its World Premiere at Carnegie Hall?
LRC: I am grateful to have the opportunity to collaborate with these amazing musicians. This piece is new and challenging in many ways, and I am eager to have it realized by the musicians of ACO. But I am also quite touched to be included with the other composers on the concert. I look forward to this concert as both a composer and an audience member.
ACO: Is there anything that you hope the audience will get out of listening to your work? Is there anything they should listen for?
LRC: I would like for the audience to focus on the movement of textures and gestures – to let themselves be immersed in sound rather than listening for motivic development or themes. My hope would be for them to have visceral responses to the sound, and that this piece will provide an engaging experience as much as it acts as music.