Reflected in Glass: Q&A with violinist Tim Fain

Internationally renowned violinist Tim Fain has been featured on the soundtracks to the films Moonlight, 12 Years a Slave, and Black Swan, where he also was seen on screen. He has appeared internationally as soloist with many of the world’s top orchestras and performed recitals at the world’s major music capitals. He collaborated with Google on a Virtual Reality music video for his composition, Resonance, which introduced its 360 stereoscopic VR capability for YouTube, and was recently shown at The Sundance Film Festival (watch here).

Reflected in Glass: Philip Glass and the Next Generation — Friday, December 8, 2017, 7:30pm at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall —features Fain as soloist in Philip Glass’ Violin Concerto No. 2, The American Four Seasons. Fain was kind enough to answer a few questions for us.

Philip Glass and Tim Fain. Photo by Brian Hall

American Composers Orchestra: Philip Glass’ Violin Concerto No. 2, The American Four Seasons, was written as a companion piece to Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, but doesn’t indicate which movement corresponds to which season. Glass writes that this is “an opportunity, then, for the listener to make his/her own interpretation.” Do you have your own interpretation for which movement corresponds to which season? How has this open-ended aspect of the piece affected the way you approach it?

Tim Fain: If Antonio Vivaldi depicted scenes from the seasons as a portrait artist might capture a still life — a feast, or a storm approaching — Philip’s concerto is less about the seasons themselves but rather about our struggle against, or acquiescence to the elements.

The piece alternates between solo violin movements, which function similarly to a Greek chorus as a running commentary on the story, and larger orchestral movements. One begins to sense a lurking tumultuousness throughout those movements, waiting to grow at any moment. Spring begins gently at first, followed by a languorous and stunningly beautiful summer, a tempestuous fall, and an all-out battle against the winter elements, alluding to a larger battle we all face against time itself. From birth we are built for struggle, at first just to breathe, then later to love, and finally the struggle to die gracefully and in peace.

ACO: Reflected in Glass celebrates the monumental work of Philip Glass, as well as the influence he has had on generations of composers after him. Can you talk about the influence that Glass has had on your career, both as a performer and composer?

TF: To perform with Philip, as I have done so many times, is to open oneself up to a passion and spontaneity in his music, and I’m continuously inspired by him and his fluid and organic approach to his own music. As both a performer and composer now, Philip has always been extremely supportive of  my work; writing his Partita for me, having recently presented a theater piece (Club Diamond) for which I composed the music, at his Days and Nights Festival in Big Sur, CA, and even touring as a duo partner have all changed and enhanced not only my work but me as an artist and person.

ACO: You appear on the soundtracks for Moonlight, 12 Years a Slave, and Black Swan (where you also appeared on screen), and your critically acclaimed multi-media program Portals has been selling out venues across the world. How did you first become involved in the film music world? Can you talk about the differences, or lack thereof, between performing music for film vs. music that has no visual component?

TF: I was fascinated with film music as a kid — growing up in LA I sang in a boys choir and performed in numerous soundtracks, including John Williams’ score to Empire of the Sun. As I’ve worked more in film and VR/AR, pretty much without exception, each project has unfolded in its own unique way. From creating the diegetic music for 12 Years a Slave, to producing and performing Portals, I’m fascinated with storytelling as connection between people, among artistic collaborators, and as the connection of our various senses into a fuller multi-sensory experience.

When I perform live I am aware of the audience not only as they listen, but as they watch and feel the music physically in their bodies. One is always aware of how the music will be experienced — a transaction of emotion and storytelling which travels not only from performer to listener but back from the audience to me on stage. In these moments the music is the predominant element of the story. Performing music for film I am also thinking about the moment it will be experienced, but insofar as how the music will interact with the image and perceived as part of a complete work.

As a composer, I do think about how my music will be heard, and in what context, but this does not affect my process of creating the music itself. I don’t work much differently in writing my upcoming Concerto for Violin Orchestra and VR experience, for example, as I would work in composing or arranging a cue for a feature film.


Hear Tim Fain in Philip Glass’ Violin Concerto No. 2, The American Four Seasons — Friday, December 8, 2017, 7:30pm at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall. Details & tickets

Follow Tim Fain on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.