This week as part of our ongoing series profiling new Associate Composers we chat with Ruth Guechtal. Ruth completed her Bachelors Degree at Wilfrid Laurier University while studying with Linda Smith, and completed graduate studies at the University of Victoria, and the University of Alberta. Her pursuit of noise—what some might consider unwanted sound—is a defining feature of her musical work, and in our conversation she draws a parallel between her efforts to reconcile unconventional sound within contemporary composition with the efforts of a wider group of artists…. she also lays down a killer playlist for worthy listeners out there.
Canadian Music Centre: What got you excited about music at a young age?
Ruth Guechtal: When I was about 3 years old, I heard Ravel’s Bolero playing several times on the radio and—so my mother tells me—became quite taken with the work. I also have a clear memory of going to a performance of the Nutcracker Suite with my mother and finding the celesta fascinating. I never had one particular musical style as a dominant influence until I reached my teenage years. I was more interested in single songs by various pop artists heard on the radio including tracks by David Bowie, Tina Turner, Depeche Mode, Madonna, A-Ha, to name a few. Like most young kids, it was anything I could sing along to that caught my attention.
When I turned 14, I started taking guitar lessons, both classical and rock, and was drawn to some noisier rock such as Nirvana, Sonic Youth, the Pixies, PJ Harvey, and Marilyn Manson. These were some of the bands I really obsessed over. My brother had a big hand in introducing me to many of these and we both started our guitar lessons at the same time.
CMC: What was the most important music concert/event you attended?
RG: There are too many to list at this point in my life. I am now deeply interested in many more styles and will have trouble narrowing it down but I will try to keep it to no more than five, hopefully in chronological order: PJ Harvey, KW Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra, Psyopus’ Toronto concert, Morbid Angel’s performance at Wacken Open Air festival, The New Zealand String Quartet’s performance of Ligetti’s String Quartet No. 1, Rémy Bouchier’s performance at KW’s Music Room, and noise artist Prurient’s performance in Toronto… ok, so that’s 7 [smiley face]
CMC: What is on your personal playlist?
RG: Lately I have been oscillating between extreme metal of various types and my personal rock list. I have many, many bands I listen to but some of the ones who really pull on my heart strings in both styles are Howls of Ebb, Ministry, Queens of the Stone Age, Sinistrous Diabolus, Lucifyre, Spite, the Birthday Party, Silverfish, Wolf Eyes, Prurient, Suffocation, Ryoji Ikeda, Otomo Yoshihide, M.S.K.B.R., Giacinto Scelsi, Kaija Saariaho … The list is long.
CMC: How is the field of composition changing, and (how) do you fit in?
RG: As of late, I have noticed that a great deal of composers are using outside sounds as source material for their compositions, which is where I currently fit in. I have been greatly interested in soundscapes orchestrated for the acoustic medium, which allows me to include several noise elements and discover extended techniques for every family of instruments.
This of course is not the only change happening in the world of composition. There has been a noticeable increase in composers incorporating other genres into their chamber works. In a more general way, I feel composition is expanding in so many different directions that trying to name all of the existing aesthetics is near impossible. To me it’s as if all the styles I learned about in my music history classes are being revisited, revived and/or melded. A kind of musical pluralism forever expanding.
Check the CMC community page regularly for more composer profiles! You can visit Ruth’s personal page for additional information about her career.