After my daughter, composer Veronika Krausas is easily the person I speak to about puppets the most. While our mutual interest in puppetry is sure to keep us distracted for ages, we also talk about music! Veronika is currently based in Los Angeles where she is an Associate Professor in the Composition Department at the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California. She was raised in Canada, and studied in Toronto, so it was a bit of a homecoming for her to participate in the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s reading project on January 28. I followed up with Veronika after her visit to learn more about her history, artistic practice, and work with the TSO.
Canadian Music Centre: What was the first orchestral recording/concert you listened to, or attended?
Vernoka Krausas: I don't remember what my first orchestral recording or concert was but, since I'm thinking about Toronto, here are some of my favourite Roy Thomson Hall memories: page turning for Menahem Pressler when the Beaux Arts Trio was performing there many years ago. It was terrifying but his joie de vivre and musicianship made it quite the experience. Hearing Vladimir Ashkenazy play Beethoven's Waldstein ... sublime. And I miss the “petri dishes of the gods” (those acoustic discs that were above the stage 30 years ago) because I loved the description. Although the swirling marimba is very cool.
CMC: What aspects of the reading project did you enjoy? What did you gain through the experience?
VK: Hearing your music live with awesome musicians is always the most brilliant experience.
CMC: What was it like working with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra?
VK: The TSO is a wonderful collection of amazing musicians and they made my music sound fabulous. One of the immediate things that struck me was their graciousness and attentiveness towards me and to my music. They ROCK!
CMC: Tell us about your relationship to Toronto, the city? Did you enjoy your visit?
VK: I lived in Toronto for six years during which time I also completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto in composition. It was a magical time. Toronto was and still is this amazing vortex of music and creativity. I love visiting the city and am always inspired not only by the city but also by the people and places in it. Even though I live in Southern California I must say I even enjoyed the cold weather and snow!
CMC: How do you deal with musical writer’s block?
VK: I have a kitchen beeping timer that I set (to 33 minutes) and I have to sit in my studio until that goes off. Then I set it again and do something else (wash the dishes, read a book, etc.) for 33 minutes and then I set it again to sit in my studio. Eventually I stop resetting it when I get into the zone and just keep working. Deadlines are also very helpful things!
CMC: Which composers has had the greatest influence on your music, or your values?
VK: Erik Satie for his whimsy and humour.
CMC: Outside of music, what artist rocks your world, and why?
VK: I love reading. Authors like André Alexis, Neal Stephenson, China Mieville and J.K. Rowling (yes, I'm a huge Harry Potter fan) are my staples. I also adore action, espionage, science fiction and mystery movies! I'll take Sherlock Holmes in any form. In the realm of food, anything that the chefs Mario Batali or Nancy Silverton create gastronomically is sublime and truly edible art!
CMC: If you could be any character from the Star Trek universe, which character would you be?
VK: A tribble.
To learn more about Veronika and her music you can visit her website, and to hear some of her music you can check out her contributions to Hopscotch Opera (the first mobile opera), including scenes 15, 17, 18, and 25.