NYC-based musician Eric Lemmon has been burning it up of late. His compositions, noted for their broad range of extended techniques and complex rhythms, have been performed at venues like (le) Poisson Rouge and the FIGMENT arts festival on Governor's Island. As a violist, he's joined the likes of The Manhattan Camerata, The Chelsea Symphony, and the Highline Chamber Ensemble (for which he's arranged, as well).
On September 8th, Lemmon's "The Impossible Will Take a Little While" will be premiered by the Highline Chamber Ensemble at the DiMenna Center at 7:30pm. Written for chamber orchestra and four voices, the piece is set to texts by Maya Angelou, W.H. Auden, Seamus Heaney, and others.
Recently, I was able to sit down with Eric and talk about his new work, as well as his life as a musician. Below are some excerpts from our discussion.
On Inspiration: "The Impossible Will Take a Little While" is based on a compilation of essays and poems of the same name. The book is about how large systemic change in society doesn't occur through giant heroic moments, like MLK on the Mall, or the Berlin Wall falling, but rather the small actions of lots of regular people working hard for a long time. They culminate in those giant moments.
On Writing for Chamber Orchestra: The main difference for me, when I'm orchestrating a piece out, is that there's lots of different colors...there's going to be flute, and clarinet, and violins playing harmonics, all while you have bass rhythmic aspects I'd been used to hearing on the piano. In the chamber orchestra, there's a different opportunity for every single different player to really shine, because it's a small instrumentation...if you have a giant orchestra, it's usually comprised of a bunch of different sections all playing together, and everyone is more of a cog in the machine. It's more oppressive, to me. Maybe that's me being a violist, speaking.
On Being a Violist/Composer: I think it helps with writing string parts. People say "all the great composers like Hindemith, Beethoven, Mozart all were violists," and I'm like "Yeah, there are also plenty of violists who aren't great composers." But one thing I enjoy about playing in an orchestra is being able to sit in it and listen to all of the things going on around me, especially as violists are often seated in the middle of the orchestra.
On What's Next: We met our IndieGoGo fundraising goal, so it's off to rehearsals until the big premiere on September 8th!