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Compiled by Eric Weld   Date: 12/6/11 Bookmark and Share

Q&A with Conor Hanick, Artist-in-Residence

Pianist Conor Hanick, artist-in-residence, will anchor a program of contemporary classical works for the Smith College Chamber Music Society Concert on Sunday, Dec. 11.

Conor Hanick, the Iva Dee Hiatt Visiting Artist and Lecturer in piano, will be joined by three of his colleagues from New York City for the Chamber Music Society Concert on Sunday, Dec. 11, at 4 p.m. in Sweeney Auditorium, Sage Hall. the concert is free and open to the public.

The program, including music for piano, clarinet, violin and cello, will feature works by composers Bela Bartok, Charles Wourinen and Olivier Messiaen.

Hanick, of New York City, has performed on the radio and concert halls throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. He is also the host of Hammered!, a radio show pn WNYC's streaming modern music station Q2, devoted to contemporary piano music. Hanick will be joined in the concert by Alicia Lee, clarinet; Michelle Ross, violin; and Jay Campbell, cello.

Hanick recently responded to questions for the Gate about his musical scholarship.

Gate: What are the main objectives of your two-year residency at Smith? What projects or goals might you focus on while here?

Conor Hanick: One of the reasons I've enjoyed this first semester [at Smith] so much, and in fact one of the central reasons I was drawn to applying for this position, is the multi-facetedness of the college. One of my goals with my students—in addition, or course, to raising their technical proficiency and musical understanding—is to enhance, integrate and connect music with their other areas of study. Being at a college like Smith is such a beautiful opportunity to discover and enjoy the cross-polinization of the arts and humanities.

Another wonderful aspect of this position is the encouragement to bring to Smith the projects, musicians and repertoire that I'm involved with in New York. Sharing these with a new community of listeners is extremely exciting for me and largely due to a group of colleagues whose enthusiasm, accommodation and adventurousness is difficult to surpass.

Gate: What has led to your support and preference for performing and promoting contemporary and new music? How does new music fulfill your artistic growth?

CH: I'm a junkie for new sounds. There are few things more exciting to me than hearing a piece of music for the first time, dissecting a score, translating its language, discovering its secrets, creating sounds that have literally never been heard before.

Taking it one degree further, I can say that nurturing a love for contemporary music has impacted my playing of "standard" repertoire more profoundly than anything I've ever been taught. Once you experience a piece that was literally just written and examine it for all its novelty and peculiarity, you realize that every good piece of music says something profoundly individual when considered on its own terms. There is something vital and essential about playing Milton Babbitt as if his music were written 300 years ago and playing Ludwig van Beethoven's as if it were written yesterday.

I also vehemently believe in the deep human necessity of contemporary music in our modern, daily, living, breathing, human lives. Whether we like it or not, it is our life, it is the very reflection of that life, and it's my strong conviction that there is an inherent aspect of modern music that allows us to experience that world in an endlessly revealing way.

Gate: What might audience members be aware of or listen for in the upcoming chamber music concert?

CH: These masterworks by Olivier Messiaen, Bela Bartok, and Thomas Morley and Josquin du Prez via Charles Wuorinen (Wuorinen has done arrangements of two motets by the late Renaissance masters) are conversant parts of a programatic whole. Each work "speaks" to the adjacent compositions in a way that reframes and illuminates each. Olivier Messiaen, whose 103rd birthday would have been the day before our concert, wrote his Quartet For The End Of Time—the cornerstone of the program—while imprisoned in a German labor camp, where the work was written and premiered in 1941. The quartet is quite simply one of the most powerful listening experiences in music.

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