Interview with Marc Sabat

Marc Sabat – Canadian composer, based in Berlin. He studied composition, violin and mathematics at the University of Toronto, and later on – at the Juilliard School in New York. The composer was working privately with Malcolm Goldstein, James Tenney and Walter Zimmermann. The wide variety of M. Sabat’s creation includes pieces for concert and installation settings. The composer draws inspiration from investigations of the sounding and perception of intonation and of various music forms — folk, experimental and classical. Ona Jarmalavičiūtė inquires the composer about the structure and meaning behind his composition process.

What are your thoughts about the structuring of the creative process?

I see every piece very much as a process of ongoing change and reflection, and the activities related to it change accordingly, depending on the the specific work being made. Sometimes it is entirely about writing, sometimes it about material preceding any kind of idealization. Sometimes the recording or concert precedes a score which precedes the conceptualization.

What are your thoughts about this quote: “Works of art have been compared to icebergs: what is visible is but a small part of the whole. An artwork might seem to exist in splendid isolation, but that impression is misleading. Cultural products inevitably arise from a context, a submerged landscape that is often not easily accessible”?

I don’t know about the term “product”. I think context and unfurling of associations and pathways is a key part to one’s relationship to artistic process, and somehow more central than the apparent autonomy or closure of any one named work. I don’t think I would see it like that.

Do you have certain patterns, structures when it comes to your creative process?

I work with harmonic ratios and these inform the kinds of interactions of tone I tend to focus on, although the work with how thes impinge on my own sensation always becomes empirical and much more complex than anything that can be “thought out” in advance.What is the most fun and the most boring part in the compositional process?Being in the work, and discovering how I am perceiving it. The most boring part is probably organisational emails and socializing.

Define inspiration – does it exist?

Experiencing the world is inspiration, seeing and sensing things in the moment.

What form do your notes and sketches take?

Notes, sometimes words, lists, finding a notation. I sketch to remind oneself of something when it comes up.

What do you do to get into your creative zone?

I get organised, wash the dishes, clean the flat, get everything distracting out of the way, wake up early and start working right away.

When do you decide that the preparation (precomposition) period is over and now you will start to actually compose?

I sit down and write. Usually I need to know the notation, but sometimes there are a few tries. When I am creating something I am concentrated on it.

Do you critique your own work?

Some pieces feel like they do not reach the best manifestation and might need to be revisited, sometimes I do that, sometimes they remain in need of this process without actually ever getting me into it again.

Thank you!

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