TSO Orchestral Reading Session Interviews: Riho Esko Maimets, Composer

October 22, 2015

In a series of blog posts, we get to know the four composers featured in the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) Orchestral Reading session, taking place on Saturday, October 24. Today we hear from Chris Meyer about his compositional background, and what he is looking forward to with the reading session.

Canadian Music Centre: What are you looking forward to at the reading session?

Riho Esko Maimets: I am first and foremost looking forward to hearing a sonic manifestation of my piece “Entropic”. To hear one’s own creation is, ideally, an intense, transformative and cathartic experience. I am also looking forward to meeting the other composers, and perhaps sharing thoughts about our different experiences.

CMC: What do you hope to gain through the experience?

REM: I hope that the experience of hearing the orchestra play my creation conjures something extraordinary and beautiful - something that the American author and artist Henry Miller calls the “life more abundant”. He goes on to say that “[Art] is not in itself the life more abundant. It merely points the way, something which is overlooked not only by the public, but very often by the artist himself. In becoming an end it defeats itself.” I love the idea that art is a means, a vector, a catalyst, or even a window or a mirror. It merely reflects and is not the thing itself being reflected.

CMC: What does it feel like to be working with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra?

REM: At the moment, I am feeling both privileged and nervous at the same time. The opportunity to work with one of Canada’s foremost orchestras is both daunting and exciting. I am also very much looking forward to meeting and working with the artistic staff (Jordan Pal, Peter Oundjian, and Gary Kulesha, whom I already know from my studies at U of T). But it is a different feeling than the one that overtakes me in the process of creating. I think that there is always an element of immediate risk involved with working with other people, which often results in something very rewarding and vital. The creative process, for me, is very much about delving deep into my own being, into an inner world.

CMC: What is your relationship to Toronto, the city?

REM: I was born and raised in Toronto. I now live in Estonia - a tiny and very close-knit society, where anonymity is very hard to come by. I can sense Toronto gradually becoming a childhood memory.

CMC: What was the first orchestral recording/concert you listened to, or attended?

REM: The first orchestral recording must have been either Fantasia or Peter and the Wolf on VHS. I can’t recall the first concert, but it may have been The Nutcracker. My older sisters were very much into ballet and I think I was taken to a few National Ballet productions as a very small child.

CMC: How much time do you spend composing in an average week?

REM: In addition to notation, composition for me encompasses meditation, contemplation, thinking, feeling, and also a great deal of doing nothing. Therefore, I think that I compose for at least 80 hours every week.

CMC: How do you deal with musical writer’s block?

REM: I think that writer’s block is essential in the process. If everything came too easily, then I don’t think I would feel very fulfilled by my own music. I deal with writer’s block most often by reading.

CMC: Which composers have had the greatest influence on your music, or your musical values?

REM: The first name that comes to mind is Richard Wagner. His concept of Gesamtkunstwerk (“total work of art”) - of music being much more than music is extremely profound. If I could expand the list to include artists and literary figures as well, I would definitely include names such as Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Albert Camus, Ayn Rand, Schubert, John Cage, Sibelius, Kant, Descartes, Morton Feldman, Fauré, Debussy, Bruckner, Beethoven, Mozart, Scriabin, Richard Strauss… there are obviously too many to name.

CMC: You have a time machine capable of one return trip. Where are you going?

REM: To the Bayreuth premiere of The Ring Cycle, August 13, 1876.

CMC: Finish this sentence: “Composing is a lot like ______.”

REM: ...bleeding. To quote Nietzsche: “Of all that is written I love only what a man has written with his blood. Write with blood and you will experience that blood is spirit.”

CMC: What do you do when you are not composing?

REM: I think that I am constantly composing/creating… either consciously or subconsciously. If I am not consciously creating, then I am most likely walking, reading, teaching or being social.

CMC: Where can I hear your music online?

REM: Please check out my website by clicking here!

You can learn more about the TSO by clicking here