5HE Welcomes Composer Dan Visconti to its Core Roster
Fifth House Ensemble is excited to welcome composer Dan Visconti as 5HE’s newest ensemble member! We first worked with Dan as a composition faculty member at fresh inc 2013, and we are delighted to add him to our core roster. Dan’s work has been internationally recognized by the Rome Prize, the Naumburg Award, the Berlin Prize, and commissions from the Kronos Quartet, Fromm Foundation, and the Berlin Philharmonic’s Scharoun Ensemble. Continue reading for an interview with Dan and 5HE’s executive director Melissa Snoza to find out more about what it means to add a composer to 5HE’s core roster. You can also check out Dan’s artist page on our website, as well as his personal website for more information.
Melissa Snoza: How did you and 5HE first meet?
Dan Visconti: I have to thank my colleague and fellow composer Stacy Garrop, who recommended me to Fifth House as potential teaching partner at the ensemble’s outrageously cool fresh inc festival. As a composer who has made his living completely outside of academia, it was particularly exciting to participate in a festival where making a life in music out in the real world is both emphasized and encouraged! Given our mutual admiration of each other’s musical values as well as our mutual taste in Pepperidge Farm Milano Cookies, the ensemble and I really hit it off—and I realized that I might have both a lot to contribute to the ensemble’s mission of creating innovative concert experiences and educational programs, just as I also appreciated just how much I could learn from this group of enterprising and committed musicians who wrote the book on creating an ensemble that reflects their unique values, from the ground up. The rest, as they say, is history (as are the cookies—we ate them all).
MS: So…not many ensembles have a composer in their core membership. What does this new role mean for you and for the group?
DV: With Fifth House constantly designing new educational workshops featuring original musical cues—and with the ensemble frequently collaborating with other musicians from the world of popular music, rock, and bluegrass—being a core member will allow me to create homebrewed music and arrangement for a variety of occasions, made exactly to order rather than something outsourced outside of the group. I’ll also be bringing along some of my programming ideas and contacts from the music industry, and I’ll have the chance to develop some pet interests of my own that never would have been possible without such a close, intimate relationship with a group like Fifth House that is so musically curious and full of adventurous spirit.
MS: What kind of projects will you be working on?
DV: In addition to continuing my own commissioned work that forms the bread and butter of being a freelance composer, I’ll be working with Fifth House to create new arrangements that blend rock instruments with Fifth House’s core of classically trained instrumentalists, for the ensemble’s first-ever “plugged in” show with Chicago band The Assembly this summer. We’re also cooking up some exciting collaborations centered around indie video games presented as works of art (unbelievable how expressive some of these have become since the days of Atari!) and some other cross-genre and site-specific collaborations that I can’t quite talk about yet…
MS: What’s your DREAM project with 5HE?
DV: I’ve been fortunate to work with some truly fantastic ensembles and orchestras, but I’ve never had the chance to develop a new piece of music in a truly collaborative fashion and that’s absolutely Fifth House’s bag. A lot of my music takes inspiration from forms of improvised music, and I’d like to develop a new evening-length work for Fifth House that really takes advantage of this collaborative spirit—possibly tied into the astrological “house of creativity” that provides the ensemble’s namesake. I can’t think of another ensemble that is so willing to push the boundaries of the classical concert experience, and it would be fantastic to present a performance in a richly-designed environment in which musicians and audience/participants move and interact freely.
MS: What part of joining 5HE are you most looking forward to?
DV: So much of being a freelance composer is about pushing one’s own music and name recognition—and to be honest, it’s the element I enjoy the least about that role. A position with Fifth House allows me to advocate for the work of other composers and artists that I believe in, and to create musical experiences that are about impacting listeners, communities, and children that are just beginning to discover what is so completely awesome and compelling about chamber music. That’s the kind of musical engagement that truly sustains me; I can’t imagine a better, funnier, and more open group of individuals with which to tackle these goals than the truly excellent roster of 5HE artists!
Dan’s headshot can be downloaded via his artist page.