As we roll into our third season, I’m excited to have a fantastic new artistic producer join us. The team of artistic producers works with me to dream up ideas for our concerts, and most importantly manage all of the many steps towards making them a reality. Composer, trombonist, improviser, Heather Segger, who is fresh off the plane from an extensive period of study in Europe, tells us a little about herself.
So, you were in Europe for several months. Okay…I’m jealous. Tell us a little about that.
Yes! I am so thankful to have received a Canada Council for the Arts grant to study improvisation with three members of the ICP Orchestra: Wolter Wierbos (trombone), Michael Moore (woodwinds), and Mary Oliver (violin) in Amsterdam this spring/summer. I was interested in their unique perspectives as improvisers, how they practice a music that essentially doesn’t have a repertoire, in different aspects of their training (Wolter was mostly self-taught, Michael trained in jazz in NY, and Mary had Classical training), and how through these different training avenues and languages they are able to play in groups together and find common threads with which to make exciting, dynamic, deep, and beautiful music.
What did you miss most about life in Toronto while you were overseas?
People. Mostly family and friends. The newness of living in Amsterdam was extremely refreshing though, and I found it exciting to be in a place where most of the people I knew there were newer relationships, meeting new people all the time and talking about new ideas and how they do things and think about things. It was a great experience for being able to contemplate from an outside perspective what it could mean to be a Canadian improvising musician. It’s more difficult to gain clarity on that kind of idea while inside of it.
What’s the most important idea you’ve brought back with you to this side of the pond?
Ooh that’s a tough one. I’m still sifting through so many ideas that all seem important in some way… Many of these, though, are summed up by how music lessons are turning into life lessons: how to interact in different ways, to listen, use language, philosophies, when to take control and when to surrender it, breathe, and learn about oneself: one’s tendencies and habits, how to move beyond these things… it’s a thoroughly enriching process. But I’m still processing; ask me tomorrow and I might have a different answer =)
What are you looking forward to doing with your new role with us?
I’m looking very forward to the opportunity to compose for interesting situations, different instrument groups and artistic voices of different players, within the context of a performance – all with a collective of other composers who are working towards similar goals, sharing ideas and supporting one another’s creative work.
Here at Spectrum we’re all about overlapping spaces between the worlds of improvising and through composition.
How does your own artistic sensibility fit into this idea?
This is exactly what I’m interested in. I love open improvisation, and I also love composed music, and my favourite is when the best of both worlds compliment each other. I love surprise and unpredictability, the spark and flow of musicians acting and reacting fully in the moment of performance, bringing their language, intuition, emotions, and selves to the music. I love the articulate and precise, intentional forethought of composition that can set and represent context, act as a home base, and weave a common thread through the musical interactions to create a balanced and unified piece/experience.
What are you listening to these days? What should I go listen to right after we finish this interview?
Honestly, what I listen to the most is probably the traffic out my Queen Street window haha… It’s funny, I am realizing as I write this that I think I have a complicated relationship with listening; being in such a sonically stimulating environment makes it difficult for me to want to search out sound. I miss hearing church bells out my Amsterdam apartment window. When I seek out a sonic experience I often look for it in nature, more to get a break from urban living I think.
When I put on music at home, I’m always listening to different things — and as much live music as I can. I’ve been checking out youtube videos of live improvised music from Europe — if you’re not familiar with Han Bennink, Misha Mengelberg, Ab Baars, or Tobias Delius, they’re some key favorites I highly recommend; some German and Scandinavian improvisers… the list is long. I’ve also been interested in early players like Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong, and Bud Powell. I find the energy they bring to the music is interestingly akin to the current modern improv I listen to these days: it’s playful and lively, not too starchy or polished, there’s beautiful variation and colour in the phrasing. I go through phases, sometimes I just crave Ligetti, or Bach, or Ellington, or Michael Jackson, or John Zorn; it depends so much on how I’m feeling and what else is going on in my life.
Let’s say in another life, you aren’t a composer or trombonist. What would you be?
This is a tough question; I think who I am has really grown with what I do. If I were to go back to a younger version of me when countless paths were in front of me: for most of my early childhood, when my parents asked me what I’d like to be when I grow up, my answer would always be a rockstar. I was envisioning the kind where you wear purple spikey wigs and dance around making a crazy racket. I think that would be fun =) I also really like teaching, dance, fitness and nutrition, I like people and cognition so maybe psychology, maybe farming, maybe architecture or design or carpentry, maybe a baker, maybe a novelist… I’m interested in lots of things!
– October 22, 2013
Heather recently composed a piece for Interface, a new an interactive live performance and sound installation debuted at our season launch party this year.