Project Toronto – Genesis (Interview with Gary Kulesha)

Interview by Jennifer Green, Project Manager for the 2013 New Creation’s Festival A Toronto Symphony project.

Gary Kulesha

Every March the Toronto Symphony Orchestra presents the New Creations Festival. Season curator and composer, Tod Machover, will create a new work that will be premiered by the orchestra in Roy Thomson Hall on March 9, 2013. The work will be called A Toronto Symphony: Concerto for Composer and City. A unique feature of this project is that Tod will create it with the citizens of Toronto!

I had the opportunity to chat with Gary Kulesha, Composer Advisor of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra about the New Creations Festival and how the idea for A Toronto Symphony came to be.

Gary’s role at the Toronto Symphony Orchestra is ‘Composer Advisor of the TSO’. You may be asking yourself, as I did, what that really means. Gary tells me that there’s often a misconception that he is a ‘Composer in Residence’. A Composer in Residence’s job is to write music. Gary says, “The TSO have played several of my works over the years, but really I’ve specifically written 4 works for the orchestra.  My primary role is in an advisory capacity in new repertoire.” Gary works closely with Music Director, Peter Oundjian, Director of Artistic Planning, Loie Fallis and Artistic Administrator David Dredla to consider and decide which new repertoire to include in the TSO’s New Creations Festival.

JG: Can you describe the New Creations Festival for someone who may not have experienced it yet?

GK: The New Creations Festival is designed to celebrate the newest of the new. It’s not a festival of “new music” (contemporary music spanning many decades) festival. This is brand new music. The New Creations Festival focus is on composers who are living and hopefully are able to attend the festival. More generally, the festival is celebration of creativity and new creation. There are always ancillary events in the lobby – Q&A’s, lobby concerts and so on.

The New Creations Festival is important to the Toronto Symphony mission because it highlights major international music figures who would not otherwise be presented to Canadian audiences. Unlike many smaller and regional orchestras, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra is able to bring composers like American John Adams or Estonian Peter Eötvös and Argentinean Osvaldo Golijov.  We mix international and Canadian repertoire, spotlighting them equally. Also, the Festival does a substantial amount of commissioning – in keeping with the new creations theme.

JG: Who is in the audience at the New Creations Festival?

GK: It’s hard for me to say exactly. But if I scan the audience it’s a mix of core subscribers (the New Creations Festival is on the subscription series) and people prepared to try something out of the usual.

JG: Tell me a bit about why Tod Machover was chosen as the curator?

GK: We were interested in Machover as a composer. So we began to talk about things like electronics and live instruments.  Andrew Staniland had at one time been our Composer Affiliate, and he has a particular interest in mixing electronics with live instrumental music.  It was exciting as the theme of Music and Technology took shape during our discussions.

JG: Who had the idea to create ‘A Toronto Symphony’?

GK: Well, we wanted Tod to take part in the Festival as the curator. Then Tod came to us with the idea of a new work that would be a portrait of the city, co-created with the citizens of Toronto, and he also came up with the title.

JG: What distinguishes Tod as a composer?           

GK: Tod has always been cutting edge. His technological innovations in music are second to none in the world. Access to technology is involving more people in music making at some level. I simply could not grasp the technology that Tod understands but working with Tod gives us an opportunity to demystify some of what we do [at the TSO] and involve the Toronto community. Figuring out how to apply music and technology to a large-scale project like this is exciting. It’s never been done before.

Tod is an incredibly creative guy – he brings an incredible wealth of music and technology in one package, which is extremely rare.

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