Interview: Kristin Rule

It has been a while since I have presented an interview here on WTYF, so here goes. Cellist Kristin Rule was kind enough to take some time to answer a few questions for us and give a very nice insight into the processes and workings of her compositional craft.

Kristin will be playing the Castlemaine State Festival on the 9th of April at 7:30pm, including the world premier of her moving images to accompany her show. Congregate earlier to join the slow ride bike ride to the venue.

[Whatever Takes Your Fancy]Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions Kristin. First off, what draws you to the cello, and in what ways does it best express your ideas and emotions?

[Kristin Rule] For me, as a composer, the most important aspect in music is Klangfarbenmelodie, which is german for tone-color-melody.  My ear and sensibility have been instinctively drawn to this concept (although, I don’t realise it in quite the same way as Schoenberg) and the cello, as a solo instrument, is so rich with colour.
[WTYF]You cite Davis and Coltrane as early influences; in what way did these artists influence you?
[KR] Well, I took up the cello when I was 12 because I loved the sound, then I heard the saxophone when I was about 14 and wow!!  Interestingly the tone of the cello is quite similar to saxophone, but I think what I fell in love with was the freedom and vibrancy of expression that the jazz world offered.  I set about at once to beg/borrow/steal a saxophone and commenced lessons.  I was naturally very gifted on saxophone and excelled rapidly, in all things music.  My passion for Jazz was high, so of course, Davis, Coltrane, Parker, Desmond were big for me.  I immersed myself in their music and I studied hard (jazz and saxophone). Up until I was about 19 I was adamant that I would become a professional Jazz Saxophonist… had other plans.
[WTYF] What is the process in composing a piece, in terms of using the loop station especially?
[KR] Composition is a very personal process, and it’s never predictable.  I tend to throw out an awful lot of material, ideas and thematic development before settling on what I think is the best I can do in that moment, nothing less.  Usually there is something that I want to convey, a feeling, thought, frustration, inspiration, but without having good compositional ‘craft’ these precious ideas are in danger of being without impact.  It all comes down to that old saying 10% inspiration and 90% hard work.
The loop station is interesting, as it’s quite restrictive, but that can be a good thing creatively.  Sometimes I know where I want to go with a piece but the ‘loop station’ solution is not obvious, so it becomes a problem solving activity.  I’ve now become quite comfortable with the RC50 Loopstation, I know what it can do….so it’s time for me to move onto the next challenge, which is already in the pipeline!
[WTYF] Do you feel less or more restricted in utilising a loop station as opposed to working with more musicians?
[KR] Jamming with musicians is so much fun, I love it, but working (say, as in a band) with musicians may not be in my nature.  I’m naturally a solitary person, I’ve never been interested in or taken part in team activities longterm.  This solitary nature is a very common trait amongst composers and I consider myself to be a composer first and foremost…..I just lost my way and found myself with a cello, loopstation and a deep passion for performance.
[WTYF] Given the chance, what other instruments/devices would you like to incorporate into future works?
[KR] Okay, time to open the pipeline?  I love live looping, I can’t quite get my head around anything other, it’s my classical training I’m sure….but I don’t want to use any pre recorded sounds.  What I want is to take the audience on a journey, with the music unfolding before their eyes. Personally, I’m looking forward to stretching the boundaries of the ‘Art of Looping’. I’m currently in the process of creating a new ‘rig’ that will enable even greater musicality, compositional freedom and looping dexterity…..the ideas and inspiration for a new album are within, but I’m very frustrated by the limitations of my current rig, including the RC 50.
Looping aside, I’m very tempted to return to a more traditional composer role, and recommence writing for string ensembles, voices and orchestral works.
[WTYF] You’ve recently undertaken some training in visual media development, what did that involve and how was the experience?
[KR] I was granted a residency and mentorship to create moving images to accompany my live cello loop performances.  For me, the experience involved learning the craft of animation and film making, at a basic level, so that I could start to express visually what I feel when I play music.  My eyes were essentially opened to a whole new world of possibilities.  The art of film making is another lifetime of learning, and I still have many more lifetimes of learning to complete in other areas… will I fit it all in?
[WTYF] You have some live dates coming up soon, what do you most enjoy about playing in a live setting?
[KR] I love to play the cello, I love to express my deepest thoughts and feelings through this wonderful instrument.  I am as happy performing to a crowd of people as I am sitting on a log in the forest practicing, it’s the sound, it’s the challenge of playing your best, it’s that feeling of the hairs raising up on your back and the comforting chills that this brings.  There is something beyond words at play, I daren’t try to express this further, for it can’t be held or named, so it can’t be owned, it’s just there, waiting for you.

Castlemaine State Festival, 9th of April, 2011 at 7:30pm….this is the ‘World Premiere’ of moving images to accompany my live performance of ‘The Knife that Cuts a Tear’.  After that, I’m jumping on my bicycle and riding off into the sunset, general direction Mildura, ultimate direction, the rest of the world.

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