Lev's Interview

Our opening concert this season features the Boston premiere of a work by one of our dear friends, Lev Mamuya.  I have known Lev through Project STEP since he was about 3 feet tall and eight years old!  He is currently entering his second year of the Harvard/NEC program, and I am honored that he took the time to write a piece for Winsor Music (our 5th from him).  

What are your days like in the Harvard/NEC program? What are you currently studying/what are your majors?
Life in the Harvard-NEC program can get busy indeed! Most of my class time for now is spent over at Harvard, working towards my degree in History and Literature, but I make the trip over to the conservatory about twice a week, for lessons and studio class. I'm also a frequent participant in Harvard's Music 189 chamber music course, taught by the fantastic Parker Quartet, and a member of a small, conductor-less chamber ensemble, the Brattle Street Chamber Players. And you can often find me in my upperclassmen dorm's common room late at night, trying to squeeze in just a little more practice time after my homework is done!

How do your liberal arts courses inform your music education/music making and vice versa?
I've always found the dialogue between my academic coursework and musical pursuits as an essential factor in the pursuit of meaningful musicality. "loosely turing," one of the pieces on the program, was inspired by some of the work I did in both a History and Literature class and an installation and video art studio I took during my spring semester this past year. Engagement with historical and literary texts, as well as with various forms and philosophies of performance has been imperative for me in placing different performance practices within a more robust historical context, and deepening my view of the role of the performer in today's society.

Can you tell us about any of your other compositional projects (for school or otherwise)?
Right now, I'm working on a piece to be completed this spring for Brattle. It's the first piece I've written for string orchestra, so it's been an exciting process!

What is your performance life like right now? Do you find yourself gravitating more towards one type: chamber music, solo performance or orchestral, etc? If so, why do you think that is? Is there a type you’d like to be doing more of?
My performance life has been lovely as of late! This summer I did a bit of performing on some of the concerts at the Banff Centre's masterclasses for winds and strings, and during the year, I'm  usually active, giving a number of small, mostly chamber performances with friends around campus and the Boston area. I've always enjoyed and gravitated towards chamber performance since I was very young, but I relish the opportunity to really dive into solo repertoire head first as well. This past summer, I studied and performed the Crumb Sonata for Solo Cello, which was an immensely fulfilling experience.

Is there a particularly meaningful performance experience you’ve had during your time in college?
Picking just one performance experience is so hard! This past fall, I performed the Ravel Piano Trio with two wonderful friends and musicians, as the culmination of a semester's work in the Music 189 Chamber Music course. I've also participated for two winters now in an intensive chamber music workshop during the last week of winter break, that's put together chamber music programs for performances at the Harvard Club of New York, and Princeton University. Being able to interact, workshop, and polish pieces alongside a group of dedicated peers has definitely been one of my best musical experiences at school.

Can you tell us about your process for this new Winsor commission? What inspired you? Was there anything about this process or the result that was markedly different from your previous works (either for Winsor or generally speaking)?
This piece, "loosely turing," was, as I mentioned, inspired by a lot of work I did in my History and Literature sophomore tutorial class, which focused on the historical and literary depiction of new media from the advent of the telegraph, up to the modern day. In reading about Turing's work concerning the powers of computation, I marveled at his amazing predictive powers--in many ways, Turing defined bounds of what machines like computers are capable of a considerable time before the invention of such devices, and those bounds remain largely unsurpassed. In my studio art class, I explored many similar themes, especially as the related to the bounds and failings of human perception, and the distinction between humans and machines. Much of that exploration is reflected in the structure of the piece, and the way melodic fragments are stitched together and refracted through different parts of the ensemble. This was really the first composition where I've drawn such direct inspiration from an academic source.

You have performed on all of your compositions for Winsor Music. Do you find that you write differently when you know that you’re writing for yourself as opposed to when you’re writing for someone else/another instrument?
Writing for different instruments and orchestrations is always a unique challenge, and I'm so lucky to have had such support from Peggy when writing pieces for Windsor in understanding how to orchestrate for instruments like oboe, with which I wasn't as compositionally familiar initially. In terms of a distinction between writing for myself and other cellists or string instrumentalists, though, there's no real noticeable difference--it never really enters my mind while I'm writing that I'm writing a part for myself. In fact, a couple of years ago, my teacher asked me to write myself a cadenza for the Haydn D Major cello concerto, and when I had finished, I was astounded at the difficulty of the cadenza, and as a performer was more than a little unhappy with myself as a composer!

A lot of people talk about college as being a time of your life where your mind is constantly being blown wide open. Is there something you’ve learned in the last couple of years that has surprised you or changed your perspective? (The kind of thing that you can’t stop explaining to your family when you’re home on break.)
Just the experience of living by myself in such an exciting community of peers, and engaging with extracurricular, academic, and social obligations is a source of constant amazement for me! I feel as if I've learned a lot about myself and the place I would want to occupy in society as a professional and an adult.