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27-10-2020

Interview with Arend Gerds

We are very excited that Arend Gerds offers his own classical compositions for wind music through Sonolize. He studied at the ArtEZ conservatory with Alex Manassen and Montclair State University (USA) with V.J. Manzo and Ting Ho, where he earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in composition. Besides teaching composition at the Zwolle conservatory, Arend is also a conductor and not to mention a father. Arend is a very friendly, passionate storyteller.
We have interviewed Arend Gerds and would like to introduce him to you.

What was it like to study with V.J. Manzo. Talk about a barrel full of ideas ...
Super. I look back on it with great pleasure. Not only because of the study, but also because of the fantastic city of New York, where I could be found almost daily to visit concerts and museums. With Manzo, as part of my master's research, I investigated how programming (algorithms) and composing on an acoustic level go together. This resulted in compositions for musicians and "computer", which created a musical dialogue between player and computer.

How do you get inspired?
Composing is often about creating problems and then being able to solve them yourself. This requires an analytical ability so that even from the idea of what it should not be, you arrive at the idea of what it should be. Inspiration is great, but annoying when you depend on it and it is not there. As a composer you develop tools to achieve results without inspiration. Apart from this, fortunately there is more than enough "food" for inspiration, including from other art disciplines such as painting (Mondriaan, Kandinsky) and the collaboration with inspiring choreographers. I also really appreciate the substantive dialogue with colleagues. I personally experience an abundance of ideas; the challenge is how you develop them.

What characterizes your composing style?
I think, an approach to composing from the idea of autonomous parameters. This means leaving melody, rhythm and harmony in their own function and value as much as possible, so that they are not servants or slaves of each other. This approach is about finding an optimal balance between these parameters within a compositional idea. What plays a role, of course, is the question for who you write (level, instrumentation, 'desired' sound idiom). This determines how freely I can deal with the autonomy of the parameters.

How do you keep developing yourself as a composer?
By continuing to compose. Compositional problems keep coming, just like the solutions ...

Is it an advantage to be taught composition? And how do you prevent yourself as a teacher from steering too much instead of stimulating someone's personal creativity.
I think so, because the development of compositional tools, a strong analytical capacity and a sharp presentation is facilitated by a training based on craftsmanship. That does not alter the fact that there are also self-made composers who manage very well without training. What an education also offers is the awareness of your position as a composer within a historical context (certainly after the last century). It is striking that not everyone is aware of this.
As a teacher you safeguard creativity by adopting a non-normative approach. From a pedagogical point of view a very interesting fact. You guide students to new discoveries to enrich or help them further. The word discovery is beautiful in that respect, that which is covered, you discover.

And speaking of creativity… Does creativity go well with commerce?
That certainly works well. Also, with originality. I accept that as a composer I often have to write in an applied way, because of the client. The art for me, when writing on commission, is to find my own fascination within the limits that lie there.

What does a typical working day look like for you.
I don't really have a typical working day. I often start around 9:00 am with the work that has to be done at that time. This can be composition related, teaching or preparing for a rehearsal. Composing always continues and can be done at any time. The nice thing about working from home is that you can.

One Covid19 question anyway… What does this period mean for your work besides the social and financial problems.
More time for composing. Many activities are canceled, which means that I often sit at home and can compose. Thematically / substantively it means nothing to the work I am writing at the moment. I notice that I miss the social contacts, what I experience during teaching and conducting, at these moments.

How do you see the future of the musical landscape. Did your choice for Sonolize play a role in this?
Difficult question. I think it would be desirable to have a future in which composers are not too dependent on external matters but feel the freedom to function from "the idea" that arises within themselves. As a youngster you experience that there are influencers and institutions who leave a considerable mark on things. Especially when you want to participate in the 'playing field'. All kinds of interests play a role.
What I appreciate about Sonolize is that composition-related matters remain under the control of the composer, which guarantees my freedom and independence. In an ideal world, the main thing remains the music itself. Publishers, platforms or institutes are only peripheral phenomena in this respect, which, on the other hand, can contribute very positively.

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