Interview with Amit Weiner
"Ancient Echoes of Psalms"
By: Jerusalem Duo
JUNE 26, 2018
Photo: Dalia Desiatnik
On June 24th we had the privilege to perform a world premiere of Amit Weiner's new composition
"Ancient Echoes of Psalms" - Three Dances for Harp and Saxophone.
We spoke with Amit about his inspiration and working process on the piece.
Jerusalem Duo: "Ancient Echoes of Psalms" is quite challenging work to perform. It demands a lot of skills which we haven't really used on stage before. Beyond any doubts, the most challenging skill is singing. Being instrumental musicians, we are used to "hide" behind our instrument when we play on stage. The fact that we have to sing some parts alone and in two voices is a whole new feeling of exposure. We actually took some singing lessons to get over this strange new feeling. The parts where Andre plays saxophone and simultaneously using a foot tambourine / triangle or when Hila plays harp with one hand while playing a shaker with the other demands a lot of time and concentration in order to reach perfect synchronization between us.
What were your challenges while composing this piece?
Amit Weiner: The use of different skills which are required from the performers is one of my goals and ambitions as a composer – I want to extend the limitation of the instruments and the performers. I almost always compose for commissions, and for specific players.
I love to meet, talk and hear the performer I am writing for.
Jerusalem Duo: Amit, we know each other for a long time. Back in the days of our bachelor studies at the
Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, you were one of our professors.
Were you surprised when we asked you to compose for us?
Amit Weiner: We do know each other for a long time, and I had the privilege of arranging for Andre a few times during the last couple of years, so I was very happy indeed to receive this commission from your Duo and to compose a piece specifically for the two of you. The composition process was one of the best I have ever had, due to the ideas cross-exchange between the three of us. I believe that having a live interaction and constant dialogue between the composer and the performers is the best way to write music and I would like to thank you for that.
Jerusalem Duo: "Ancient Echoes of Psalms" consists of various elements, besides a harp and a saxophone, the piece also has 3 almost independent movements, spoken verses from the Book of Psalms, use of percussion instruments and singing.
What was your inspiration behind those musical choices?
Amit Weiner: "Ancient Echoes of Psalms" has many influences, all combined into one composition. The presence of the harp, made me think about biblical King David, one of our first musicians. Scanning through the Book of Psalms which is attributed to King David, I searched for verses with musical connotations and combined them into the piece.
Besides that, both of the players also sing and speak through the piece, as if they are extending their own instruments to something beyond its regular limitations. They also play percussion instruments, my intention was to achieve a kind of a biblical dance and a ritual atmosphere.
The influences in this piece range from one of my favorite composers George Crumb, to J.S. Bach and a French waltz.
How does it all blends into one whole? Well, that is always a mystery to me. Let the listener be the judge of that!
This was the process with this piece as well.
While composing "Ancient Echoes of Psalms" my biggest challenge was finding the right balance between the harp and the saxophone in terms of sound and material. There is a difference of almost 4800 years between the instruments!
So I had to look for a way to merge the different ethoses, sounds, and technical capabilities of the instruments.
Besides that, it always takes me some time to "find my way" in every composition. I find the beginning to be always the hardest part! After that, usually, things move faster and with more ease.
Jerusalem Duo: How would you describe the experience working with us?
Amit Weiner: In five words – the dream of every composer!
Writing for such dedicated performers, so sensitive and open to new ideas (Sometimes very crazy ideas) – This is truly the best a composer can get!
Jerusalem Duo: Well that is probably the right spot to express our gratitude to you.
As a unique ensemble, we feel delighted, excited and deeply honored that we had a chance to extend the existing repertoire for harp and saxophone with such an extraordinary piece. We were so happy when you agreed to write for us and we knew right away that the experience is going to be very special. Living in two different countries (we in Germany and you in Israel) was never an issue for trying out stuff (thank you Skype / WhatsApp) and you were so open to accept our requests and thoughts.
We believe that we all can be very proud of the outcome. "Ancient Echoes of Psalms" is most definitely a huge milestone in our career. We are sure that our mutual work with you is going to be continued in forms of other surprising projects.
Thank you very much.
“Toda Raba” :)
THE SAME 5 QUESTIONS
And now for something else.
Jerusalem Duo: We would like to start a new series of interviews with people we collaborate with. Each interview will end with the same 5 questions.
Would you mind being the first one to answer?
Amit Weiner: Do I have a choice…? :)
Jerusalem Duo: No, not really... :)
1. How do you relax?
Amit Weiner: I usually go out for a run or a nice walk in the park.
2. What have you been listening to lately?
Amit Weiner: Baby Mozart, because of my newborn baby… but before that, I love listening to Rachmaninoff in my car.
3. Who would you most like to have dinner with?
Amit Weiner: Igor Stravinsky!
4. What would you like to be if you weren't a musician?
Amit Weiner: I think I would like to be an actor.
5. If you were a musical instrument, what would you be and why?
Amit Weiner: Definitely a Piano. Only black and white. Nothing in between…