In conversation with David Griffiths
Posted by Zita Whalley on 28 Aug 2015
Musician and educator David Griffiths is one-third of Ensemble Liaison, a unique chamber music partnership that emphasizes a collaborative approach within their practice. Collaborating with guest musicians and other artists across artistic platforms, Ensemble Liaison’s process is immersive and involved from the get-go. We ask David about Ensemble Liaison’s process, within themselves and with guest artists.
How does the collaboration process usually start?
It very much depends on the type of project we are doing. At the very beginning of the process though, we always start with discussions, meetings, skype calls, coffees and background research. Sometimes we have in mind an artist that we are keen to work with. In that case, we then work out what the project might involve. That can require a lot of listening and watching along with meetings to discuss ideas.
How does collaboration differ when working within one artistic platform, as opposed to working across multiple ones?
Collaborating within one artistic platform is a much more straight-forward process. When we are working with fellow chamber musicians it is just a matter of getting into the rehearsals in our usual way, and learning the work, then making artistic decisions as we go.
Working within an ensemble over a period of time, a degree of intuition and familiarity must come into the collaboration process. How does this familiarity affect working with outside musicians and artists?
We most definitely have a large amount of familiarity with each other and intuition after playing together for over ten years. It also doesn’t hurt that we are all good friends! Our rehearsal process is usually relaxed but very involved. Quite often our guests will stay at our houses and during the rehearsal process we will literally eat, sleep and drink that particular program. This way we all get to know each other on a much deeper level which enhances the musical experience for everyone, because thoroughly knowing how each other plays makes it easier forguest musicians to join in. We are always very flexible our guest’s ideas. Hopefully it is an enjoyable experience for them!
Ensemble Liaison once collaborated with puppeteer Peter Wilson. Can you tell us a little about this experience and the collaboration process?
The collaboration with Peter Wilson was an incredible experience for us. We were very lucky to have the opportunity to work with him. He is much more than just a puppeteer. His experience as a director, producer and writer is vast. We didn’t really quite know what to expect, but the collaboration process in this case was completely different to what we were used to. The initial processed involved several sessions at Peter’s place talking through ideas, listening to music, watching videos and looking at puppets, to get ideas for our concert. We were starting from scratch so it took many goes to come up with a theme. The most important thing was to find music that would inspire Peter, that we could also effectively arrange for the show. Then it was a matter of developing a story, finding the puppets, making the costumes, designing the lighting, rehearsing and so on. We had no idea what we had gotten ourselves into but at the end of the day it was an incredibly fulfilling experience.
For your recent Melbourne Recital Centre concert you played Mahler’s 4th symphony arranged for chamber ensemble. What is it like performing such a grand composition with such a small group?
The particular arrangement of Mahler’s 4th that we performed was done by Klaus Simon in 2007. In has become quite a popular arrangement that has been performed around the world relatively often. This particular symphony lends itself well for a chamber arrangement. It is his shortest symphony and written for the smallest number of instruments. The Simon arrangement is for 14 instruments and Soprano. It completely changes the listening experience of the work without losing the character and spirit of the work. The sound is much more transparent, giving every instrument the opportunity to be clearly heard within the texture. We are very much looking forward to this project, as well as having the opportunity to collaborate with ten of the wonderful students from the Australian National Academy of Music.