Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

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10 Questions (or so) for...
The Calder Quartet

July 07, 2011

The Calder Quartet

When it comes to the exciting young chamber music ensemble sweepstakes, there are few collectives quite as exciting as Los Angeles’ hometown heroes, The Calder Quartet. Comprised of violinists Benjamin Jacobson and Andrew Bulbrook, cellist Eric Byers, and violist Jonathan Moerschel, the members have risen rapidly since their days at the Thornton, Colburn, and Julliard schools to become one of the most in-demand ensembles for a variety of music, both new and old. They’ve had a major hand in new music circles playing new commissions from the likes of Christopher Rouse, whose recent String Quartet No. 3 will be reprised by the quartet along with other works when they appear in Santa Fe, New Mexico, this summer as part of this summer’s Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival on July 28 and 29. They’ve made recordings of the work of Rouse and Thomas Adès, and later this year will see the release of a new recording with quartets from California legend Terry Riley who has also had a long standing relationship with the quartet. And if that isn’t enough, they’ll be back in Southern California this September for the latest installment of the Carlsbad Music Festival, which they helped found with composer Matt McBane and is rapidly growing into a major new music event in California. The adventurous Calder players aren’t afraid to cross musical boundaries either and have performed with a number of independent popular music acts including Airborne Toxic Event and Vampire Weekend in between their appearances at venues like Carnegie Hall. Luckily the Calder Quartet’s Jonathan Moerschel was able to take some time out to sit down for the Out West Arts 10 questions.

  1. You’ll reprise your recent performances of Christopher Rouse’s String Quartet No. 3, a work you helped commission, at this year’s Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. What’s the best thing about working with a living composer?
    It is always very informative to be able to ask the composer questions about the sound or character they were going for. In the case of the Rouse quartet, there was a section that Chris said should sound like Soupy Sale's character, White Fang. It was much easier to find the right sound when we knew what image to visualize.
  2. What do you miss most about LA when you’re on the road?
    The food! Los Angeles has the best food of any city I've ever been in. You can find any kind of cuisine here. I think I miss the Mexican and Asian food in LA the most.
  3. You recently had your very well received debut at Carnegie Hall. Are there other major stages or venues you’d like to play but haven’t yet, or is it all downhill from here?

    Though we've played in many great halls in the US, there are still so many out there, particularly in Europe that I would love to play in. There are always some interesting venues out there, many off the beaten path.
  4. The Carlsbad Music Festival, which you helped create, is becoming the California summer music destination of choice. What’s your goal for the festival and can you give us a sneak peek about what to expect this year?

    The Carlsbad Festival has grown a lot since it was started. We have had a composition competition for the last 5 years or so, which has allowed us to commission at least 1 new work every year. This year's winner is Jacob Cooper, who is in the process of writing us a piece for this year's festival in September. We haven't seen the piece yet, but are thrilled and excited to start work on it.
  5. When should I clap?
    One should clap when they like what the musicians are doing, but preferable not while they are playing. It never bothers me when the audience claps after a movement is over because it is really nice to know that they are enjoying themselves. It's fun going to a jazz concert because you can clap after one of the players takes a solo.
  6. You’ve worked with a dizzying array of other artists from Gloria Cheng to Vampire Weekend and Airborne Toxic Event. Who is on your wish list for future collaborators? 6b. And may I suggest Joanna Newsom?

    There are so many great musicians and collaborators out there, that it is hard to say. I think we enjoy working with anyone that shares the love of the literature, and the interest in finding ways of taking our audience on a musical and artistic journey.
  7. What made the four of you want to play music together as a group full time?

    I think it was a mutual love of the quartet repertoire, both old and brand new, that inspired us to continue exploring that music together. We seem to have a shared sense of taste when it comes to this music. We also enjoy finding interesting ways to present the music.
  8. Having performed music drawing from so many different traditions and genres, is there anything musically that the group is not interested in trying its collective hands at?

    We are always interested in getting better at improvising, arranging, and composing, but learning the music of old and new composers takes a lot of our time.
  9. What’s the next big thing we should be looking for from the Calder Quartet?

    We look forward to new commissions by composers Peter Eötvös and Andrew Norman, and are releasing a limited edition vinyl LP of two early string works by Terry Riley. The record and jacket include artwork by LA artist, Dave Muller. We are releasing this record in honor of Terry's 75th birthday.



I love them. Seen them so many times. Amazing musicians and total hotties.
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