Intervista a Lori Goldston


Continuo a pubblicare le interviste fatte ai musicisti che venivano a suonare al Btomic, il circolo ARCI gestito da miei vecchissimi amici che non esiste purtroppo più. Le interviste venivano pubblicate sulla loro rivista, Btomiczine, che ora non trovo più online.

Lori Goldston è una violoncellista che è diventata famosa per il live unplugged con i Nirvana. Dal video potete farvi un’idea del suo stile musicale.

In realtà Lori ha suonato ogni tipo di musica immaginabile, è versatile e ama le sfide, come potete leggere nell’intervista qui sotto. Enjoy!

I saw you are in tour, promoting your new LP?

Yes, it’s a vinyl and it’s actually my first solo album. I don’t have it yet, but I got an email today that it’s in Brussels now, so I’ll pick it up… it’s coming out, it exists in the real world now. It’s called Film Scores and it contains work I’ve done for silent films and also for some new films. I like film a lot and I’ve also worked a lot with dancers, which is kind of similar for me, translating visual movement, spacial movement… I like to perform in public, I’m more of a live player, that’s why I haven’t focused that much on recording.

You have played in all kinds of settings, and you seem to have played with everybody, not only Nirvana, which I think they ask you about in every interview. But I’m curious to know if playing with Nirvana was an insight into a different kind of music for you?

I’m happy to answer, but there’s a long record from that… yeah, it was a totally different setting and also different music. I wasn’t really playing with bands that much then, I was more into playing experimental music, I was classically trained and I’ve played a lot of folk and jazz on guitar, so it was a whole new world.

You seem to have played every kind of music.

Yeah, I like that. I’m very open. I like a lot of variety and I’ve been lucky… it’s been amazing. I like to be challenged all the time. If I don’t know how to do something I like it better, then I have to think and learn new systems.

Since you were classically trained, how did you start getting in touch with different kinds of music, what made you feel like changing your perspective?

Since I was a kid I’ve always listened to a lot of different kinds of music. I started on guitar, then I played jazz and folk. What I was doing on the cello through high school seemed so separate. It felt strange that there was so much of a gap: I couldn’t really improvise much on cello and I didn’t really know how to integrate with the other kinds of music, so that became a focus. Maybe starting in high school.

Once I was in college I was exposed to a lot of people playing a lot of different things, so that opened the world up very quickly for me. It was also very frustrating: for a long time I didn’t know anybody else who was doing it so I felt really lost, but I’m glad that I pushed through. I run into a lot of cellists in the same position now; they are in their late teens or early twenties, and they come to me like they want answers or something, nobody understands what they’re doing, their teacher just thinks they’re doing weird, it’s kind of a common problem, I think less common now but there are a lot more people playing things besides guitar, bass and drums and there are a lot of cellists around, and violists and violinists…

Do you still play guitar?

Yeah, I do… it kind of goes up and down, how steadily I’m playing it. Last year I was playing it a lot and I felt like I got better for the first time in a really long time… but now I’m rusty again. When I’m home and I have time to practice I still really love to play guitar.

Do you have a different way to play the cello, a different technique from the classical one?

Yes, some of it came just from avoiding injuries… for years I had a lot of injuries, you know, normal tendinitis and that kind of thing… and I think I do a lot of things that you’re not supposed to do on cello and so I just had to work out my own technique over time. Some of it is just weird bad habits but I think I also kind of hear things differently so this just made me work out some technical things in a way that’s a bit unusual.

Can you tell me something about the music you compose?

It varies a lot. There are formal or semiformal things in the film scores, in the Film Scores album, for instance… that’s evolved over time. Generally I start with choosing certain musicians for certain projects and then I try to work around how I feel they would work best. Some people really need a lot of structure, but different people need different amounts of structure, different kinds of structure… so I’ve tried to adapt to what players need to feel comfortable, to really be able to shine.

Sometimes things are written all the way, beginning to end, very formally and sometimes it’s just sort of like, you know… “make some sound like the wind”. I’ve rarely composed anything thinking “I want to write something for violin” and then just finding some violinist, usually I imagine a specific person, a specific feeling and I guess it’s part of the bigger subject of moving beyond my classical training, beyond the classic formal Western thinking about notes and the will of the composer and to have more feel… this comes from playing a lot of jazz and rock… feel, time, and atmosphere… I try to think of it expansively in that way.

What do you enjoy the most?

I like a lot of variety, the more the variety, the better… I’m happy when I’m doing something different every day, variety is sort of my thing, I like to be learning and I like to be on the spot. It’s nice to keep moving. That’s the pleasure for me, absolutely. I try to keep learning all the time, that’s the real exciting part.

By the way, I saw you were scheduled to play in Istanbul and obviously the gig has been cancelled [I interviewed Lori in July 2013]. I guess because of what’s going on there these days. What do you think about it?

I was going to play at a festival, and that was cancelled, and it’s an open question about whether I’ll go and do another show. I have a ticket already so I could go easily from Berlin. Nobody knows what it’s gonna look like there in three weeks. It’s very exciting and it’s a little scary… I’ve spent a little time there, I have friends there and I’m very concerned for everybody there… it’s also really exciting what they’re doing, I mean… I guess it’s their turn to shine!

I have friends there whose opinion I really trust, so when the time comes, if they say don’t come here, I won’t go, but as it stands the actual physical violence seems to be concentrated in certain places… it’s hard to say, things have gotten very bad there within living memory, so… but it’s really a place I care very much about, it’s like one of those places where you go and you’re like “wow, OK… I’ve gotta come back here, many times”.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been there, I’ve been feeling kind of overdue being there and I really would like to go, but maybe it doesn’t make sense and I don’t want to make any stress for the promoter and maybe people don’t feel like going to a show, you know… I remember doing a show when the WTO riots were happening in Seattle and it was really nice, actually. It’s sort of my universal answer to everything: music is the best.

Sure, it’d be great for them to go to a show, it’s nice for people to be together, and relax a little, maybe it’s a nice chance, maybe in that situation it’s also nice to feel you’re not isolated, people are still coming and going, and there’s a certain amount of normalcy… I can’t really imagine what it feels like there now, it’s really unclear. In my city there was rioting and tear gas but you didn’t have this feeling like the hammer was really falling from the federal government, I don’t know what that feels like. It’s really violent, it’s such a clear combative signal from the government…

I’ve been touring, so I haven’t been keeping up with the news and it’s hard to know what’s going on. Fortunately I have really reliable sources of information, my friends are in the middle of it and I’m keeping up with them, so… it can get really dangerous there, I have a friend who’s a couple of years older than me and she remembers there being gunfire on the college campus when she was in medical school, and you would take your life into your hands if you went into the wrong part of the campus… things can get bad anywhere but there they’ve gotten bad many times.

The interview has been edited for clarity

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