Tania León: What it Means to be an American Composer

Tania León: What it Means to be an American Composer

12. Recent Compositions

FRANK J. OTERI: You just got back from Hamburg. What were you doing in Hamburg?

TANIA LEÓN: Thereâs a festival in Hamburg that actually closed for the century. And I was invited to open the Festival with a work of mine called Drummin’ that utilizes supporting orchestra, 21 percussions of different cultures, plus 3 percussions in the orchestra, so that means that itâs actually 24 or 25 percussions total. And this is the work that opened the entire festival. And then I actually was invited to write a piece for the NDR Orchestra. And this actually was the piece that closed the festival. So I actually…

FRANK J. OTERI: Closed and opened the festival.

TANIA LEÓN: Exactly.

FRANK J. OTERI: Wow. Any chance of us hearing those pieces?

TANIA LEÓN: I have no idea. Well, I know that Drummin’ is a piece that was written for the forces of the New World Symphony and the percussionists in area of Miami and the piece was actually performed in November 1997. So I was very, very surprised that this festival in Europe was actually interested in the piece. And the piece utilized 70% of the percussionists from Miami. They were flown into Germany and then 3 other groups, percussion groups from Senegal, from India, and from Turkey actually participated as well.

FRANK J. OTERI: Over the weekend I went to see Robert Wilson’s The Days Before: Death, Destruction & Detroit III, I’ve always been interested in his work. You’re worked with him as well on Scourge of Hyacinths.

“It marked the 50th Anniversary of the Human Rights Convention.”
RealPlayer  [77 seconds]
RealAudio sound clip
Sound sample – Sound sample – TANIA LEÓN: from Scourge of the Hyacinths

(Exclusive to NewMusicBox, Courtesy Peer-Southern)

TANIA LEÓN: We started working on it last year and it opened in Geneva, Switzerland on the 19th of January, it marked the 50th Anniversary of the Human Rights Convention which happened right there in Geneva.

FRANK J. OTERI: Is this your first opera?

TANIA LEÓN: It’s my first opera, it was written in 1994 for the Munich Biennial. And this is the second time that it was on. The first time it was staged by Mark Lamos, and then Robert Wilson took an interest in it, and it was a spectacular situation. We were very favored by the critics from different countries…

FRANK J. OTERI: So who did the libretto?

Scourge of Hyacinths
scene from Scourge of Hyacinths
photo courtesy GTG / Carole Parodi

TANIA LEÓN: I did the libretto myself. And it’s based on the text by Wole Soyinka, with his approval, of course.

FRANK J. OTERI: Did Soyinka come to the performance?

TANIA LEÓN: Yes. It was an incredible event.

FRANK J. OTERI: Any chance of the production coming to America in the near future?

TANIA LEÓN: I have no idea. I know the producers are working diligently.

FRANK J. OTERI: Any chance of a recording happening?

TANIA LEÓN: Actually, I believe that the Orchestre of the Suisse Romande is working on that endeavor, at this point. I mean, they were very interested in getting that CD out.

FRANK J. OTERI: Terrific. I know I’m a very big fan of the one disc that I have on CRI, and I’d love to have more recordings of your work. I’d love for there to be more recordings of your work out there.

TANIA LEÓN: Thank you.

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