Monday, June 4, 2012

Interview with Spanish composer Anthony Ocaña regarding his musical rendering of Ferlinghetti's "DOG"

Madrid (Spain) based composer and guitarist  
Anthony Ocaña

I caught up with Anthony during my last trip to Spain, and we talked at length about his new vocal chamber ensemble piece setting of Ferlinghetti's "DOG", which will be premiered on June 12th of 2012 at 8 PM at Saint Peter's Church (Manhattan) by New Music New York.  The piece is scored for two female singers, violin, guitar, percussion and narrator with megaphone.  Instructions for the piece indicate that it is to be semi staged: the violinist is a derelict and is to wear pajamas; the guitar player has his case open to take donations, as if he is playing in the subway and the two female singers are two hip chicks from town...

Tell us a little bit about your idea with "DOG", what's the concept?

DOG is a composition inspired on a poem by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, it's a funny poem that deals with serious topics; there is this dog walking through the streets of a big city, who contemplates the human-social environment that surrounds him.

From that global concept of the poem, I decided to write a piece that contained the beauty of city rush with the sense of this dog walking freely through it. When the heavy pulse of the city is interrupted, a narrator starts to recite the poem, as if he was some philosopher contemplating his environment on the tranquil waters of a sleeping city or as if he was the "DOG". There is a theatrical element in the music; it does not culminates in sound, and it asks the musicians to get involved as actors in the process of delivering to the audience the spirit of a big city and its rush, and the spirit of "DOG".
Why this poem?
I came home one night late after a party, and I opened my email and read that I needed to decide which poem I would use for this concert ASAP. I opened an anthology on Beat generation poets that I had on my hands and it coincidentally opened on the poem "DOG". In those days I was discovering the music of a composer that I highly admire, Moondog. I read the entire poem and fell in love with it; and it was then and there that I knew what music I was going to write for it, and I knew it was going to be my secret homage to you can tell I'm not good at keeping secrets.

What was your compositional process with this piece? 
I dressed like a dog and started walking around Madrid, where I live, in order to incarnate the poem and convert it into music..actually that's a lie... I just love cities and have always lived in cities such as Ne York, so I'm familiar with how they feel and smell. As I said before, as I was reading the poem for the first time, I knew what music I was going to write, so I sat in front of my computer with guitar in hand and started materializing what was in my head. I knew I wanted the poem to be narrated, the poem itself is so musical that it needs to be heard as the author wrote it.

What are you up to these days?
I'm touring with the Anthony Ocaña Trío (violin, cello and guitar) and writing music for the group; we recently published an EP and we will be publishing three more EP's based on my compositions for the trío in the course of 2012-2013. I'm also performing solo guitar concerts, composing music for a film and music for different performers such as the wonderful Uruguayan pianist Humberto Quagliata.

Composer and guitarist personal voice is influenced by classical, contemporary, jazz, minimal, pop, Caribbean and Latin American idions. Born in Dominican Republic (“D.R.”) and became a Spanish citizen on 2007, currently residing in Madrid. Ocaña has recorded five albums: “A Paso de Cebra” with Sebastian Lerner (2001), “Anthony Ocaña” (2006), “Solo” (2008), “Wet Fields” (2010) and “Placeres” (2012).

...a real live
    democratic dog
engaged in real
  free enterprise
with something to say
           about ontology
something to say
  about reality
           and how to see it
           and how to hear it
with his head cocked sideways
           at streetcorners
as if he is just about to have
     his picture taken
                  for Victor Records
           listening for
    His Master's Voice
 and looking
         like a living questionmark
           into the
                  great gramophone
              of puzzling existence
           with its wondrous hollow horn
       which always seems
               just about to spout forth
            some Victorious answer
         to everything

excerpted from "DOG", in the poem collection, "A Coney Island of the Mind" by Lawrence Ferlinghetti