Interview Will Dutta: ‘If Chopin Had Written For Vibes’

Although Will Dutta is primarily know for his contribution to the world of neo-classical music, he does an awful lot in his spare time…

Although Will Dutta is primarily know for his contribution to the world of neo-classical music, he does an awful lot in his spare time. When he’s not composing electro symphonies, you will most probably find him producing concertos or fulfilling his role of Music Co-ordinator at the National Portrait Gallery. However, Mr. Dutta recently found the time to focus on an extraordinary long-player effort, ‘Parergon’, featuring his blend of classical and dance, as well as a handful of colourful collaborations.

So we took the time to catch up with Will, and get to know him and his music a little better.

Now that you have time to look back on it’s release, are you happy with the final product?
Yes, I’m really happy with it and it’s helped massively by the fact that I’m surrounded by these really experienced collaborators as well as Curtis Schwartz and Guy Davie who recorded and mastered it.

If you could travel back in time, would there be anything that you would change or tweak, in hind site, after witnessing the final product and it’s reaction?
The process of recording the piano was really interesting, things that up until that point I hadn’t given much thought to really effected the overall finish so whilst I wouldn’t change anything on this one, I will be more aware of the possibilities next time.

So now that you have released ‘Parergon’, will you be straight to work on the follow up, or will you perhaps tour this one a bit?
I’m launching the live show at the BFI on 20th June and plan to tour in the Autumn as I love playing as much as I’ve now got a taste for recording. I’m having to adapt the tightly knit production into something equally as interesting live which presents a challenge but also an opportunity to work with some incredible people like visual artists Xavier Perkins and Damian Hale and percussionist Catherine Ring and turntablist Richard Lannoy.

The album has a few collaborations too, which ones worked best for you and why?
I am particularly proud of ‘Overcolour’ as it was such a huge piece to work on. The challenges were many! It was also a good excuse to hang out with Plaid who, between Ed and Andy, have such a wealth of knowledge and experience that I felt like I was learning the whole time.

Then, did the different collaborators bring anything new to the table, or were you in full control?
The collaborators totally helped shape each work. For example. Plaid and I did an Aldeburgh Residency where we came up with the main ideas for ‘Overcolour’, and whilst I knew I wanted it to be the central piece to the album, I certainly couldn’t have envisaged the final version. Take the ending, I had a loose idea in my mind of how it might come about but what they actually came up with was so much better and in that respect it was great to know they were thinking as much about it as I was.

Could you tell us a little bit about the recording process?
I spent just over a day recording the piano parts at Curtis’ studio. Having played most of the pieces live in some form over the last couple of years the electronic parts were mostly done and all it required was for each of the collaborators to tighten up the mix between the two parts in their respective tracks. So it was pretty easy for me after the recording - I just had to wait for them to appear in my inbox which was always an exciting moment! Having said that Max did decide to re-write his piece on the day of the recording so that was interesting!

Your personal life holds connections with art, as does your music. What would you say is more inspirational for you? Art or music?
Ultimately music is the bigger inspiration for me otherwise I would have been a visual artist but I have learnt a lot from seeing how artists work: they develop their practice and critically reflect on their work in a way most musicians don’t and so I have found this to be a particularly useful way of working.

The sound produced is very unique. Were there any standout influences? Being musical, artistic, literary…
It’s great that it comes across as unique but the standout influences were as much the collaborators themselves as my background in modern classical music: the likes of Messiaen and Ligeti loom large as their use of colour is incredible.

Sadly, the piano has been slightly disregarded within the majority of modern music, generally replaced by either synthesisers or guitars… What inspired you to play the piano? As opposed to the other available percussion instruments?
It is a shame that the only piano people tend to hear is that slightly over-abused pop-piano way of playing chords, as it is one of the most expressive and complete instruments. I instantly loved its sound and once I started delving into the piano repertoire I discovered that some of the most incredible music had been written for it so I definitely fed off that. If Chopin had written for vibes though…

So now that the album has been released, what’s next for Will Dutta?
I’m working with Max de Wardener again on a piano concerto with live electronics and this will be premiered in November with the Heritage Orchestra at Village Underground – it’s shaping up quite nicely

‘Parergon’ is available now. Will Dutta will be performing at London’s Southbank Centre on 20th June.

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