We never even mention the connection, but how is it possible to completely ignore one’s paternal descent from a figure like Sergei Prokofiev? Sergei’s sons ended up in England, and Gabriel Prokofiev is the British-born grandson, working in music on his own accord, and discovering a voice in his attempts to drag the ‘academic’ world of classical music out of the ivory tower and onto the dance floor.
“Well, I’m more and more a composer,” he mentions, regarding his performance background, “but I can play the (recording) studio (laughs), and various Logic audio types of software. I do play the piano; and synthesizer, I suppose, is the instrument I’m most expert on. I played french horn and the trumpet when I was younger (but) my lip is a bit out of shape.”
Gabriel is coming to Calgary courtesy of the Honens International Piano Competition, which introduced in 2012 an element of ‘cool’ to the ‘strict’ environment of ‘classical’ music: “With a nod to ‘Le Poisson Rouge’, New York’s ‘it’ venue for cutting-edge performing arts in a bar/club setting, Honens Bison Noir fuses performances of classical and post-classical music in a cabaret setting and removes formal traditions.”
Given that the performance will be in a venue self-described as ‘Local 522: Kitchen & Public Tavern’, this is right up the alley of the composer whose String Quartet #1 was performed in an adventurous British nightclub and whose own career has included a ‘punk-funk’ band, electroacoustic works, and grime-style dj-ing.
“I’m interested by a lot of different genres of music, and performing them in different situations outside of the classical world, and I do DJ myself . . . The piece we’re going to be performing with Honens is called “Two Dances” (2004), which is for piano, string trio, bass clarinet and DJ (which Gabriel will be doing himself). With the DJ specifically in there, it’s just treated like another instrument, being aware of its unique character and possibilities. With Two Turntables (“Concerto for Turntables & Orchestra” (2006)), performed at the BBC Proms in 2011), I was aware that it was one of the first concertos for turntables, and I wanted to reference the origins of ‘turntablism’ which mainly is in hip-hop music.”
After discussing the relative merits (and occasional horrors) of composers and performers that attempt to cross boundaries or combine different musical cultures together, Gabriel clarifies:
“I just want to write music that really connects with the world I live in, and not something in its own tiny bubble. Contemporary classical music, especially in Europe, is accused of being a bit too ‘academic’, a bit too self-analytic and self-conscious. Classical music used to be a lot more part of everyday life, and it did use to reference popular music and popular dances: ‘minuet’ was a standard dance, and ‘waltz’ was a folk dance. Now ‘waltz’ is a sophisticated classical dance, even though originally it was a raw village dance.
“When I look at contemporary classical music now, there’s a huge cavern (in the kinds of music that isn’t being made or could be made) between classical music and other, really interesting music, whether it’s sonic art, electroacoustic, improv or electronic dance music. There’s a lot of space there where the worlds could come together more.”
Prokofiev as musical diplomat. Come groove, drink, eat & enjoy.
Bison Noir: LOCAL 522 (522 Sixth Avenue SW)
Katherine Chi piano; Gabriel Prokofiev turntables; Shauna Rolston cello
Saturday, October 5 (10:30 PM doors at 9 pm) and Sunday, October 6 (8:30 PM doors at 7 pm) Ticket Info: www.honens.com, 403-299-0130