What was your personal motivation for forming The Hermes Experiment?
When Héloïse suggested forming the ensemble, I was keen from the start. I have always loved contemporary music, and the small forays I had made into free improvisation in the past had been really stimulating and affirming. Also, I was (and still am) at a stage in my career where I am looking to invest in collaborations and projects that I can see forming a core part of my future. It also didn’t hurt that the other prospective members were already valued friends!
Apart from the instrumentation, what would you say makes The Hermes Experiment unique?
For such a ‘niche’ looking ensemble, I think we are exploring a relatively broad range of avenues, the three main categories being new commissions, arrangements, and live free improvisation. I think we are offering a concert experience that is at once all about contemporary classical music, and very dynamic and diverse. Our approach to working with composers and other collaborators is also important in that we are as interested in the process behind each work as in the end product.
What do you see as the key to The Hermes Experiment’s artistic identity
I think the main key to our artistic identity is in the name – experiment; in all areas of our work, whether improvisation, performance, or collaboration, we aren’t afraid to try new things. This has already led to new ideas and discoveries, and this is a core part of what we have to offer.
How do you plan to tackle the potential inaccessibility of contemporary classical music?
The main reason that contemporary classical music is potentially inaccessible is that it is largely written in an unfamiliar musical idiom. In other words, audiences find it hard to relate to. Of course, we can’t make the new sound worlds of contemporary music suddenly familiar. However, we can aim to make them as engaging as possible, through successful collaboration and performance, and also as interesting and contextualised as possible through spoken programme notes and writing, such as in our blog.
What would you say is the most interesting part of the creative process you go through with each commission?
For me, the moment when we first see the initial draft, or key ideas behind a work, is incredibly exciting – it’s like opening a present early, but knowing that it is only going to get better and better. But perhaps what I find most interesting – in fact it amazes me every time – is looking at the overall trajectory from the first read-through to successful performance. Both as individuals, and as an ensemble, we spend extensive time getting to know each commission, investing effort not only into realising the composer’s ideas, but also into presenting an engaging performance for audiences. I take great joy in becoming so deeply acquainted with a work – I believe that it is through this level of investment that vivid performance is born. I also hugely enjoy the fact that with new commissions, it’s always possible to talk with the composer in order to explore and clarify ideas – a luxury that we are unfortunately denied for most classical music today.
Thinking of the ensemble’s future plans, what are you most excited about?
I am generally very excited about everything we are doing! In the longer term, I am really looking forward to potential collaborative projects with other types of artist, as well as exploring what we can offer in a creative learning context.