What was your personal motivation for forming The Hermes Experiment?
For me, the founding ideas of Hermes, especially the emphasis on extending the boundaries of ‘new’ music and improvisation, were really exciting. As a bass player specifically, I knew that the technical demands of the new repertoire would be challenging, but this virtuosic element was also an attractive prospect. By pushing yourself to have a technique without limits, you give yourself the ultimate freedom of expression in improvisation.
Apart from the instrumentation, what would you say makes The Hermes Experiment unique?
The status of each group member as a mini composer/arranger; this could be in the traditional sense of putting pen to paper to create something for the group, but also in the sense that each member is a composer in real time during group improvisation. Each member also has a strong creative input into both the in-rehearsal musical decisions as well as the artistic direction of the group.
What do you see as the key to The Hermes Experiment’s artistic identity?
Open-mindedness to new scenarios for musical communication, be this new venues for performance, unusual collaborations or new musical structures. Rather than our instrumentation and lack of repertoire being a limitation, it is actually incredibly liberating for us as a group as we know that we are creating something entirely new, with few existing conventions, so in a sense we don’t feel like there are many creative barriers for us.
How do you plan to tackle the potential inaccessibility of contemporary classical music?
Another key element we hope will always be at the core of our artistic identity is the insistence on making our performances communicative and compelling, in both their musical and extra-musical content. We all feel that new music should never be an in-joke, and audiences should be able to relate to a piece without being patronised.
What would you say is the most interesting part of the creative process you go through with each commission?
In our most recent project, it was a real pleasure having the composer present as an active participant at nearly all rehearsals; in most of our previous experiences of new music projects, composers tended to be brought in at the last minute. There was an amazing stage we got to once the piece had really taken shape and we were fine-tuning exactly how to make the performance most effective. We all felt invested in the piece and the composer’s vision, and had equal input into performance decisions.
Thinking of the ensemble’s future plans, what are you most excited about?
I’m excited about several new collaborations in the pipeline for our next season, including projects with artists from other domains. In the next year, we are commissioning works from new composers whose music I already know and love, and it’ll be fascinating to see what they produce for us. It’s really exciting to be part of a group that is evolving so much with each new project.