Centerstage Spotlight: Annika K. Socolofsky

The Albany Symphony gives voice to  new and innovative works by some of  today's most adventurous composers.   Meet the composer and vocalist Annika K. Socolofsky.

1) For people who might be unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe your music and from where do you draw inspiration?

My music comes first and foremost from my background as a vocalist. It all originates from the timbre and resonance of the human voice.

2) We are excited to hear you sing at the American Music Festival. Can you tell us about your experience working with Michael Daugherty and John Daugherty on This Land Sings: A Tribute to Woody Guthrie? Did you have a relationship with Woody Guthrie’s music before working on this song-cyle?

Working with Michael Daugherty and John Daugherty has been a wonderful experience. The last time we performed this piece was at its premiere with the Tulsa Camerata in Woody Guthrie's hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Tulsa is an amazing community, musically vibrant today and with a rich musical history. I grew up hearing Woody Guthrie, in particular This Land Is Your Land, which my family always sung at family reunions; family members would stand up during the song when their region of the US was sung.

3) Where did your passion for music and composition originate?

My love for music has always been a huge part of my life, but my love for practicing has never existed. I think for me, composition was a way into the music that valued creativity above practice and precision.

4) In addition to your role as a soprano in This Land Sings, you are composing a piece for the Water Music NY Erie Canal Bicentennial Celebration, that will be previewed at the Festival. How does your work as a vocalist influence your work as a composer?

I sing everything that I write, regardless of the instrumentation I'm writing for. I think embodying the music through my voice helps me write more lyrical and gestural music, and also helps heighten my awareness to timbre. Every instrument sings in its own way--it's just a matter of finding a voice for each instrument that really expresses what I'm feeling vocally (and emotionally).

5) Can you tell us more about your avant-Isles folk band, Ensoleil, and describe the ways in which you incorporate traditional music and new, creative styles into your repertoire?

Ensoleil is a group of five women composers who have backgrounds in classical music as well as Irish, Scottish, and Quebecois traditional music, jazz, and American folk revivalist music. We play an assortment of concerts and contra dances (a type of American folk dancing similar to Square Dancing). We write a lot of our own music individually, but then bring it to the group where it really comes to life in a collaborative way. Since we've all got backgrounds in contemporary classical music, we often end up pulling out some of our composer stops by doing things like playing in 5 keys at once, spending hours developing nuanced textures, finding new and elaborate ways of text painting, and coming up with bizarre and very nontraditional grooves. In the end, we're all friends who like to get really nerdy about the music we love.