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Joseph Hallman Remixed

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C. 2009 RA Friedman tsirkus.orgA classical composer whose work has been self-described as “Bach meet Bjork,” Joseph Hallman  (@hallmancomposer)  has composed for members of the Philadelphia Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, and the Cleveland Orchestra. He recently returned from a successful premiere with the St. Petersburg Chamber Philharmonic in St. Petersburg. His compositions are widely acclaimed, receiving positive reviews in the New York Times, the Washington Post, as well as local newspapers. With a great deal of awards and accomplishments under his belt, Hallman is celebrated for his ability to write for a specific musician and collaborate well with other artists and composers. And to top it off—Hallman has yet to turn 30.

Having delved into classical compositions and the improv/experimental music scene, Hallman decided to challenge himself with another ubiquitous music genre: pop music. But he didn’t stop there. After creating his first pop album, Hallman collaborated with other musicians and DJs to create remix.

After listening to gogreengo and re[gogreengo]mix, and attending his "Listening Party" at Apothecary on Thursday night, Philly2philly's Rachel Dukeman caught up with Joseph Hallman to get a sense of what makes this artist tick.

Your process for creating gogreengo (the original source material for the remix) was different than your normal process. What prompted this inspiration?

I limited myself to using only what I could find in my house and instituted a time limit of three days. Totally nonsensical- there was no real reason for three days. It was an arbitrary number I created to give myself limits and a tangible goal. The process was my first time attempt at "pop" music and I had to teach myself as I went. It was a blast!

You normally write with a musician in mind. Who --or what-- did you have in mind for this EP?

For the original album, "The EP" that is, not the remix album "re[gogreengo]mix," it was a kind of self-indulgent challenge for myself. I constantly want to learn and so by setting challenges for myself -sometimes arbitrary- I learn and grow in my own way and time. The original album was a tool of growth for me. I had never done "pop" music before. So, I set my limits and threw myself against the wall, so to speak.

The remix album was an extension of this. I wanted to have the re-mixers experience that same sort of challenge- so they had the limit of using almost only the source material. This was tricky because the source material was recorded entirely on a laptop microphone- no fancy equipment or studio. This album was also educational for me. I could analyze how each of the re-mixers responded to the material and learn their tricks!

This EP is a lot more like "pop music" or dance music than the classical music for which you are known. Has creating this album influenced your classical compositions at all? How so?

Definitely. I think it opened me to lots of new ideas and sounds. I am much more open to simple forms and textures now. I love the playfulness of improv that is somewhat inherent in pop. I have learned so much in so many ways from both albums. It's been tremendous.

APO crowd. C. 2009 T. ReynoldsYou mention the "noise" in the music a lot. Do you find music in "noise" often? Where do you find inspiration from "noise" most frequently? What locations or what noises?

I do find much music in noise. Sometimes it the rhythm a loop of noise can create or the texture. I mine sounds all the time. Sometimes at a bar or restaurant I'll take out a recorder and collect glasses clinking or people talking or air conditioners, generators, etc. People's speech is so unique and colorful that I sometimes record it as well. Anything and everything is fair game.

Your music has been described as lyrical or poetic and you are often inspired by poets such as Rumi. Gogreengo utilizes voice. Is there a direct relationship here? Can you speak a little about the literary aspects of your work?

[sighs] For me this was the most difficult aspect. Lyrics beguile me. Poetry eludes me. I wanted the text to not be so informative or formative but the music to tell the tales. Obviously the voice is such a unique instrument and layering and processing it can create different sound worlds easily. The next album, VIM, will utilize a lot more text and I have enlisted the help of some poets and writers to help me do this. It'll be another learning experience- a new challenge.

How did you select the DJs for the remix?

I wanted to have a diverse roster of musicians and DJs, and initially proposed the project to 8 people. Two backed out for time commitments. I wanted a very unique diversity of mixes and mixers- I felt each of them would bring something so different and original to the table. I also wanted to have a number of local musicians. So, I chose DJ Carl Michaels. He wanted to do four mixes as a team effort with his producer-partner Jamie Johnson.

Also from Philly, Megan Cauley, of the band Gemini Wolf, did a mix. I love Gemini Wolf's music and asked them because I felt they would bring something soulful and dark and well-done. 

Paul Pinto, is a composer on whom I have a musical crush. We have worked together since 2007 and I love what he does. He has influenced me so much and it felt only natural that he should do a mix. 

Michi Wiancko and I share many mutual friends, and though we never met, I had to have her involved. I listened to her "pop" album "9 Death Haiku" and was floored. It is a gorgeous creation: one of intimacy, love, passion, and an intelligent and wistful playfulness. As a violinist, Michi has toured the world, released multiple albums, played with Yo-Yo Ma, Pinchas Zukerman, and musicians of their talent. I was awed by her mix. Layers of violins and the addition of her lush, beautiful voice became the heart of this album instantly. 

Peter Clement's music struck me as urgent and almost primal though entirely electronic. I liked the atmosphere he created and wanted something similar for the album.