Composers at Home: Christopher Stark

Momenta is excited to share Composers at Home, a selection of interviews with some of our favorite colleagues. While musicians and audiences around the world are staying at home, we hope this will help bring us together and spread the joy of music until live performances can safely resume. Please enjoy the first interview! Composer Christopher Stark lives in St. Louis and is Assistant Professor of Composition at Washington University.

Christopher Stark, photo by Laura Bianchi, courtesy of the Bogliasco Foundation

What is an early musical experience that has stayed with you throughout your career?

The first time I saw an orchestra (or chamber orchestra in this case) was during my freshman year of college when the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra toured to Missoula, Montana and played Copland’s Appalachian Spring. That experience completely blew my mind and set me on a path of wanting to be a composer.

Is there a particular favorite book/movie/TV show you’ve recently read/watched that you’d recommend?

I’ve recently been reading the art criticism of Rosalind Krauss, which is just brilliant and very applicable to the field of music. I’d recommend her essay entitled, “Grids.” As for TV, I’m really invested in HBO’s My Brilliant Friend––mainly for the incredibly chic production! I also watched the film Booksmart recently, which is very funny.

What are you doing for fun while socially isolating?

Listening to a lot of music, cooking, and enjoying spending time with my wife, Jenalie. We recently bought some jump ropes, and we walk a lot in our neighborhood park. St. Louis is having an absolutely stellar spring.

Have any aspects of composing changed for you during the coronavirus pandemic?

Yes, I am composing a lot less, primarily because of postponements and cancelations. It’s a welcome break, as I needed some time to reassess what I was trying to accomplish with my composing.

Do you have a performance of your work that you’d like to share?

Yes! I’d love to share a two-minute excerpt of the most recent piece I completed before lockdown. It’s from a twenty-minute piece for violin, electronics, and video called 2nd Nature. It was set to be premiered in March, but the performance was postponed. In this excerpt the violinist plays a pattern inspired by Bach over dozens of layers of loops, many of which are slowed down or have variable speeds. The video was taken on a train in Japan last year and also at a busy intersection in Hanoi, Vietnam. The video was put together by Zlatko Ćosić, and Shawn Weil is the violinist.

An excerpt of 2nd Nature for violin, electronics, and video by Christopher Stark

If you could have dinner with any figure from any time period, who would it be and why?

Martin Short! He just seems like one of the most witty, spontaneous, and insane people ever! I think I’d laugh harder than I’ve ever laughed in my life.

Chris in Thailand!

For more information you can visit www.christopher-stark.com. His new album Seasonal Music is available on Bridge Records. You can hear Chris talk about the album in this recent interview from St. Louis Public Radio- This St. Louis Composer Created A Climate Change Soundtrack