Composer Highlight: Leah Asher / by and Play

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Leah Asher is a long time bestie of andPlay, and we were so thrilled to finally be able to commission and collaborate with her this year on a new piece. We are all heart eyes over here!  Her piece, letters to my future self, is incredible, and we will be premiering it on April 21, 2018 at Areté Venue and Gallery on a show that we are splitting with the fabulous horn trio, Kylwyria. Come out out to hear some truly wonderful music!


What was your experience like writing for violin/viola duo? Was there anything unexpected about the writing process?

Since I’m a string player myself, I’ve written a lot of music for strings and I feel very comfortable both writing in this sound world and having clear expectations of how the performers will interpret my graphic notation. This particular duo was very special to write both because I play violin and viola and because I’m close friends with the Maya and Hannah. Because of those relationships, I felt an extra freedom to try out something new. This experiment turned out well, I’m excited to say, and you’ll hear it specifically in the section where Hannah and Maya are reinterpreting words into sounds on their instruments with some spoken phonemes. 

What is your relationship to the voice in your compositions? How did you know you wanted to use speaking/singing in your piece for andPlay?

The use of speech and vocalization in instrumental parts is becoming more and more frequent in my work. With just a click, hum, whistle, or phonemes, adding vocalization to a piece can render abstract music immediately more relatable, because everyone or nearly everyone in the audience has experience with making or hearing those sounds themselves. The concept for ‘letters to my future self’ came pretty early on in the process. I knew that I wanted to ask a variety of people from different age groups to write letters to their future selves and that those letters would somehow be the foundation for the piece. I planned for at least parts of these letters to be presented in a way that the audience would concretely understand. So, there are sections in the piece where you will hear direct quotes, and other places where just fragments emerge. 

Is there anything you would like the audience to know before hearing the piece?

This is a piece about what people want for themselves and want to tell themselves. All of the sounds that aren’t text are written in graphic notation, which means that I have created a pictorial representation of the sounds that I would like to hear. 

What are some of your bucket-list travel destinations?

South Africa and Thailand are on the long-term bucket-list. More locally, Nashville! Maya and I are going to road trip this summer and it’s going to be rad!! 

If you could only bring one snack for a ten hour flight what would it be?

Endless chips and guacamole. In an ideal world, where this wouldn’t be totally impractical on a plane. 


Check out more of Leah's music and projects on her website!