Box Not Found

clarinet & violin

Composer Spotlight: Ariel Friedman

We are so excited to be presenting our program, Box Not Found: Stories, with you all so soon! Stories is a program we hope will give you a very close understanding of our featured composers, and of course, a pleasant new music experience.

For this post, we have the pleasure of introducing you to Ariel Friedman. Natalie first met her during her time as a member of the Semiosis Quartet. Natalie really enjoyed playing with her, and she became quite fond of her care for detail, her baking skills, and her impeccable apartment beautifully decorated with all sorts of plants. Eventually, we came to realize she is not just an amazing cellist, but that she is also a composer! We spoke about a potential collaboration with BNF for this program and she accepted.

We will be premiering her piece “Joshua Fit the Battle” on Sunday, November 4th at 4pm in the Cafe at the Somerville Armory. We will also be performing this work later in the week on Friday, November 9th at 6pm at The Cornelia Street Cafe in NYC.

I hope the this discussion with Ariel gives you a glimpse of how wonderful she and her music are!

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1- Do you tell stories through music? 

As both a composer and songwriter, I aim to weave something beyond just notes into my music. Sometimes this is a story and other times it is a gesture toward another piece of music or a poem. I am especially drawn to cross-artistic forms of music: poems inspired by paintings, music inspired by poems, pieces that tell a story, compositions that span both folk and classical idioms. These juxtapositions help me to understand the ways that I approach art and expression, which are not limited to a single medium. I compose in the same way that I approach two of my favorite hobbies, sewing and baking: for me, turning seemingly disparate ingredients into a new whole is an act of devotion. I believe that I compose to extrapolate or distill meaning into something that I can wrap my head around. I get really excited when I uncover something I didn’t previously notice in a poem or a pre-existing piece. Usually the process of uncovering comes from the act of composing itself, not from some revelation before I start working. It is this process that drives me to keep writing.

2- How would you compare storytelling to composition? 

Both are acts of creation and engagement. Stories and pieces of music can be born from the writer’s imagination or retold from an existing story. I love that both types of art offer themselves selflessly to the listener/reader, thus allowing that person to reflect on the piece or story within the context of their own lives. 

3- Can you tell us a little bit about the story you chose for your piece? 

In 1961, my father was 10 and lost his older sister, Linda, to kidney failure. The pain was so great and there was no support for grieving families at the time, so his parents—my grandparents—removed all evidence that she had ever lived. A year later they had a “replacement child,” my uncle, who did not learn about Linda until he was a teenager and found a box of get-well cards in the attic addressed to a sister he never knew he had.

About a year ago, my father and his two brothers decided to bring their sister back into the light by creating a memorial award in her name. (More info on Linda and the award can be found here).

I grew up with photos of Linda in the house and have always known this story, but when the memorial award was set up, I wanted to retell her family’s story in my own way. I wrote a Pecha Kucha poem—a series of short vignettes—based on this story and more recently, turned it into a piece of music for Box Not Found. 

4- Why is this story important to you? 

It is my family’s history and I believe it is so important to know where we come from—to air out the past through openness, honesty, art, and discussion, and to create our own present and future, standing on the shoulders of those who came before us. 

5- Could you give us 3 of your favorite story books? 

Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne

Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger

The Lupine Lady by Barbara Cooney