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HAPPENED TODAY - On November 12, 1944, the conductor and composer Edgar Stillman Kelley died in Oxford (Ohio)

Gity Razaz


Hello, Gity Razaz, and thank you for accepting to answer our questions in this interview. From Iran to the United States: can you tell us about the country you come from, and the reasons for your transfer?
I was born in Tehran and emigrated to the United States with my mother and sister. In 2002 my mother was invited to Texas Children’s Hospital to do research related to child neurology and she brought us with her.

What were the fundamental stages of your training as a musician and composer: where did you study music, in your early years and why? Were there musicians in your family?
I started playing the piano at age seven and began composing music intuitively when I was nine. My parents are both physicians and I am the only musician in my family.

How and when was your interest in the composition born?
I started playing the piano when I was seven and by the time I was nine, I would spend most of my time at the piano improvising and composing original tunes instead of practicing. I sometimes would get in trouble because I would show up to my lessons unprepared, but I also had a lot of encouragement from my mother and some of my piano teachers.

What were the most important professional goals of your artistic career?
When I write music I always have to have something to say — it’s a personal requirement that feeds my creativity so that I can write music that excites me and more importantly engages the listeners in a deeply visceral and emotional transformation.

This is the most important goal of my work as an artist. What, from his point of view, are the most significant composers in your artistic training?
Of composers of our time, I am fond of Kaja Saariaho, Einojuhani Rautavaara, Thomas Ades, John Luther Adams, John Corigliano, among many others. Of the composers of the past, my favorites are Machaut, Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Debussy, Bartok, and Shostakovich, to name a few.

Have you ever had relations with Italy? For example, do you know the composers of our ‘900? 
So far I’ve had three of my pieces performed in Italy in various cities — I have yet to visit Italy in person and cannot wait for the first opportunity to do so! In 2017, I was a composer in residence at the Chautauqua Opera Company where they produced the American stage debut of Respighi’s orchestration of Monteverdi’s L’orfeo. I got to study Repsighi’s life and music and really got to know his brilliant work as a composer.

More than one review in the specialized press talks about the coexistence, in your compositions, of Middle Eastern and Western elements. Do you agree? Do you think this is the most significant feature of your compositional style?
I don’t believe it’s the most significant feature or a defining one. I believe that, in my case, my life experiences, and personal journey have had a much more significant influence on my musical voice and style than my place of birth. In order to get a clear picture I’d have to tell the circumstances under which I moved to the US, but without getting into too much detail, I’d say that after living in the US for more than half of my life I think of myself just as much American as an Iranian, but more significantly I’m an immigrant. And the process of emigration, the turbulence, and drama of “uprooting and rebuilding” as I experienced it has shaped my identity as an artist.

Among your choral compositions, in particular, Lux Aeterna seems to me to express contemporary restlessness, but with a language well-rooted in the polyphonic tradition. What is the relationship between songs like this and the Eastern and Western choral tradition?
I used to sing in a chorus in Houston, Texas and in New York City for many years and my experience singing as well as my education in Western Classical Music tradition inform my choral compositions.

In your opinion, an instrument so ancient, and with such a classic sound as the cello, can easily lend his voice to a modern compositional style like yours?
I’ve written quite a lot for the cello (multiple solo pieces with and without electronics, a cello octet, a cello concerto, as well as a piece for baroque cello) and I find that one can create music that is original, moving and organic to the nature of that instrument regardless of style or era. Of course one must know the instrument well enough to know its capabilities, its strengths, and weaknesses.

Contemporary music and dance: you have already addressed this commitment. Do you consider your music as a trajectory or a route to move bodies in space, or as a metronome, but an interior one, or as a project, to free the gestures inscribed in your ego?
When I’m composing a score for dance, I am collaborating with a choreographer so my music is essentially following the dance and the choreographer’s vision. I would say that my experience in this area has been similar to composing for film.

Do you usually compose on the piano? When composing do you prefer to fix your musical thoughts with paper and pencil or do you use music software?
I start by sketching my ideas at the piano with paper and pencil, and as ideas begin to solidify I go back and forth between the piano and computer. In our generation, all composers must use music software to produce their scores unless they work with a copyist who does all the engraving of the music in a computer program.

Have you already recorded your compositions for some record company? 
Although I don’t have a commercial album dedicated to my music just yet, several of my compositions have already been featured on multiple albums by different performers.

Your music already has great success and the reviews of appreciation and esteem for your work are numerous in the specialized press. In your opinion, what are the characteristics of your audience? Is it an audience that has already made a journey of knowledge of contemporary music and therefore appreciates its? Or is it an audience that also comes from other contexts (es. jazz?) and therefore instinctively and naturally perceives your compositions?
I think my music can speak to a wide range of audiences with or without knowledge of classical music because of its emotional and dramatic nature. I don’t always think about a specific audience when I’m composing but I do think and care about what and how I’m communicating with the listener. I’m always interested in the emotional unfolding and the trajectory of my musical structures.

In addition to being a musician and composer, you also carry out a rich teaching activity. Do you want to talk about your commitments in this area?
I love teaching music especially composition and orchestration. During the process of teaching my students, I find myself learning new things or finding new solutions to specific challenges

What will your next commitments be: can you indicate the most significant ones?
In the next few years, I will be composing a piece for the Houston Grand Opera, a new chamber work for Latitude49 Ensemble, a choral commission for the Brooklyn Youth Chorus as well as an Orchestral work commissioned by Grinnell College.

Dear Gity Razaz, thank you for your attention to our website and for your willingness to answer our questions. Best wishes for your career but above all for your life, in all its aspects.