Interview with PARMA Composer Scott Brickman

This past August PARMA Recordings released Scott Brickman’s newest album on Ravello Records titled 96 Strings and 2 Whistles. The album is broken down into five pieces, French Suite, Wind Power, Divertimento, Partita, and the title piece, Ninety-Six Strings and Two Whistles performed by the ensemble Eight Strings & a Whistle and pianist Beth Levin.

This is Brickman’s third album on Ravello Records. Brickman is a Maine based composer and Professor of Music and Education at the University of Maine at Fort Kent.

We caught up with Scott to talk to him about the recording process, his newest album, and the great state of Maine. Read more below:

This is your third release on Ravello Records – how do you feel about your growth and catalog looking back at these three albums?

First off I feel like I’m very fortunate to have three albums out with top notch performers. Really, there are a lot of very talented people for whom the stars haven’t aligned that way. Sometimes I pinch myself to make sure this is real.
While we’re looking across your three releases on Ravello Records, what do you think stands out about each release and what do you want listeners to walk away with?

One perceptive performer friend of mine said that there is a “sense of play” that she detected in my music. What I would like listeners to walk away with, is that this music is accessible and fun for sympathetic and imaginative listeners and the composer is having a blast writing it.
Your new album, 96 STRINGS AND 2 WHISTLES, includes a number of styles and varieties – what’s the common thread that ties everything together? 

I think what stands out is the relationship to the Western Art Music canon, filtered through a late 20th-early 21st Century lens. Sure other modernists absorb vernacular features into their scores, but, movement III of my French Suite *is* London Calling, and, without coming of age in the late 70s and early 80s and being a fan of the Clash, this couldn’t have happened.
You worked with the same group of performers for the entire record.  How did you come to select Eight Strings & a Whistle and Beth Levin for the music?
Paraphrasing Jerome Kern, “they selected me”. ESW played at UMFK in 2011. We connected at that event, and one thing led to another. Of all things, Beth Levin is a neighbor of one of the “band”. Their putting me in touch with Beth, that just may make me believe in divine intervention.
What was the recording process like for this album, compared to your other releases?
All of them are the same. I’m hands off. The performers pretty much do what they like. And I have been immensely pleased with what the performers have done on all three albums.
Having stated that you are interested in a wide array of music, what would you say a few of your most influential albums are?
Both The Beatles’ White album and Weezer’s White album, Boulez’s old Columbia recording of him conducting Le Marteau and Livre pour cordes, Stravinsky’s 3-lp set on Columbia of him conducting his three famous ballets, Nono’s La Lontananza Nostalgica Utopica Futura, and Dzintars, The Latvian Women’s Choir.

Having taught at University of Maine Fort Kent since 1997, what are some trends you notice with today’s students compared to when you started?
Well, students are more technologically savvy. They tend to be more compartmentalized than the ones I had twenty years ago.
Maine is known namely for being the home state of Stephen King, and the setting for many of his novels. What is something that you would want outsiders to know about both Maine and your home state?
Maine is BIG. It’s bigger than all of the other New England States put together. It takes longer for me to drive from one end of Maine to the other, than it does from me to drive to New York City from the southern tip of Maine. I’ll speak for the St. John Valley. We’re more diverse than people might think. Yes, Maine is comprised primarily of old white people. But, here, both because of our proximity to the Canadian border and because of our University’s successful athletic programs, there tends to be a lot of internationals up here, and for me, that’s a definite plus.
What else should we know about you?

I had never been to Europe until I visited my oldest daughter there in the spring of 2015 when she was there as part of a junior year abroad. My oldest daughter hooked me on Europe. I’ve been four times in the past two years and I plan to go again. Some of my most memorable musical experiences are the ones I’ve had in Eastern Europe. I can’t wait to go back.

96 STRINGS & 2 WHISTLES is now available – listen to an excerpt from the album here:

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