The Inside Story: Ian Erickson and PLAYING ON THE EDGE

Ian Erickson is a composer and performer from Southwest Missouri. He graduated from Missouri State University with two Bachelor of Arts degrees in music performance and composition, and he has extensive experience in improvisation. Many of his works aim to explore polyphonic textures through the use of complex rhythms and dense harmonies.

Currently, Ian is actively composing new works, working as a freelance performer, and accompanying dance performance classes at Missouri State University. There, he provides music on piano and drum set for ballet, modern, and improvisatory dance performance.

In addition to studying composition, Ian also attended the Port Townsend School of Woodworking. His studies at Port Townsend focused on traditional hand tools and joinery. Using those skills, Ian has engineered and built traditional and custom instruments utilizing acoustic materials for use in his own works.

Today, Ian is our featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our artists. Read on to discover Ian’s creative connections to the cities and landscapes of Iceland…

Who were your favorite artists growing up?

The first artist who ever resonated with me on a deeper level was Charles Ives. He fully embraced the unknown and was uncompromising with his art. His music was and is adventurous and exploratory; it reveals a purposeful chaos. He wrote what was genuine to him based on what he heard, not on what should be heard. Shortly after discovering Ives, I found György Ligeti. Ligeti’s textural and atmospheric approach to sound, as well as his fractal experiments, also resonated with me deeply. Outside of music, I have found a similar inspiration in Stanley Kubrick, particularly his film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the extensive creative team discovered some truly inventive techniques throughout that project. There is a common thread between 2001 and the rest; exploring the unknown and asking questions with no guarantee of an answer.

What was your most unusual performance?

The most unusual performance for me was probably as a kid in choir. I got overheated and leaned on my friend. I mentioned I might pass out, but I guess he didn’t believe me. He nudged me off of his shoulder and I lost consciousness. My mom ran up on stage to help. Everyone kept singing. She was kneeling over me, and stood up to pull me off the stage, but someone was standing on her skirt and she got pantsed in front of everyone. Probably a good thing I was out cold for that one.

If you could spend creative time anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

In 2015 I traveled to Iceland, staying near Reykjavík in the neighboring town of Hafnarfjörður. I spent a week exploring the eastern interior and southern shore of the island. Within a few minutes of driving from the center of Reykjavík you can find yourself completely surrounded by open and uninterrupted space: a diverse landscape full of mountains, plains, volcanoes, lagoons, rolling hills, moss, all their own unique color and texture. Every person I encountered was incredibly kind and their culture has such a wonderful reverence for the surrounding nature. Iceland and Norse-Viking lore are pretty inextricable from one another, which I enjoy. Some remarkable art has come from Iceland, and it seems to have an incredibly supportive and fertile arts culture. From the moment I visited, I have wanted to return.

What was your favorite musical moment on the album?

The Sirius Quartet approached my piece with incredible and excellent musicianship—a fact which is by far the highlight of this project. This was the first time this piece had been performed, so to hear it outside of my head, and by such a remarkable group, was beyond exhilarating. In addition to the quartet, everyone involved with this project has made it such a joy. From the creative team at PARMA to the staff at the Oktaven Audio, everyone has been so accommodating and worked hard to help bring this project to life. I’m grateful for all their hard work.

What does this album mean to you personally?

This is the first professional recording of any piece that I have written, so the entire process brought on many tremendous learning opportunities, such as the freedom to ask plenty of questions, and the ability to find helpful and insightful answers. I’ve learned a lot from Sirius Quartet and the staff on how best to approach unconventional ideas, which I will apply to future projects. It is such an honor to have been chosen to be a part of this project, and to have others put their time and energy into my music is something I am still trying to fully process.

Is there a specific feeling that you would like communicated to audiences in this work?

I guess I’ll take a moment to paraphrase an idea from Ives, in which he stated that expression is largely a matter of terms, and terms are anyone’s. With that in mind, I hope everyone who listens to öðlo will determine its expression in a way that resonates most with them, and on their own terms.

öðlo on PLAYING ON THE EDGE will be available for streaming or purchase through Navona Records on September 13. Click here to pre-order.

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