E-mail Interview with Olga Manulkina, July 2003

(Edited and published in the form of a 20-page article in the book "On Dutch Composers". Published St. Petersburg, 2003. ISBN 5-93356-033-2)

As a child you moved from the USA to the Netherlands with your family. Are you grateful to your fortune and your parents for this?

Fortune is something one has no control over, but I'm definitely grateful that my heritage isn't exclusively Dutch. My parents' profession and interests made it possible for me to be exposed to a very wide range of cultures, which have all had an influence on my thinking and on my work.

Is there a place in your life and work for Dutch-American collision? Or collision between Dutch-English languages?

Definitely. My primary thinking language has always remained English and even in my contacts in Holland I find - with one or two exceptions - that the most inspiring and valuable ones come from different cultures. Artistically - and politically - my leanings have always gone to the West, or otherwise, radically, to the Far East. The freakish combination between experimentalism, freedom and a harsh market economy as can be witnessed in the States seems to me one of the healthier cultural anomalies.

What instrument do your play?

I do not play anymore. I started with the piano, moved back to the harpsichord and finally regressed entirely to the church organ - via the electric guitar: like many teenagers the spirit of rock music was endlessly inspiring to me. In some ways this gradual "regression" backwards - towards the origins, runs parallel with my compositional "development". Besides composition, I finished my conservatory studies on the church organ but threw it aside at the first opportunity at being able to live as a professional composer. Nonetheless, the influence of the organ and of rock music has been large on my compositional thinking as well.

What influence have your composition teachers had on you? Whom else do you consider an influence on your work?

I have had several good composition teachers, but I can't say any of them has had a major influence on me. With the exception of Louis Andriessen, most of them moved in very different cultural and ideological circles. For that reason, they were probably the best teachers for me: the more akin you are to your teacher, the less liable you are to really learn something about yourself. My heroes have alternately been: John Cage, Tom Johnson, Peter Garland, Gerald Barry, Rage against the Machine, Bjork, the recently deceased Paul Termos, Michael Gordon, John Tavener, Mikael Gorecki, Richard Meier, Daniel Libeskind, Moorish architecture, Japanese rock gardens, Ketjak music, Irish folk music, Korean Court Music, Milan Kundera, Herman Brusselmans, Edward Hopper, Jasper Johns, James Tenney and Harry Potter. (As with most influences though, no listing is very meaningful without one's pet hates, which often say much more. Here they are:
Arnold Schoenberg (every single note), Pierre Boulez (nearly every single note, with the exception of "Rituel" and the "Improvisations"), Academic "university composers" worldwide, Sir Harisson Birtwistle, Jonathan Harvey, all postmodern architects, "developmental" artists and "oeuvre builders" of all types and sorts, and any other type of pretentious artistic fraud. The list is not very extensive, but then I don't dwell on them very much, except for some ruthless fun, such as now)

Could you dwell on your musical creed, which is “centered on anything pertaining to the -probably imaginary- "credibility" and "necessity" of the (Art) work”?

This is somewhat of an ideological statement pertaining to "the form of content" (to quote the artist Ben Shahn). It's a stance, which implies that every activity must have an in inborn compositional necessity. First, stemming from the inherent laws of the composition and then translated towards the musicians' activity, which should be functionally linked to the laws of the work. I.e.: no unnecessary, illustrative action, the “inside” is the "outside". Ideally the form of a work has a logic, which only needs exposing, and nothing else. Contrary to some opinions, I