E-mail Interview with Olga Manulkina, July 2003 - part 2

believe there eventually IS only one "correct" solution to a musical problem and this should be immediately discernable for an audience as well. There should be no question about one's intentions. The "credibility" part applies to the content of a work, which for me should be in synch with the artist's own character and beliefs. The degree of speculation should run parallel with reality. I'm mainly interested in musical "truths" and a credible relationship between Art and human life. I don't believe in posturising or pretending to be possessor of some hidden musical mysteries and am generally distrustful of those who think they are.

Your music is commissioned and played by various famous ensembles. What is specific in your collaboration with each of them (besides the instrumentation)?

First, naturally, there's the Percussion Group (The Hague). The discovery that I had a propensity for percussion writing came relatively late in life. For me, percussionists are the ideal musicians, ranking top on my list of musical performers for their knowledge of sound and for their ability to make music out of anything. Just like some composers they will not stop before they have found the right sound. This attitude is diametrically opposed to the conventional music scene in which instruments and groups of instruments are believed to sound in one specific way only, with centuries of historical development to back up this claim. Their basic set-up, in which each member is an essential part of a bigger whole, naturally links up with my own views of organizing music. I consider writing for this group not only a duty but also an ongoing source of joy and inspiration. In line with this, an ensemble which extends this way of thinking and with which I have enjoyed an ongoing relationship, is the Ives ensemble; an ensemble with a similar sense of adventurousness, self-questioning, risk taking and dedication. This is an ensemble which is headed by people with a real inside knowledge and hunger for discovery, also they realize they have to protect this regardless of outside factors. I am mainly drawn to the ideology and flexibility of spirit, which a group exudes. Another ensemble I've enjoyed working with immensely has been the Maarten Altena Ensemble, a group founded on improvising roots, which still permeates their way of making music. A similar mix of high individual expertise, flexibility, joy in playing and a feeling of responsibility for the sound and energy of the group as a whole characterizes them too. I'd also like to mention Orkest de Volharding, the Schoenberg Ensemble and individual musicians such as Gerard Bouwhuis, Arnold Marinissen and guitarist Wiek Hijmans. But the further away we go from these premises, down the declining slope towards institutionalization and self-satisfaction, the less interested I am. We are then in the territory of career moves.

Did your contacts with those ensembles change somehow since you became Artistic Director of the Percussion Group The Hague?

That's hard to say. I'd like to think I'm solely viewed as a composer, but that would probably be naive. As of yet I haven't noticed any differences. At the most, it's possible that I've become rubricated as a loud percussion composer, although I've never actually written anything for just percussion! So far, always in combination with other instruments... On the other hand, it is now possible for me to set up wild programs with other groups as well, so my contacts have become more diverse. And in incidental cases, it's possible for me to set up a collaboration, which is also an extension of private compositional desires, which existing forces don't incorporate. These are some of the nice side effects.

What effect has this position had on your work? Is your creed as an artistic director the same as the composer?

It has had no effect on the content of my compositional work, except that my working areas have become larger, to incorporate organization as well, a task which I feel is a composers' duty. I.e. not to just feel a responsibility for one's own work, but also for culture as a whole. This is something I have always done. As for my attitude: a creed is a creed, i.e. something one believes inÖ Itís hard to just adopt a different creed for different circumstances; it wouldn't really be a very worthwhile creed then, would it! Basically, I must admit the creed is the same and I derive the most satisfaction from making programs, which are aligned to my own musical universe. On the other hand, the interest of the group is higher and bigger than my own private interests, so I must be flexible. In programming, there is place for everything as long as it's interesting and well executed. I often receive scores from composers, both young as well as established ones. I try to consider these scores fairly on their own premises, even if their esthetic is not mine. As for self-interest: in programming, I try to reduce the presence of my own work to a minimum, although sometimes it's unavoidable. As I mentioned before, sometimes the ability to set up a wild collaboration with others stems directly from private compositional desires. I feel that if these desires are worthwhile and result in a good piece of music, there