Listen Up! Composer Q&A: Karlo Margetić

We spoke to Karlo Margetić about his upcoming world premiere at Ensemble Offspring’s new music micro-festival, Listen Up! on 11 September.

Listen Up! will premiere your work Bricks and Mortar for clarinet, violin & percussion. What’s the story behind the title?

My tendency is to write pieces that have long, overlapping lines, and intensity levels that slowly change over a few minutes. With Bricks and Mortar I deliberately tried to go against this, with a piece that was overtly sectional. The bricklaying metaphor seemed ideal. It has five movements: three big tense ones, with two relaxed interludes buffering in between. The first movement is a dry stone wall which suddenly cuts between contrasting blocks every few bars. The third is one of my ‘long line’ creations, but it changes colour every beat, like tiles forming a mosaic. The last movement is a brittle, rhythmically decoupled dance that superimposes the violin and clarinet on top of an unsynchronised percussion ‘frame’. The interludes, Rubble and Filler, are exactly what it says on the tin.

You initially collaborated with Ensemble Offspring’s Artistic Director Claire Edwardes through her connection with Wellington group Stroma, who are co-commissioners of this new work. How did you approach composing one piece for two different ensembles, each with their own performative nuances? Did this affect the final result?

I first met Claire when she was soloist with Orchestra Wellington. Marc Taddei, OW’s music director, introduced us and I gave Claire a copy of my Xylophone Concerto (a very silly student piece I wrote in undergrad), which she later played with the Northern Beaches Orchestra. Later, when Claire played with Stroma, we hung out and got to know each other. Bricks and Mortar was originally inspired by F-Plus Trio, a group from the US with this exact instrumentation. EO and Stroma later joined in as co-commissioners. With F-Plus and EO you know who the performers are, but Stroma is a flexible group of mostly NZSO players, so you don’t always know who will be playing until closer to the concert. I can’t really say I thought about it that much – I just set out to write the best piece I could!

What do you think of the Listen Up! programme? How do you feel having composed one of the two world premieres in a concert exclusively featuring living composers? 

It looks like a fabulous, varied programme! It’s also fantastic that there are three non-premieres. New pieces need multiple performances and we’ve got to be wary of premiere fetishism. The first performance of Bricks and Mortar is long delayed, so it’ll be a big relief to finally share it with everyone.

About Listen Up!

Listen Up! is a micro-festival of new music, bringing together Australia’s most inspiring musicians who share an obsession with the newest of the new. A smorgasbord of contemporary-classical and jazz virtuosi, First Nations artists and art music fiends come together over two 60-minute programs.

About Karlo Margetić

Karlo Margetić (b. 1987) is a composer based in Pōneke/Wellington. He studied composition and clarinet at the New Zealand School of music. Karlo has won various prizes, including the SOUNZ Contemporary Award in 2013, and held residencies with the Auckland Philharmonia and Orchestra Wellington.