Composer Spotlight – Martha Mooke

martha-mookeComposer Spotlight: Martha Mooke

Despite her impressive calendar of professional engagements, Martha Mooke has not put aside her passion for developing young artists.

Artist Martha Mooke is an electro-acoustic violist, composer, innovator, and clinician who has worked with some of the biggest names in the industry, a brief sampling of whom include Paul McCartney, Phillip Glass, Andrea Bocelli, Luciano Pavarotti, Rufus Wainwright, Moby, Barbara Streisand, Peter Gabriel, Enya, Bon Jovi, Tony Bennett, Johnny Mathis, and Osvaldo Golijov.  She is a Yamaha artist, a leading clinician, and a pioneer of the electronic stringed instrument.  She has given workshops throughout the world, including at the American String Teacher Association and at universities and high schools for music students and educators.  These workshops frequently focus on teaching students and educators how to foster the unique voice that can be elicited from electronic stringed instruments.

CSIC interviewed Martha in September of 2011. She described how the music she composes crosses many boundaries.  “It may emanate out of what we consider ‘classical’ or ‘concert’ music, then take a left turn and encompass elements of rock, jazz, bluegrass or Asian tonalities,” she says. “I create my music specifically for the occasion, like an art exhibit, or the performer, like an improvising string quartet.”

Despite her impressive calendar of professional engagements, Martha has not put aside her passion for developing young artists.  She says, “I create works specifically for the student ensembles I’m working with, either original scores or based on pieces they are preparing in school that I expand via improvisation and new techniques.” Asked to describe an ideal arrangement for working with students, Martha offers the following: “Ideally, I would have 3 or 4 sessions, (a residency), with the students where I would do an introductory session, then begin working with them on improvisation and breaking down inhibitions and preconceived/taught notions of how we are suppose to experience music.  This would get developed into actual compositions by the students, using the techniques and process I’ve developed.  The final session would be a performance where the students introduce their new ensembles, compositions and then perform them.  During the course of the residency, I would create a new piece which includes improvisation, based on repertoire they’ve been studying in their regular class time.  This would also be performed during the final session.”

Martha describes how even a one-hour clinic could be beneficial: it would be enough time for her to demonstrate electric string instruments, electronic processing, improvisation and new ways of listening to, thinking about and creating music.

Follow the links below to hear some of Martha’s past collaborations with school music programs.

  • Booker T Washington Middle School (finale of my composition, called “Booker T’s Pachelbel” based on Pachelbel’s canon, which they were working on at the time of my residency there):

Martha says, “I’m attaching here a recording of my work Quantum (mp3 of original electric version, which I adapted for strings in this Intermediate level score). The “groove” section stands alone as a piece.  It was performed by the Cinnaminson Middle School last year (unfortunately, no recording).  The full work, Quantum for Quartet is also available.”

Martha keeps a packed and diverse schedule including touring, clinics and lecture demonstrations. She is currently working on two new recordings; one is original music which will be developed into a multimedia event/DVD, and the other is a new CD of works that were written for her on the 5-string electric viola. In addition, her string quartet, Scorchio, is developing a new performance platform and has a busy Fall schedule of events.  As a producer, she’ll be producing two different performance series at new venues in New York City.

Martha will be also presenting at the ASTA Conference in March and at the International Band and Orchestra Midwest Clinic in Chicago in December of 2012.

Contact Martha Mooke