My first conscious memory of music is singing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star in my crib. I had a visual image for every phrase, and each musical line had to be perfectly formed in architecture, and properly paced in relation to the whole song structure. If I missed an image or foiled a note, I would go back to the beginning. I remember singing the song over & over on a quest for perfection while duly imagining each time, the black ether and phosphorescent stars that were the California sky at night, and my setting for Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. I had not experienced much of the world yet, but I had heard a great deal of music.
One day, sometime around kindergarten or first grade, my father was playing four hands with Eugene Istomen in our Berkeley living room. I came running down the stairs, ecstatic over the sounds from the piano, stood at attention in my nightgown, and for some unearthly reason chimed in with the Star Spangled Banner. "Shut Up"!!!!!!!!!!!! bellowed Istomen from the keyboard. I had newly learned the anthem in school and my bombastic interruption could not have been appreciated by two virtuoso pianists playing Schubert.
Later on my father was playing four hands with Peter Serkin in our Cambridge living room, and again I appeared in my nightgown, exuberant, but this time silently dancing!
By grade school, my parents had bought me a guitar, and I was entirely absorbed in the singing of Peter, Paul and Mary, and Joan Baez,, learning every song I could on the guitar and singing English and Scottish ballads all day long.
[Ruperts is Scottish; though she's lived in England for most of her life. She also has a Peter, Paul & Mary album, and a number of Baez albums on vinyl - Rupert is 'looking after' them now.]
What was the first song you wrote & the most recent?
The first song I remember writing was in French and I only remember "ses yeux dit rien, il se promène sur la terre" and then perhaps "sans espoir". My literary inspiration must have been a 19th century novel or poem I had read in French class.
My most recent song, or group of songs, is the one currently in progress for inclusion in a seventh album TBA.
As to the last song completed, it would be one of those on my album, Umbrellas In Mint, and particularly one from the group with lyrics written in Paris between 2004-2008.
What was the first song you sang (performed, recorded)?
I recorded my first group of songs on an album when I was a around 12 in the studio of a friend of my fathers, Steve Fassett. I recorded it for my father, and gave it to him as a birthday present. I was dashed when he told me he would not be listening to it as he would be too critical. I never listened to the album again, nor did I or he preserve it. Later on, he became the champion of all my albums, and it was he who always said at our home gatherings, "Hey Lisa, get your guitar", an invitation to me to serenade a room full of luminaries in the arts and sciences, long time family friends & colleagues, as well as his gifted students at Harvard. The songs on my first & only teen album were those I had learned of Joan Baez and Peter, Paul & Mary and might possibly have included the French song.
How / why did record your first album so young?
Recording was natural for me. I was learning to sing from Joan Baez, and Peter, Paul and Mary albums. At night, I would sing one folk song after another to compose an album in my imagination. If I made a mistake in the third song, I had to go back to the first song & start over to perfectly complete seven songs on one side. I rehearsed this album nightly, and it found its inevitable realization in the studio. At the time, I was singing Geordie, Railroad Boy, Mary Hamilton, Mattie Groves, A Woman of Constant Sorrow, and other Joan Baez classics. It must have been these songs that composed the album.
One More Rhyme - 2000
What impact does your father's composed / performed music have on the music you have created and performed?
On the piano, my father had a luminous sound, resonant and other worldly. He talked to me about attack and release, the weight of each finger on the keys at different harmonic intersections, the beginning, middle, and end of notes, rhythmic intention, and the transfer of melody leading from part to part within the interior of the chords. In a mysterious alchemy of touch on the keyboard, demonstrating as he spoke, he produced notes that bubbled into the air forming perfectly articulated musical strands. He had an impulsiveness, that pushed the boundaries over the full arch of a beautifully modulated phrase, while remaining loyal to an interior pulse. There is a physics of movement in music. He played Mozart, Bach, Brahms, works he was preparing to conduct, and works he was composing, day and night. About technique, he said, "Forget technique!! If you have the physical control to make one beautiful phrase, that IS technique". I absorbed all of this by osmosis, and it became my mission to unearth it in music, to the degree that my talent, facility and intuition would allow.
A classical music critic told me he recognized certain characteristic of my father's music in my songs. I was stunned but pleased. Though my father's music is complex, it is dramatic, even theatrical in an empirical, and not histrionic way. It is emotionally accessible and contains lively counterpoint in all the parts. I hear jazz inflect sounds, and imagine primordial skirmishes after which ominous percussion rises to the surface from the undertow, in a sudden symphonic ambush. Poignant melodic forays into the cosmos seem to confront a terrifying universal alienation and passages of lush chords reflect epiphanies reached after an arduous harmonic dissonance gives way to a bucolic resolution. Galactic waves of yearning and sadness lead into verdant forests. The intellectual rigor that can produce this drama in such an organic and authentic way, is beyond my analytical grasp, but I can intuit that compositional challenges are being worked out within the musical ecosystem of my father's invention.
My father gave me a copy of Fred Hoyle's The Black Cloud, and I remember a scene when the hovering cloud, producing unearthly chromatic hues at dusk, broadcasts its own electro-magnetic structure in musical notes, playing to earth from the sky. When my father conducted an orchestra of 56 musicians performing Mozart, Schoenberg or Mahler, the entire orchestra would play as one body, with the improvisatory feel of a single soloist. It seemed he was not interpreting, but revealing music, conjuring up each composer in true life form. He communed with integrity and emotional empathy. Once, on a hellishly hot night, my father fainted backstage after a concert. The ambulance came and carried him away. From the stretcher, in his white tux, he waved to everyone in the green room with a smile, saying, "That Tchaikovsky really knocked me out". He illuminated an expansive and interactive universe within and beyond all things. Subliminal and acute awareness filters in, and there is relevance and resonance still.
When lights Are Low - 2002
What was your experience of arts education?
At school, I was able to study with a group of teachers chosen for me. I had no plan and did not know, at that point, that I was interested in theater, though I was a performer and primarily, self taught. I was quickly roped up, and into productions, and I developed an acting instrument I could count on. Having discovered and resonated with Weill and Brecht, I serendipitously ended up on Broadway in The Threepenny Opera. Fairly recently, with a class half my age, I did two semesters of classical music theory and musicianship at CCNY. A third semester turned out to be set theory which is entirely antithetical to me. I wanted to expand my harmonic options before making my sixth album, Umbrellas In Mint, on which I wrote all the music and lyrics. Now I am discovering the world of line tutorials.
Who did you learn the most from?
I learned the systematic craft of acting from Irene Moore, who also worked like a coach once a sustainable technique had been passed on. A coach or teacher reveals his or her own personal themes, and illuminates context igniting inspiration and discovery while you work. In my experience, and in this kind of exchange, exceptional coaches and teachers have been Irene Moore, John Braswell, Wynn Handman, John Basil, and Austin Pendleton. A lot of what one learns surrounded by outstanding talent in colleagues and peers, is aggregate and interactive. A cohesive performances in theater and music involves listening, discovering, adapting and responding to one's fellow performers.
The world class jazz musicians I invited to work with me, were chosen expressly because they had something to which I responded and aspired. Their chord voicing, harmonies and rhythm, and their individual aesthetic, were the musical influences I sought. I also learned from the outstanding classical musicians I heard consistently throughout my life, day and night, in many concerts a week and in rehearsals. I observe singers and pianists, string players, wind instruments, and particularly, saxophonists. I try to emulate in my own way, their phrasing, bowing or breathing, and intonation, the way they vary pitch depending on placement of notes in phrases, and their repowering of notes mid delivery, something you hear in Ella Fitzgerald. It is important to be in the center of a note, but certain pitch bending is in fact more on pitch than perfect pitch, because there are subtle relationships between notes depending on their passing harmonic environments. As Sarah Vaughn said, "there are notes between the notes."
In The Shadow Of A Crow - 2009
What did you learn? Who were your greatest teachers?
The formal training I had in college, was that I mentioned, with Irene Moore. With Irene, I studied Stanislavsky technique primarily, but we also utilized Uta Hagen's exercises. Most actors incorporate elements common to all training, that allow one to be truthful, to improvise, to detail attributes of, and follow objectives and actions impelled by a character. In Irene's classes, we worked on the full menu of techniques, sense memory, emotional substitution, biographies, inner monologue, subtext and the usual suspects rounded up from the actor's tool kit that ultimately set the stage for spontaneity and discovery. It was impressed upon me that at the core of each role, each actor must uncover a personal theme, express a unique point of view, and make a private "confession."
John Braswell taught song class and theater, and there we developed our musical performance with directorial comments and some work on technique particular to each performer. We also worked on scenes. John was a visionary director and an idiomatic performer, and some of what one learned with him emanated from his own arresting theatrical persona. His personality was complex, and this could lead to sparks that would catalyze performances as well.
Training in New York, as a theater dancer, having taken ballet, modern and jazz throughout my life, I was moved by Timmy Everett. Timmy had played Tommy Djilas in the movie, The Music Man, which I have only recently seen. Timmy did not only train in technique, and direct in choreography. Haunted years later, by memories of Tim's dancing, and a portentous last greeting through a window in a coffee shop, I wrote a song about taking class with him, called, Tim. When Timmy danced he transcended, and the class was cathartic, transforming everyone in it. Consuelo Atlas, principal dancer in the original Ailey company, whom I had seen dance with Judith Jamison at Loeb Drama Center, held "the whole world in (her) arms" when she danced, and her class in Cambridge, was similarly, an act of poetry..
In earlier years, my harmony and piano teacher Luise Vosgerchian, was the Nadia Boulanger of Harvard, my father's colleague and our family friend. She took me on and was a mentor, caring about my development, and recognizing what she noted as, my talent and intellect, and need for a bastion of support to handle the emotional rigors of growing up in my family. Her joy in music, her extreme intelligence and sense of humor, and her profound knowledge of harmony that she so humanized, were invaluable. I am able to compose and voice chords on piano because the physical memory she compelled me to attain, has remained in my hands.
The band from Something To Sing About
I have talked about my father in the context of what I learned, and I want to mention my mother and my brother. There was aesthetic unity in this family orb, a binding principle, like gravity in a universe of volatility. I learned about singing and natural production of sound from records, but also, from my mother, Gertrude Kirchner, who had a gorgeous coloratura soprano voice. My father conducted her one day in the living room, on improvised background vocals for Lily, for Soprano and Chamber Orchestra, which first appeared on Columbia Records/SONY in 1974. My mother warned me to protect my voice and to do nothing rather than to follow instructions from any teacher that might cause vocal strain. She spoke French, Italian, and Russian, and in her younger years, she had sung arias and Golden Songbook standards with her own combo in New York supper clubs. When I was just out of kindergarten, we used to have conversations in the kitchen in operatic "recitativo", while we dried her copper molds after dinner parties. She was a gourmet cook and generous hostess. Her Halloween costumes made for me and my brother, and my ballet costumes for recitals, were works of art. She was at all times an artist and a perfectionist. We were Californians with roots in Los Angeles and Berkeley.. When asked in an interview whether she preferred San Francisco or Los Angeles, my mother, said, 'In San Francisco they are phony about their seriousness, and in Los Angeles they are serious about their phoniness. I must prefer the second".
Something to Sing About - 2011
My brother Paul, a painter, science researcher and independent scholar, taught me to attach Latin classifications to all the fish he trained me to draw in colored crayons, and he lectured me on paleontology, astronomy, nuclear fission, math, anthropology and other science from the time I was six years old. If I asked any questions after a lecture, he would then turn the interrogatory back on me to engage me in my own deductive reasoning based upon each fact he had just taught me, so that my brain would be trained for inquiry, comprehension and memory, and autonomous enough to engage its own internal sense of logic. This had ramifications in everything.
Did College prepare you for the life & work after college?
It did in so far as I learned my acting craft there, and gained the experience necessary to work professionally in many areas. There I had worked with John Braswell who directed wonderful shows I was in at La Mama ETC and at Lenox Arts Center where I also worked as a singer dancer with Grover Dale in a show starring Christopher Walken. My studies in literature from high school through college had an impact on my songwriting. Pragmatically, the contacts I made in college, led me to others, and I found myself requested, recommended, and hired for a run of shows that led to Broadway fairly quickly. My having landed in the unions out of necessity with work already in hand, served as catalyst to other work. I have drawn on resources I acquired in college, in high school, and in my family growing up.
Singer, Songwriter, Actor, Producer: How do they relate to each other?
The synthesis of singing, songwriting, acting and producing has occurred spontaneously.
Producing for me has been a pragmatic endeavor driven by necessity. I enjoy the activity but have never pursued it as an end in itself. I was very happy to be asked by my father, composer Leon Kirchner, to executive produce 4 albums of his works.
I began producing my father's albums in 2006, and releasing them on Albany Records where other albums of my father's music had appeared, and where I was releasing my own albums. Albany is primarily a classical label and had crossed over on my vocal projects. My father and I created the series of four albums that he programmed, and we featured consecutively, his piano works, the complete string quartets, chamber works and orchestral works.
I went on to the fifth album, which I released on my own label, Verdant World Records, in 2013, making available, new studio recordings of previously unrecorded & unpublished works due to be published by G. Schirmer to complete my father's Schirmer catalog.
The renowned musicians included my father on piano & conducting, and his long time friends and colleagues, many performing the works they had commissioned from him. The albums included new studio recordings, and some were compilation albums containing historic tracks from SONY and other major labels, as well as live performance tracks from concert venues. This was an experience and an opportunity I would not miss that clearly had special meaning for me.
As to my role as executive and artistic producer on my own projects, I certainly appreciate the opportunity to realize my own vision while maintaining independence, and I am attracted to the role of producer, loving to bring together exceptional and world class talent across a spectrum of genres creating performance opportunities, but this kind of production experience for me is always, at heart, about my role as artist, collaborator, creator and performer.
Singing and acting are natural forms of expression to me, and I never really considered them to be separate entities, Singing is acting. As a singer, one is performing a character in a story with an evolution, making discoveries along the way. The tool chests of an actor and a singer contain many common items. As a songwriter one can write for the actor one is. A stupendous example of this is Jacques Brel.
Umbrellas In Mint - 2013
Which order did you start / stop doing them in?
I sang first in my crib, played my first singing role in a production of Noah's Flood, directed by John Langstaff in 7th grade, and I started writing songs and performing them in grade school. With the advent of my first record around the age of 12, my "producing" began and continued with nightclub and cabaret performances into 2000 and beyond, when I began making records again. I appeared in a recurring spot as an on camera folk singer on the NBC soap, Another World ca 1978-1980, constituting my first on camera performances of my songs which were backgrounds for the scenes, with some close ups and camera time.
Could you pick one favourite experience for each other those 'hats'? (i.e. favourite project as an actor / producer / singer / songwriter)
As a musical theater actress I would have to say Hotel For Criminals, in which I played Irma Vep the Vampiress. This is a terrific show by Richard Foreman & Stanley Silverman. It was a lead role and offered me limitless freedom to invent a character and an interior universe. What was exhilarating about the Hotel For Criminals experience, was not only the subject matter, the wild genre, and the music, but the space given by Richard in his direction, and his manner of working almost like a choreographer, allowing the perfumer to invent any boundless interior world which motivated the movements, dialogue and song.
As a singer, doing shows, my favourite experiences have been favourites simply due to the state of the venue.
Rooms where there is silence, where there is a stage and there are decent lights, where one can not only hear oneself think but hear oneself sing, and where one can hear every nuance of every note played by the musicians, through a pristine sound system are the pinnacle. After that, one can consider the players and the audience. There are also so many reasons to consider various aspects of single shows.
Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut, Iridium, Birdland and many small clubs in New York City like the 55 Bar, have been great places to play. Each performance is so individual and involves so many independent factors, I find it hard to discuss these in the same way as a running show. Any situation where there is a run of shows in the same venue, or a period of regular performances, produces an evolution in performance and taps all resources which causes one to be vastly propelled forward as an artist. One has to invest a great deal of time in the business of performing to assure that one is performing regularly in the venues I describe, and that the activity is sustainable financially.
As to production I enjoy all the elements but it is hard to separate the projects and to feel one production experience was more enjoyable than another. As with nightclub performances, they are so individual and so layered with nuance. It is really activity to activity, and contingent upon "with whom". I have had great times on all the projects working with the crème de la crème in every field.
My album Umbrellas In Mint (2013) containing twelve songs to which I wrote music & lyrics was my favorite experience as singer songwriter. I prepared for it in Paris with some harmony study and a great deal of lyric writing; in New York with several semesters of classical music theory at CCNY [City College New York], feeling it necessary to expand my composition skills; and in Paris by evolving a slightly surreal form of writing influenced by the geographic and cultural dislocation I had experienced throughout life and particularly in France.
My other favourite project as performer is rather on the Vanguard and the first of its kind. It is a classical crossover album featuring jazz renditions of contemporary classical art songs written by my father, his colleagues and other composers who crossed genre, called Something to Sing About (2011). The songs aired on jazz and classical stations and the album was very much appreciated by the composers and their publishers as well as radio programmers and reviewers in each genre.
If you had to pick 1 'hat' (singer, songwriter, producer, actress), which would it be?
I would choose singer songwriter as that may include every other craft. One can create characters to fulfill, and determine their capacity to unearth expression. One has freedom in performance; one is choosing and not waiting to be chosen. One can bend genre and form. There are limitless challenges requiring evolution of craft in composition and lyric writing, and there is pursuit of invention. One can express all as an actress if one has written successfully. In order to plumb the depths of wild characters in a vehicle seeped in story, in tradition, metaphor and popular and epic history however, one would have to go to Brel, Brecht and Weill, and Piaf! The "decision" upon one form is only for the purpose of answering the hypothetical question. Happenstance presents the offerings that render some final decisions merely transient!
Which have you done most of recently?
I have been primarily producing, recording, going over my rep which has to be relearned always, working on monologues, expanding my audio production skills, learning new software, creating my home studio, researching, writing and finally, putting together materials for various projects ongoing and upcoming.
Have you written / do you write music with other people?
I have written with jazz pianist James Weidman, and jazz guitarist Ron Jackson; long time collaborators on albums & in live performance, with composer Galt MacDermot, in whose The Human Comedy I appeared on Broadway.
I am writing a current song with jazz, classical, theater, and tango accordionist & composer William Schimmel, a long time collaborator not only in concert and on albums, but in the show in which we both appeared - The Threepenny Opera on Broadway, starring Raul Julia. I have provided lyrics in what are called "arrangements" by their publishers, to an instrumental song by Wynton Marsalis and one by Paul Chihara, a movie theme instrumental, with permission sought & received from both composers and their publishers. All these songs, short of the songs in progress, have appeared on my previous recordings, and some I am re-recording for the new release.
Were there any highlights from working with so many creative people / performers?
Lenox Arts Center, where Lynn Austin and Mary Silverman produced three summers of original shows, written, performed, and produced by superb talents, in which I had roles I loved to play, and the Public Theater, where we did pre-Broadway runs of both Broadway shows I was in, were creative highlights, as were the La Mama days when Ellen Stewart would ring her silver bell, and then introduce each show. After performances, we would go her apartment to have production meetings and actor's notes. Nightclub performances in venues with superb sound systems, and the top tier players I was able to work with over the years, writing and singing songs and hearing them played by the same superb musicians in sessions, working with iconic actors early on in their careers, creating the role of Irma Vep in two shows by Richard Foreman & Stanley Silverman, performing with the James Waring Dance Company at Judson Memorial Church, where I discovered on stage, the delight of audience contact in character roles, were highlights. My theater opportunities came to me through directors, producers, writers, composers, and choreographers. New York was a hub of raw creativity and artistic interchange. I don't remember extensive hype, just the emphasis on process and craft. That was a heyday and a highlight "in old New York."
How did you get the part on the NBC soap?
Jack Hofssis, who was working with NBC producer Paul Rausch, cast me in, Out of Our Father's House, which premiered at The Lenox Arts Center, and had many incarnations. One night, after the performance, during a run at Riverside Church in Manhattan, Jack told me that Paul Rausch, who was producing NBC's Day Time Drama, Another World, had come see the production. "You should call him, he wants you on his show," he said. So I did, an audition was scheduled, and the next thing I knew, I was booked. I was a recurring day player for over a year, singing and playing my own songs on camera as the coffee shop folk singer.
When / why did you stop making records?
I have actually never stopped making records, though there have been long periods between albums. One such period was 2002- 2009, and the most recent has been 2014- 2016. Whenever there has been no record, it means there has been no budget to support it. The activity does not remotely sustain itself. Part of the time between recording projects is spent promoting a released album, regrouping and generating new perspectives and ideas, and meeting other immanent deadlines. Finally, with new material and with my having been motivated by a unique challenge, it's time to follow through on the next album. I have not, in the past, had an independent recording set up to follow this cycle. Currently, I have been at work riding the audio production learning curve, and have set up a home studio for music and voice over. I am completing songs for the next album.
What did you do between When Lights Are Low (2002) and In the Shadow of a Crow (2009)?
From 2002 to 2004 I had a number of projects in publishing as a photo researcher, and was doing live concerts and door gigs, where one is expected to promote the shows, fill the rooms with customers who will eat and drink, and to pay the band, while receiving a portion of the door. I had done a summer singing at Foxwoods. I also did Ryles Jazz Club in Cambridge [Mass., USA], and was prompting my album, When Lights Are Low. In 2004 I left for Paris. There would be numerous trips commuting between NYC and Paris. I earned my freelance papers and a long stay visa, and began freelancing for two French Organizations as a Business English Language coach. I did French to English translation, continued my American freelance assignments, did some door gigs in Paris, and various interviews on radio, and in Jazz Hot Magazine.
By 2005, my father had asked me to produce the first of four albums of his music that we did together. I had been producing my own albums, and licensing them to Albany Records for release in their catalogue since 2000. My father's music was already on the label. I did the fund raising and arranged recording sessions from Paris, for the first 2 albums of our series, returning to New York for them.
Cover by Lisa Kirchner
Cover by Lisa Kirchner
I returned to stay by May of 2009, mid promotion of In the Shadow of A Crow. My father's call asking me to come home for the ceremony at the Academy of Arts and Letters, where he would receive the Gold Medal for his life time achievement in music, determined the date of my flight to arrive in New York, two days before. I began working on a third album of my father's in New York, while completing & editing the lyrics I had written in Paris. While I was working on my father's third album, I was already starting the fourth, and was desperate to have both out during my father's life time. That year was an agonizing chapter.
Cover by Leon Kirchner
My Dad passed away on September 17, 2009. He had heard, and approved the master of the third album, Concert: Leon Kirchner Chamber Works and he knew that the fouth album, Leon Kirchner Orchestral Works, would be realized .
Cover by Gertrude Kirchner
Why did you move to Paris?
I had an affinity for the language from grade school on. We had lived in Rome when I was very young and our life style was European. For a long time, I had harbored a desire to go back to Paris where I had been after spending a summer in Nice, in high school. I had just done a run of shows in New York, under constant pressure to fill the rooms, which I did. I felt impelled to be by the Seine and to write in Paris. I wanted to see if there was something there for me there. I had freelance work in publishing, and it appeared to be "now or never". I have always sung Piaf and Brel, and had done a number of shows in French.
My first album was in three languages, Portuguese, French and English. Love of the language and a deep affinity for the music and lyrics of Piaf and Brel motivated me to investigate the culture that had produced it. I had actually been reviewed by then, in Jazz Hot Magazine, but didn't yet know it. An opportunity to rent an inexpensive room came my way. I discovered TESOL, took a course, and got certified to teach ESL. It took many trips back and forth for me finally to have a long stay visa as a "visiting artist," and the right to work in France as a freelancer.
What did you learn? How did Paris / France affect your creativity / expression?
The existential experience of living outside the borders of my country, stationed in what felt like a turret above the terrain of my life, affected my writing a great deal. My theme and style in use of surreal imagery evolved. There are countless layers of inspiration that I experienced there. My 2013 album, Umbrellas In Mint, has lyrics conceived and written in, and about Paris, which express a great deal of this. There is still material to exploit, and it would be wonderful to have a chance to return.
What was it like producing your dads albums? Did you have any creative 'discussions'?
Most of the creative discussions I had with my father, occurred ad hoc anywhere and at any time. On this series of albums, I took on the role of executive producer, fund raiser, and administrator in producing the master, commissioning and editing liner notes by the superb writers who knew my father's music intimately, writing liner note bios, copy and credits, licensing tracks from labels and concert venues on the compilation albums, booking recording venues and coordinating everyone's schedule, and every other task involved in expediting a record and its promotion upon release.
When it came to live studio tracks comprising one album, and those included on the compendium albums, I had asked Steve Epstein, very early on, to produce. Steve had been Chief Engineer at Sony before going freelance. One of Steve's many Grammy Awards was earned in 1998, when Sony released Yo-Yo Ma's Cello Premiers- Danielpour, Kirchner, Rouse, with the Philadelphia Orchestra and David Zinman. The album won a Best Classical Album Grammy. My dad had been very impressed with Steve, and they had a wonderful working relationship. The creative discussions particular to these recordings, occurred between my father and Steve, the Orion Quartet, for the Complete String Quartets, and Joel Fan for Piano Works, both the Orion Quartet and Joel Fan performing commissions written for them by my father.
My father sat with Steve in the control room, before the sessions, listening to and discussing the music playing on tape or on CD, and looking over the scores. My father had coached the musicians in previous sessions that had occurred much earlier on. After each movement, or during and on intercom, there would be discussions, artistic exchanges among musical colleagues, coaching from my father, as composer, and closer looks at various passages of the works by all of them together. My father and Steve worked on the edits together, discussing everything with the artists, and it was my father who approved the masters. In this environment, there was no need for musical input from me except as it pertained to particular functions in expediting the album.
Why did you feel the need to set up your own label?
I was already performing the function of a label, in so far as I was creating and expediting a product to which I owned the sound recording rights and masters, and in funding the albums, either as donor or fund raiser, case to case. During an 11 year period, I had licensed 8 albums to Albany Records, for inclusion in their catalogue! This is an association I am very proud of, and an opportunity for which I am grateful. It is where I learned to produce albums. With the advent of the vast changes in the industry, however, the means became available by which I could release and distribute albums world-wide directly to a distributor and to the public, while standing on my own platform as creator, or generator of the product.
Today one can be eligible for the Grammys ® with only one digital track, and no physical album or label beyond one that is virtually, so to speak, virtual. I felt that I needed to be closer to my product, to exploit in any way possible, directly & without extensive correspondence, whatever opportunities might be available with the advent of the digital formats that were proliferating. The scene was getting legally and financially complex with cloudy "provenance". Technology was evolving exponentially, and streaming, downloading, broadcasting, licensing and promoting platforms seemed to be merging at a corporate level which becomes a monolithic universe in which to deal as an independant. Not needing to ask permission to leverage what I owned, and credit for evolution of the "brand", are important to me on principle. I felt it was time to make the transition.
Who runs it? Do you have any of your music on any of the music streaming services?
I run the label. Gathering a freelance team and expediting the licensing, production and promotion, and the writing and performing of some of the albums, are my arena. Naxos is my digital distributor. Physical albums are distributed by CD Baby, Amazon and by me. I do the press and radio PR content, farming out the promotion, or doing it myself, depending on whether there is an available budget. Nothing has changed in one respect. If I do not generate the funds, either myself or with aid from foundations, and if I do not expedite the project myself from soup to nuts, there is no album.
With a virtual label, one can expand or contract as necessary, farm out or not, and the label can serve as an umbrella company for other related media projects. Time is the most important commodity to me, as I am not a careerist producer or label owner. I am a performer, songwriter and a recording artist, and also a writer and editor, and I am a devotee of my father's music committed to promoting his legacy. Through Naxos, the albums are digitally available and stream on every site worldwide where one would expect to find them, including Spotify, Pandora, Youtube, Apple and Google. I see all 11 of my albums on sites in every language.
What have you done / have others done to promote your music? How important has radio play been? How have you got it? Do you think musicians should be paid when their music is played on the radio?
Radio promotion has been extremely important to me. The heaviest amount of promotion I have done includes the radio and press campaigns. All of this generated an excellent press kit for me as a singer, lyricist and composer, and as curator of the top tier musicians on my albums, one that consists of reviews by highly respected, and articulate journalists, a track record of extensive airplay, LIVE interviews, and selection by many radio stations of my songs on their top ten playlists. As producer and daughter, I have been instrumental in generating more informed and perceptive commentary, in the form of reviews and commissioned articles by music journalists and authors, on my father, contributing to his formidable legacy and to those of the renowned musicians who championed his music on these and many other recordings that exist world-wide. All of this is a goal that I had envisioned, and have been lucky and grateful to have realized to the degree that I have. I have so many things I have set my sights on artistically.
I do think artists should be paid for their music when it is played on the radio. I am grateful that the industry is mobilizing to meet the shock of the on-line global digital explosion. Traditionally artists choose in what circumstances to donate or reduce their fees, case by case. New business models from organizations that take a stand in opposing, and in serving to amend institutionalized unfairness to composers and songwriters, are promising. There are always opposing forces and the internet is still the wild west.
What (music) technology have you used? i.e. software, hardware.
I work on Pro Tools, Finale, Sibelius, and Izotope. I also have used Audacity and Garage band, consider learning and using Reaper and Logix, and I am using "in the box" plug ins for EQ, compression and mastering. I am just getting started with this, after having spent years in recording studios on Pro Tools, with engineers handling the controls while we work together on everything from editing through mastering.
How have you used it? What impact has it had on your music?
So far, I only use notation programs for stand-alone writing, editing, play back and transposition, and audio recording and editing software for recording and editing vocals and instruments. I do not yet know midi, or virtual instruments, I do not do electronic music, and I still write on the keyboard, or on the guitar, by ear outside the DAW.
Could you give some indication about which revenue streams are most beneficial for you?
I really don't know anything about this, as the income streams are small, meaning a per cent of a cent on the dollar, multiplied by volume of "sales". I have not yet analyzed the exact amounts that generate from each of these platforms since revenue from royalties and distribution in different categories is part and parcel of the sum.
How do you feel about social media? Which platforms do you use?
I use LinkedIn, FB and Twitter, various Websites [inc Lisa Kirchner - music & arts], and plan to learn other platforms. I am not advanced and it is mostly passive use, as I am ensconced in projects that require so much time! My outings into social media have been cyclical and project oriented.