LAUREN BC’S INTERVIEW WITH P:B MUSIC DIRECTOR ANDY MEYERSON
I heard Green Day’s album Dookie when I was six or seven and I thought it was the coolest shit of all time. I wanted to be Tré Cool, the drummer in that band. I ended up doing band in middle school and was lucky enough to have teachers who were like “Hey! try this classical leaning music! Try anything. Drums can do anything!” Because of that experience, I was exposed to the world of contemporary music and percussion as a classical art form, and I’ve been merging all kinds of music with everything that drums can do ever since.
I’ve read a lot about The Living Earth Show, and it seems so eclectic and varied! How would you describe TLES?
TLES is a home for everything not played on the radio. We’re a canvas for artists to do their craziest thing. Since we don’t write our own music, we commission composers who can facilitate our collaboration with other artistic disciplines like the work we do with Post:Ballet. We like to throw out the question: “What’s the coolest thing you can do with just guitar and percussion?” That’s what we play.
How did you decide on the combination of percussion and guitar?
Right out of school I wanted to start a chamber group, a form that usually has five people. I didn’t think too much about instrumentation–I just wanted to play with the coolest people and the best players. Travis was the first dude I thought of. I asked him if he wanted to do something, and he said, “Yeah, but let’s just have it be two, because we don’t need anybody else.”
What is your vision as the new Music Director for Post:Ballet?
I want to commission music that is as intentional and as high quality as the dance because allowing the music to exist in that dimension is really powerful for me. One thing that’s really drawn me to Post:Ballet is Robert’s use of collaboration as the focal point of his art form. Whether he works with architects or musicians, he makes multimedia art even though dance is at the center and ‘ballet’ is in the title. We work with artists who make amazing music, and Robert can make amazing dance to it. I just find music that supports what the dance can do, and use that as a platform for people to do cool shit.
What about commissioning new scores for dance is different than commissioning music solely for concert performance?
Part of how I decide on a piece for Post is whether I can see it with movement or not. I’m interested in how composers exist as collaborators and how their music can coexist with movement because Post’s aesthetic is unique from other dance music in that the music doesn’t have to be traditionally chromatic or rhythmic.
As TLES, we commission our works on as large a scale and with as wide a set of parameters as possible. We don’t require a time frame or traditional form. We do try to include the composer as a performer, because we think that’s kind of cool.
With Post, Robert will ask for a new 10 or 20-minute piece, for which some of the collaborators are already chosen, so the expectations are more set in that sense. Typical restrictions are absent with TLES though because our shows are different. The composer has the freedom to do anything with the length of time, whether they’re inspired by movement or visual artists or whether they want to tell a story or not. It’s just a different set of parameters to work with but equally fun because sometimes constraints can allow one to become even more creative.
I heard that you play all your performances from memory. For an instrumentalist, this is impressive and somewhat unusual. Why is it imperative that you memorize your music? How long does it take to memorize a piece?
So when I was just out of grad school at the [San Francisco] Conservatory, I became aware that I played a lot better from memory than not. I used a music stand as a wall between me and everyone else. I wouldn’t feel right charging people money to hear me play if it wasn’t doing the best I could. We also made the decision to do the hardest shit- which in retrospect is kind of a silly decision because we played a couple pieces by Brian Ferneyhough and Ken Ueno that took over a year to memorize each because they were so complex. I’ve got a lot of tricks now. We can get something memorized in a week or two, depending on the piece.
What has been your favorite performance so far?
The first one with Post, Tassel in Z Space, was really special. We were just getting to know each other and it was a shitshow trying to get everything together and in place – we were in monkey suits for the first part of it – but it really turned out amazingly well and was pretty beautiful.
There have been some amazing ones with TLES: playing with the Kronos Quartet was amazing and our fifth anniversary show was pretty magical. The Gathering, a performance we did at SFCM last year has probably shaped what we do the most. We designed an evening program that was staged, costumed, and directed. It was an hour-and-a-half of the most blisteringly abrasive music – no intermission – and it was on the scope and scale of what we’re trying to do. It was fun!
Where’s your favorite place to hang out in the city?
T Pumps! The boba place on Irving Street.
What is something nobody knows about you?
Hm, I only have Dale’s bars in the freezer. It’s a raw vegan energy bar. Robert has them in his freezer too. Gluten free, really tasty. I’m not vegan though. My favorite foods are dumplings, milkshakes, and boba.
Do you have any advice for young musicians who want to experiment with music?
I’m most proud that I’m facilitating the creation of things by people that I’m inspired by. For others, I’d say musically and artistically and in life, do what you think the world needs, not just what you have fun doing. It’s awesome if something is fun for you – definitely do it, but if you want to make a career out of it, you should do it because you believe what you’re doing would 1,000% make the world suck less. You can be wrong, just as long as you mean what you’re doing because then you can really stand behind it. Then it doesn’t matter what happens or how well you do it, because you’re doing something bigger.
*Photos of Andy Meyerson (top to bottom) by:
- Tricia Cronin (Andy with Jessica Collado in ‘Pitch Pause Please’)
- Natalia Perez (Andy with Rachel Coats and Christian Squires in ‘Between us’)
- Tricia Cronin (Andy with Travis Andrews of The Living Earth Show and Cora Cliburn with the Post:Ballet dance artists in ‘Do Be: Family’)