Classical comes to Walker

by Grant Tillery

Despite embodying three distinct sounds and genres, ethereal atmospherics define the sonic palettes of Victoire’s contemporary classical styling, Glasser’s synth-pop and Noveller’s ambient electric guitar.
 
The three groups will converge for a concert on Saturday at the Walker Art Center as part of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra’s Liquid Music series.
Missy Mazzoli, Victoire’s composer and keyboardist, is glad the tides of collaboration have changed and that there are now more opportunities to transcend the
parameters of genre.
 
“When I was starting out studying composition, composers [weren’t] collaborating with synth-pop singers or guitarists,” Mazzoli said. “The world was very much separated between pop and classical, and there [were] no crossovers between.”
 
While the three artists and groups hadn’t collaborated before, Mazzoli was familiar with both Glasser and Noveller’s work. Glasser appeared on a 2009 compilation released by eMusic that also featured Victoire’s first single. Mazzoli immediately became a big fan upon hearing the song.  
 
Mazzoli is a prolific contemporary classical composer. A graduate of the Yale School of Music, she’s composing an opera while serving as Opera Philadelphia’s
Composer in Residence, in addition to her work with Victoire and numerous other solo and collaborative projects. Though modernizing the classical framework is her
passion, Mazzoli recognizes the stigma that comes along with performing in a musical medium thought of as unapproachable to the masses.
 
“You tell people you’re a composer, and they have no idea what that means in 2015,” Mazzoli said. “Their walls go up — they think that your music is going to be inscrutable or forbidding or academic. If you tell people, ‘I’m in a band,’ then their ears are open. They become open and available to extreme and experimental
things because the paradigm is clear.”
 
Multitudes of performances with various groups turned the media’s attention toward Mazzoli: Victoire’s debut album “Cathedral City” received a favorable write-up on
Pitchfork and received mention in Paper Magazine’s “Beautiful People Class of 2015.” Mazzoli credits living in Brooklyn as a proponent of her success, as well as the burgeoning contemporary classical music scene in New York City.
 
New York is a muse to Glasser’s Cameron Mesirow as well, despite a stint in Los Angeles five years ago. While there, she worked as an assistant to late artist Mike Kelley as well as jobs in a shoe store and bookstore. 
 
Mesirow’s composition style shifted after the move, and she believes the spaces she inhabits — specifically the abundance of empty space in Los Angeles and the lack thereof in Manhattan — have a profound influence on her.
 
“There’s tension in my music now that wasn’t there before,” Mesirow said of her changing composing influences. “Garbage is a big influence on me. I’m really 
interested in shrapnel and refuse that I see around in the street — I think that is an interesting human aspect for living in a city, and that [has] a huge impact on the sounds that I make. … There’s garbage everywhere in New York.”  
 
Sarah Lipstate, the one-woman wunderkind behind Noveller, experienced a similar change of scene recently when she moved from Brooklyn to Austin, Texas, and back within a short span. While in Austin, she took advantage of a large property to play her music at all hours of the day and record her latest album, “Fantastic Planet,” which dropped in January.
 
Frequent gigs in New York City beckoned Lipstate back to Brooklyn. The serendipitous timing of the sale of her Austin rental house further prompted the move.
 
“At time it wasn’t a break — it was goodbye,” Lipstate said. “I can never deny the fact that New York City is the place that has the most opportunities for me to perform or collaborate.”
 
Musical convergences provide Lipstate a chance to free herself from limitations, and, like Mazzoli, she reiterated the importance of embracing and exploring sounds and genres outside her traditional realm.
 
“Removing the substance of restrictions can really be the best for your creative flow,” Lipstate said.