Zechariah Goh Toh Chai is one of the most well-known and recognisable Singaporean composers today. His new work PD cues Bach Invention (after Paul Desmond’s “Take 5”) will be premiered at re: mix's upcoming Twisters concert on Saturday 15 December 2012 at the Esplanade Recital Studio, 3pm & 7:30pm. He shared with SG-MUSIC.NET the inspirations behind this new work, what audience can expect from it as well as what he has been up to in his sabbatical year from NAFA.
Toh Chai, PD cues Bach Invention (after Paul Desmond’s “Take 5”) is the first work you’ve written for re: mix and of course it will be receiving its premiere at the upcoming Twisters concert. Tell us how this collaboration and the main idea for the work came about. Presumably there’s some element of influence from the works of the popular P.D.Q. Bach (a.k.a Peter Schickele)?
It is a wonderful coincidence for me to think about all the various connection between J.S Bach, P.D.Q. Bach and Paul Desmond. As the original creation is "take five" and the twister-factor being giving it a little Bach influence, I made it a point to research on all things fugue and Bach. As a result, a French suite and fugue, that Bach would have written in his time. As for P.D.Q. Bach, he has been know to be one of the most creative individuals who injected a lot of humor and laughter in his music by re-inventing older pieces. I have always admired these three composers and putting together a little homage such as this piece is one of my happiest encounters for this year.
Obviously, no one aside from yourself and the musicians of re: mix knows what the piece will be like. What can audiences expect, and what are some of the key features that they can listen out for? What were some of the interesting challenges that you had to tackle when writing the work?
We will hear part of the tune, in fact most of the tune interwoven with all the Baroque elements including double-dotted quarter note in the French Overture. All the fugal standard techniques such as augmentation, stretto, pedal points and Picardy third can be expected during the performance. The tune from "take five" can be heard if you know the piece well enough. There are not explicit but gently reminding the audience of this work.
Take 5 was originally written by Paul Desmond for the Dave Brubeck Quartet, in which he played alto saxophone during its early years. While it’s been about 35 years since Paul Desmond passed away, it’s also worth noting that Dave Brubeck had just passed away this past week on 5 December 2012. How much of an influence has jazz, in this myriad styles and forms, had on your growth and development as a composer?
J.S. Bach has been known to be a favorite inspiration for jazz musicians to give it a little twist for the past 50 years and personally I feel that there are more things in common between Baroque and jazz than many other forms of classical music. Putting these two together is very natural things to do.
You’ve been on a year-long sabbatical leave from your position as Head of Composition Studies at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts. What have you been up to during your sabbatical, and when will you be returning to teach again? Your students at NAFA must miss you very much!
I miss my students very much as well, I have been traveling and giving lectures and master class in Indiana University, University of Kansas in USA and Royal Northern College in UK, Hannover University in Germany and Li Chung High School in Taiwan. I am looking forward to compose more music and meeting my students again.
Is there any advice that you can share with the younger generation of aspiring composers about a career in music?
Keep writing music, inspire yourselves before touching others in your compositions. Work really hard and find your voice.