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“I think the musical instrument has become a real fetish object,” he says. “I’m interested in divorcing the performer from the instrument because the instrument – the physical object – and the pageantry of the performance have risen to such a high level of prominence that the focus is no longer on performers, the expressive gesture or the improvisational gesture. It’s now on all these extraneous superficial details of... quote... performance.”
In the last 18 months, Hinck has premiered pieces in Chattanooga that include classical vocalists singing computer code, a young vocalist who is not only accompanied by brass players but is assigned to move his accompanists around the room, and a musical quartet in which a beam of light shines at the audience almost like a fifth performer. Multimedia projections are part of many of Hinck’s compositions.
He just received a MakeWork grant to stage Cyclopedia, a much larger work that will feature 12-18 instrumentalists, dancers and singers, along with retro multimedia, staging, props and recorded sound.
But before premiering that work in February at the Center for Creative Arts, Hinck is presenting a musical manifesto in the first two weeks of November. Through lectures at locations around Chattanooga and two solo performances, he wants to share the thinking behind his evolving approach to musical composition.
Here is a preview of Hinck’s upcoming manifesto.
His work asks a fundamental question: What does it mean to be a composer?
“Does that mean that I write a symphony or a string quartet for this instrumentation and then it gets played and hopefully it gets printed and it gets canonized and goes into the pantheon of musical compositions that exists in a library somewhere?” he asks.
Instead, he’s more interested in “getting to the very beginning, the core of the artistic process, things like the human gestural expression, things like the first spark of an idea when you improvise, the actual physical body of the performer.”
What Hinck is after may be more an open marriage than a divorce. He doesn’t want to take the instruments away, but his compositions call for the musicians to do more than play instruments and for non-musical elements.
“I’m really interested in writing music for what I call the holistic performer, not just an instrument but also the body, the voice, the way they move, everything that makes them unique as a performer,” he says. “I’m trying to create music that involves a traditionally non-musical element: light, movement or human speech, which really got me started on a this, listening to human speech as music.”
This direction in Hinck’s work began two years ago when he was sitting in a crowded restaurant.
“I closed my eyes and listened to all the conversations going on around me. I had this moment,” he says. “I experienced this conversation as the most beautiful, tightly orchestrated musical composition I had heard ever.”
He immediately started integrating speech – words spoken by instrumentalists, not singing – into his compositions. But the real turning point came a few months later when Hinck saw a sculpture that he experienced as a musical composition.
“Stairway 2000” by Bruce Naumann is a series of concrete steps of varying heights going down a hill. “When an audience member walks down these stair steps they’re not only feeling a rhythmic pattern – long, short, short, long and so on – they’re also physicalizing that composition, they become performers as they move down the stairs.”
Hinck realized that a drummer could have produced the same pattern, but that would have been performing at the audience instead of transforming the audience into performers. He also realized that he didn’t need a sound-producing device to make a musical composition.