5 Questions for Composer Anthony T. Marasco

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Anthony T. Marasco is a composer, sound artist, and instrument builder who takes influence from the aesthetics of today’s Digimodernist culture, exploring the relationships between the eccentric and the every-day, the strict and the indeterminate, the raw and the refined, and the retro and the contemporary. These explorations result in a wide variety of works written for electro-acoustic ensembles, interdisciplinary fixed-media works, interactive computer performance systems, and multimedia installations. An internationally recognized composer, he has received commissions from performers, and institutions such as WIRED Magazine, Phyllis Chen, the American Composers Forum Philadelphia, Quince Contemporary Vocal Ensemble, Toy Piano Composers, the Rhymes With Opera New Chamber Music Workshop, Data Garden, andPLAY Duo, MakeSh/ft Maker Community, and the soundSCAPE International Composition Exchange. Marasco was the grand-prize winner of the UnCaged Toy Piano Festival’s 2013 Call for Scores, a resident artist at Signal Culture Experimental Media Labs, and a grant winner for the American Composers Forum’s “If You Could Hear These Walls” project. His works have been featured at festivals across the globe, such as the Electroacoustic Barn Dance, New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival, Montreal Contemporary Music Lab, the soundSCAPE International Composition and Performance Festivals, and Omaha Under the Radar. atmarasco.com

Anthony T. Marasco will join colleagues from across the globe at the 2016 Florida International Toy Piano Festival in January 2016 presented by The New Music Conflagration, Inc.

1) How did you first become interested in the toy piano as a concert instrument?
Growing up, I was definitely aware of the toy piano as this kind of hybrid toy/music education tool, but I never really looked into its capabilities as a performance instrument until later in life. It wasn’t until my graduate school days when I started researching more postmodern and American experiential music (particularly the work of John Cage) that I discovered some really strong pieces that used the instrument in a more artistic manner. My first piece for toy piano, Mid-Century Marfa, was written for the 2013 UnCaged Toy Piano Festival Call for Scores and it ended up taking first place and being premiered by Phyllis Chen, so I’m fortunate enough to have had my first experience writing for the instrument be an incredible one!

2) What influenced you to come to the festival?
I’m a big fan of collaboration and the spreading of new ideas and concepts in the new music world, so festivals like this always jump out at me as a great environment to do more of that. I’m currently based in a small town in Northeastern Pennsylvania where the contemporary music scene is, well, often times comprised of just me, so getting to head to new places and meet like-minded artists who want to exhibit and grow their practice is always a fun experience. Plus: 70-degree weather in January and the possibility of hanging out with alligators? I’m there!

3) Who is your favorite toy piano composer and why?
I definitely remember Cage’s Suite for Toy Piano being the first piece for the instrument that I encountered while in graduate school, although my girlfriend Monica Pearce—an excellent toy piano composer in her own right—called out John Williams’ use of a toy piano in the Ewok’s theme music during a rewatch of Return of the Jedi this summer, so I definitely had that as a subliminal influence as a kid without realizing it! One of my favorite contemporary toy piano pieces though is Tristan Perich’s qsqsqsqsqqqqqqqqq, which does an incredible job of blending the unique timbre of three toy pianos with 1-bit electronics.

4) What do you see as the future of toy piano?
For me, I think the future of the toy piano being a featured instrument for contemporary composers is going to also make the use of odd and homemade instruments a very attractive option in new music to come. Bridging the gap between “toy” and “real” instruments has been something that composers in both the electronic and acoustic realms have been tackling for the last few decades, and in the future I’d love to see more composers start to take on the role of becoming instrument builders themselves, developing brand new devices that entire pieces can be centered on and blurring the lines between art and play.

5) What local place or thing are you most excited to experience during your visit to the Tampa Bay Area for the festival?
I haven’t really done much research, but see my answer for question 3 RE: alligators. Seriously, most of my luggage is just going to be bags of marshmallows.



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