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Q&A with Patrick Castillo

March 15, 2018

You may recognize Patrick Castillo as a host of CMS's Late Night Rose series, but at the upcoming New Music concert on March 29 he'll be in a different role — that of composer. We sat down with Patrick to talk about everything from his work, Incident, to why new music matters.

(CMS) When did you start composing, and what has kept you interested in composition?
(PC) I’ve been creating music for as long as I can remember. I played in rock bands growing up and was always writing songs; I was never a good pianist, and had little patience for practicing the repertoire I was assigned, so whatever time I spent at the keyboard quickly devolved into messing around and inventing my own music. It wasn’t until college that I realized that what I had instinctively been doing my whole life could be codified into a vocational practice.

Composition, for me, is a natural means of interfacing with the world around us; it’s a way to explore any subject in a way that resonates on a different level than language. How to transmute our worldly experience into sound—that’s a challenge that never ceases to fascinate me.

Where, what, or from whom do you draw your inspiration when composing a new work?
Literature, the visual arts, psychology, religion, baseball, city life, my one-year-old son. My work as a composer is a search for new sounds and musical forms as an expression of the modern human experience. In any setting, from the profound to the mundane, I’m seeking tropes, anomalies, and other shared experiences that can inform an abstract musical expression.

What are some similar and different challenges composers in 2018 face as composers did in the 1800s?
I’m sure that composers two hundred years from now will still be trying to figure out how to sustain their livelihood.

Tell us a bit about your piece, Incident. What are some things audiences should listen for?
It’s a piece that explores memory: how reliable our memories may or may not be, how our tempers are affected by how we remember past events. I would suggest giving close attention to the way the piece begins, as the rest of the piece pushes and pulls that material in different ways.

Why is it important to continue creating and sharing new chamber music works?
Great art, of course, is timeless, but so is any work of art inevitably an expression of its time. Creating and sharing the music of our own time—especially in such an intimate medium as chamber music—is an essential means of communicating, fostering meaningful dialogue, and breeding empathy. Dialogue and empathy seem to be in short order these days.

Mr. Castillo's Incident for Violin and Piano will be performed live March 29 in the Daniel and Joanna S. Rose Studio as part of two New Music concerts.