EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Gina Biver
Gina Biver, a composer of electroacoustic music for chamber ensemble, choir, multimedia, dance, sound installations and film. We talked about her work, her plans, her latest album, inspiration, etc. Enjoy!
Gina, your first love was the electric guitar and you were a successful guitarist, even named “the best female guitarist in rock”. Today, you are completely something new and you are having a wider and unique approach to the creation of music. What happened, what inspired you to have this transformation!?
As a student at Berklee College of Music, I was playing guitar in “fusion/jazz-rock” groups but was also composing instrumental music and listening to Steve Reich and other modern composers that would later become influential. After I graduated and moved from Boston to be near New York City, I wasn’t looking for a girl band per se, in fact, many of my friends were surprised that I joined one!
I really was looking for a strong music project where the musicians were passionate about what they were doing, and where I’d be able to write a lot and gig in the city. I found all that in Pantara-84 and had several pretty wild but creatively fun years with them.
You are very active in producing music for movies, tv, and you are working with many kinds of artists… Tell us more about it!?
When the band was over, I continued to compose and record instrumental songs and just looked for gigs. At that time, as a female guitarist, it still wasn’t easy to get placed with a band, no matter how well you could play. Within a couple of years, I got married and moved to the DC area. At that point, I thought it would be good to find work that didn’t involve staying out late performing, so I set out to compose music for the film. I worked as a production assistant in a film company for a few months and talked my way into a composing job for a TV spot.
I continued to score for the film quite successfully in my home studio for about fifteen years, composing PSAs and videos for American Red Cross, political ads for the Democratic National Committee, Time Warner, and various other ads and corporate videos. I felt very lucky to be able to do this for so long, especially while my kids were young since I could work at home. I still love writing for film; except I now focus on scoring only independent or art films.
Then around 2003, I decided to get a master’s degree so I might be able to grab a teaching gig to supplement my income. We had three kids by then and money was getting tighter. During graduate school, I studied composition with Steve Antosca, and I was taken by how much fun it was to compose in a modern sense. I just felt so free!
He is an amazing composer and inspiring teacher who let me keep my intuitive writing intact but taught me so much about the craft of composing. I also learned about grant writing and the business of running an ensemble. We are still very close friends.
Fuse Ensemble, it’s a group of musicians led by you!? Right!? Tell us more about it!
Yes, by 2008 I founded Fuse Ensemble by putting together a group of classically trained musicians who were interested in working within the new music scene. I wanted every performance to include visuals of some sort – usually interactive videos. But we would work with visual artists and poets, filmmakers, choreographers, instrument makers – all kinds of artists. Either I or whoever I was collaborating with would create a concept each season, and then I would compose pieces for it. We would also perform works by living composers that pertained to the concept each season.
We used lots of technology too, including interactive cameras, triggering devices, and electronics on stage. I played guitar with Fuse for quite a few seasons if there was a piece that called for it, but my main thrust was always composing, presenting music by other composers, and creating fully integrative experiences and musical happenings. Although we’ve had a few personnel changes along the way, we’ve been working together for about thirteen years and having a blast.
Your newest album is Nimbus. A very interesting concept in a form of the mix of music and poetry. What is the biggest value of this album from your perspective!?
Thank you. “Fuse Ensemble Nimbus”, the most recent release of my compositions, is a project that I worked on for about three years that is very close to my heart. Nimbus is a set of seven short movements for electroacoustic chamber ensemble, spoken word, voice and prerecorded audio; each one based on a poem. The poetry tells of the early life of my friend and collaborator, esteemed NYC poet Colette Inez, who was the lovechild of a Roman Catholic priest and the young scholar assigned to assist him.
Colette passed away while we were working on Nimbus (she was 87), but through her husband, I was invited to compose Nimbus in the very house where Colette’s mother had lived up until the time she became pregnant and secretly delivered the child in an orphanage in Belgium. I think it is a compelling story, told in beautifully written poems, music, and recorded sounds from the town of Nerac, France. It was officially released in February of 2021 on Neuma Records. The full story with pictures is available on my website under the Nimbus tab.
Inspiration. What is most inspiring to you? What drives you!?
What drives me is a visual art, literature, stories, ideas, words, and concepts that I run into or have been mulling over; those that come to mind and tug at my heart to create something. My concepts tend to last a year or more – or however long it takes me to fully manifest something and get my point across in some satisfying way — sometimes with just one composition, sometimes with several.
I have composed many, many pieces while on artist retreat in the mountains, where time expands, all is quiet and natural surrounds. Creative ideas need space in order to reveal themselves.
What are your plans or wishes for the next period!?
That’s a really good question… I usually have several ideas percolating in my mind so I just give them some air and wait until one rises to the top. I am currently working on a project with visual artist Edgar Endress, and have a premiere of a guitar and electronics piece coming up soon, but beyond that, I am in the percolating phase!
At the end of our conversation, please, send one special message to our readers and fans!?
Well, first of all, thanks for reading this far! I’m grateful for the opportunity to share a bit of my story with you. My wish is that all of you can feel the hope that is in the air with the coming of spring and can find time to be in nature every day to feel calm and ultimately nurture your own creativity.