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In Conversation: Daria Novoliantceva on SF Ballet Commission

SFCM alumni and faculty members have had a close relationship with San Francisco Ballet. Not too long ago, alumnus Ilya Demutsky ’09 saw the world premiere of a work of his at SF Ballet, and now alumna and Technology and Applied Composition faculty member Daria Novoliantceva will have the same experience. Her new piece, "...two united in a single soul…," premieres March 27 and runs April 7.

In the following Q&A, Novoliantceva talks about how the commission came about and what it has been like collaborating with choreographer Yuri Possokov.

The new work you're writing for San Francisco Ballet titled "...two united in a single soul..." gives music credits to both you and Handel. What kind of music can we expect to hear in this piece?

It will be original music by Handel in contemporary arrangement with beats, synths, and sound effects with extended orchestration. I use Ableton live to trigger samples that I created as well as pre-recorded tracks. I also composed additional music, which is more of a cinematic style. The most complicated thing was to mix Handel and electronic elements so that it doesn't sound generic yet still sound like Handel.

How did this commission come about?

A friend of mine, a very famous russian composer, Ilya Demutsky (he also graduated both from Saint Petersburg Conservatory and SFCM) recommended me to Yuri in person. Yuri was looking for a composer who can do orchestration, arrangement, and electronics.

What has it been like collaborating with choreographer Yuri Possokhov?

Yuri is an outstanding choreographer. He has a keen ear for classical music and willing to experiment. Since we both are Russian it was easier to communicate our ideas. This is my first dance project, and, because of this, I had to figure out my workflow as I went along.

How does the music you're writing inform the choreography? Or is it the other way around?

Prior to working with Yuri, he had a vision of what the choreography would be. When we met I was able to piggyback off his ideas and, because we have similar backgrounds, it was easy to work together. After we met, I made a demo of how I interpreted the choreography and he just made some minor revisions. After that, I made a piano reduction for rehearsals, orchestral score and parts. Finally, I used Ableton to produce electronic elements. The production is pretty big—full orchestra will be amplified, a pianist will be playing on both harpsichord and keyboard with samples. The second pianist will be triggering a click track for the conductor and tape recording as well as playing with sampled instruments.

Do you have a passion for ballet? What is your background in the art form?

I love ballet. I am from Russia, a country with legendary choreographers, dancers, and composers. I had classical education in Russia and came to San Francisco to learn technology. My passion now is to mix my classical and technological knowledge to create stories. I collaborate with other artists using differing forms of art to make projects come to life. As a composer who wants to work with other artists, I am inspired to create meaningful work.

What future commissions/pieces are you working on?

I’m working on several different projects. I compose music for a series of videos for a Russian TV channel featuring different cultural/architectural objects around Saint Petersburg. Another project I’m working on is music and sound design for a mobile game which will be launched in the summer. (I’m working together with another composer). Furthermore, there will be a big premiere of a musical in Moscow I am doing orchestrations for.

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