Tri-Centric Commissioning Series Spotlight: Mark Taylor

photo by Donald Dan

Tri-Centric Commissioning Series Spotlight: Mark Taylor
(email interview with Kyoko Kitamura)

In the Tri-Centric Commissioning Series, featured composers are asked to write or newly adapt a composition for the Tri-Centric Orchestra. One of the composers on 9/24 at Roulette is Mark Taylor whose rich creativity knows no bounds. As a performer, Mark has worked with jazz legends such as Max Roach, Henry Threadgill and Muhal Richard Abrams, and pop icons like BeBe Winans and Michael Bolton. As a composer, he has composed for theater, dance, and film. Here, he describes his new composition “It’s Not Like He’s Never Been There Before” and talks candidly about putting his horn down, changing directions and expanding options, and what it means to be an older musician with experience.


KK: Can you describe your piece “It’s Not Like He’s Never Been There Before” and how it came about?

ML: The inspiration for the piece mostly comes from the work of visual artist Gabriela Vainsencher and her Morning Drawings project. Much of this work contains cryptic bits of text that make great composition titles and creates, for me, a feeling of an unfinished story or something overheard.

KK: Did you write with the Tri-Centric Orchestra in mind, and, if so, how did that affect your work?

ML: Indeed I did! One of the great joys of this project is that I was able to indulge my “inner Ellington” and write, not only for players I knew and loved (since I am a former member of the Tri-Centric Orchestra myself), but for an ensemble that is, to my knowledge, unique among large “new music” ensembles. I knew I could write “knotty bits” and challenging melodic and harmonic material and then turn on a dime to collective improvisation, chord changes, graphic notation, you name it!

KK: I know that you have been through a huge transition lately, taking you away from the French Horn and into other territories. Would you let us know about that process, have any advice for people who may undergo similar transitions or anyone who is thinking about changing their area of expertise?

ML: It’s been about a year and a half since I had to put the French Horn down and I can tell you it’s been a long roller coaster ride mostly centered around issues of identity. I am slowly learning to separate the Horn player from the musician, the Composer, the Artist (I’m actually finally learning to be comfortable calling myself an Artist, even though that was always my goal). I’ve also had the amazing support of mentors, friends and colleagues, many of whom, it turns out, always saw me as a composer, anyway. I was just a composer who happened to play the French Horn. As much as I hope to be able to play the Horn again one day, the “silver lining”, as my wife likes to call it, is all the new opportunities and directions I can explore!

KK: As an older musician in a culture which often celebrates youth, would you have any thoughts on the matter and advice for the not-so-young (myself included… I personally would love some advice!)?

ML: “HEY!! YOU KIDS GET OFF OF MY LAWN!!!” What? Oh…well that’s all pretty new to me, too! I have to admit that my feeling about “changing direction” (I now choose to think of it as “expanding my options”) was that I’d be starting over and having to compete with lots of  “young ‘uns”. What I’m seeing is actually quite different. We have experience, and experiences. Those are valuable and sought after. They give us something to say, hopefully. All those gigs I did as a younger musician (and all the older-than-I-was musicians who took the time to teach me) laid a foundation I can build on today. I think many of us would be surprised to find out how many people actually DO know about us and our work. I know I was. I was recently at a workshop about “career” stuff and the speaker made the case that most of us see “the business/career” as kind of an Eiffel Tower. You start at the bottom and make all the right moves and end up at the top. Hopefully. His challenge to us was to see that there IS no Tower. You find a community, a scene, and you dig in and make some noise. I’m sometimes afraid of making noise. Raised to be too polite, I guess. I really like big parts of that idea. Climb up on that foundation, strap in for the long haul and start making noise!!

KK: Thank you and see you on the 24th!

Performance details:
Tuesday Sept. 24th 8PM
Roulette 509 Atlantic Avenue at 3rd Av, Brooklyn, NY map
$20 general admission, $15 Roulette members/TCF members/seniors/students
Tickets and more info:

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