This interview was with Kristina Zubrickaitė, a first year BA Music student from Lithuania.
Matt – What instruments do you play?
Kristina – I play Cello, which is my main instrument but I can also play Piano. I’ve also played with Guitar but I have only taught myself, I haven’t had any lessons on that.
Matt – How long have you been playing?
Kristina – Cello ten years, Piano nine years.
Lewis – What made you start playing the Cello?
Kristina – My sister played, she went to music school. In the last year I was at her graduation ceremony and I thought, I want to play.
Matt – What style of music do you play?
Kristina – Basically it’s classical music. We have a strong tradition to play classical music but I’ve been getting into Jazz pieces, I really like to play Claude Bolling music. Also last year I was playing in the Symphony Orchestra and we played a couple of pieces of Cage. This is because our conductor is very passionate about contemporary music, also has an ensemble of contemporary music. He knows a lot about this music so now I’m interested in that, especially in Cage.
Lewis – Is that the same music you like to listen to as well?
Kristina – It depends on the mood actually, sometimes I’ll just start listening to Piazzola’s Tango, Ligeti, Liszt or Mahler symphonies.
Lewis – So do you mainly like to listen to classical music or are there other genres you like to listen to often?
Kristina – I am listening to Jazz, Indie and sometimes Reggae.
Matt – What was it that triggered your interest in music?
Kristina – I can’t really remember because I was nine years old. I just wanted to play it and three or two years ago I realised I didn’t want to stop.
Matt – Do you enjoy playing then?
Kristina – Yes. Not just composing either, some people say they just like to compose. I like composing but I really love to play.
Matt – It’s like a drug.
Kristina – Yes, it’s like outer space. Especially when you’re playing, it’s otherworldly.
Lewis – How long do you think you could go without playing music?
Kristina – One month. A long time ago there were summer breaks and it was like, oh I’m not playing music because I need holidays. Then year after year I just couldn’t do that long, now it’s like three days without playing, it’s not good!
Lewis – Does it feel like work, being here and studying music or is it just what you want to do anyway?
Kristina – It’s a little bit of work but I think I like this work, it’s a pleasure. Sometimes I feel exhausted, you push yourself to play because something’s not going well but I say, keep playing and tomorrow will be better.
Matt – How do you get past that, because whenever I’m learning pieces by other people I get to the stage where I keep making mistakes, that really annoys me and I just give up. How do you get past that point?
Kristina – If it’s a fast piece of music or just a lot of short notes my teacher said to me to break it into small parts and just keep playing one bar or a couple of bars very, very slowly about ten times and then play one time in the tempo. After that keep doing it four or five times, just do that. Essentially after doing that you can’t ever make a mistake.
Matt – I think we’ve touched on this but what’s your favourite aspect about playing music?
Kristina – It’s concert or gigs but it’s not that you feel like a celebrity, it’s that you’re giving pleasure to the audience. A concert is about music but it’s more to do with giving pleasure to the audience, because without an audience it’s not performance. The most beautiful thing in concerts, mainly in classical music, is when people start crying. It makes you feel happy because you produced everything perfectly.
Lewis – If I’m watching a piece of music being performed and I just feel completely amazed by it, I feel I want to do that to someone. Do you find that when you’re watching musical performances, do you prefer performing?
Kristina – Both. I can’t really separate them because without being in that space and listening to concerts you don’t get thoughts and ideas. I listen to the London Royal Philharmonic Orchestra concerts and after that I was inspired a lot.
Lewis – Do you play as part of an orchestra then or do you do solo performances?
Kristina – When I was playing in the orchestra, it wasn’t a solo piece but there were parts when it was just one Cello playing and because I was Konzertmeister (first cello) during that period I had to play that part.
Lewis – Did you get excited for your moment, when you had your cello part?
Kristina – Sometimes, when I know I can play well and I was really excited some times.
Matt – Ed Sheeran or Kate Bush?
Kristina – I don’t know Kate Bush so Ed Sheeran.
Lewis – Oh no!
Matt – 2 out of 3!
Lewis – She is the best artist ever, that’s just so you know. So the correct answer would have been Kate Bush! Let’s do it again – Ed Sheeran or Kate Bush?
Matt – Ed Sheeran!
Lewis – Didn’t ask you.
Kristina – (still Ed Sheeran).
Matt – Nice one.
Lewis – No, still not the right answer!
Matt – What are your influences? Do you have artists or composers that influence you?
Kristina – Yes it is Kristina Vasiliauskaitė (Lithuanian composer), she has influence in church music but she creates it in a contemporary style and she has created a couple of pieces for the symphony orchestra that I have played. There is an influence from folk songs that I really like as well and world musicians. Another composer is Claude Bolling, he is still alive. He literally creates Jazz music for flute, piano and double bass, because I play in a trio with piano, flute and cello, I have played some of his pieces and they are very beautiful.
Lewis – So when you are performing your pieces, say when you are performing this Jazz piece, would you perform it as you have heard it before or is it about finding your own way of performing it as such and putting your own style into it?
Kristina – Actually because I am playing from sheet music, so we do interpretation of our feeling for the music but it is not like trying to do it in a different style. Dynamics, tempo, accents may be a little different, my part is the double bass part and there are notes that I can’t play so I take the arrangement of my part and change it a little.
Lewis – Do you like the challenge of that? Of changing pieces that are good for other instruments, do you like arranging stuff for cello?
Kristina – Yes, I like arranging.
Lewis – Did you say you do composition?
Kristina – Yes I am now doing composition for my module.
Lewis – Oh of course yes. Do you like it?
Kristina – I like it but it’s hard because they sometimes have to give negative feedback on my pieces.
Lewis – Oh yes, it’s tough but it’s also good because that’s the way you get tips to get better. Do you think you will do more composing outside the module? Do you enjoy it?
Kristina – I like it but it’s not the main thing I like doing.
Matt – Performing is part of your other module isn’t it? Are you looking forward to that?
Kristina – Yes, we have to perform our coursework pieces.
Matt – What’s your process of composing?
Kristina – Last Friday, I was literally for two hours sitting in the practice room and just trying to play something and it got crazy because after the two hours I was just lying on the ground and playing cello.
Matt – I think composing really depends on the time that you do it because literally for exactly the same module last year I hadn’t got anything and I’d got a week to go and I did it in one day. It just suddenly clicked.
Kristina – Yes, it isn’t that I don’t have anything, I got some of it down on Sunday night. I listened to that and got on my computer and I created half of it but now I am stuck.
Matt – I think it comes in waves for me.
Lewis – Me too.
Matt – You will get something, an idea, an inspiration and then you will put that down and you probably won’t be able to do anything else so you leave it and then you will come back to it and it will click again.
Kristina – Yes, I think I need a little break (from it).
Lewis – Yes I find that really helps me. I could work for hours and just not have anything I like and then come back a few days later and then straight away something comes out that sounds good.
Kristina – I was writing until 5 in the morning on Sunday because I had a lecture the next day and so I was like – Ok I will write now, I want to write and I will try to go on but if I stop, I stop. I like deadlines.
Matt – Yes, deadlines really help I think sometimes don’t they.
Lewis – Yes otherwise I would never get anything finished.
Matt – I’ve got huge amounts of little things like 1 minute bits here and lots of different things I’ve recorded on Sibelius and I have never completed them. I bet I’ve got about 50 called Matt un-named.
Kristina – Yes, I’ve got a couple that I haven’t finished.
Matt – I think it is quite good to have that drive.
Matt – What is your hope for the future?
Kristina – My main plan is to improve my technique skills to professional levels and then to find a prestige orchestra, I don’t know, like a royal orchestra? It would be crazy to if one day I could but also there are a lot of famous orchestras in Europe, America maybe? I definitely want to play in an orchestra.
Matt – You are from Lithuania? Would you want to play in Lithuania or Britain or anywhere else? Where would you like to play?
Kristina – Really I want to play and live in my country but we have a problem with music because we have a point of view that if you don’t go to conservatoire you won‘t be a professional musician. For example, one year I had a Master Class (workshop) with the Professor. I said I want to be a musician and after that he said you can’t study music because you didn’t go to a Conservatoire.
Lewis – Did him saying that motivate you to do more to study music?
Kristina – I actually tried to teach myself harmony but we have a very difficult exam for that and I wouldn’t pass enough to study at The Academy of Music.
Kristina – Then maybe if I change my mind that I don’t want to be a musician, I will not stop playing but will not play professionally like in an orchestra or something like that, with classical music. Maybe I would like to be a sound engineer or something like that, I am interested in techniques, I want to know how things work.
Matt – I think it would be really good. I think a new module your year has got now is learning how to record. It would be really good if you could get those techniques
Kristina – That would be great.
Matt – It was something we were shown on our module a couple of weeks ago. We had a few Bluegrass bands. A cello player – really top musician, he was classical but they all played together and it was really interesting.
Matt/Lewis – Thank you so much, that’s been really interesting.