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Thalia Book Club Camp offers up-close interaction with renowned children's book authors and illustrators, book discussions, and book-related field trips around the city. This blog follows the camp's activities.

An Introduction from Michi

Published on January 13, 2009

Michi Wiancko submitted this blog in conjunction with her participation in the event Violinist Michi Wiancko & Electric Violist Martha Mooke.

Being asked to write a blog for my upcoming concert has given me a rare opportunity to sit still and reflect. To begin, I’ve decided to write about a question that was posed to me: “How do you balance the different demands of classical repertoire and new work?” This happens to be a question that scrolls through my mind on a daily basis.

I am fortunate enough to make my living performing as a classical violinist. I’ve experienced a broad range of this world – everything from recording on a soundtrack in Hollywood to making my recital debut in Weill Hall to touring with a quartet to appearing as a soloist with the Los Angeles and New York Philharmonics. I’m currently involved in a few different ensembles, give recitals here and in Japan, as well as concerto performances with orchestras throughout the country.

I’ve also started enjoying a whole different type of creativity – writing non-classical music and singing. I call the project Kono Michi (which means “This Path” in Japanese) and when I do it live it takes the form of vocals, a string quartet, bass and percussion. I discovered this passion home alone recording and improvising into the wee hours of the evening, rather secretively at first.

Now, I’m signed to an Indie label in the UK, have yearly sprinklings of shows here in New York (and once at World Café Live in Philadelphia), have released two E.P.’s with one full-length album on it’s way, and recently returned from a UK tour.

It’s been a type of joyful struggle trying to reconcile these two parts of my life. (I say “two” but really it’s more like “fifteen”!) I am determined to give Kono Michi some breathing room and a healthy diet so she grows up to be the best she can be. Plus, recording in my home studio and writing songs has become one of the greatest passions of my life. Some days I feel more of the joy, other days feel like all-struggle, but I never ever lose sight of the fact that I am so fortunate to be doing what I do, to be wrapped up in music all the time, and to make a living doing something that I recently realized I was meant to do: search.

To get back to the original question of “How do I balance the different aspects of my life?” would be that, like all balancing acts, it’s an ongoing process of give and take. I am very organized, and in the busy season I make all kinds of lists and charts. I no longer have the time to take every concert and opportunity that comes my way, so I am very careful that what I involve myself in are projects that I can be passionate about, because that passion is what saves me on days when I’m a bit overwhelmed by what seems like millions of deadlines and demands. Right now I am working approximately 15 hours a day. I practice, I write music, I edit, I record, I return emails and do all the tasks that come with being a freelance performer. But it’s all a labor of love so the busy-ness feels good.

This particular concert with Martha Mooke coming up next month in Symphony Space, is an entirely new project for me. I will be appearing as Michi Wiancko, the classical violinist, followed by a bit of genre bending and exploration. The focus is on unaccompanied instruments, so I will get up there first and present some of my favorite works for solo violin. Then Martha will do a set of her own work, which will no doubt exist on a totally different wavelength. I think the diversity of it all will be really fascinating and fun! But somewhere in between there will be a collaboration, some kind of link crossing over our two sections of the program.

I am about to meet Martha for the first time, and I think once we are in the same room at the same time (and surrounded by all her instruments and pedals!) then we’ll start narrowing in on how and what we’ll compose for each other (which was our original plan). I’m very excited because I know Martha is a sound and electric-instrument innovator, and I’ve always been fascinated with electric instruments but haven’t taken the time to explore them.  What we have in common is that we’ve both created our own worlds that we live in… forged our own career paths. I look forward to our musical collaboration because it’s always fascinating to discover and explore somebody else’s relationship to music and to sound worlds. After all, music is a form of expression, and with each musician that expression can take on innumerable shapes and colors and sizes.

Plus, if there’s time, I may ask Martha how she balances everything she does – always an interesting question for those of us who don’t have a 9-5 schedule and must carve out our hours from scratch.

For today, I get back to practicing the solo music for my half of our program, working on my album, preparing for two recitals in Japan, and re-memorizing the insanely gorgeous Bruch Violin Concerto, which I’ll also be playing in Symphony Space next month with Matthew Oberstein and the New Amsterdam Symphony. I’m very excited about that as well – The Bruch is one of those pieces that is full of what I call “This Is Why I Do This” moments. It is a truly heartfelt and moving piece, while remaining virtuosic and exciting at the same time.

I’ll write again soon with an update and I suspect that next time I do I’ll hone in more on the life of my collaboration with Martha. ‘Til next time!

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