The Inside Story: Sophya Polevaya and ELECTRIC SCENT
November 22, 2019
For her debut release on Ravello Records, ELECTRIC SCENT, composer and saxophonist Sophya Polevaya presents a series of electroacoustic miniatures. Its inspiration: floriography and perfume.
Sophya’s journey as a musician began with classical training on several instruments. She then became immersed in more experimental forms of performance, in particular electroacoustic improvisation, with an interest in composition soon flourishing from it. This is brought to the fore in ELECTRIC SCENT with Sophya performing her own music throughout on different instruments together with effect pedals.
Alongside her work with electronics, Sophya writes concert music, with past performances being both in the United Kingdom and internationally. In December her latest piece, ‘Spellbound Tableaux’, an orchestral commission for the London Symphony Orchestra, will be receiving its world premiere at London’s Barbican Centre as part of the LSO’s 2019/2020 concert season.
Today, Sophya is our featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our artists. Read on to discover what this debut means for the composer…
Who were your first favorite artists growing up?
I was often listening to Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Satie, Couperin, Boney M, Manic Street Preachers, and Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Variations album.
If you could make a living at any job in the world, what would that job be?
First and foremost as a musician, composing full-time, collaborating with performers and other artists. Composing is an ambitious, long-term pursuit so it takes a fair bit of courage to embrace your creative heart and just keep going. I’m in my 20’s, in a sense at the starting line, but I still feel the same drive for music that I had growing up so I do want to give it a go!
I also believe it’s a great time to be a composer. All sorts of creative projects are in the mix aside from the conventional formal concert so it is possible be multi-faceted. For me, it is equally encouraging that women composers are becoming ever more present in the contemporary classical fold.
I’m a theatre and film aficionado with a zeal for silent movies, Hitchcock’s and Tarkovsky’s films, Mauricio Kagel’s instrumental theatre works, Beckett, Chekov…My dream composing project would be composing a score for a film or creating a full-length theatre-concert piece with an orchestra, choreography, lighting, film…basically the works!
If you could spend creative time anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I don’t feel I particularly need a specific space in order to compose and London (where I live) has a lot to offer for musicians as a creative scene. However I would love to spend a couple of months living in different countries like Switzerland or Japan to experience a different culture or musical perspective.
When I’m working on a new piece, I do like take long walks to think about my ideas and the potential directions for the piece. I find this time away from the desk helps the composing part to then fall into place.
In parallel to the musical ideas I might imagine for a piece, I’m often inspired by another art form, so part of my composing work involves going to art galleries, watching films and plays. For instance, while creating this album, I went around the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, which is of course the ultimate curiosity cabinet for plants, and I also visited their library to look through their botanical drawings collection.
If you could instantly have expertise performing one instrument, what instrument would that be?
Viola da gamba. It is a particularly charming instrument with beautiful repertoire, both as a continuo instrument and as a solo instrument, plus I love any chance to experiment with scordatura!
What does this album mean to you personally?
All of the featured music was specially created for the album, so as a composing venture it was an exciting and fulfilling first. I think small can be beautiful and in music the small-scale offers a different listening quality; compositionally an array of possibilities (with the added challenge of acute concision!). Composing a series of electroacoustic miniatures was something I wanted to do for some time and I’m happy that I had a chance to make this the musical subject for this album.
Here performing and composing are interconnected. Creating music at an instrument and pedalboard was a part of the compositional process; a way to refine each miniature as well as experiment. Through improvising I would find a sound or an instrumental timbre I connected with, make it the seed for the music, allowing the composing part to unfold through my hands on the instrument. I found it quite freeing to compose in this way.
What was your favorite musical moment on the album?
Rather than a moment, I like that the album is a straightforward listen; short and sweet. Having said so, with all the different sounds, instruments, loops, and effects, it was pretty complex to create! As I’m playing all the instruments featured, the main challenge was to give the impression of an organic dialogue between each instrument, the feeling of a cohesive ensemble. For me the Perfume Coffret miniature Soliflore communicates quite well this kind of trompe-l’œil; a blurring of the electronic and the acoustic.