Ottawa New Music Creators: Young composer Kasia Czarski-Jachimowicz is feeling at home these days

The Ottawa New Music Creators are dedicated to the performance of new and existing Canadian compositions for flute, harp and piano. The organization was formed in 2008 by Evan Ware, James Wright, Colin Mack, Gary Hayes, and Joanna Estelle. For Christopher Goddard, the current artistic director of the ONMC, the focus “has been on maximizing opportunities for local composers.” On Mother’s Day ONMC are presenting a concert called Toward the Sea which features works by well-known creators such as Derek Charke, Jocelyn Morlock and Alexandre David. But there are also new pieces by young Ottawa area composers Kasia Czarski-Jachimowicz, Derek Horemans, and Sean Clarke. All performed by the ensemble Projet ISO. ARTSFILE thought it was a good opportunity to meet these young artists and make them known to readers. Each answered questions about their music and themselves. The following is an edited transcript of an email exchange with Kasia Czarski-Jachimowicz. Tomorrow you’ll meet Derek Horemans and on Friday we’ll introduce Sean Clarke.

Q. Kasia please tell me about yourself as a musician and composer.

A. I went to Canterbury High School in Ottawa and was part of the music program on flute. One of my peers — who composes to this day and has also been featured in an ONMC concert — wrote a piece for our concert band. Before then, I didn’t realize that composition was possible for students like me, let alone people my age (at the time I was 16 or 17). That got me started writing songs on the piano.

I think my first tune may have been a comedic rap song. Later though, I found some music I had written for flute when I was a child. I started Suzuki School of Music when I was around 10. I had forgotten it. Later, at university, I had to decide between flute performance and musical composition. I felt connected to creating and exploring music so I knew composition and especially improvisation was the right path. My final recital at Wilfrid Laurier was a mixture of improvisation on flute, song and acting/singing.

Q. Why is composition important?

A. I think new music can express features about our society today that are important to address — injustice, love, fear, gender issues, sexuality, happiness, beauty. Music from the past is important too but new music comes face to face with today. I don’t think people will ever stop composing so new music is inevitable.

Q. Tell me about the piece being performed on Sunday?

A. a song at home is about five minutes in length. I was thinking a lot about being at home in Ottawa and how I’ve been pursuing a romantic relationship with my boyfriend since my arrival from Waterloo (two years ago). I felt I’ve learned a lot since then about love, relationships, and about the world in general. In the past, I’ve struggled with a sense of never feeling at home. However, I realized that since I’ve been in my relationship I’ve felt comfortable, that I belong in some way.

The piece begins with a haunting, insecure melody with a repetitive harp pattern before it leaps into a section with more forward movement. This section contains strings of harmonic/melodic exchange/relationships between the flute and harp. My goal was for the instruments to support and complement each other. There’s a melody in this section that reappears later but is a semitone down. I think this piece is interesting because it begins in a seemingly insecure place, goes on a journey, maintains the sound of that journey, but ends up elsewhere. I sang over the piece often while composing at the piano and writing it out on MuseScore (I pretty much only use free software). It felt more like a song than a piece. I plan to add my vocals later.

Kasia Czarski-Jachimowicz.

Q. Is this typical of your work?

A. I write songs and have recently been performing voice and electric bass songs around Ottawa under the name Dziecko. I think songwriting is definitely a part of my composition process. I feature my voice or flute a lot when I write music. I thought of a song at home as a song, and I also feel inspired by songs.

Q. Who would you say has influenced your musical thinking?

A. Songwriters/bands/ensembles have been inspiring to me. I’m inspired by improvising ensembles and how playing in them urges you to explore your musicality, as well as push the boundaries of what your instrument/voice can do. I like the musical group The Tender Threads who write Indie pop songs but include some wonky sonic vibes that really perk up your ears.

Q. What is your favourite piece of music all time?

A. My favourite piece of music is from the film Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. It’s called Run Free and is composed by Hans Zimmer. The film is about a horse named Spirit, and a Lakota man fighting for their freedom in the American West against the U.S. military. Since horses don’t speak English, the music was used in the film to express how they felt. I think the piece is beautiful and action-packed. It was played when Spirit and the Lakota man were running free from their captors. The scene is filled with stunts and incredible speed while galloping horseback as they zip through a canyon. Also, Hans Zimmer, intentionally or not, left the sound of a neighing horse in the middle of the piece which I find funny and exciting musically.

Q. Do you listen to all kinds of music? 

A. I listen to a lot of songs and only to a few orchestral/concert band pieces. I enjoy the music of Percy Grainger, particularly his series of pieces based on Irish Folk tunes. I enjoy the music of a wide range of artists including Hiatus Kaiyote (Indie, jazz, funk), St. Vincent (indie Rock), Vulfpeck, Stevie Wonder, Charlie Bliss (pop punk), Die Antwoord (rap, rave), Fidlar (pop punk), and more. I also enjoy Herbie Hancock, Santana, Weather Report and Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. I also listen to a lot of CBC radio. 

Q. Have you heard your music played before? What’s that feeling like?

A. I have. It’s usually stressful since I tend to overthink. Ideally I’d be out of the room or in another city. I’m highly critical of my work. It seems impossible for me to relax, however, I always try to just sit back and enjoy what I’ve written, be thankful for the opportunity and appreciate the musicians and audience that have come to hear it.

Ottawa New Music Creators present Toward The Sea
Where: Beechwood National Memorial Centre Sacred Space, 280 Beechwood Ave.
When: May 13 at 3 p.m.

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Peter Robb began his connection with the arts community in Ottawa in the mid-1980s when he was the administrator and public relations director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. After a long career in journalism with the Ottawa Citizen where he served in a number of different posts he returned to the arts when he became the Citizen's arts editor.