Checking in with UVA's Judith Shatin

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Checking in with UVA's Judith Shatin

What are you working on right now?
Right now I’m working on two projects. One is Jefferson, In His Own Words, which is a piece for narrator and orchestra that has been co-commissioned by four orchestras. It’ll premiere in Illinois in March and then it will be performed here in Charlottesville by our wonderful symphony with Kate Tamarkin conducting on April 24 and 25.

Our iPhone app question doesn’t always yield a response, but UVA Music Professor Judith Shatin had one for us: “One that students turned me onto is called OSC, and it allows you to turn your iPhone into a mixer.”

The other piece is for string quartet and electronics, for the Cassatt Quartet, and that will be premiered in New York on February 25, and it’s called Talking To A Dining Room Table. It’s actually a piece about the First Amendment, and the title comes from a spirited exchange between Barney Frank and a young woman discussing—well, maybe “discussing” isn’t the right word—talking about the health care issues, and at one point, he says to her, “Talking with you is like talking to a dining room table, and I don’t want to.”

Locally, who would you like to collaborate with?
There are so many wonderful musicians and dancers and poets here…I would like to collaborate with the poet Greg Orr, I would like to collaborate with the trumpeter John D’earth, and I would like to collaborate with Bill Pease and his wonderful concert band. I’m sure there are lots of others, but that’s a good start.

Have you traveled recently?
I actually just returned from a residency that my husband and I did at an artist colony on the tiny island of Elba, off the coast of Tuscany. There was a total of five people, including us, and there were many intense, fascinating discussions. The house was on the top of a rise overlooking the Mediterranean, and the music studio was right on the edge of the seaside, so if I looked down, I’d be looking on rocks and the transparent water and the play of light on the rocks.

When you’re working on a project, what is your favorite snack food?
I love fruit. Apples, pears, bananas.

What music are you listening to lately?
One piece I listened to quite recently was String Quartet No. 2 by Ligeti. I also listen to popular music, and one of the things that teaching a songwriting class at UVA has really contributed to is that it keeps me up-to-date on pop music.

What single article of clothing would you take on a long trip?
For me, it has to be one of my travel skirts with the hidden pockets. Having been pick-pocketed a couple times, I’ve found that if I just take one of those, I’m good to go.

What item do you carry with you at all times?
I carry a tiny toolbox that I bought in Toledo, Spain. I just enjoy its feel. It’s a black-and-brass-inlaid metallic pattern that I think is called a Damascus pattern.

Guilty pleasures?
I guess I don’t think of pleasures as being guilty, but maybe Gearhart’s Chocolates would fall into that category for me. I don’t get them often, but they’re wonderful.

Who is your favorite musician in your genre, and who is your favorite artist in general?

That’s tough. I hate having to come up with one, so I think I’ll tell you someone I’m quite enjoying listening to right now—Kaija Saariaho, a Finnish composer living in Paris. My favorite artist right now is a Renaissance painter, Piero Della Francesca.

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