olga neuwirth
Interview with Olga Neuwirth „A Wanderer Fantasy“
by UMP Classical on 02 April 2014

Dear Olga Neuwirth, your furniture is in Vienna, your part-time flat is in Berlin and now you stay, once again, in New York for some months. Where is your home?
Unfortunately no home … not very pleasant in our hectic, stressful times. A Wanderer Fantasy...

What do you think about the contemporary music scene in New York compared to that of big cities in Europe? 
I can’t compare, ‘cause I’m in none of the scenes. I am caught between two stools…. The fact which attracts me here is that musicians I’ve worked with are very focused, well prepared, work so hard, are very curious and not arrogant at all.

What does American culture mean to you? How did it influence your stage works Lost Highway (2002/03), American Lulu (2006-2012), and Hommage à Klaus Nomi (1998/2008-2013)?
I’m unabashedly U.S.-centric. As my uncle lives in Long Island, I’ve been here since my childhood and for example loved to play baseball, dressed myself up as a punk in the ’80s, loved the Hip Hop band NWA and graffiti art. I was always drawn to American culture, both high and low. My father is a jazz musician, and therefore already as a child I was in many clubs here in the city hearing all these different kinds of American music, from blues to Steve Reich and Klaus Nomi. This was formative.

And what about The Outcast (2010)? What is your connection to Herman Melville?
This can’t be said in a few lines! But I was deeply moved by Melville’s fate, and inspired by the rich complexity of his prose, his innovative shifting narrative structures, his humor, and his ability to express, in a spontaneous flow of language, the inner structures of the human mind.

You recently finished a new composition for the Wiener Philharmoniker that will be premiered in 2015. What does it mean to write for this exceptional orchestra?
I wrote a piece for them in 2006, but it was with trumpet soloist Håkan Hardenberger. This time it’s only them. It is a big honor, but also it was a frightening challenge to write Masaot/Clocks without Hands for them.

What compositions are you working on right now?
On a solo viola piece for Antoine Tamestit and two film scores—one for an Austrian “horror-movie” and one for a touching appeal for peace and tolerance. So important for our times! It’s a silent movie from 1914 called Maudit soit la guerre by Alfred Machin. What a foreboding! ‘Cause the film was made only one month before the outbreak of WWI.

Do you have special advice for our readers about New York? 
Walk along the Hudson River in every weather condition. Last time I stayed here was to compose The Outcast, and I even filmed my daily walks.

Unfortunately, my favorite café here on the Upper West Side, The Raven, was shut down because of a rent increase. Now there is one of those myriad replaceable barbershops. The cafe was in the house where Edgar Allen Poe wrote The Raven, one of my most favorite stories. The café was part of the Poe Society. The Raven was such a lovely calm place with delicious coffee and cakes. 
But I am happy to directly look into the house where another ideal of mine lived: Isaac Bashevis Singer.