by Stephanie Manning
It’s unconventional to interview a lighting designer for an upcoming chamber music concert. But then again, a performance of Anna Thorvaldsdottír’s In the Light of Air is unconventional, too.
The four-movement suite for viola, cello, harp, piano, percussion, and electronics has a long history with the International Contemporary Ensemble (IntCE), but a new group of players will take it on for a concert as part of ChamberFest Cleveland on July 1. As lighting designer and current IntCE member Nicholas Houfek explained in a recent conversation, the difficulty with programming the piece lies in the logistics of the installation.
“We’ve had other people reach out, but once they hear what’s needed and required to install it, a lot of them kind of get scared and back away. It’s a lot for a chamber music festival or organization to take on.”
Houfek knows these requirements better than most — he’s been involved with the piece since its inception, working closely with Thorvaldsdottír while she composed it for IntCE in 2014. Describing the piece’s soundscape as “warm” and “natural” but also “otherworldly,” he discussed how sound and light combine to create the finished product.