Navona Records’ acclaimed PRISMA series continues with a fifth installment, again showcasing the Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra’s riveting take on contemporary composition. With a focus on innovation and imaginative performance, the orchestra brings a breath of fresh air to a repertoire that’s all-too-often dominated by mainstream works. Included in this program is composer Samantha Sack’s A Kiss In The Dark, a work dedicated to communicating feelings that words fall short in expressing.
Today, Samantha is our featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our composers and performers. Read on to learn about her inclination towards wintery getaways and her unique process of discovering new music…
If you could spend creative time anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I love the idea of going somewhere super snowy. Especially somewhere with thick forests and wintery mountains. I’ve had this piece in my mind for a little while about the snow being a place of warmth and comfort despite the harsh and monochromatic conditions. While the mind can be wonderful for imagination, it’s really no substitute for being there. To hear the crunch of the snow under my feet and the whistle of wind through bare trees and imagine how to hear them through the orchestra excites me more than any vacation I can think of at the moment.
When did you realize that you wanted to be an artist?
The score that always stuck with me was the score of The Prince of Egypt composed by Hans Zimmer. I saw that movie for the first time when I was six years old, and of course when you’re that young you don’t pay attention to the score aside from the original songs that you can sing along to. But this film was the first that the actual orchestration and score stayed with me instead of the songs. It was really the first moment I realized just how powerfully moving the orchestra could be.
What is your guilty pleasure?
I love looking for strange covers of songs. Some nights I’ll just scroll down the Spotify search results for hours clicking on every track with the same title just to see what I can find. There’s something so exciting and fascinating in the way artists reimagine popular or even less well-known works to make it their own. It’s one thing to just copy a song when you basically play in the same genre; but when you take a punk song and turn it into 70’s Lounge/Easy Listening? That’s something special. If nothing else, it’s an interesting discussion as to what genre really is. I’ve stopped trying to show some of these to my friends because I always get weird looks as to why I love these covers so much.
What is your favorite musical moment from your piece?
I’m extremely happy with how the ostinato in the violins during the building climax turned out. It’s truly the crux of creating that idea of never-ending starlight. When I was writing A Kiss in the Dark, my biggest concern was getting the colors and textures I pictured in my head in the soundwaves of the music, so to speak. And that ostinato was one of the few things that just immediately came to me even though it wasn’t really a technique I’ve ever tried before. Just one of those moments where the flow was like right out of the Milky Way. The violinists from the Janacek Philharmonic were just incredible performing that section too, considering it’s a bit tricky.
Is there a specific feeling that you would like communicated to the audience in this work?
Honestly, while I do have my own reasons for writing this piece and the feelings I want to convey, I want the listener to be able to form their own feelings about the piece. Even seemingly specific emotions feel completely different from person to person; sometimes from listen to listen for the same person. If my work resonates with someone, I want to cherish what it means to them and how it makes them feel.
If you could instantly have expertise performing one instrument, what instrument would that be?
It would definitely have to be a GuZheng or some other type of zither — all zithers if it would count. I wrote a couple of pieces for the GuZheng while studying for my undergraduate degree and I absolutely fell in love with the instrument. The performer I worked with, Xin Yue, was more than willing to experiment with the limited understanding I had, so I can only imagine what could be done if I just knew how to play it myself.
Explore Samantha’s Latest Release
PRISMA VOL. 5
PRISMA VOL. 5 is available now from Navona Records. Click here to visit the catalog page and explore this album.