Ramteen Sazegari (b.1983) is a composer based in Pittsburgh, PA, where he recently completed a Ph.D. in Music Composition and Theory. His music is informed by a synthesis of perspectives; the architectural similarities shared by both concert and electronic music has led him to create works that explore the relationship between ambiance, complex rhythmic profiles, and timbre ornamentation.
His music has been performed throughout North America and in Europe. He has been commissioned by the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, the Empyrean Ensemble, and pianist Mabel Kwan (among others). He has worked with ensembles and soloists at a number of festivals. He has been a fellow at June in Buffalo, SICPP, and the ECCE Mundry/Cendo Workshop, among others.
In 2016, Mabel Kwan released his work “Conflicted Copy” on her solo disc One Poetic Switch. Recent works include a piece for solo amplified viola, as well as a work for prepared piano and hardware electronics.
What is your earliest musical memory that, in looking back, has proved to be significant regarding your career as a composer?
As a kid, I was drawn to the culture of alternative/independent music that was prominent in the 80s and 90s. Transfixed, I would sit and stare at the EQ on my stereo while listening to records. When I was in high school, I discovered electronic music (which I knew back then only as IDM). It felt direct and seductive, as well as otherworldly and rife with possibility – not just in conventional musical terms – but with respect to the space in which these terms were translated. So, perhaps not a single memory, but a set of experiences that proved to be incredibly affecting. Engaging with these sonic environments felt completely natural, cathartic and inspiring.
Are there composers who have been influential or relevant regarding your own work? Has this changed over time?
In terms of influences, there are too many to count.
As I mentioned, I’m profoundly influenced by electronic music. I can say generally, a number of artists involved with industrial or experimental techno (as well as with the numerous sub-genres associated) have shaped me significantly. When listening to such music, I’m struck not only by the aesthetics, but how the compositional choices – whether minute or superficial – serve to support the particular structure. These components often work reflexively towards forging an iridescent, mercurial, and simultaneously cohesive organism.
When composing music that is aimed towards acoustic forces, this influence is no less present for me. I aim to create a focused aesthetic identity, an anxiety to adhere to said identity, and an interest in negating elements that stray from whatever space/aesthetic environment a specific work is concerned with. In terms of composers working within the realm of contemporary performance practice, I find that I’m drawn to those that place a special value on temporality in relation to form.
How do you approach the question of “form” especially for longer works?
Formally, I often think modularly. Cells – or sections – of activity transition to others and shift abruptly. I tend to focus on shaping the syntax of the gestures elaborately, and as such, my works aren’t usually lengthy. It could be gleaned that some of my works – such as “Albumblatttt” – resonate as compressed structural iterations that imply longer formal plans. Usually, with shorter pieces, I try to present a sonic concept, and corroborate its situation with the character of the surrounding circumstances. With longer works, my approach is not as streamlined. In these settings, I endeavor to explore the given space from numerous perspectives.
Would you mind speaking a little concerning your working process, i.e., do you have a regular schedule for writing; do you use a computer for composing (either for creating pre-composition materials or notation), if so, do you find that it inhibits your process? What other technology, if any, do you use?
I have an erratic schedule, but I try to get an early start on most projects that I take on. Pre-compositional work is defined mostly by considering what elements I’ll use to build the identity of the given work. In this way, my process of pre-composition helps me in the later stages of building a work. I’ve found that most music is inspired by small sections of established material. When I have, for example, a fragment of 2 – 4 measures of refined material, I’m inspired to develop material that could potentially precede – or follow – that fragment. I usually map out the fundamental components on piano before spending time on notation.
Please describe a recent work and provide a link to an audio clip.
My work “Counterpane” for (solo amplified viola) was commissioned and performed by violist/composer Kurt Rohde. This piece takes a less modular approach to form than some of my other work. As a result, the directionality of the music is image-oriented, circular and submerged. With an obsessive surveillance of the transformed properties of the instrument, different conditions are explored, identified and exploited.
The title was inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem “The Land of Counterpane”. In this poem, the narrator is confined to his bed because of illness, and is left to imagine a world of life and activity with only the terrain of his bedspread as a foundation. In a sense, I felt as though this related to the concept I was working with. Without going into too much more detail, I would strongly recommend listening to the work with earphones and no present background noise. Much of the work is quiet, at times verging on inaudible.