Interview by Visual Collaborative
September 2020 7 min read
Lynn Vartan based in Utah is an international performer and educator who is an advocate for diversity in music. As a new music percussionist, she has collaborated with numerous artists and reputable establishments. As a feature in our Eta Carinae interview series, Vartan talks to us about her music, creative process, and artistic expression. She also gives some insight into the development of pulse and rhythm for musicians.
(VC) What music are you streaming or listening to at the moment?
(Lynn) I am always listening to so much music. I find it a wonderful challenge to be able to try to hear as much as possible in the world. At the moment you can find me listening to a few favorites including Céu, Ibeyi, and Ana Tijoux, mixed with things for research like the Brahms Symphonies!
(VC) How does the latitude in Utah affect compositions or group social dynamics when it comes to your musical output?
(Lynn) In the United States, I think Utah is one of the locations that has an incredibly distinct personality. The visual landscape is absolutely breath-taking, with its vast red rocks and incredible canyons. The air is so pure and everywhere you look has some kind of memorable vista. For me, that is very inspiring! It also is a state with a very distinctive voice and community, and I have learned so much from this. I find myself affected by its spirituality, its devotion, and its sense of self. It has helped me to open up my mind to other views and other ways of life that are very different from what I was exposed to living in the urban environment of Los Angeles, where I lived before Utah.
I think for any artist, you have to above all know yourself to know your voice in your work. From that knowledge and the power that comes from it flows your inspiration and imagination
(VC) As you have grown to play the Marimba, what is your go-to approach or practice today to claim your creative power of inspiration and imagination?
(Lynn) That is such an interesting question! I think for any artist, you have to above all know yourself to know your voice in your work. From that knowledge and the power that comes from it flows your inspiration and imagination. So, I constantly do personal work to stay completely connected to who I am – which for me means working with a personal philosophy and vision and trying to live that honestly in every moment.
(VC) As a percussionist, you have performed at many venues and concerts. Does your audience affect your performance and your compositions’ development?
(Lynn) Yes it does! For me, live performance is all about energy, which naturally means all of the energy in the room, and not just mine. An audience brings a great deal to the performance, and when I am playing I am always trying to reach out with my energy and intuition to touch the energy in those in the room.
Photo courtesy Lynn Vartan
(VC) You have spent a great deal of partnering or curating numerous projects with Southwest Chamber Music. What does the phrase Visual Collaborative mean to you in the development of Artistry?
(Lynn) The word collaborative is a very powerful word for me, and for me celebrates the connections between everything – people, arts, creativity, and the many other things that can connect us. I think of collaborative as both a noun and adjective that embraces the merging and mixing of creativity to discover new and fascinating parallels. For me, “visual” can represent specifically visual art, but also more generally be a representation for any of our great creative arts, since there is always a visual component. Even in music, which of course has its essence in the sonic world, has powerful visual components in the performer, the instruments, and the performance, be it live or recorded. To put those together in the development of artistry to me is a great conceptual space to occupy that, if one can access it or delve into it in their study and development, will allow for great artistic development because it opens the mind and art to the spectrums of the visual collaborative and new possibilities for your individual creative pursuits.
(VC) The media shapes society’s perceptions of awareness. What does self-awareness mean to you?
(Lynn) Self-awareness means everything to me for sure. As I mentioned, I believe our artistic voice and therefore ability to be a compelling storyteller as an artist comes from the core of knowing yourself and your philosophy. This self-awareness allows us to tell true and passionate stories in our arts with a distinctive and unique voice. It is so easy in this incredible digital world to craft a different version of yourself or to let another one be crafted for you by media, but in my opinion, the true power of an artist comes from the authenticity of knowing one’s self.
(VC) Most forward-thinking societies or cultures would agree that language is the key to integration. When it comes to creating music, do you lean on your instincts or musical experiments?
(Lynn) I would say now that I am more experienced I rely on instinct more. BUT, I think there is another component when crafting musical decisions that is key, and that is a deep curiosity and respect for history and cultural performance practice. If you are always asking questions and exploring and discovering answers in both current and past worlds, then your instincts have a deep sense of purpose and intention that give them more value in my opinion.
We learn how to listen to the metronome first, but then we need to anticipate the clicks of the metronome instead of just listening to it as we develop our time skills
(VC) How do you define the development of pulse rhythm for musicians?
(Lynn) For a percussionist, rhythm, and sense of time are paramount. That really translates to having a very well-developed internal clock for rhythm, pulse and time. What that means for us it being able to be steady at a certain tempo or speed at all times, and to perfectly place rhythms in that tempo. To develop this, I train students to work with the metronome in many different ways. We learn how to listen to the metronome first, but then we need to anticipate the clicks of the metronome instead of just listening to it as we develop our time skills. We have lots of games to play with the metronome to do this, such as taking out certain clicks of the metronome, putting the metronome on unusual places in the music, among others. Eventually we can check ourselves by having the click make a sound only once in a long time to see how accurate we are! These are great ways to develop time and rhythm, in addition to recording yourself often and playing with others as much as possible!
(VC) Considering your current commitments, If you could work alongside any notable personality, brand, or company at this stage of your life. Who would it be and why?
(Lynn) Oh wow, there are so many! I am fascinated by the work of choreographer Crystal Pite, so I would love to work with her. I think bringing percussion to the world of Apple would be amazing, either in product or branding. I also would love to have a radio show on NPR – that is a dream of mine to have a show and do interviews and share music, especially ever since I started my radio show/podcast The APEX Hour! Other people I would be honored to collaborate with are the conductor Gustavo Dudamel, video artists like Christian Marclay or Pipilotti Rist, and from the great beyond Serge Diaghilev. I would also be honored to work with any of the amazing people featured in your interviews – great magic can happen from learning about new people I think! And, I have always loved Lady Gaga and think it would be incredible to work percussion into her world somehow!
Photo courtesy Lynn Vartan
(VC) Lynn, thanks for joining us for this quick chat. Is there anything you would like to share with our international audience?
(Lynn) Thank you! It has been an honor to share it with you! I absolutely love what you are doing and would be thrilled to collaborate with any of you again or any of your featured artists! Let’s keep the energy, sharing, and collaboration flowing!