I’m almost shouting again. It’s very hard not to at the moment – An interview with Michael Wolters
Worries is a collaboration between composer and Deputy Head of Composition at Birmingham Conservatoire Michael Wolters and Paul Norman. Based on a text by artist Lucy Harvey, Worries deals with burning questions such as, what if no supermarket stocks Gouda cheese anymore because the Dutch no longer trade with the UK?
To find out more about this intriguing and inquisitive No Frontiers event, we fired some of our own questions back at Michael Wolters to see how he liked it…
Please tell us a little about Worries and what is involved to make it happen. What should we expect to see/hear?
“Worries” is very simple. It’s based on a text by the amazing artist Lucy Harvey, who has been a constant inspiration for Paul and me. Years ago, when Lucy showed me the text (written in German, her second language… she’s from Bristol and grew up in New Zealand.) I couldn’t put it down and laughed and cried myself through the text. I knew instantly that I wanted to do something with this text, but it has taken several years to find out what. I spent months translating the text from my native language into my second language. Preparing this performance has been fantastic. In our first rehearsal Paul and I laughed too much, but we’re working on it.
In the blurb for Worries, it asks ‘and what if people start shouting at me in the street only because I’m not British,’ – has anyone ever shouted at you for not being British, and did you shout back?
People have made comments, yes. It’s not necessarily what people openly say, though. It’s knowing that I live in a country with a considerable amount of people who don’t want me here. But, you know, as a “gay German artist” there are three areas for people to attack, so I’m quite used to it. My response to those people shouldn’t be printed here.
What do you worry about?
You’ll find out on 27 March at 9pm in the Arena Foyer.
This year’s festival’s theme is ‘breaking down barriers with music’ – How do you think music helps to break down barriers?
As an artist I see it as my duty to question things, to look for alternatives, to take nothing for granted. If more people were prepared to even occasionally adopt this attitude, we wouldn’t be in a situation where we have to have a festival that tells people how important it is to break down barriers.
Other than Paul Norman and Lucy Harvey, who do you admire artistically and in what ways do you think their work has broken barriers?
I honestly don’t admire anyone, I never have done. I have admired certain actions by certain people, certain pieces by certain artists. Richard Ayres’ In the Alps remains one of those pieces that I admire.
As a composer in 2017, do you feel a responsibility or particular impetus to represent or reflect current social or political issues in your work? Or is it impossible not to?
I have never believed that expressing politics in music is a good thing. Recently, I have had the urge to do it more and more. But then I realise that I just want to shout at people. And THEN I realise that that won’t help either. However, I still create my work for people who care and want to think as well as enjoy. There is a lot of room for fun in the arts. Composers tend to shy away from it because there is the danger of not being taken seriously. Those people really need to get an (artistic) life. See, I’m almost shouting again. It’s very hard not to at the moment.
Has your work in any way been compromised by an unaccountable bureaucrat in Brussels?
Am I asking too many questions?
Not at all. I want more.