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Kerwin Young – EOK Times Interview (Aug. 2019)
24 Aug 2019
Kerwin Young

24 August 2019,

NA: As the fourth quarter gradually approaches, you’ve accumulated quite a number of accomplishments this year. Within the months of July and August, you’ve seemed to garner more accolades than the preceding six months. You’ve certainly been the talk amongst the EOK Times staff. Job well done, Kerwin.

In July, you were named a Teresa Carreño Fellow with the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music for the 2020 season. Congratulations! Each year, only a select few composers are accepted into the GLFCAM. For what ensemble will you be composing during your residency?

KY: Thanks Namhiya. The EOK Times has been very supportive, and I give thanks to you all. I was surprised when I received the news. Gabriela contacted me personally, and I was quite excited. I’ll be composing a new work for the award-winning Del Sol String Quartet, based in San Francisco. I’m looking forward to an intense residency. I finally have an opportunity to hear one of my string quartets performed. The last string quartet I composed was in 2015, Mark Lewis in Hong Kong. It’s never been performed, and although I plan on composing a totally new string quartet, I’ll carry that work along with the hope to test it out.

NA: Amazing. I was going to ask whether you’ve written for the chosen instrumentation before. Knowing you prefer to compose for larger forces; specifically orchestra, what are some of the challenges that a composer like Kerwin Young faces when selected to write for an ensemble of this size?

KY: Hmnn… Well, to be truthful, before I began composing for orchestra, I spent a lot of time studying Bela Bartok’s six string quartets. The Bartok string quartets were the only chamber music I looked at. I forgot how I was introduced to his work, but that must have been sometime during the late 1990’s. I still have the double CD I purchased at Tower Records, performed by the Novak Quartet. Of all the string quartet scores and recordings I’ve acquired, I appreciate Bartok’s the most.

NA: Bartok’s string quartets are among the greatest ever written. When does your residency begin, and when will the Del Sol String Quartet premiere your work?

KY: The residency is set to begin in January, with the premiere coming in June. So, I’ll need to pace myself and wrap up the work by late April 2020.

NA: Are you composing other works that may pose any deadline challenges?

KY: Yes! Inscape Chamber Orchestra is commissioning me to compose a new work for  an April premiere. That will definitely overlap with the writing of my string quartet; though only during the early stages. But, an overlap is an overlap, and it does require much time management. I also spend a lot of time composing for picture; so, that too must be maintained. Plus, I’m also composing my eighth symphony.

NA: You’ve begun your eighth already? Unbelievable! How far along with that are you, and how did your commission with the Inscape Chamber Orchestra develop?

KY: Ha haaaa (Kerwin laughs) Yeah! I’m onto the fourth movement now. I’ve got complete sketches for the preceding three movements, and the motivic ideas are fully developed.

The Inscape commission came about after a series of correspondences. I approached them about a collaboration, and through our on-going discussions came the commission. I love their ensemble, the flexibility of it, and the fact that I can write without feeling restricted due to the instrumentation. That’s going to be a FUN piece; though on the short side.

NA: For your eighth symphony, is there a working title? When do you think you’ll complete it?

KY: No, there’s no working title yet. I’ve got some ideas, but I’m a bit undecided on that. It’ll all come together once I begin to wrap it all up. At the pace I’m writing, I may complete it by February or March 2020. It’s safe to say that I’ll complete it by May 2020; that’s realistic.

NA: Have you scored any films in the past few months?

KY: Yeah, I’ve been collaborating with director, Deidre Thomas. We’ve been working together since 2003. I scored her first film, which was also the first feature film I scored. Looking back on my past work, I can say that I know what I’m doing now. Composers need lots of opportunities to grow, fail, and learn. I’ve had my share since 1994.

I haven’t scored any releases yet this year, though I’ve scored a lot of projects currently being shopped. I’ve been upgrading my rig all year, and have added on some really cool gear. I’m writing everyday, messing around with new ideas, new software, and crafting new scoring templates across Digital Performer and Pro Tools. I’m keeping busy.

NA: In the pop world, are there any new releases, or expected releases? What new projects are you currently working on?

KY: DJ Cool and I produced a song for Gambit’s new album, Underground Kingpin. We have a cut on there called “Super-Sonic” that was originally intended for a 2017 documentary film about NBA Hall of Famer, and Super Sonic legend, Spencer Haywood. The project never went beyond the initial Seattle premiere; so Gambit decided to repurpose it and include it on his new album.

Relating to other recording projects, sheduled releases include three new albums within the next few months. There’s a soundtrack album, a world/reggae album that I’ve been producing since 2014, and the third is a Kasuf and the Mazz Muvement Greatest Hits album.

The soundtrack and world music albums were mastered this week. I used Studio One 4 Pro for the mastering and arranging of the albums. Studio One also has an amazing batch processor that allows one to check the overall loudness and peak of the entire project or individual songs. It comes in quite handy for checking the LUFS (Loudness Unit Full Scale) for each song. In the Projects window, I can make all the necessary adjustments until it suits my needs. In compliance with the loudness standard for online streaming, I also find Presonus, Nugen, and IK Multimedia to have the most accurate metering plug-ins available. I own the TC Electronic’s Lm2, but in my opinion, it’s not as accurate as the others.

Sorry to get on the subject of production and mastering, but I’ve been doing that for many years, and it’s a vital part of the creative process.  The albums will be out during the fall.

NA: Hearing a sneak peak of your releases, you’ve got a wide range with sounds I never heard before. That’s saying a lot from a woman who grew up in India, and was educated in South Africa and Europe.

KY: I just thought of Jimi Hendrix, and the question, Are You Experienced? (Kerwin laughs)

NA: We’ve discussed your residency, your commission, your eighth symphony, your media composition, and your upcoming album releases. Now, let us focus on your diplomatic duties pertaining to cultural exchange.

In 2017, you traveled to Egypt with Next Level as a Hip-Hop Cultural Ambassador. Your on-going activity with Next Level recently brought you to the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill for two weeks in June 2019, as part of their Hip-Hop Institute. It’s now August 2019, and Next Level has appointed you Performing Rights Associate.

First, congratulations on your new post. Second, how did this new position develop, and what exactly does your position entail?

KY: Thanks Namhiya. You know, I’m truly honored by this, and humbled. My on-going advocacy for song-writers, producers, and artists to own and control their publishing; and to spend as much time focusing on the business aspects of their career as they do on the creative, has come full circle. It’s no secret that I lost millions early in my career for lack of a publishing company and proper representation. When I became aware, I made sure to share my experience and remedies with those coming up alongside me and behind me. Long story short, I’ve been educating and building others through awareness of performing rights and intellectual property since 1992.

Mark Katz (Founding Director, Next Level) and Junious “House” Brickhouse (Director, Next Level) through their observation, brought to my attention the combination of music and entrepreneurship that I’m so passionate about. It was suggested that through this type of dialogue and awareness, Next Level representatives could better address much of the challenges encountered by artists in the U.S. and abroad. Through the sharing of information and implementation, we can better assist the artists we engage. Many of the international artists we encounter have enormous talent, but either lack the economic resources or the government support. So, born out of this, I was brought on to continue the work I’ve already been doing. Once again, I’m honored. Next Level has taken something I’ve been doing for much of my career to a global plateau.

NA: Your road is quite unique. It’s quite an honor to be in your presence, and having your permission to conduct these interviews. All of your activities are new seeds yet to sprout. Until next time.

Namhiya Ati

Senior Editor, EOK Times

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