Written on May 9, 2016
We sat down with Amy Domingues and Dennis Kane in light of their MLK Jr. Memorial Library Concert this Friday to discuss their unique sound, books that inspire them and questions they wish we’d all ask them more often.
Q For Amy: why the viola da gamba? How did this instrument come into your life?
AD: I fell in love with the viola da gamba many years ago, and went back to grad school at Peabody in Baltimore to study it seriously from 2010 to 2012. It is essentially a bowed guitar, with six strings and frets. It was popular from the 16th to 18th centuries and has a gorgeous resonance that really strikes the ear and the heart. I think more people need to know about it and hear it, so when Dennis asked me to collaborate I was excited to play it in a more modern way.
Q For Dennis: How do you find the balance between your technologically-based instruments and Amy’s 15th century instrument?
DK: Lots of trial and error! When we first started playing together, I tried loads of sounds and techniques such as granular synthesis, analogue synths, loopers, samplers, you name it. Many of them sounded great, but were either too distracting or were overshadowed by the viol. As we progress, I’m creating a collection of sounds that maintain the audio space Amy’s viol occupies. Less is definitely more. However, the most important aspect is always the performance - no amount of technology can change that.
Q: What is your neighborhood library branch(es)?
AD: I moved to DC with my husband and cat last summer. Our closest branch library is Takoma Park. I have to admit I still have strong ties to Arlington County Central Library which was my library for 20 years, but I’m looking forward to exploring the DC Public Library system!
DK: Same for me! Amy and I live very close to each other.
Q: To connect it back to the library concert, what book would you say embodies the core of Domingues & Kane?
AD: One of the most memorable books I’ve read in the past year is a novel, Burial Rites, by Hannah Kent. It takes place in the early 1800’s Iceland on a rural farm, and is the story of a maidservant charged with the brutal murder of her master. While the plot line sounds tragic, the writing is really gorgeous, and the setting is starkly dark but beautiful. I’d like to think that the sonic landscapes that Dennis and I create have a similar dark yet haunting and beautiful storytelling quality to them, evoking a time and place not quite in the present.
DK: A book that is always inspiring to me is Narcissus & Goldmund by Hermann Hesse. It’s the story of two childhood friends whose lives take opposite paths; one becomes an Abbot in a Monastery, the other a free spirit who lives a worldly life. The two meet later in life and reflect on their disparate paths. Ultimately, the book contrasts the archetypes of the Artist and the Thinker. Hesse had such a cinematic style - other-worldly, romantic and yet, gritty and humanistic. I think our music creates that kind of atmosphere.
Q: What is a question no one has asked you about your music, that you wish someone would?
AD: Why do we make music? No one ever asks this. I am a cello teacher as well, and I try to explain to my students that until the 20th century, people who studied instruments and were performers were also expected by the public to write music and perform their own compositions. This is a tradition which doesn’t really exist in the mainstream classical music world anymore, but does exist in the pop/experimental realm.
DK: I think Amy’s question is pretty good - I’ve never been asked that one before. I make music because I can’t not make music. Composing and performing music is the best way I’ve found to experience life.