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NY Art Life: Hi Sahara, thank you for joining us today. We are so excited to interview you about your achievements in contemporary tonal music. We selected you because of your track record of success with L’Orchestre Métropolitain in Montreal, your solo album featuring Grammy-winning American composer Remi LeBoeuf, and your recorded solos for the mega-hit videogames “Rabbids” and “Sandbox”. These are incredible accomplishments and nonetheless in an obscure area of music which is quite complex.
Sahara von Hattenberger: Thank you so much for having me and recognizing my contributions to contemporary tonal music. It is a form of music that is widespread. Contemporary classical music, also called modern classical, is classical music composed close to the present day. At the beginning of the 21st century, it commonly referred to the post-1945 modern forms of post-tonal music after the death of Anton Webern. And included serial music, electronic music, experimental music, and minimalist music.
Newer forms of music include spectral music and post-minimalism. In tonal music, sounds are organized hierarchically. Within a tonal piece, we can classify notes into three groups: the notes of the chord being played at any given time; the notes of the key of the song, i.e. the seven notes of the scale; the remaining notes, which do not belong to the scale and are therefore outside the key. While the notes of groups 2 and 3 are already defined at the beginning of the piece, with the choice of scale, the notes of the first group change continuously as the chords change throughout the piece.
NY Art Life: Thank you for the really interesting description. I’m sure it will clarify the differences in the sounds for our readers. But I want to know about you! You have such a decorated career! Can you tell me about when you won a grant from the Canadian government? It must have been an honor for Canada to recognize your work.
Sahara von Hattenberger: Absolutely! I won $60,000 from the Canada Council for the Arts. The Canada Council for the Arts is Canada’s public arts funder, with a mandate to foster and promote the study and enjoyment of, and the production of works in, the arts. The C.C. is also responsible for the secretariat of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO and the Public Lending Rights Commission. The Canada Council also funds and administers many of Canada’s top arts awards, including the Governor General’s Literary Awards and the Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts. This grant allowed me to perform my original music as the lead musician and cellist of Duo Kogarashi.
NY Art Life: How did this happen?
Sahara von Hattenberger: I signed with a Tokyo-based music agency and lived in Japan under contract from 2019 to 2020. After working as a soloist and touring the country extensively, I returned to Canada during the pandemic and founded “Duo Kogarashi”, a contemporary tonal group, where I served as the lead cellist, to promote the musical exchange between Japan and Canada. As a result of my musical initiatives, I received a grant of $60,000 from the Canada Council of the Arts to commission two new works for Duo Kogarashi which promote Japanese culture in Canada.
NY Art Life: Tell me more about your work in Japan.
Sahara von Hattenberger: Japan is a musically engaging country and it was an honor to tour as a professional musician throughout Japan. I performed Volt Ikh Gehat Koyekh, a very well-known musically complex Yiddish piece at one of the top musical festivals Miwazow Festival held in Tokyo. Additionally, I held a solo cello residency at New Akan in Hokkaido, Japan where I performed and composed multiple tonal musical pieces.
NY Art Life: This is beyond amazing! Can you tell me more about your solo album and why it’s so special?
Sahara von Hattenberger: In the coming year, I will be releasing my solo album through the label Odd Sounds with collaborative pianist Joanne Kang (from Carnegie Hall’s Ensemble Connect) as well as acclaimed jazz performers Jim Doxas (drums) and Adrian Vedady (bass). What makes this album very special and unique is the fact that it will feature repertoire by French composer Claude Bolling alongside two new commissions by Grammy-winning American composer Remi LeBoeuf and Canadian composer Malcolm Sailor, known for writing chamber music that outwardly emulates the traditional tonal idiom, but avoids dominant-to-tonic resolutions and makes use of non-diatonic modes.
NY Art Life: How exciting, but I want to backtrack to your live musical performances. You have served as the lead cellist/only cellist for all of your live performances.
Sahara von Hattenberger: Yes, I have performed solo concerts at The Chapelle Historique du Bon-Pasteur, which is renowned as one of Montreal’s most prestigious concert halls. The chapel is a member of Montreal’s network of arts centers and for 30 years. One of my most notable concerts is my performance of Claude Bolling’s Suite for Cello and Jazz Piano Trio, whose work was particularly popular in the United States, at the top of the hit parade for two years after its release and on the Billboard top 40 for 530 weeks, roughly ten years.
NY Art Life: What makes you really stand out from your peers is your ability to play different genres and for different media types.
Sahara von Hattenberger: Yes, I performed as the lead cellist for the soundtrack of the film Modern Man, which won the Best Short Film Soundtrack Award at The Hollywood Music In Media Awards™. HMMA is the first award organization to honor original music (Song and Score) in all visual media from around the globe including film, TV, video games, trailers, commercial advertisements, documentaries, and special programs. The HMMA also includes an Advisory Board consisting of professionals from various facets of entertainment including, but not limited to, the Society of Composers and Lyricists (SCL), the Television Academy, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), The Recording Academy (NARAS), Songwriters Hall of Fame (SHOF), performing rights organizations, journalists and music executives.
NY Art Life: Beautiful, this is such an amazing professional achievement. What about your contributions to video games?
Sahara von Hattenberger: You know a lot about my work!
NY Art Life: Yes, we only select the cream of the crop, for inclusion in our publication!
Sahara von Hattenberger: Haha! This is an honor for me! Most recently, I recorded solos for the games “Rabbids” and “Sandbox”. Rabbids, also known as Raving Rabbids, is a multimedia franchise developed and published by Ubisoft. It originated as a spin-off video game from the Rayman video game series, 2006’s Rayman Raving Rabbids.
NY Art Life: This is amazing! Hundreds of thousands of people have heard your music! From Japan to Canada and soon the US. Through live performances, films, albums, and video games. You are truly the most dynamic and complex musician, I have ever interviewed.
Sahara von Hattenberger: Thank you so much for your kind work. I have worked extremely hard to develop my unique sound and approach to tonal music. I’m truly unique because my music can be listened to by all music lovers.
NY Art Life: Any last words for our readers?
Sahara von Hattenberger: New York is at the forefront of not just contemporary music but my specialty which is “tonal” contemporary music. That’s what makes working in New York so exciting and compelling for me- it is the birthplace of artists like Philip Glass, Julia Wolfe, etc… Being a part of that is really exciting. I can’t wait to begin performing in NYC.