Who or what inspired you to take up composing, and pursue a career in music?
My whole family are musicians so the household was surrounded by music even before I was born. It wasn’t so much a case of choosing, but rather more like a natural flow and I don’t remember any point in my life questioning myself as a musician. With regard to composing, I wrote my first musical sketches when I was 6 or 7, so again, everything went in this direction very naturally.
Who or what were the most significant influences on your musical life and career as a composer?
I’ve met many influential musicians who have impacted and changed me significantly during my life and career. Peter Michael Hamel – who’s a great composer and also my professor – made a huge impression on me when I was studying with him at the Music Academy in Hamburg. My intense and artistic collaboration with the exceptional conductor and great friend of mine, Kristjan Järvi also influenced me greatly. I’ve been surrounded by some great figures alongside my whole musical family since childhood.
What have been the greatest challenges/frustrations of your career so far?
There are moments and days when the composing process itself can be a bit challenging. You throw yourself into your work not knowing when and if a good idea will strike, and there’s no guarantee if your efforts will even amount to anything.
What are the special challenges/pleasures of working on a commissioned piece?
More often than not, the first performances of the piece are advertised long before they are actually written. It’s thrilling, but it also creates a certain amount of anxiety at the same time. I don’t think this is entirely bad though, because working under pressure can be a good thing too!
What are the special challenges/pleasures of working with particular musicians, singers, ensembles and orchestras?
We are all naturally quite different from each another, so it can be challenging coordinating everyone at the same place and time. Not all of us are involved in the compositional process to the actual performance either, so transitioning from the slow process of composing, to keeping everyone up to date with the latest arrangements during quick-paced rehearsals can be difficult.
It is such a rewarding feeling though, when you meet other like-minded performers who are genuinely invested in the pieces. I feel incredibly fortunate working with talented musicians such as conductor Kristjan Järvi, double-bassist Roman Patkoló and violinist Lidia Baich. The power, energy and special artistic qualities they bring to the table are extraordinary and refreshing.
Of which works are you most proud?
My symphony Extracultural, and one of my works Never Ignore the Cosmic Ocean. The symphony was a colossal project which comprised of multidimensional spherical soundscapes, non-traditional string instruments, singing, speaking and acting on stage. It received a world premiere at the prestigious Gewandhaus Leipzig under the baton of Kristjan Järvi, something that I’ll never forget! Never Ignore the Cosmic Ocean is another of my works which I’m exceptionally proud of, mostly because I fulfilled my vision for it to be modern rock in academic music. I have a new piece which I’m really excited about and that is a small episode of my violin concerto that I’ve been working on recently. Sometimes, you create something that just holds an element you’ve been waiting for – and this concerto has it!
How would you characterise your compositional language?
It is very minimal and clear. The same goes for the structures and development of my music material. The music phrasing and some of the musical elements are inspired by popular culture too. I really like introducing a pulse or ‘beat’ in my music, as well as bold bass lines, clear main themes and at times, repetition. I absolutely love some of Philip Glass’ works that imperceptibly change time signatures as beats are added or subtracted, and whis works regardless of the track has a dark or bright vibe.
How do you work?
There is always a phase where I only collect and write down ideas and visions. I progress with the constant flow of musical material and the process of developing that material is usually different each time. I almost never compose on the computer and prefer the traditional pen and paper and sometimes with the piano. There this strange comfort in being near one. I love composing in the evenings as I feel most creative then, but this is probably common amongst most musicians or creatives. Mornings are much better for instrumentation work or making edits to scores.
Who are your favourite musicians/composers?
I love Bach, (oh, his Chaconne!), Rachmaninov and Arvo Pärt. The second movement of Philip Glass’ Violin Concerto No.1 is extraordinary. I’m so fortunate to get the chance to meet many great contemporary musicians regularly, and they never fail to inspire me! Peter Michael Hamel, my friend Kristjan Järvi, and especially Roman Patkoló… the sound that he creates with his double-bass is simply unbelievable. So much good music and such talented people!
As a musician, what is your definition of success?
Probably reaching that point where you’re able to share your creations with people from all over the world and having the luxury of fully committing all your time and energy to the activities and situations you strongly believe in.
What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?
The act of constant learning and being open to all types of ideas, people, styles and tastes. It’s also important to never stop developing those inner qualities that help express rather than conceal all that creativity within you.
Gediminas Gelgotas has recently released his latest work Sanctifaction for double bass and piano. The piece is the fourth movement of one of Gediminas’ symphonies and has been specially rearranged for renowned double bassist Roman Patkoló, focusing solely on the 2 aforementioned instruments. The track is now available for streaming on Spotify and YouTube. It is also available for digital download on iTunes.
Gediminas Gelgotas (b. 1986) studied piano, trumpet and composition from 1993 to 2005 at the National M. K. Čiurlionis School of Art (Vilnius, Lithuania). In 2011 he graduated from the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre, where he studied composition and orchestral conducting. He later continued his academic career at the Hochschule for Music and Theater Hamburg, where he studied composition with Peter Michael Hamel (2009–2010).