Interview with Freedman Classical Finalist Jonathan Heilbron
Double Bassist and Freedman Classical Finalist Jonathan Heilbron Discusses His Interest in Music, His Work with European Classical Ensembles, the Phonetic Orchestra, and More.
How did you first get interested in music and select the double bass as your instrument of choice?
I’m not entirely sure when or how my initial interest in music was formed, but both my parents, while not musicians, have a strong connection to music in their own way. They exposed me to a broad range of live and recorded music as a child, and were always supportive of my more creative interests.
One day my mother saw an advertisement in the newspaper offering a period of government-subsidised tuition in double bass through Melbourne Youth Music, and I found the prospect of learning a string instrument exciting. Following this, I joined educational orchestra programs offered through MYM and the Australian Youth Orchestra, and eventually attended the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School. Somewhere along the way I decided to take music seriously as a potentially life-long endeavour.
As a young musician you have already worked with some of Europe’s creative ensembles. Tell us about that experience:
I’ve been very fortunate to work with a diverse array of groups and individuals over the last few years, both in Australia and outside of it. It’s always fascinating, and a source of great inspiration to me, to see the various ways in which institutions, groups and individuals approach the creation, interpretation, and presentation of music and sound. In addition to this, the opportunity to work directly with leading composers and performers, and to engage with audiences in all corners of the world, is a constant learning experience that I am deeply grateful for.
Tell us briefly about the two large scale projects you have mind should you win the Fellowship:
The first project would consist of the commissioning of a concert-length work for solo double bass, synthesizer and light by Catherine Lamb, an extraordinary American composer who has been based in Berlin for several years. Cat’s music is influenced by various musical traditions, and I have had the privilege of performing and recording several of her works in recent years. To have her compose a large-scale work would be a fantastic addition to the solo bass repertoire, and would offer a unique experience for Australian audiences that are potentially unfamiliar with her work.
The second project involves research and development for a new overnight sleep concert, which I would develop together with The Phonetic Orchestra. The development of this project would be informed by research into various perspectives and theories of sleep and rest states, and how they could be used to explore our relationship to sound, music and our environment.
The Phonetic Orchestra is a ground breaking project – how did it come about and where do you see it heading?
The idea for the formation of the Phonetic Orchestra was borne of a perceived need for a large group of creative musicians from varied musical backgrounds. In addition to this, I wanted to work with music situated between improvised and composed musical forms, and investigate how the idea of ‘the score’ and the interpretive process could be navigated within the practices of a musically diverse group.
The Phonetic Orchestra was formed in Melbourne in 2012, and consists of composers, improvisers and classically trained musicians working across many different musical styles and practices. In addition to the sleep concerts, we also engage in projects featuring music by our other members, and together we have traveled to Norway, Germany, Portugal and Italy to share our work with European audiences. Over the next few years, we plan to continue taking projects around the world while also deepening our connection to, and securing our place in, the Australian musical landscape.