Ten Questions with Kelly Fenton

12 12 2008

Kelly Fenton is a composer from New York.  She is a fellow blogger that I discovered pretty early, and have been following ever since.  It should come as no surprise that I would immediately take to an artist that writes big band arrangements inspired by comic books.  She recently premiered her new work Dark Nights: Music for Superheroes and their Alter Egos at the Brooklyn Lyceum.

You can and should follow her blog here, and her 20 piece big band here.

1: What got you into creative/improvised music making, and what keeps you there?

I started playing saxophone in the 6th grade and loved it.  When I got to
high school, the band director at the time started a jazz band that played mostly Easy Packs and pop tunes.  Being the only high school in a small southern town made our jazz band and its members into local celebrities, and as lead alto, and despite the fact I would later discover that we weren’t really playing “real jazz,” I got hooked!

In college at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro I had my first arranging class with bassist Steve Haines.  This was also the year I discovered Brad Mehldau, Mariah Schneider, and the Vanguard Orchestra.  I had been struggling with my saxophone and took much more naturally to writing. My first arrangement was of “Groovin’ High” and was pretty crappy.

What keeps me here? A masochistic personality.

2: Breakthrough album(s) and Why?

The first would be a 4 record collection of Glenn Miller recordings given to me by my grandfather, who would from that day on persist on asking me to play the sax intro to “In The Mood” (still can’t hear that song without thinking of him!).  I loved the romance and nostalgia over those tunes and that era, and I think that’s when I really fell in love with the big band instrumentation.

Many, many years later, I would buy Maria Schneider’s Allegresse.  A year after that I would actually listen to it, or rather the first track, “Hang Gliding,” on repeat non-stop.  It came to me at just the right time in my life and I found the song both healing and empowering.  It was with that CD, and later Concert in the Garden that I would really start to believe that I had a chance at pursuing a career in composition.

3: How do other art disciplines affect your work?

Entirely.  I love stories and most of my music is programmatic, so comic books, novels, mythology, etc inspire me.  I consider these my training wheels; in the future I hope to write music inspired by real peoples’ lives and stories.

I also trained as a modern dancer until moving to NYC.  So when I write, I think about the movement of the music, whether or not it’s danceable and I think about textures and shapes in the same way I used texture and shape to choreograph.

4: Favorite Film(s)?

Gone With the Wind, Charade, Noel, St. Ralph, The Major and the Minor, Spellbound.

I really loved Pan’s Labyrinth though I only saw it once.

There are SO many older films that I’d love catch up on and am embarrassed to admit that I haven’t seen!

5: Favorite Film Score(s)?

I love Max Steiner’s score to Gone with the Wind.  I’m in awe of anyone who could compose that much music for such a long movie! I also really love Phillip Glass’s score to The Hours.  A lot of his stuff sounds similar, but I heard The Hours first and it really struck a chord with me. I also love Henry Mancini’s score to Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

6: Favorite Fiction Reading?

Stephen King’s Dark Tower Series, Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game, Helen Fielding’s Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination, Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, Isaac Asimov’s Nemesis, Frank Miller’s Batman Year One, Neal Gaimen’s Neverworld and Stardust, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Paulo Cohelo’s The Alchemist, really, the list goes on and on!

7: Favorite Non-Fiction Reading?

I love reading memoirs and biographies.  John Guy’s biography on Mary Queen of Scots and Anne Somerset’s biography on Elizabeth I (I clearly have a thing for 16th century British history) are two of my favorites. I love everything by Asne Seierstad, her One Hundred And One Day had a profound effect on my desire to travel around the world, telling people’s stories through music.

8: Favorite Guilty Pleasure Music?

Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera.

9: Favorite Under Rated Musician(s)?

Probably Harry Connick Jr. as an arranger, it may crazy, but I LOVE his second Christmas album!

10: Recommended Artist(s)/Shout Outs?

Joseph Edward Perez,  Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, Industrial Jazz Group, Kyle Saulnier’s Awakening Orchestra, all the fantastic players that play in the Bottomless Cup Jazz Orchestra.

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One response

16 12 2008
russell fenton

i always enjoy hearing about this talented and lovely woman

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