Podcast: From Bach to Brecht

featuring Julie Comparini, available here or in iTunes

I’ve recently been interested in people’s musical backgrounds, or (formal) lack thereof, and how it informs their eventual careers or interests in music. Ms. Julie Comparini was one of those people, but the way I stumbled upon her was quite interesting. I discuss it in the intro of this episode, and there’s more info to be found in this article. (The ‘featured image’ for this article is Ms. Comparini her very self, photo credit to Maurice Gunning.)

Thankfully, I was able to get in touch with Ms. Comparini regarding her world-premiere recording of a truly fascinating work. And in speaking with her, initially via email, I found her to be extremely friendly, and to have a fascinating background in cognitive science/linguistics, which seems like a very interesting field of study for a vocalist or stage performer. She was willing to talk (write, at first) about the recording process of Explanations (the below image courtesy of Ms. Comparini, thanks to Mr. Walter Nußbaum, the man behind the Leibowitz box set) and about much else, as you’ll see.


It’s fascinating to hear how equally generous doses of curiosity, exposure, hard work, opportunity, and determination (and talent) can get you to all sorts of places. Everyone’s success stories are different, but Ms. Comparini’s steady collection of experience and skills is a unique one.

That aside, her breadth of performing experience and knowledge is also notable. In listening to these conversations as I edit them for the podcast, I find myself wishing I’d talked less (and often make it appear as if I had), but you’ll hear a realization I had in this episode (at least one) when I asked Julie about the similarities between the seemingly very different things she performs. I know she’s performed quite a bit of Bach, but also much more modern music, like Leibowitz (hence the title of the episode, as you will also see). To the average (perhaps non-) listener, there would be virtually nothing in common between these vastly different styles of music. In an email, I wrote to Julie that “there’s probably more similarities than most people think” even though I hadn’t thought hard enough about what they might be. I was right, and Julie elaborates.

Also, what’s it like to sing in a language you don’t speak? Or a language that no one speaks (anymore) (or ever did)? I speak with Julie about this, her wonderful journey to where she is now, both geographically and professionally, and you should take a listen to it. I thoroughly enjoyed speaking with her. I must also say a hearty vielen Dank to Felix, who helped out with some computer problems that were at least partially my fault.

You can find Julie Comparini at her website, linked at the top of the article. Peter Stangel and the Taschenphilharmonie can be found here, and here is an article on Cabaret Voltaire (auf Deutsch), and the Ensemble Aisthesis. As you can see, she’s involved in some very cool stuff. Go listen to her talk about it. And if you find yourself in balmy Bremen, see if there’s anything going on there.


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